Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.
Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.
It was recently that a coterie of deer camp, pheasant hunting and fishing buddies reconvened for some quality male-bonding time in the north woods.
There was a vision of walleye and perch on our minds.
It began with my peeling the canvas cover off of my boat to put the charger on the battery.
I discovered that mice had apparently taken-up residence in the confines of my vessel last winter.
I’m not talking about a few mouse droppings here and there. I’m talking about settling-in and building a colony. Mr. and Mrs. Mouse ascertained that my stowing of the PFDs in the live-well of the boat to be a perfect place to set-up housekeeping.
But they didn’t stop there. No siree.
They broke into the storage compartment in the bow and ate magnificent holes in a duffel bag stowed there. They munched-upon two pair of neoprene gloves that were in the duffel. They nibbled on the foam can cozies. They chewed on rope. They gnawed on the edges of the carpeting. They shredded the owner’s manual for the motor. For dessert they ate the stitching of the fleece lining on the collars of the PFDs.
They even ate the slip bobbers on four rods. Shunning the plastic slip bobbers they devoured the balsa ones. Severing all of the lines in the process.
And they left their little mouse poopies throughout.
They were generous with this gift.
Correcting and cleaning-up the mess robbed me of a valuable half-day of my life.
At least the motor started, the bilge pump ran and the aerator for the live-well hummed. I kept my fingers crossed that no serious damage had been done to the plumbing or wiring hidden from sight below the deck.
The fishing part of the adventure was an altogether different challenge.
The weather the first day was fantastic - sunny and in the seventies. An altogether outstanding Thursday to spend on the water.
Sounds great to us. Did you catch fish?
Nope. Hardly any.
The hits were few and far between and we traveled all over the chain seeking a spot that would yield results.
I worked on my tan.
Day two brought rain and cold.
I’m talking about a steady rain. Rain that eventually soaks through your Gore-Tex®.
Rain that runs down your neck in a tiny cascade when navigating through the pelting stuff. Rain that forces you to locate a dryer at midday to dehydrate your sodden mass of clothing. Rain that turns your hands prune-like and the accompanying cold that makes your fingers stop working.
Have you ever taken a fish off of a hook and had it feel warm in your hand?
The dang mice ate my neoprene gloves.
The good news is that the sudden change in the meteorological conditions turned the fishing right around pretty much immediately. The bite was on.
Day three dawned with clearing weather conditions and an onslaught of tourists.
The fishing was great but the tourists were predictably annoying.
Boats everywhere. Mostly big loud boats going somewhere very fast. And teenagers on jet skis chasing each other and really going nowhere. This was accompanied by a cacophony of gasoline-powered devices fired-up by the shoreline property owners. An entire blue smoke-infused chorus of weed whackers, leaf blowers, lawn mowers and chain saws assaulted our ears. There was even intermittent gunfire.
Our couple of days of fishing reverie were shattered.
Tom! Hey, Tom! Look at that pontoon! I think that guy is going to ram us!
It’s the First Mate. And he points to a pontoon boat bearing down on us at a high rate of speed. At least as far as pontoon boats go.
Whoever was piloting the pontoon was either distracted or clueless as he had plotted a course with a heading directly towards us and the distance was closing fast. With two anchors out to hold on our walleye spot we’re not able to get out of the way.
We wave. We shout. With few yards to spare the craft turns slightly to starboard and passes us at a distance of 30 feet.
It’s a rental pontoon. The dim-wit dad and his equally witless family give us a big silly grin and a hearty wave as their wake sends our boat spinning – both tangling lines and causing our anchors to break position.
At least the children were wearing life jackets.
At this point the weather turned nasty again. Rain, cold and wind.
And the tourists all had to retreat to the bars and supper clubs.
Even though it was a return to the prune hands the fisherman reclaimed the lakes and the bite was still on. Big time. We almost limited-out on walleye and nice-sized perch and even collected a few of my favorite catch.
But the capstone was the pirates.
There were pirates? Gasp!
Pirates are not just found in cool Hollywood movies or off the coast of Somalia. Did you know that pirates prowl Wisconsin’s northern lakes?
You bet they do. I am not making this up. There is evidence.
Here they are.
These were no ordinary pirates. These were pirates of the female persuasion who from all outward appearances had been imbibing on whatever pirates imbibe-upon. Probably heavily.
They waved and beckoned to us to approach.
Yes - they gave us the come-hither look. They wanted us. The fisherman with pruned hands, unshaven faces, reeking of fish and bait.
Tom, I don’t think this is safe. Those women are wearing only strapless evening gowns and they have champagne bottles. I don’t like the looks of this. This could be a trap.
The First Mate has a sense for trouble so we kept our distance. We were not boarded and not forced into whatever mischief these pirates had planned.
It was later that evening after everyone had cleaned their catch and settled-in for a cocktail before dinner that my pals Sid and Lawyer testified that the pirate ship had approached their boat and tried to lure them too.
Never one to shrink from a confrontation - it was recounted that Sid defiantly taunted the pirates with a bawdy challenge normally reserved for Mardi Gras or Carnivàle.
Several of the pirates complied with his demand.
That's no fish story.
And you'll not see a picture of it posted here.