An Outdoorsman’s Journal
By: Mark Walters
COVID-19, One day at a time
Hello friends: Like everyone else on the planet, I have been a bit confused and concerned about COVID-19 and what it can do as far as my job is concerned as an outdoor adventures writer. I could see that there was going to be some type of a travel ban coming up, so I decided to do something very local for this week’s column.
As the crow flies, my house is about one mile from the dam that holds back the water that creates the Petenwell Flowage. Each spring walleye swim up from both the Castle Rock Flowage and the Wisconsin River to spawn near the dam. I hardly ever fish here because I generally do a trip a week and do very little fishing otherwise.
My plan was simple: load the truck with fishing gear, a lawn chair, my cook-stove, a lantern, some food, and my golden retriever Fire, and fish from 1 p.m. until the same time the next day.
My daughter Selina had been fishing out of a boat with her brother Joe Dushek the day before and they had done quite well. I might add, just before I left the house, I had a press pass emailed to me, which meant that I could keep on traveling.
Tuesday, March 24 High 44, low 38 Below the dam that creates the Petenwell Flowage, the scenery is beautiful and quite wild. The Trout Ditch, as it is called by locals, puts out some huge brown trout. There are bald eagles, the Petenwell Rock for a spectacular view and challenging climb, and lots of big musky in the river as well as other species.
My plan was as simple as it gets — lawn chair, view, fishing poles with mud minnows, jigs, and crank baits. I would be set up right next to a boat landing, which is always interesting, and many times readers of this column would either recognize me or Fire and many pleasant conversations were had. Some bad luck did come my way when after several hours I had not seen a fish caught from shore and very few from the boats on the water. In reality I did not care, the air temperature was perfect, I was confident something would eventually be hungry, and I was constantly amazed when I thought about this incredible view and fishery that is only about 2,000 yards from my house. One of my challenges would be staying up all night and catching at least one legal walleye (15-20 inches) for my frying pan. As I said, there were plenty of shore fishermen and women and it was very interesting to watch them. About half are really good at catching fish and the other half are not so good. Something else I noticed was how many women were fishing with kids and I thought that was very cool.
About 5 p.m., a young man pulled up with a canoe on his SUV and I watched him rig up and we had a very nice conversation. I have to admit that he had my respect as I am into canoe fishing and there was some powerful current below the dam.
About an hour after he hit the water, he came back with a cut on his hand that needed attention. A musky had hit his walleye rig, and it cut his hand while he was landing it.
After dark when everyone left, I lit my propane lantern and figured any time a hungry walleye would take my bait. I went down memory lane as I thought about the two times my cattle got out and headed down this way. I tracked them to the river bottoms near the Highway 21 bridge and it was a nightmare trying to get them home. They simply did not want to cross roads and I kept thinking, “What would I do if they got on the bridge that crosses the river?”
At 11:50 tonight, I had my first action and I cannot tell you how happy I was when I landed an 18-inch walleye. I have really been on a dry spell for a while, and though one fish does not mean a dry spell is over, at least I could eat.
About 2 a.m., I caught another walleye that was only 14 inches and the next thing I knew it was getting light on the eastern horizon. Just before noon I filleted and cooked my catch and literally had non-stop visitors. What was really nice was how many of them talked about Kids And Mentors Outdoors and the efforts of so many of us to get more kids into the outdoors.
Twenty-four hours after arriving, I loaded my truck up well aware that no matter what COVID-19 does to the human race, the sun will still kiss the eastern horizon each and every morning. Sunset
This was the view from Mark Walters fishing spot, the Petenwell Dam is a busy place for walleye fisherman this time of year!
The true definition of a shore lunch!
Action after dark, Walters was a happy camper when he caught this walleye!