4/14/2017 7:25:00 AM traveling trails less traveled Anglers All - Part 6
"Buckshot" Anderson Columnist
This week I chose to honor a family from Burlington, Ind., that has annually visited the Northwoods for many, many years, helping to keep our economy strong, and they, as well as all of our Northwoods' guests, deserve the red carpet treatment!
Pete Mironenko had been coming up-north on annual fishing trips with his family and pals for many seasons prior to our first meeting in May of 1972. Originally, Pete's favorite destination was a resort on Butternut Lake east of Eagle River, where he enjoyed fishing for and catching smallmouth bass. Pete and his gang occasionally hired a guide, but Pete was, and still is, such an outstanding knowledgeable angler, he is able to catch fish regularly without out the aid of a guide. But, when anglers fish with a guide the angler gets to do a lot more fishing while the guide does the work!
Pete frequently came north in a big van loaded with "good old Indiana boys," who not only fished hard but also had a whooping good time - which is what vacations are for!
For Pete's spring vacation in 1972, he booked reservations at Pride of the North Resort on Little St. Germain Lake. After arriving, he asked the owner to hire a guide for three days, and I was the person who received the call.
My first day with Pete and his friend, Mike, was May 27. It was brutally cold, with a high of 40, cloudy skies and a howling northeast wind. We fished two small lakes that day, Frank and Salsich, and even those little lakes had whitecaps! We struggled to land seven pike and one bass, but did much better the next two days, including Pete's 46-inch musky caught on Escanaba Lake!
Pete's wife, Caroline, and their three daughters, Tiffany, Tasha and Tarah all love to fish, and as time marched on, so did their two grandsons, Gavin and Trevor, plus Tiffany's husband, Don Franklin.
The Mironenko's annually come north twice each summer season. They spend a week up north over the Memorial Day weekend and another week over the Labor Day weekend, giving all family members who enjoyed fishing a chance to do so.
The entire clan practices "catch and release" except for keeping enough fish for their daily shore lunch, plus maybe a half-dozen pike or bass as "take home fish." None of them use live bait, and the utmost care is given to releasing fish unharmed. Many photos are taken prior to release, and copies always arrive at our home about two weeks after a Mirenonko fishing trip.
Frequently, the family outing includes a three boat flotilla, which is required to accommodate the entire group of anglers and also them to be present for the noon feast, which takes place regardless of weather conditions.
Two years ago, during their Memorial Day weekend outing, our son, Chris, cooked a traditional fish, fries and baked beans shore lunch in a pouring rain. And Chris had the hot grease spattering marks on his hands to prove it. Having "been there, done that" many times myself over the years, it was fun to sit and watch the show, while sipping a cool suds, watching my son cook in the rain. (Guess I trained him right!)
I've probably guided and fished with several thousand different folks during my 60 summers of guiding, and Pete Mironenko is hands down the most skilled angler I have ever had in my boat. His fish catching technique is beyond amazing, and rarely will anyone one in the party catch more fish than Pete does!
Pete always sits in the stern seat and fishes water that the person in the middle seat and his guide in the bow seat have already fished. And he'll out fish both anglers day after day, time after time. Since my retirement from guiding after the 2012 season, I still fish a day or two with Pete, as we enjoy each other's company. I now fish from a much smaller boat than my 16 foot Sheboygan Falls cedar strip row troller. My "retirement boat" is an ancient 12 foot Thompson cedar strip of 1950s vintage, that only has two seats. Pete and I have a non-completive contest every time we fish together, and I might be lucky to best him once every ten outings.
Naturally, I have a treasure trove of memories saved from my outings with Pete and his family, as I do regarding all my long-time loyal clients/friends. But what happened the morning of May 27, 2005, is a "once in a lifetime" while fishing incident!
More than once, when Pete's fishing party was larger than the number of boats available to seat everyone, I'd load my canoe on the truck's car-tops to be used as an emergency vessel for the excess baggage. And rather than make those who rode in the canoe paddle it, we'd tie the canoe to the stern of my boat and I'd supply the power to move both crafts!
On this day, Pete and Caroline were passengers in my boat and Tiffany, Tasha and Don occupied the canoe. It was a rather cool day, and I selected a small lake, Benedict, for our morning fishing. Tiffany occupied the bow seat in the canoe, Don was in the stern, and Tasha was sitting on a cushion atop a cooler in the center of the canoe.
As we were returning to the rustic landing site, Tasha, who was "very pregnant," and fortunately wearing a life jacket, slipped off the cooler and fell overboard. Luckily, the canoe did not capsize! Don quickly grabbed Tasha's jacket collar, and I engaged my electric trolling motor and dragged her to shore.
Naturally, Tasha's dunking required a quick trip back to the resort where they were staying, Fath's Big Woods Resort, for a change of clothing prior to our afternoon fishing. Pete still maintains, Tasha's son was the first baby to be baptized prior to birth.
Pete, and his brother-in-law, Bruce "Festus" LaMar, were with me on Oberlin Lake, Aug. 29, 1997 when we fished all morning in pouring rain. The temps were in the low 60s, which made for a miserable day on the water. At noon, try as I could, using ever trick in the book trying to get a fire started, I failed. On that day I did not have my gas outboard motor on the boat or a can of gasoline, or I would have made fire!
So, on that day there was no shore lunch, and another "once in a career" experience. Pete still pokes fun at me for not being a good Boy Scout and starting a fire. (What are friends for anyway?)
Another "once in a career" took place with the Mironinko's May 27, 2012 during shore lunch at Clear Lake. (Oneida County.) Tasha, who had not been up-north since her dunking in 2005, celebrated her return by sharing a bottle of champagne with her family members and guides!
And the final "once in a career" experiences Pete's clan produced took place on Scaffold Lake, Sept. 1, 2006. Pete's brother-in-law, Bruce, fell overboard while making a cast! Actually, he slid overboard off the middle seat in an attempt to grab his new rod and reel that had slipped out of his hand, which failed.
As the boat rocked a bit, due to Bruce's rapid exit, Pete and I watched Bruce slowly disappear into the depths, as his felt hat bobbed in the center of rapidly spreading rings on the surface. I looked at Pete and asked; "Can he swim?" Pete grinned and replied; "We'll soon find out!"
As I gazed overboard for a few seconds I saw a large white spot slowly rising towards the surface, that turned out to be Bruce's bald spot on top of his head, which was followed by the entire head and a hand holding a rod and reel!
Bruce hung on to the side of my boat and I rowed him into shallow water where he was able to regain his middle seat.
Bruce tried unsuccessfully to dry his soaked clothing using our shore lunch fire for heat. In the afternoon he dressed in his rain suit and left his pants, shirt and socks handing on a tree limb next to my truck.
Pete holds the record for catching, (and releasing) the largest smallmouth bass ever taken in my boat. He caught the seven and a quarter pound, 24 inch monster Sept. 1, 1999 in the Wisconsin River! The photo of that fish is one of my favorites!
Pete and his clan have already make reservations for their spring-fling in 2017, and I can't wait to renew our long friendship - and probably getting beat by Pete's fish catching ability once again!
The Mironenko's total Box score includes only legal sized game fish landed in my boat spanning 1972-2016. One-hundred-seven outings, 3,020 largemouth bass, 518 crappies (10 inch size limit) 419 smallmouth bass, 178 northern pike, 36 walleye, three musky; 4,174 fish, which is an average of 39 fish per outing!
I told you Pete was a expert angler!
Buckshot may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.