6/16/2017 7:25:00 AM Traveling trails less traveled For old time's sake
"Buckshot" Anderson Columnist
Let me begin by confessing I don't fish very often anymore, and when I do it's usually with someone very special, like family members or long-time friends and/or former clients. And I must add, I only fish when the weather is right, not so much right for catching fish, but right in the sense there is no rain, strong winds, cold temps or storm warnings in the forecast.
The reasons for my foregoing confession are fairly simple to explain. First off, I would imagine most dedicated anglers who have entered their eighth decade have "been there, done that" countless times, fishing during scorching heat, pounding rain, sleet, hail, gale force winds, snow and freezing temps. Young bodies and minds can take it, old ones have problems. Secondly, in my case, having spent an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 days on the water during my first seven decades, most of my inner drive to get out on the water frequently has waned considerably, and when I do go fishing it's no longer an all-day trip.
Recently, over the Memorial Day weekend, I spent parts of two days fishing with an old friend and former client. I've frequently mentioned Pete Mironenko in my columns and his name pops up fairly often in many of my 16 published books. Pete and I first "hooked up" back in 1973, and since that introductory outing we've shared a boat well over 100 times. It's always a pleasure to fish with someone I count as a real angling pro and a genuinely great human being!
Pete and his family vacation up north twice each summer season, a week including Memorial Day and a week over Labor Day. His wife, affectionately called "The Warden," also loves to fish, plus three daughters, a son-in-law and two grandsons, which often equates to a three-boat flotilla.
During my two recent outings with Pete, May 27 and June 1, we fished two of Pete's favorite small bass lakes. My son, Chris, helped out on the 27th by donating one of his boats to the cause and he came along to fish with Pete's family and cook a traditional shore lunch for eight. Boats number two and three were mine, one being a 1963 Grumman Sport Boat that seats three comfortably and my personal baby, a 1950s vintage Thompson 12-foot, two-seats, cedar strip row-troller for Pete and I.
Being Memorial Day weekend, our semi-remote lake of choice was fairly busy, but being a "no motors" lake, it was still a quiet and enjoyable day, and even the weather was to my liking. Pete's noon-time shore lunch breaks usually take a leisurely hour and a half, or longer, depending how full the beer cooler is. Chris has modernized his shore lunch preparations by using a propane cooker, which eliminates the need for gathering wood and cooking over a hot fire. But the fries, baked beans and fish still taste the same, and the process of preparing a noon feast is much easier on the chef.
Pre-fishing with the Mironenko's begins at 7 a.m., with a hearty and delicious breakfast at Wolf Pack Café. Angling usually is underway by 9 a.m. and it's back at the landing by 4 p.m. Another long standing Mironenko tradition is an after-fishing hour stop at Sister's Saloon for a pitcher or two of cold brew prior to calling it a day, which is a really nice way to end a day of fishing.
Another long-standing tradition Pete and his entourage take part in during both vacations is spending a good deal of time at the St. Germain flea market on Monday, which for them is normally a non-fishing day. The entire group of shoppers use the cargo box of my truck, which is parked at my booth, to stash their wares until they are ready to end their day of shopping.
During their recent trip, the Mironenko's daughter, Tiffany, and son-in-law Don, headed south after a short sprint at the flea market. The four remaining family members continued to use my Grumman on Tuesday and Wednesday, by "taking turns" in the boat by leaving one member sitting on the bank of the lake to await their turn. Every adventure needs a good plan!
Being a weather watcher, I decided Thursday, June 1, would be the nicest day to fish with Pete again, using my formula for choosing days to my personal liking, and a beautiful day it was!
Our lake of choice was one of my choosing, and I selected a small lake I had not personally fished for about 10 years. The last time I fished it the water level was dangerously low, but I was sure our area's recent amount of excess water would have filled it to the brim, and I was correct.
On this day we owned the lake, as no other anglers appeared all day. And for me, it was like visiting an old friend I had not seen for a long time. Pete was also impressed as he and I had not fished that body of water since the drought years!
The three other Mironenko's occupied the Grumman with Tarah in command and Caroline and Trevor tossing lures at likely looking shore-line bass habitat. Pete and I headed in the opposite direction, doing likewise.
The early morning temperature hovered in the upper 40s, but the sky promised a beautiful day was in the making. As expected, the cool night had chased most of the bass off the shores, but I knew as the day warmed they would return to their spawning beds, of which we saw dozens! While we waited for the bite to begin, I reminisced a bit about some of the memories I had stored while fishing the lake we were on.
My first trip to this remote Northwoods jewel took place during July, 1959. My dad drove my very pregnant wife, Peggy, and I down a very long abandoned bumpy logging railroad bed to reach the lake. Dad jokingly remarked he was trying to "hurry up" the arrival of would be his first grandchild. However, his efforts on that day were unsuccessful, but nature had it way and son Chris arrived on the 26th.
As expected, the native largemouth and smallmouth bass began returning to their shore-line spawning areas and began defending their territory with a vengeance! By noon, Pete and I had landed and released a dozen and a half husky specimens, and our companions had also experience a bit of success.
Our leisurely "shore lunch" consisted of Subway sandwiches and a cold bottle of Spotted Cow brew.
By the time we returned to the water the temp has risen into the low 70s and the bass went wild. We called it a day at 3:30 p.m. after Pete and I had captured and released 61 bass and the other boat added another dozen or more to the group's total. Many photos were shot during the day to prove our claims, as we knew few folks would believe our count! "Bassin' on the Beds" is an early June annual event that bass anglers dream about and wait for! We hit it at the right time!
Being the Mironenko's final day of their 2017 Memorial Day vacation, we spent a little extra time at Sister's Saloon, prior to hugs and handshakes, plus a few, "see ya Labor Day," when more fishing and fun will take place!
Fishing, friends and refreshments - what could be better?
Buckshot may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.