Shoe’s News: Time off from a day of doing nothing
By Shoe Sullivan
Back in the day, the boys in our neighborhood in Stevens Point usually did three things to amuse ourselves.
First, we would go and check out all the forts we built all around the water tower area.
We’d make forts in trees, logs, cardboard boxes, cement blocks and you name it.
If there was an empty space, there was a fort.
Second, we played softball all summer in Nick Meronek’s and Dick Stroik’s combined back yards.
No adults allowed, except Nick. Just the kids.
Third, we’d go fishing in the Wisconsin River.
I was quite the angler a long time ago.
The river was a block from my house on Water Street.
My prime fishing area was on the dike behind Pagel’s Mill.
Nothing fancy there. I would use a cane pole complete with line, sinker, hook, and a bobber.
For bait, the wiggly things from Nick’s worm bed did the trick.
Pagel’s Mill was two blocks south of the square.
The dike was close by.
When the bobber went down, a bullhead was on the other end of the line.
Never anything else, just bullheads.
Caught hundreds of little bullheads.
I should add here that the river was filthy; sulpher sometimes made the river green.
The water was nasty.
It was so bad that I once caught a bullhead and the darn thing begged me not to throw it back in.
You would never think about actually eating a fish out of the river.
We never used a boat while fishing; always fished from shore or from the dike.
And like I said, the prize was always a bullhead.
Except for one strange day, when I hauled in a bluegill. It must’ve been lost.
Fishing on the river was a great way to relax as a kid.
You know, taking time off from a hectic day of doing absolutely nothing.
The biggest chore was opening the tackle box which contained some hooks, a bobber and a pack of wild cherry chewing gum.
Then also in grade school, the fishing outings ventured a little farther north.
My buddy Tom “Jabbo” Jablonski and I would ride our bikes to the Bukolt Park lagoon.
The bobbers would go down, and the cane poles would bring in little perch.
Lots of perch. Nothing else.
And in later summers, a trip to the west side end of the Clark Street Bridge would always be good for carp.
And nothing else.
Caught a carp almost every minute.
I wasn’t lucky like Bobby Sanders was.
One summer, Bobby and Mike Duffin were at the river just goofing around.
They were on shore not far from the Clark Street Bridge.
They left a big party going on behind them and just started fishing for the fun of it.
Had a bet on who could catch the biggest fish.
They didn’t catch anything; just had lots of snags.
But then, Bobby got a snag.
He kept pulling and pulling trying to get the hook free.
Thirty minutes later, after Duffin ran to buy a net, Sanders pulled in a state record musky.
Many years later, I ditched my trusty cane pole and bought an actual fishing rod which had a Johnson Spin Cast closed-faced reel.
Now picture this: the chamber of commerce building was just south of the Clark Street Bridge.
Farther down is the bandshell at Pfiffner Park.
In between the bandshell and the chamber building is a small pond.
A little bridge is there on the pond, and a railroad trestle.
I tried out my new Johnson reel while fishing in the river from that trestle.
Not from the pond; the river.
Used a daredevil for a lure.
First cast, and I landed a big northern pike.
There must’ve been a deep pocket there, because many northerns were reeled in. Many.
It was so strange to finally land something different.
And one fateful day, I was sitting on that trestle.
Had a snag in my reel or something.
Was trying to fix it, and my lure was dangling on top of the river.
I wasn’t even fishing.
And a northern pike slammed that daredevil.
It pulled my rod out of my hands and swam away with it.
So, I bought another cane pole.
Caught some bass by the Bukolt Park boat landing. Never caught a musky or walleye.
Just bullheads, carp, northerns, bass and one bluegill.
I’ve been told that the river has cleaned up a lot and people eat the fish from there now.
That’s good, because there sure are a bunch of fish in there.
And one less bluegill.
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