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7/16/2019
Kevin Wallenfang and his tournament winning, 46-inch musky just prior to release Fishing has been as hot as the weather for our circle of family and friends, and anglers participating in the 16th Annual Bob Ellis Row Trolling Classic. The Classic was started in 2003 by fishing guide Patricia Strutz to memorialize Bob Ellis, a legendary northern Wisconsin row troller inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in 2008 for his im...
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Predicaments: Buoys and Hooks

I had the good fortune of meeting two very good fishing guides during the summer of 2006. One is a well-known old timer, Joe Woods. He has been fishing the Wolf River in Wisconsin for years and everybody in the area knows him. He has done well in some of the local tournaments and has also guided in the area. Joe and his son, Louis, recently set up a fishing guide association (Wolf River Outfitters).  They were considering me to be one of their featured guides.

 I was invited to fish with Legendary Joe.  Joe’s job would be to check out my fishing prowess. We met and shook hands at the boat landing next to the bridge in Fremont.  We used my boat and I was honored and nervous to meet and fish with Legendary Joe. I wanted to do my best to make a good impression. We launched the boat, slowly motored under the bridge, and headed upriver. I started in with a bad habit of mine when I am anxious. I concentrate on only one thing and that thing was talking too much.

I started shooting questions at Joe about fishing technique, Wolf River rigs, walleyes, etc. Joe calmly replied to my questions with only one word. The word he said was “boy.” At first “boy” didn’t register in my anxious head, then Joe again said, “boy.” Maybe Joe was impressed with my witty thoughtful questions? Was “boy” Joe’s way of saying “Very interesting?”  I was thinking maybe things were looking good so far. Then Joe said, (and, this time, louder and with more purpose) “boy”. But his warning was ignored as I collided my boat into a buoy, not a boy. It was a big red and white navigation buoy placed in the river. Getting myself in this embarrassing situation was not the impression I wanted to give Joe.

Predicaments

The other guide I met in the summer of 2006 was on the Mississippi River. I got to meet and fish with Tim Hutchinson or “Hutch” as his friends call him. Hutch is a famous fishing guide who works out of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. You could tell when you first met Hutch that he takes fishing the Mighty Mississippi very seriously.

I was to be the fishing guest that asked Hutch questions for a fishing show.  That day Hutch gave the TV show viewers a wealth of Mississippi River fishing knowledge in spite of the curve ball I accidentally threw at him early in the taping.

The first part of the show was to cover a little-known fishing technique called “Hand Lining.” This technique requires no fishing poles, but it does include a heavy chunk of lead. That chunk of lead weighs 1¼ lbs. And the lead weight is connected to a wire line that is spooled in a retractable coil.

To fish this way, you carefully drop the heavy weight with the lures attached over the side of the boat. The boat is slowly trolled forward upstream with a kicker motor. There are one or two lures (usually a rapala, shad rap, etc,) attached to that wire with monofilament leaders.  The advantage of hand lining is the lures that you troll stay right along the bottom.  You hold the wire attached to the lures by hand, thus it is called hand lining.  You can feel everything on the bottom, the weeds, the sand, rocks, and subtle bites of a walleye or several other types of fish that are caught using this unusual technique.

Jeff, the producer of the show and part-time cameraman, got his camera rolling and, after a short discussion with Hutch about hand lining, we started fishing. It went well at first; I was amazed at how easy it is to feel and sense what the lures were doing when holding on to the wire that is attached to the heavy weight. The fish action came quickly on Hutch’s hand-line rig. He caught a small sauger (a close relative to the walleye), I caught a sauger and then Hutch got a 20-inch walleye. Shortly after Hutch’s walleye, it happened.

I got a lure momentarily hung on the bottom. It did pull free, but when I brought the hand-line rig up to check the lure, the back treble hook was dull. I asked Hutch for a hook file to sharpen that dull hook. He said he had one, but his file was attached to the boat with a lanyard. He told me to hand him the lure and he would sharpen the hook for me. Hutch assumed that I had taken the lure off the monofilament leader. Unfortunately, I hadn’t done that. He held the lure in his hand and swung it to the sharpener. When the leader line, which I had not removed, tightened up, one of the sharp hooks penetrated Hutch’s thumb. Ouch!

When you are fishing, getting a hook in a finger or thumb or some other part of your anatomy is not that uncommon.

Here is where I unintentionally added more drama to the situation. Hutch casually mentioned that he had a hook in his thumb and showed it to me.

When he showed me that hook, piercing deep into his thumb, I leaped up to assist the impaled Hutch, the same Hutch I had been trying to positively impress on our very first show with him. When I jumped up to resolve the predicament, I made matters worse.  I bumped the 1¼ lb. lead weight with my knee. That knocked the weight back into the Mississippi River. That lead weight was the same weight that was attached to the leader, that was attached to the lure, that was stuck in Hutch’s thumb! Ouch again! Hutch was one tough old bird. To my amazement he did not holler but casually waited for me to lift that weight back out of the river and take the pressure off his thumb.

I have lots of hook removal experience and told Hutch to hold still while I pulled the hook out of his thumb. I reached for the ever-present rusty boat pliers. Fortunately, the hook popped free with one well-aimed tug. Jeff did not roll the camera during this fiasco, but it might have made interesting viewing.

It turned out that I did get the fishing guide job at old Joes’ Outfitter Shop and we did produce a good show about fishing the Mississippi with Hutch.  Incidentally, whenever I have seen Hutch since that day of the hand-lining adventure he gives me a “thumbs up.”  But it seems to be more of a reminder about something than that of a friendly greeting.
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More on hook removal

         Hook removal is a common topic among fishing communities. It takes only one story about a fisherman being punctured by a hook to set off a flood of stories. Every successive storyteller includes larger hooks or longer trips to the emergency room to improve on the last story told.

      The most common items in a hook-removal story entails a pair of rusty pliers followed by a hard tug. The next most common story involves a pair of rusty pliers followed by several hard tugs. There was a sports writer in my boat that will verify my expertise using a rusty pliers and the several hard tugs technique. Finally, there has been a more recent trend adopted by some hook removers. These hook removers try to push the point of the hook all the way through and then cut off the barbed point with a rusty pliers. Granted, if the hook does get pushed all the way through and the barb is cut off, the remainder of the hook removal procedure is somewhat painless for the victim.

 Caution: If said hook remover fails in an attempt to push the hook all the way through, the hook remover who botched the job may suffer from a not-so- painless black eye from said victim.

Want to read more stories like this? Predicaments: Mostly True Hunting and Fishing Stories can be purchased at www.amazon.com , print and digital editions are available. Print copies can also be purchased at Johnny’s shop of Bait in New London WI.

Randy Williams lives in New London, WI. He has a degree in conservation, is a fishing guide, and a taxidermist. He has won over 40 fishing tournaments and spent 5 years as a co-host on an outdoor TV fishing and hunting show called No Excuses Outdoors. He has been an outdoor columnist for the Waupaca county Post and recently published a book called Predicaments:Mostly True Hunting and Fishing Stories. He now enjoys hunting and fishing full time after retiring from teaching. To watch videos of his adventures visit www.wilfish.com