2008 NAFC LaCrosse Member Meet
I haven’t wet a line since my return from Erabbit’s cottage on Lake Seneca, NY. As I prance around the house, I am consumed with thoughts of cutting across the open water in the “Bushwacker”….And the yard hasn’t looked this good in the last couple of years! As I gaze at the calendar my mind shifts to the sounds of the Mississippi. To the sounds of laughter up and down the shoreline at Goose island. Just twelve more days and I’ll be heading out I70w, totally focused on a time of fellowship with good folks that enjoy fishing as much as each other. There will be much back-slapping, warm hugs and major hand shaking! Folks from several states will gather to share life stories; break bread together and of course, wet a line. Many new memories will be made; new friendships will develop and old ones will be renewed.
Is there really such a place? If only to believe I could find such a place…My mother used to tell me that, “Around every corner is an opportunity to make a new friend.” How true I have found those words to be! This year has been exciting already and is turning out to be as special as I had hopped…And now, for the rest of the story!
HI! HOW ARE YA?
3:00 am – I am up before the Mockingbirds can start their early morning songs. While the coffee perks, I load the coolers and the remaining personal gear. Jbass is traveling with me this year. So far he has enjoyed a once a year visit to a member meet. And I think that is good for a 15 year old boy. Jason is up and the coffee is ready! I take time to write this entry and reflect on the last time I made this trip…The excitement level is high at this time!
4:30 am – We are a half hour behind schedule but we are finally on the road. It is always exciting when I first pull out of the drive, the first step in a new adventure. We head west to Harrisburg where we will pick up the Pa. turnpike.
6:30 am – Jason and I take our first break of the morning. The sky is bright and cloudless. Perhaps it will be a hot one. I love this drive through the Pa. Mountains. The tall hardwoods and the scattered pines make for a beautiful backdrop on the many fields of corn and barley. Occasionally we see a turkey in a grass field and deer along the road…Beautiful!
10:30 am – After the tunnels on the turnpike, we drop down to the southern rout 70 which we will take to Indianapolis. We stop just west of Wheeling West Virginia for a needed break. It is a long drive and I have forgotten how tiring it can be. The countryside is beautiful, the sky is clear and my mind drifts off to the sounds of the Mississippi. Jason and I take time to grab a lunch to eat on the road. It will be a long time before we arrive at Muskygirl’s home for a hot meal and a rest.
9:00 pm – We arrive at Muskygirl’s home a little worn around the edges. After hugs and the carrying in of our overnight bags, Cheri treats us to a wonderful steak and salmon dinner.
11:00 pm – Jason and I stumble into bed, a couple of tired puppies!
5:00 am – We’re up at first light and after a quick picture we are on the road by six.
After picking up some live bait to take along, we head out in search of Rt. 18w. It is a beautiful drive in the country. There are many sites to be seen.
I have always been amazed at the limestone hills. I was surprised at the amount of crop damage due to flooding. And there were a good many detours due to wash-outs. The closer we got to the Mississippi the more urgent it became to get there; quickly now, it might get away! As Ole Miss came into view I felt a rush come over me. My eyes danced with joy as I strained to see every nook and cranny of her.
1:30 pm – Arrival at Goose Island is exhilarating to say the least! Our first stop is at the camp store / office to check in. To our surprise, Tom and Lou are there to greet us! There were hand shakes and hugs all around, as we all did something we have wanted to do all year…Hi! How are you? It seemed like forever since our last meeting and it will take all week to catch up on all that has happened in our lives. We check in and head for our site. The wind is howling, causing us to delay setting up our camp site. While we are waiting on the wind, the “James Gang” arrives and Mudshark stops in to say "hello!"
8:00 pm – The tents are finally up and dinner is being served. Grilled steaks, potato salad and corn on the cob…Yummy! Our guests tonight are Lou, Tom and the James Gang! As you can imagine, there was plenty of laughter and BS!!
11:00 pm – Everyone climbed into their respective tents, with Lou & Tom heading for home…My tent is fairly large and I have a chair inside with a nice tent light. There, I sit and reflect on the days activities, write in my journal and allow my night time meds to work. This usually ends up with me falling asleep in my chair! There is still a gentle breeze, making for a nice cool nights sleep. The meet is a couple of days away and I find myself excited about meeting everyone. I do believe its lights out for this tired boy…
5:45 am – I am wakened by the sound of birds, chirping outside my tent! I stick my head outside the tent in time to see the “James Gang” get into their boat for the early bite. My first job this morning is to get the coffee ready. Followed by policing the camp; the winds from yesterday have items scattered around. As I ready the dishwater I can smell the wonderful aroma of freshly perked coffee! By the time I finish up the dishes from last night, the coffee is ready and I sit down to enjoy a hot cup and make this entry in my journal…As Cheri wakes, a squirrel hops through the site. I observe lots of birds this morning; woodpeckers, robins…All making their own special music. The water is calm, the sky is clear, all signs of a beautiful day in the making!
8:15 am - The “James Gang” returns, reporting that the bite is slow. And while we discuss this, we brew more coffee to relax with. As we sip on our third cup, Tom arrives, bringing channel markers that he promptly starts to paint. These we will put out to make the channel that leads to the main river channel and pool 8.
10:00 am – Hey Rod Tender! Jere pulls in with his boat in tow. Woo wee, the master chief has arrived! After many hand shakes and hugs, Tom and I set out to put the “Bushwacker” in the water. All functions appear to be working well as I slide her into the shore. Cheri is also launching her boat and is having throttle problems. Jim (Fish-o-holic) and his son James (both referred to as the “James Gang”) work to resolve Cheri’s throttle problems. Tom has been a kick today…He always brings out the worst in me! Some time around noon, Jere’s daughter, son-in-law Bill and their children arrive.
him again! It is at this point, Tom has decided to set up his camp a day early…Later we will discover that this one little change in his routine will be the cause of many problems for him…In my family we call it early on set of “Old-timers!!!” So off we go to get Tom’s boat and gear.
7:30 pm – Although a group meal is not scheduled for tonight, Jere and Tom provided Brats and everyone else added to the pot. Brats, burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, all cooked over the grill. It has become quiet, a sure sign that the food is good!
After supper Tom continues unloading his gear, setting up camp. I start a fire at our site. I guess I should explain this a little, Cheri, jbass and I are sharing a site and the “James Gang” is right beside us. Four tents in all with Jere and Tom right across the road from us! As the sun sets I am reminded of how inviting the nights are here.
And the same can be said of the folks of this area; kind hearted, honest and fun loving! I think about Lou and his wife who is undergoing surgery tomorrow. I think of Dave, way out there in California. And I think of Scott and Ken, both hungry for a return trip here. After the sun sets completely behind the horizon, everyone is treated to smores and popcorn. What a treat! I have returned to my tent and I am in my easy chair attempting to make this entry. My night time meds are kicking in and it is becoming difficult to make this entry! Tomorrow morning will be busy. Tom, jbass, Cheri, Bill, the “James Gang” and I will be busy placing the markers to the main channel. After that we will venture to pool #8 and do some fishing.
5:00 am – Rise and shine! The sunrise is beautiful and the birds are making their glorious music. As I put the morning coffee on, a woodpecker pounds away at a dead tree that is right next to our picnic table. This will turn out to be the morning music for the entire meet! I busy myself with washing the dishes from last night, while the aroma of freshly brewing coffee floats through the air. Cheri is up but the others are slow to rise.
5:30 am – By this time everyone is up, yesterdays dishes are done and the coffee is ready…Anyone want a cup? We go through a few pots as we wipe the sand from our eyes and spread the BS around.
6:30 am – Cheri and Bill, the “James Gang” and Tom, Jason and I prepare our gear for our trip to the dam at pool #8. After the marker stakes are loaded in Tom’s boat, we are off in a northerly direction, placing markers as we go. Once we hit the main channel the throttles are opened wide for a cruse up the mighty Mississippi!
It is a 12 mile run and as we reach the dam, Tom shows us all that is to be seen, including the structure beneath us. He takes us around the dam wall, where the cat walk is, and we attempt some fishing. Tom and I are after anything that swims and Jason is focused on perch. I had a good hit as a school of white bass came from knoware. Jason had several hits but couldn’t hook up. So Tom takes us around to the opposite shoreline where the other two boats are. And they are catching a mess of fish! Woo wee! Jason changes his rigging for walleye as we decide to drift with the current. But before we do, Tom manages to catch a nice pike right under the nose of the “James Gang”! After the fish is stowed away, we start our drift. This is when I get my first exposure to wing dams. I work a white Rapala shad diver all around. FISH ON! My first fish of the meet! And it is giving me a fight. A 4 pound LMB!
10:00 am – Tom takes the boat into a large cove that goes under the rout 90 bridge. We drift the shallows and as we cross over a deep pool, FISH ON! Tom lands a very nice pike! That’s two of them sucker already, and I have yet to hook up with just one! We fish this area for about an hour and decide it is time to head back to camp. I am feeling bad for Jason right now…The skunk is his best friend. As we head out through the channel that brought us into this cove we pass the other two boats heading into the cove. They tell us they will be along shortly after they make sure there are no more fish in here to be caught!
Noon – Tom’s boat glides smoothly to the shore. After the boat is secure and my gear is stored, Tom and I take pictures of our catch.
Suddenly Tom’s cell phone sounds off. It is Cheri and she reports that she and the “James Gang” have run out of gas! They are safe and say there are two marinas near by and will attempt to use their trolling motors to get to the gas pumps! As word spreads thru camp there are many laughs and chuckles. It seems that something similar happened last year! Suddenly, another call! Cheri reports that the “James Gang” can no longer keep up. Their trolling motor took a crap! Cheri will go to the nearest marina herself and return to tow the “James Gang” in! Wow! Little did I realize this issue would be the beginning of many an adventure and loads of laughs for us all! So, since things seemed to be under control, Tom, Jason and I went to Wendy’s for lunch and pick up some items for the meet.
1:00 pm – Man are my eye lids getting heavy…I do believe it is nappie time!
2:30 pm – I awake to discover that the “James Gang”, Cheri & Bill have arrived safely with boats full of fish! So we all head to the fishing cleaning station and prepare the pike, bass and pan fish for our all you can eat fish fry. Yum, yum! Steve Casteel arrives and there are hand shakes and hugs all around!
5:30 pm – Several of us have gathered around a fire ring…The BS is just a flying! Tonight Cheri, James and Larry Potter will head out for a catfish hunt. Jere and Bill have loaded up and are already heading south, toward the island. And Tom heads into the bait shop for minnows. He has crappie on his mind!
8:00 pm – Jere and Bill return with a full fish basket. One nice pike and two nice LMB! Meanwhile, Steve is at his usual place, bank fishing.
11:00 pm – James arrives with a nice catfish for the fish fry. During the time that folks were out fishing, there were several campfires glowing. The bugs were out in spades so repellant was necessary. It is so peaceful. The storm that was heading our way chose to go a different rout. It was a time of good fellowship.
5:00 am – Rise and shine! As I step out of my tent, I am greeted by the smell of freshly brewed coffee! Last night Tom and Jim set up a 35 cup coffee maker with a timer that was set for 4:00 am. Jason has decided to sleep in today so John Gleason and I load his gear into the “Bushwacker”. I pull my baby away from shore and turn to the south, towards the island that Dave and I spent so much time at in 2006. We pass the island and turn to the east, at the first large opening past the island. This same inlet will take you to the back side of the island where Dave and Lou had so much fun with the pike in 2007! But I turn away from the island and head once again to the south, looking for the rocky shoreline that I discovered in 2006. John and I set up to work this nice stretch of rocks that runs from the shore to halfway across the channel. I drop the trolling motor and turn the boat so we both have a good view of the shore line. On my second cast, FISH ON! I catch the first walleye of the meet, even though it is only 12”…John and I make four passes along this short stretch, catching many LMB and SMB. I was using a Rapala white shad shaped lure and John was using a spinner bait. On the second pass John hooks into a “Bragging Rites” LMB! It jumps, it runs, it rolls near the boat. I am quickly putting my gear out of the way and reaching for the net when there is this sickening sound…Snap! Not the little pop that you hear when your line snaps, but the sound of a rod snapping, and not just in one place either! In is excitement, John decided not to wait for the net and tried to lift the fish in over the side by himself…That was truly sad. But fortunately, John had an extra rod with him. So after four passes we decide to head into camp for some more coffee and perhaps some breakfast!
10:00 am – We spend the day at the campsite trying to beat the heat. I told everyone about the “honey hole” and I know that Cheri and many others will pay it a visit. During the afternoon, many other members arrive; Storyteller, Piscmonkey, I Drown Worms and crew. There is rain on and off thru the afternoon, dying off toward supper time. The worst of the storms heading to LaCrosse. At this point I am not sure there will be an evening bite or a campfire! Jere receives word that Ray and Laura are running behind schedule…
6:00 pm – Jere puts on a great dinner; ham, parsley potatoes, green beans, fruit salad, rolls and butter…Yummy in the tummy! While we all sit and stuff our faces, Tom officially opens the 2008 LaCrosse Member Meet. We are given a hearty welcome and there are special “arrival gifts” given to all!
7:00 pm – Ray and Laura finally arrive! They have had their problems, mostly with little critters that like to chew on boat wires and tubing! So the tired travelers sit down to a hearty meal. Needless to say, everyone is glad they are here…After dinner, several of us head out for the evening bite. Everyone wants to make sure there is enough fish for an “all you can eat fish fry!” When everyone returns and the fish are cleaned, oh ya, we caught fish, the balance of the evening was spent sitting around the campfire. We talk of our youth and what the future holds for our children. Of our feelings concerning member meets. And of course, we discuss the 5th annual LaCrosse member meet!
6:00 am – A sleep in day for me! Most everyone else is out for the early bite. After a hot shower I am ready for my first hot cup of coffee! Ever pleasant Ray is tossing a Panther Martin into the ole Miss, right in front of me. As Ray fishes I sip my coffee and make this entry into the journal. It is cloudy with much haze this morning…Looks to be a humid day! This is the first morning that I wasn’t in one of the boats going out for the bite. As I watch Ray and others move about, my mind begins to wander, slipping back to prior meets. It has been a privilege to commune with such fine folks. I wonder what will happen if my physical or mental health keeps me from attending these meets; how will I handle this. Jere works to prepare breakfast
as Ray continues to toss his lures. My attention is suddenly diverted to a bird that has a nest in the ole bee tree…Lipper would approve! Steve arrives, setting up his chair near the water, and catches a drum right off! Many folks are starting to stir. The meet will soon come alive again! And yet, I am aware of the many that will not be able to attend this year, for many different reasons…They are missed!
Noon – Rain, rain and then it rained! A storm front moves in and with the rain come high winds. Everyone helps to hold on to the canopy as Mother Nature seeks to rip it from us. It was a steady rain that lasted all afternoon. Folks took advantage of this slack time to take a nap or sit under the canopy and catch up on what’s been going on in our lives since we last met. Tom picked on me all day…It was also a time of many blessings. Jere’s grand daughters were baptized into the faith!
Woo wee! And Jere spent the day cooking off boneless pork loin, mashed potatoes, corn apple chutney, and the Larson’s brought two home made blackberry pies!
6:00 pm – Supper is served! Ray offers Grace. It has become very quiet, a sure sign that all is well. As I write this entry in the journal, many are aiding in the clean-up effort. Everyone expresses many thanks to Jere, our “Master Chief!”
7:30 pm – As the sun is creeping ever to the west, several boats pull away from the shore. Some head to the north for a crappie bite and others head to the south, looking for a bite of any kind!
Mean while, folks are busy at their respective sites preparing their fire rings for the evening campfires. You would think that everyone would be talked out but tonight there will be story telling and laughter around the glowing embers of campfires…The sounds and sites of the Mississippi!
9:00 pm – Several folks have gathered at my site. The popcorn and smores are a welcomed treat. There is much discussion about the evening bite and what tomorrow will bring. This is a reoccurring theme throughout this meet. Great fellowship, much laughter, good friends!
Midnight – I have retired to my tent, exhausted by the day’s activities, and catch up on my journal entries. It will soon be lights out for this boy!
6:00 am – As I rise from a good nights sleep, I can feel the humidity and smell the aroma of coffee in the air. Today I’ll be busy making fish cakes for our all you can eat fish fry! While I wait for the coffee to finish perking, Tom shows me how to use one of the newer bait casters…Woo wee! I think I’ve got it! As I take time to make this entry, I observe the wonders of nature. There are only a few clouds in a beautiful turquoise sky. The birds are chirping and the ground squirrels scurry from one shrub to another…The mother bird continues to feed her young in the very tree that used to harbor a nest of angry bees. It is really an honor to fellowship with these fine folks. And my convictions about the folks at all member meets I’ve attended hold firm.
7:30 am – Jere is up and he busies himself with the task of preparing breakfast for everyone. Cindy, Ray and several others pitch in, each to their own specialty.
Bacon, ham slices, sausage, potato pancakes, scrambled eggs, pancakes. A feast for the multitudes!
8:00 am – Deb and Trev arrive, woo wee! As they attempt to get some breakfast, Deb and Trev are greeted by many hugs and handshakes. After breakfast several of us help to set up their site. After things settle down, I head over to my site to begin the task of poaching lake trout, pike, brown trout, rainbow trout and some bass. This process and the bone removal, mixing and making of patties, take to 5:30 pm!
Everyone else was off on fishing adventures. Steve was fishing from shore, and doing a fine job of it I must say!
6:00 pm – The oil is hot, the fillets are breaded, the fish cakes are ready, so into the hot oil they go! It is time for our “all you can eat fishy fry!” There was soooo much fish, and onion rings to boot!
While everyone is filling their bellies, Deb gives out the “traveled the farthest” award, a beautiful hummingbird that was tied by Trev and placed in a glass globe. And yours truly won it! There will be a special place in my den for this; along with the many other mementos from other member meets…Next on the schedule is the “Pie Eating Contest!” Participating teams included: The “Bushwackers” (turnip & jbass), rodtender &Bill, the “James Gang” (fish-a-holic & son, James), the “Boyzz” (Ray and Laura), English ned & his wife Shelia and the “Independants” (canepole & muskygirl) and Jere’s two granddaughters competing in the youth division! And the “James Gang” won forks down! The “Bushwackers” could have won but they were ambushed by the “Independants”! The winners of the “Youth Division” were, you guessed it, Jere’s granddaughters. The prize was a set of grippers for all winners. It was great fun and I must remember to thank Cheri for putting this activity together. The last thing on the agenda is the group picture and the signing of the banner.
Does it get any better than this? After clean-up, fires are started at many sites. It is neat to visit other camps…Shades of other meets. I can’t help but think about how I will feel on Sunday when I head for home. This entire year has and will continue to make me feel good. Good friends all over the country!
11:00 pm – Lights out for this tired “Bushwacker!”
5:30 am – I am up with the birds today! It rained some over night so I will have to make sure I can get things to dry out today. On my way to the outhouse, I start a fresh pot of coffee!
6:30 am – Slowly but surely folks crawl out of their tents and stumble to the coffee pot. There is a gathering in front of Deb and Trev’s site. They appear to be fishing…Yes, and they are catching fish! It has been a very productive week as far as fish catching goes. Quite a difference from when I was out there in 2006. Some say it is because the water is rising and falling due to the rains. I should note here that there was no tournament right before the meet either! As I sit under the canopy sipping my coffee and making this entry, I become aware of the sky. A beautiful blue with wisps of very white clouds…And mother bird continues to feed her young!
10:00 am – After a great breakfast, again by Jere and his helpers, Trev takes me out to the lily pads for a lesson on cranking for pike. Trev catches one on what seems like his second cast! He is taking the opportunity to teach me the fine art of using spinnerbaits for pike fishing. He likes the slow retrieve rather than the “burning it in” style. He has a few more follow-ups before I get my first one, which promptly turns into a bite off. Neither one of us is using a steel leader so this becomes a hazard. I manage to get three more follow-ups before we decide to head back.
11:00 am – Trev slides his boat perfectly between two other boats back at shore. It has become very hot already so we decide to get our tying equipment out and find a shade tree to put a table underneath. Folks come and go while Trev and I tie up several spinnerbaits. Dave has sent many along to the meet for us to practice on…Trev doesn’t need the practice but this boy sure does! After about an hour of this I decide to give Tom and James a hand prepping the pavilion for the covered dish gathering tonight. And of course when nobody is looking, I sneak off for a power nap!
6:00 pm – Everyone has gathered at the pavilion for the closing event. The grill is hot and ready and the covered dishes are spread out over a long table…Yum, yum! Steaks, chops doggies, sausage, burgers and just about anything you could want to grill is cooking. And Lou has it all under control! After dinner, Tom led the closing activities. Names were drawn for various gear give-a-ways…It was a good time! This was followed by a worship service and Holy Communion, ministered by Ray. It’s all good. What else can I say? Later, after clean-up, it rained again, hard this time. And for me it meant that I would have to pack my gear wet in the morning and drying it out when I get home. But it did make for a good nights sleep!
4:45 am – I am up early for a hot shower before the crowd wakes! I make a pot of coffee at my site and while it perks, I start tearing down…With a hot cup of coffee in front of me, I sit down and try to gather my thoughts for this journal entry. I have very mixed feelings. I really don’t wish to go back home…But I sure miss my sweetie!
6:30 am – As it gets light enough to see, I take note to the fact that anything that is white is now covered in a dark moving glob…A Mayfly hatch!
And it is a thick one…The rest of the sites are coming to life. While everyone breaks camp, Jere starts breakfast and others see to the big coffee pot. With full bellies and a hot cup of coffee, we sit and take time to reflect on the weeks activities. The fishing was very good, the meals that were provided by Jere were excellent and the opportunity for good fellowship around a campfire was great…The story telling, laughing and back slapping…Sounds of the Mississippi! As I continue to pack, Tom gets his fly rod out and tries his luck. His first time out and he catches a very nice SMB and several panfish to follow.
11:00 am – I am packed and ready to go. I go from camp to camp, shaking hands and giving hugs. I try to keep a straight face; this gets harder all the time. The last person I see is Tom. My Bro! He gives me the dickens for being to sentimental…He always brings out the worst in me! I honk and wave, wiping tears from my cheeks, as I head out for good old Pennsylvania. I travel until about 6:00 pm, and stop for the night some where near Peoria, Illinois. Jason and I get our room and walk down the street to a pizza shop for dinner. And before I go in I pause and smell the air; corn never smelled so good! See ya round the fishing hole!
LM since 2005 Bushwacker Deputy Sherif