It’s March 16, 2013, and a fresh sheet of newly fallen snow (approximately 5 inches) has encompassed the Green Bay area. Time to break out the boat.
Cody and I left Fond du Lac around 3:30 am (to beat the crowd) and pulled Cody’s boat to De Pere, WI for its maiden voyage on the Fox River. The extended winter of 2013 had many anglers anxious to get on the open water to hunt walleyes staging for the annual spawn.
This is Cody’s first boat, and as a “twenty-something,” he should be proud that he has an excellent walleye rig at this point in his life. Cody was eager to fish, and since I personally did not have a boat (in the state of Wisconsin), I was more than willing to ride along to get some real walleye action under my belt.
We followed the snow plow up Hwy. 151 and about two hours later we arrived at the DePere Voyager Launch. Three boats graced the parking lot, with a strong north wind blowing down the river. The temperature was an uninviting 17 degrees with wind chills well below zero. We broke the ice and snow buildup off the motor and prepped the boat for the harsh conditions. Our hands could not undo the tie downs, and we had to head back to the truck to warm our hands to pull the boat cover.
After a successful launch we headed to some honey holes on the river. Being this early on the river, we had no idea where the fish would be staged. We found a nice school of fish and worked a deep hole which held the fish according to the Lowrance. Cody hooked into the first fish to find out the school was whitefish.
Moving quickly, we found some warm water, and immediately Cody was on walleyes. One after another he pulled the large ‘eyes in and I netted. The kid was schooling the old man. I struggled; it was just one of those days. I kept telling Cody to catch all the small ones, and that I would get the trophy. Finally, I had the fish I thought I was looking for. It was definitely a 30+ inch fish, I told Cody as he grabbed the net. A mid-30’s inch river pike emerged out of the muddy water.
The day went on and not much else changed, other than the temperatures edged toward freezing. About 25 boats now joined us in our general area. We decided to wrap the day around 2:30 with 30 plus walleyes for the boat, with only one under 20”. A great day for Cody, but a subpar day for Mark. We headed to the launch to load Cody’s boat.
While loading the boat, the winch cable seized up and I could not get the boat hooked properly on the trailer. As I examined the situation, I realized I needed to unseize the strap. As I opened the winch, the boat shifted on the trailer, releasing the strap while sucking my left finger through the winch. My reflex was to pull the finger out, which caused further damage to my finger.
For those old enough to remember the Julia Child skit from Saturday Night Live, I stood on the ramp, shooting blood like a fountain out of the tip of my finger. Of course, not a single person at the ramp had a first aid kit. I grabbed some Kleenex, flipped my now dangling index finger back over, and finished loading the boat. After about 20 minutes, we left the launch to go to the hospital.
By now the word on the street got out I was injured. Before they could even stitch me up at St Vincent’s Hospital, Chase showed up to take pictures and make fun of his tournament partner. As Cody and Chase came up for new websites for me to start (myfishingscars.com), we laughed together as the doctor performed his reassembly. Cody and Chase did a great job keeping my mind off my finger.
I think back to three years ago about my first trip of the year, when I nearly broke my hand at DePere when the winch handle (on my boat) smacked my hand after the locking mechanism became disengaged. One has to think, moving forward, I will not be the Winch Man on opening day ever again. I just might be jinxed at Voyager Launch.
Currently my hand is healing and displays about 8 colors. I’ll be on the disabled list until about Good Friday, when I plan to head back to the hospital to have the stitches removed, while I have my new boat in tow. Yeah, I’m a fisherman!