Big challenge on Turtle Flambeau

The story that you are about to read is loaded with bad luck, adventure, a go-for-it attitude and in the end the reality that persistence and a do-not-give up attitude generally save the day.

Wednesday, Nov. 8

High 28, Low 16

I was so excited about this trip and had been for weeks. I was going to fish for musky out of my 18-foot War Eagle on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage. I would camp for one night, not use a tent and make it a bit of a survival trip.

I was not overly concerned on the trip north this morning when I heard the forecast of a high of 21 degrees, winds in the 15-25 range and 2-5 inches of snow for the evening and second day of this pristine adventure.

Over 45 years ago my dad, the late Robert Walters, had taken me on my first adventure on the Flambeau and I truly love it.

So when I arrived at Fishermen’s Landing on the north end of the flowage, I was a little concerned that the floating piers were pulled and there was literally just enough room to squeeze my boat in the water as the piers were kind of blocking the water.

Nothing could stop me; I was going to motor 4-5 miles into the Manitowish River area by Bonies Mound. I had three suckers a Suick and a “can-do” attitude.

So launching my boat was a bit of a challenge due to solid waves hitting the shore and nowhere to put the boat due to a high shoreline, the floating piers and driftwood. I made a prayer for a wind change upon my return the next day after an adventure where I would land several huge musky.

My golden retriever, Ruby, would be my companion, and both at the landing and for this entire adventure we would never see a human.

So I picked a spot where once upon a time I caught a 40- and 47-inch musky. The first thing that I noticed upon my arrival, after a five-mile boat ride, was that it was really cold out.

My plan was to use one sucker without a bobber, close to the boat and the other a distance away, drift and cast with my third rod.

At dark I had not had any action, actually felt pretty good about the following day and headed to shore to build a simple camp of a plastic tarp under and over me while sleeping inside of two sleeping bags.

Ruby slept right next to me and I actually had a great night. I did notice that it started snowing about 9:00 and the wind became quite strong about 3:00.

I was up and ready for the day at first light. About 2 inches of snow had fallen and it was quite cold out (later found out 12 degrees). Plan A had me getting right in the boat and going fishing.

That plan came to an end when I realized that I had left the shifter on 90 horsepower etc. in forward and it was frozen solid even though I had covered it up the night before. No big deal, I put my propane lantern next to it and packed up my camp.

An hour later the shifter was still froze solid, the flowage was freezing over, it was snowing and I was becoming concerned. I then made three calls – they were too very mechanically inclined friends.

I was told to also put heat back by the engine, which I did with my propane stove. Two hours later and a whole bunch of “what the heck am I gonna do later” the throttle thawed out and I was on my way.

Here is where things got crazy and that was in the form of strong winds blowing the waves over the bow of my boat and each time, the water literally froze my eyelashes to my face.

When I hit the big water 1.5 miles from my truck I knew I had issues, the wind was blowing directly into the landing. There was nowhere to park my boat as the only available spot was where I had to back my trailer in.

I beached it about 500 yards away in a somewhat wind proof bay and realized that my throttle was froze up. I left my engine running and put my cook stove underneath the shifter and then put on my hip boots and made the walk to my truck.

I backed my trailer in the water and left Ruby in the truck and made the hike back to my boat. I had switched over to chest waders and also noticed that the thermometer said 13 degrees on my truck.

The throttle/shifter was frozen, I was running out of propane and said what the heck, and I can do this with my trolling motor. Both worked earlier – neither did now.

I knew I had to thaw the throttle and was trying to get the stove as close to the shifter as possible, when a leak sprung on the bottom of my stove and my beard, hands and arms were now on fire. I had no choice; I threw the stove in the flowage and knew I had issues.

I swallowed my fear, pulled the stove out of the water, dried it, relit it and the inferno thawed out the shifter.

I had to use a very leaky pair of chest waders to put the boat on the trailer, as the waves kept blowing it off and I made it as far as Medford before stress and fatigue forced me to pull over in a Wal-Mart parking lot and take a nap.

Persistence saved the day!


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