WILTZ: I did a poor job — I should have called TIPSWe had been fishing beneath the dam at Pickstown. It was late morning when we pulled the boat from the water and rolled up to the area near the fish cleaning station. As we fitted the cover over the boat, Jerry commented, “I can tell from here that the walleyes they’re cleaning are too small.” Yes, some of the fish that morning had been tempting. That same morning we had thrown back two sauger and a walleye that came within an eighth inch of the 15-inch legal minimum.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
We had been fishing beneath the dam at Pickstown. It was late morning when we pulled the boat from the water and rolled up to the area near the fish cleaning station. As we fitted the cover over the boat, Jerry commented, “I can tell from here that the walleyes they’re cleaning are too small.” Yes, some of the fish that morning had been tempting. That same morning we had thrown back two sauger and a walleye that came within an eighth inch of the 15-inch legal minimum.
We kept four fish, two walleyes and two white bass. Jerry had kept a few fish the previous day, and I would keep and fillet these. Jerry headed home as he had a lonesome dog to look after. Two guys and a woman were processing fish when I walked up to the station. The walleyes were too small, but judging from their demeanor, I doubted whether they knew the fish were illegal. We exchanged pleasantries as they bagged their fillets and headed out.
The illegal fish thing did bother me at the time, but I failed to do anything about it. I don’t carry a cell phone because my tremor makes it all but impossible to operate. Therefore, making an immediate call to South Dakota Turn In Poachers was not an option.
If I had it to do over again, I would have committed detailed descriptions of the three, along with their boat, pickup and license plate number, to memory and called TIPS (888-683-7224) when I got home. The last seven digits of the TIPS number spells “overbag.”
Was there enough evidence? I didn’t actually measure their fish. Could Game, Fish & Parks determine the length of a fish from the fillet? I don’t know, but I’ll find out the next time I see a conservation officer.
* * * * * * * * * *
While I was fishing with friends the afternoon of May 20, my sister passed away. In a manner of speaking, I’ve been “fishing” all my life while my sister spent much of her time suffering.
Back in 1955 when I was an eighth-grader, our mother began to notice some troubling symptoms. Numbness was developing in her legs, and a car accident followed when she missed the brake pedal. Dad took her to the best hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic, in an effort to get a diagnosis. Eventually we learned that mom had multiple sclerosis. Her deterioration was rapid.
In 1960 when I left home for college in Brookings, mom was using a walker. Within a year she was wheelchair bound. As an 11-year-old, Janet, my sister, was doing much of the laundry and housekeeping, helping with supper, and assisting with our 4-year-old baby brother. Dad took over when he got home from work at night, but Janet still had as much responsibility as many adults.
Janet’s high school years began in 1962. She arranged her schedule so she could come home at noon and take over the household chores as well as care for mom. There was no time for school activities in her life.
I didn’t get home from Brookings very often, and for the most part, I dodged the burden that had fallen on the rest of the family. However, I have never forgotten what Janet told me during one of my infrequent visits. She looked me in the eye and said, “I hope you have some idea of how lucky you are to walk out of this place and go back to South Dakota.” Mom mercifully died in 1966. I’m thankful she had the chance to see her first grandchild.
Twenty-two years ago Janet was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Like my mom’s illness, her condition deteriorated rapidly, and she spent much of her time confined to a wheelchair and then a bed. Over the years Jan’s toughness and attitude have amazed, if not inspired, me. I’m thankful for her husband, Bill — a role model of the words, “for better or worse, in sickness and in health.”
My sister loved fishing, and for a short period in her life her family had a cabin on southern Wisconsin’s Rock River where she eagerly awaited the spring run of white bass. Maybe that’s why the white bass is one of my favorite fish.
Janet taught me that life isn’t fair — something I tried to teach my students over the years. The next time I think that I’ve been dealt a bad hand, I’ll remember my sister. I hope you do too.
*See you next week.