WILTZ: Some final thoughts on the Reindeer Lake tripA few weeks ago, this column included a photo of some young men holding a flathead catfish that came from the Randall Dam tail waters. A number of readers have commented that that fish should have weighed 20-25 more pounds. I feel that their observations are correct. The fish beneath the Randall Dam are starving. Usually seagulls work the tailrace for baitfish. Not so this year.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
A few weeks ago, this column included a photo of some young men holding a flathead catfish that came from the Randall Dam tail waters. A number of readers have commented that that fish should have weighed 20-25 more pounds. I feel that their observations are correct. The fish beneath the Randall Dam are starving. Usually seagulls work the tailrace for baitfish. Not so this year.
Like the catfish, all of the walleyes we’re catching right now are as skinny as broom handles. I’ll make an educated guess that the Lewis and Clark forage base washed through Yankton’s Gavins Point Dam during last year’s flood. There’s nothing we can do about it except wait for time to solve the problem.
* * * * * * * * * *
During the fourth morning of our recent Reindeer Lake fishing adventure, we were casting for northern pike when our young Cree guide, David Roy, recognized a distant splashing sound as being a moose. We slowly approached the moose while I took out my camera. The moose eventually spotted us and moved back into the cover.
David let go with a series of loud grunts while splashing the water with a paddle, but the cow with calf never fully revealed herself again. David told us that he would be back with friends to get the moose. I asked him what the chances of getting the moose with his rifle would be. He told me “100 percent.” He said moose are territorial, and finding the pair again would not be a problem.
Apparently the local Cree Indians can legally hunt moose outside the regular season. They would also be netting fish during a short span in July. I don’t like it that the Crees, or any people, have special privileges. They should need licenses like everyone else, and they must be treated like everyone else. Place your children or mine in a like environment, and they will have the same problems.
I can tell you with absolute certainty that our nation’s reservation system doesn’t work. Reservations, with their political corruption and lawlessness, are spawning grounds for suicide, homicide, child abuse, spousal abuse, sexual abuse, drug abuse and alcohol abuse. In his blockbuster book Centennial, James Minchner said it best. Assimilate the Indian people into mainstream America. Like all cultures, the best parts will survive, and those things not worth saving will be lost.
David Roy is a handsome and talented young man. He was both thoughtful and courteous, and anticipated our every need. He had worked in construction, and had been called “Monkey” by his peers for his ability to climb and work in high places where others dared not tread. Vern spent much of our boat time trying to talk David into going to college — something David said was free. It was like Vern had been a guidance counselor in another life.
The skill I most admired in David was his sense of place. We would literally be in the middle of the lake. In looking north or south, there was nothing but vast open horizon. To the east or west there might be islands. Without the use of a GPS, David would put us over a shallow reef covered with lake trout. I never saw any hesitancy in David.
I’m not looking for David to go to college, but I did see a lot of confidence and leadership skill. Whether I’m in Prince Albert, LaRonge, or Thompson, when I ask the locals how David Roy is doing, they’ll know exactly who I am talking about.
David’s shore lunch was mouth-watering — as good as fresh fish gets. First he built a fire. The ground moss was as flammable as gasoline and made excellent tinder. He then filleted the fish, leaving the waste for the mounting sea gull gathering that knew all about shore lunches. The fillets then went into a shaking bag of flour garnished with Lowry’s seasoned salt. He also prepared potatoes and onions.
Once hot, pounds of butter were dumped into the frying pans followed by full bottles of olive oil. Into these the fillets, along with the taters and onions in a separate pan, were fried to a golden brown. I’d think he fried too much fish, but it always disappeared.
As David was from South End, I asked him one day while fishing if he knew Andre, a young bush pilot from South End who had flown for Reindeer Lake’s Lawrence Bay Lodge. More than once Andre had flown both Vern and me into one of Lawrence Bay’s remote camps.
We were shocked to learn that Andre had died, along with four passengers, in a plane crash. We also learned that Andre had been one of David’s closest friends. Andre had been flying Lawrence Bay Lodge’s DeHavilland Beaver when a deadly storm developed. The five were killed instantly when the venerable floatplane smashed into five pieces.
On our return flight to Lynn Lake from Tate Island Lodge, I asked our pilot if my friend Randy Engen, owner of Lawrence Bay Lodge, had replaced his wrecked Beaver. The DeHavilland Beaver is king of the north woods. It is an institution in the world of aircraft.
Our pilot told me that the twisted pieces of Randy’s Beaver had been straightened and riveted back together. I commented that I didn’t know that Beavers could be reassembled like a Gilbert Erector Set. His reply really took me by surprise. “Not long ago, the Beaver you’re riding in right now lay upside down in the bottom of the lake.” Wasn’t that comforting.
*See you next week.