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Wildside: 'Gang of Geezers' goes fishing again

Ken Schreiber, a happy geezer with a Holy Grail of Wisconsin bluegills, a 10-inch long lunker. Dan Wilcox photo

The same four friends went fishing for bluegills again.

John Lewinski of McCall, Idaho, grew up in Mann Valley just west of River Falls. My brother-in-law Ken "Buck" Schreiber lives south of Osseo. John, Buck and I are college buddies. We attended UW-Stevens Point, studying water resources many moons ago.

Dennis Anderson of River Falls is a river rat and fisheries biologist originally from Winona, Minn. Dennis and I have worked together for 32 years. We all grew up fishing for bluegills and continue to be avid fishermen.

The four of us have had many memorable fishing trips over the years, ranging from the French River in Ontario, Canada, to Hell's Canyon in Idaho and Belize in the Caribbean.

Fishing in the Idaho mountains most of the year, John suffers from trout fatigue. He has made a tradition of flying in from Idaho in June to fish for panfish with us. We have fished Big Chetak and Red Cedar lakes near Birchwood in Barron County, and on various Polk County lakes searching for the Holy Grail of Wisconsin panfishing, the 10-inch-long bluegill.

This year, we arranged to stay at Laurie Evaska's "shack" (a nice modern house) near Webb Lake in chock-full-of-lakes Burnett County. Buck made up the menu for our trip this year and sent it around to us by email. The telling title on the menu was "Geezerfest 2011," referring to the fact that we are all well into our 50s and not quite as adventurous as we used to be.

We used to camp out and fish from canoes. Now we opt for decadence: Staying in good accommodations and fishing from outboard-powered boats.

We fished on Pokegama Lake near Minong and on Yellow Lake near Webster. We enjoyed warm weather and plenty of sun, but there was a strangely persistent southeast wind. Fishing was generally slow with some flurries of activity.

Yellow Lake proved to be the most productive lake for panfish. We caught bluegills, pumpkinseeds, plenty of largemouth bass, yellow perch, walleyes and black bullheads.

On the way back home we met at Big Round Lake in Polk County to fish some more. Big Round is a fish factory, a shallow dish of a lake with lots of aquatic plants and gravelly shallows that makes prime bluegill habitat.

We toughed it out for hours in the cold rain because the fish were biting. Buck caught the Holy Grail of Wisconsin bluegills, a 10-inch long lunker, despite his fingers going numb.

We enjoyed pleasant days on the water, watching wildlife, hearing loons and cranes calling in the early morning, a fish fry, bike rides, camaraderie and even an afternoon nap during our time up north.

After weeks at work for all of us before the trip, it was just what the geezers needed.

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