I must confess how incredibly lucky I feel to be an outdoor producer. Indeed, most of my adult male friends are openly envious of my gig. They can’t believe I was lucky enough to find so perfect a job.
What they may not be considering is the many hours and days one toils trying to capture hunting and fishing content with dismal results. The technical nightmares that materialize at times. The heat and cold and colder. Rain. There’s nothing worse on camera gear than rain.
And then there’s days like this.
Earth Day - April 22, 2021, bluebird skies, and I have the utter privilege of filming three generations in the first open water fishing adventure of the season. My boss Robert found a perfect put-in site on Pool 2 of the Mississippi in St. Paul. Hidden Falls Regional Park offers a myriad of outdoor recreation, though our purpose here was limited to getting his boat in and out of the big river.
I helped Robert with some of the line rigging, which is unusual. He would normally do it himself, but he had extremely limited use of his left hand due to a recent injury. Would it keep him from fishing? Sorry doc. Robert’s 5-year-old son Isaac was itching to get out. He is a boundless source of enthusiasm for all things fishing, and today he was in his element.
Robert was unable to run the 60 hp Merc tiller on his Tuffy deep well boat, so his dad Dean had agreed to do the honors, even though he admitted to only being used to 10 hp ones. The Mississippi would also prove to be a challenging test of his boat control skills.
There was a crisp chill and a light wind as we navigated our way up to the dam at the top of Pool 2, just upriver of where the Minnehaha Creek spills into the Mississippi. Robert commandeered the trolling motor until the ipilot took over the task of keeping the boat stationary amidst the swift current. We were tacked a few hundred yards downstream of the dam.
This stretch is known for its bass, catfish and walleye - which we could catch prior to season here provided we release it. I don’t think Robert was too concerned about a specific species – as long as he could put his dad and son on fish. The Humminbird sidescan told us there were a few possible targets in the current, so the guys threw jigheads with nightcrawlers and minnows at them.
There were a few strikes but no one hooked one through a couple spots, so after a bit we moved down to calmer waters below Hidden Falls. The weather was simply perfect for a day on the water, and we nestled into a small inlet near a dog park. The dogs were frolicking and reveling in this perfect day as much as we were.
At one point Dean noticed Isaac’s rod had some action in its holder, so he grabbed it until Isaac was ready. The boy pulled in his first-ever redhorse sucker, and held it on the line long enough for grandpa to scoop it into the landing net. Isaac was thrilled by the prospect of a new species, and in hindsight could have easily ‘horsed’ it into the boat without the net, as the circle hook did its job and held on without much damage to the juvenile redhorse.
Getting the fish off in the net proved a bit tricky, and Robert was only able to offer one hand, but as Isaac put it, “Three hands are better than two.” The boy briefly posed with his catch before slipping it back into the Mississippi. Everyone beamed about catching a simple sucker. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
We were unable to coax another fish to bite in that spot, so we shot some clothing b-roll I needed, and then moved down to another small inlet downstream. It was liberating to be fishing under a major highway that I had driven over many times towering some 60 feet above us. It was one of those days that made you grateful to be where we were, as opposed to where all those up in traffic were. Isaac snacked on and off through much of the day, as Robert understands that there is no better way to keep a kid fishing when it is slow than preoccupying them with something to eat.
Eventually we went back to where we caught the redhorse and gave it one last effort. Dean was experimenting with multiple minnows on one plug, while Robert threw soft plastics mostly in the glow color. He took his bandaged hand in stride as he hunted for whatever was lurking in the April current. Isaac focused on how much nightcrawler he could get on a treble hook. Turns out it’s a lot.
We knew time was catching up with us as Dean had to get back, so we headed back to the boat landing. Dean dropped us at the beach, but then found it hard to power launch the boat onto the trailer in the current. It was proving more difficult than it looked.
Robert asked if I would try, though it turns out I wasn’t any better at it than Dean. I was fearful of damaging my boss’s boat or trailer, so it took me a half dozen approaches before I finally found the right angle and throttle to get the boat onto its trailer in the current. It had never occurred to me how tricky it would be, especially running the tiller of an outboard that size.
I could sense some collective eye-rolling from the people on the beach, but at least there wasn’t another rig waiting to use the ramp. There’s no pressure quite like that. With that minor drama behind us, we bid Dean adieu and leisurely packed up and finished filming for the day.
It had been a quiet day of fishing, but a triumph for a boy who added to his species list, his proud grandpa, and his dad who made it all happen despite having a debilitating injury. We all felt lucky, and I was happy to just be there to document it.
After all, how many jobs give you the chance to capture the ‘perfect day’ for prosperity? Mine did, and I couldn’t be happier. It will be featured on our series Why We Fish.
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