As we venture into the month of July and celebrate our independence, I look back to the years when our family would take a mid-summer vacation “up north.” Taking a July vacation with the family in mind gave me a fulfilling, satisfying feeling. Spending a week at our favorite lake, Spider, was always great and the warm summer weather gave Jean, the boys and myself ample fishing time and it also left plenty of time for swimming and evening campfires.
I was looking in a buffet drawer the other day when I came across an itemized bill that I had saved; it was from one of our camping vacations in the ‘80s. Camping was $8 per night or $9 if you wanted electricity. The bill also included the price of a wheelbarrow full of wood which was $5, boat gas and bait; it even included a few ice cream treats. This bill came to a whopping $103 for the week. This was a pretty inexpensive vacation and the kicker was that we actually caught fish.
The resort was owned by Dave Rauck and his wife Lynn and her dad and mom “Bid” and Ginny Gramke. Over the years they treated us more like friends than customers, even though we were camping, which was the least expensive way to go. That didn’t seem to matter to them because they treated us as if we were renting the most expensive cabin at the resort. Bid was a retired Cincinnati police officer and a real character who would always be willing to get you excited about fishing even if you came off of the lake without having caught many fish.
After we purchased the land to build our cabin I returned to the resort for a couple of days of tenting. On one occasion I was sharing a beverage with Bid in the lodge and we reminisced about those days when I wasn’t having much luck and how he always talked to me saying the “big ones” should be running so you’d better get back on the lake because you could be missing out. Strangely enough I always knew that he was about 85% bull when he told me those things, but I bought into it anyway; come to think of it he never really told me what the big ones were. On my last visit with him I told him that I always knew that he was feeding me a line and we both shared a good laugh because that’s what friends do.
Bid also shared the location of one of his “secret” walleye haunts with me and to this day I can go there and catch fish. A couple of years ago I was fishing Spider Lake with my grandson Dylan and I told him about this spot. Although it was later in the morning, I decided to try it and I had no more than dropped my line over the side of the boat when I caught a decent 17-inch walleye. It was the only one we caught in that spot, but I am sure that it must have given Dylan the impression that I actually knew what I was doing. Luck is always a word I use regularly when it comes to mentioning my fishing prowess.
Yes, Spider Lake is one lake that I surely plan to visit again this year. I have made it a habit or a tradition that I will visit that lake at least once each year. What’s not to like? It has beautiful scenery, thanks mostly to the Chippewa National Forest, and most of the cabins are on the north end of the lake or first lake as most who know the lake call it. It has basically three parts and they are referred to by the numbers first, second and third lakes. Second lake has two cabins that are only accessible by boat or over the ice in the winter; third lake has no cabins, but does have some primitive camp sites that you can use on a first-come basis.
I have spent most of my prime fishing years fishing on that lake and there were very few times when I can recall ever being skunked. I have to believe that my luck may have been even better if I had fished for what was biting at the time rather than what I thought should be biting. One year my sister Judy and my brother-in-law Mike and our families were camping with us at Spider. Mike and I had been catching some nice pike trolling this one particular shoreline, and early one afternoon he wanted to fish for panfish, so we took two boats, and this time I followed Mike because he knows panfish. It was the first full week in July at about 2 in the afternoon when we started catching some slab crappies; not one or two, but just about all we could handle. This was not only fun for the kids, but the big kids as well. I have never seen crappies of that size or in those numbers on that lake since then. Oh, you can still catch them, but the numbers and quality of the fish that I have caught will never compare to the ones that we caught that particular week in July.
I will be fishing Spider on my next visit to the north country, though I’m not sure when that will be; hopefully there will be a fish tale or two to share.
Until next time, it is important that we encourage our youth to get outdoors and enjoy all of the natural wonders that nature has to offer. Fishing is a great sport that anyone can enjoy without much expense. If you introduce a kid to fishing, he or she will be “hooked” for life.
Please take some time to honor those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms that we enjoy today. Also take a little extra time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops that are serving today.