Due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, the border between the US and Canada was closed, so our traditional Memorial Day fishing trip was cancelled.
Fred Bouwman and I still got together to camp and fish near our home in Wisconsin. I cleared an area of my hunting land to setup a replica camp, similar to our camping area in Canada. Plenty of room for a campfire, tent and cook canopy. Fred was able to relax.
Our grandson Alex (13) helped me prepare the necessities for our back woods camp.
Fishing on the Big Eau Pleine was slow. Fred caught the only Walleye, released to keep growing.
Regardless of the slow fishing, it was nice to get the boat back on the water.
Despite not having any fish for dinner, we ate well. Fred grilled steaks on Thursday night, eggs & sausage on English muffins on Friday morning, Wisconsin Brats on Friday night, biscuits and gravy on Saturday morning, Jambalaya with shrimp, chicken and Andouille Sausage increased beer sales on Saturday night, pancakes and bacon on Sunday morning.
Daughter Kara surprised me with this great Father’s Day gift to remember our attempt to bring our Canada fish camp experience to my woods in Wisconsin.
The weather was typically unstable. Sun, clouds, rain and wind. The woods were filled with white trilliums!
The birds were talkative! Sandhill cranes have a distinctive call. Geese honked as they flew past. Crows seemed excited about our camp. Chickadees, my deer hunting partners returned for a visit. Brightly colored Orioles that Linda carefully feeds oranges and grape jelly to also visited us. Fred and I saw several bald eagles, white pelicans, ducks, cormorants and great blue herons while fishing. We listened in on the back and forth conversation between 3 owls, I captured one on my trail camera.
On Friday night, we had a Zoom meeting with many of our Canada friends, John, Jim, Zack and Spencer Cunningham (Thanks to Spencer for setting up the meeting) joined from Iowa. Ben Flemke setup Zoom so that Mark Cunningham could join from Minnesota. Fred and I joined while next to the campfire in Wisconsin. Great to talk to everyone. Lots of discussion on how crazy it is to lock down the entire economy in response to the pandemic. Looking forward to the August trip, although we are quite nervous if the borders will be open. The August trip might be a very big group +20?? Lots of pent up demand to get back to our favorite lake. Much discussion over the condition of the logging roads – might require a lot of chainsaw work.
On Saturday, long time friends Barb and Dave Donndelinger visited Fred, Linda and I. In the ice fishing world of Onalaska WI, Barb & Dave are legendary! We enjoyed a couple drinks while sitting along the lake. It was great to see them and catch up.
Ron Cunningham spent the long holiday weekend trying to finish a whole house remodeling a classic old home in South Minneapolis. Oldest son and fishing buddy Peter came home from Colorado to help. Opening walls in +100 year old homes is filled with surprises. Ron does great work! Looks like Ron has been growing a pandemic lockdown beard!
Jim did some home improvement and landscaping projects.
Beside setting up his father in law Mark on our Zoom meeting on Friday night, Ben took daughter Ava and some of her friends fishing, found some asparagus and had a bonfire over Memorial Day. Not bad, but Ben was still wishing he was in Canada.
John honored the graves of his grandparents Rose & John, father Robert John and cousin Don Schmalen.
Spencer and Zach found good Walleye fishing in Iowa.
Cousin Jeff Westra was forced to adjust to not being able to cross the border to fish his traditional spot on Brightsand Lake and camp along the Graham road. His fine crew instead fished Lake Kabetogama in North Eastern Minnesota. Fishing could not match Canada, but they were able to enjoy 5 meals of fresh fish. They managed a 29.5” Northern, 3 Walleyes over 20” (22.5, 23.5, 24.25), a 17.5 Small Mouth Bass, 4 Perch over 10”, but the staple of camp was the sauger which were our main food source. The crew tallied 22 fish for both boats on our best day and on the worst day tallied around 7. Craig Peterson from Owatonna stopped by to admire the Chuck Box Jeff built, using the design of the old plywood box that Mark Cunningham has been bringing to Canada for 30+ years. Small world!
Sadly, Spinny’s candle shop was unable to survive the extended economic shutdown. Without the surge in sales associated with our trip to Canada, Spinny could no longer cover his expenses in operating his shop. Another small business pushed into bankruptcy by the lockdown.
I have missed all but 3 Memorial Days over the last 40 years. We remember the brave military members that gave their lives to protect our freedom!
We can only hope that we will be able to get back to our special place in Canada again, but we made the most of our time.