by John P. Jungas
In the early 30's my brother Al and I purchased the hardware store from my dad. We sold not only hardware but also appliances and then went into selling farm seeds such as alfalfa, timothy, and red and sweet clover. A lot of our seed was purchased from a farmers-owned seed house in northern Minnesota, located in a small town not far from Warroad, Minnesota. Their salesman called on us quite often. Since he came from the best fishing territory of Minnesota, he and I would visit a lot about the lakes that he was acquainted with and where he had the best results catching fish. He told me to come up and go fishing with him. I told him that I would love to, but that I usually went with my fishing partners. He was quick to say that I should bring them along and that he and the seed company would take us on a week's fishing trip. This was what I had been waiting for and I was quick to take up his offer. We set a date and the rest was up to me. I talked to A.J. Penner and J.F. Stoesz (Charlie's dad) and they were excited and ready to go. A.J. had a friend from South Dakota, Nicky Gosen, who was happy to go with us.
At the prearranged time we took off. I furnished the car and we borrowed a one-wheel trailer. It was fully loaded with clothes and fishing gear. We left after supper and drove until four o'clock in the morning when we arrived at the seed house. Not having been there before, we were not acquainted with the town or anyone living there. The lights were on at the seed house so we tried the door but no answer and the door was locked. It was a real cool morning, so we got back into the car, started the motor, turned on the heat and tried to get some sleep.
At seven someone came, unlocked the door and went in. We went in also and met the manager, and told him about our invitation by their salesman. He knew nothing about the deal; furthermore the salesman had left town and had gone to South Dakota to see his dealers. The manager was very kind. When one of his employees came he asked him whether he could take off and go fishing with us for several days. He said that he was available but that we needed two canvas boats. After checking around we finally found the boats and we headed for Warroad.
We were going to go on the mail boat to nearly the center of the Lake of the Woods and then stay with folks on an island and do our fishing from there. It so happened that the mail boat left at exactly eight o'clock in the morning and we were just a few minutes late. We saw the boat leaving in the channel on its way out. Now what? The Bootes Fishery was also located on this channel so we went to talk to them. They told us that their boat was leaving in a few minutes and was now being loaded with gas and oil to deliver to the fishermen enroute to the various stops around the huge lake and on return bring back their catch of fish. Yes, we could go along, but it would be quite a long trip to get to our island. We wouldn't arrive until about four o'clock in the afternoon. The mail boat would have been at our destination by noon. But then, this was better than having to wait two more days for the next mail boat. It would go only every other day. We loaded our two boats and all our gear into this larger boat and we were on our way.
The fellow running the fishery boat told us of a fellow commercial fisherman equipped to take in boarders and go fishing with us. It was on the next island from the one for which we were really headed. His name was Art Getting. The boat was going to stop there anyway, so we could ask him if he had room for us. We agreed to do this. On arriving, Art met us and was happy to have us stay with him. He had room for just four people. As we unloaded our gear, Art's wife came out of the house to meet us. It was late and she asked us what we would like to have for supper. Without hesitating Nic Gosen said, "Venison." She turned and went back into the house. The deer season was not on. We then made arrangements with the Bootes fishery boat to pick us up after four days, and he left.
Now we were alone on this island with the Gettings. We got settled in our two rooms (more like a chicken house) not far from the main house. Then came our dinner call. What a meal! Mrs. Getting was a wonderful cook. The whole meal was out of this world. The best venison I've ever had.
After dinner we visited with the Gettings. We loved to hear his stories about his fishing experience, his hunting and how they would move inland for the winter months. He told us how he could get his deer without firing a shot. Most islands have some deer on them. He would chase the deer into the water, and while it was swimming to the next island he would get near it with his boat, grab the ear (the one away from the boat) and cut its throat. If he would grab the ear next to the boat, the deer would pound the boat to bits with his legs.
The next morning we were ready to go fishing. Art had a thirty-foot flat bottom boat, ten feet wide. He would load boxes of ice on his boat, tie our two canvas boats behind and take off. Blackbird Island (Art's home) was in Minnesota, so we would stop at the border of Canada and check in with the Canadian official who lived on this other island. Soon we would anchor his large boat and the five of us would take the two canvas boats and go fishing. The lake was just loaded with islands. We trolled around one and then onto the next. We used only plugs and spinner baits. It was the best fishing I have ever had. The ice was used to cool the fish after getting back to the large boat. His bigger boat looked like a covered bus. We went to look for muskies. John Stoesz had one follow all the way to the boat. It was huge. It was so close that I could have touched it. I guessed it to be around forty pounds. I had one take my hook but he coughed it up. No muskies.
Art's main work was commercial fishing. One day he took us along to empty his net. What an experience! In a gill net, fish get caught in the mesh and if not taken out in a reasonable length of time they die. But Art's net was different. He had a real long, wide net anchored near the shore of an island and then running out to deeper depths and ending up in a box type net. This box type net was fastened to tall poles thirty feet apart, one on each corner and then in between except the one on the side where the long net entered. This box net was approximately ten feet deep with a bottom in it. There was a trap on the end of the long net so that when the fish would enter the box net it would be nearly impossible to get out again. A rope was tied to the trap, so when pulled it would close the trap. It was fun to see how Art would tie his thirty-foot boat to the poles on the long net side, pull the rope and raise the net. It was just loaded with walleyes and some northerns. With a long-handled dip net he would dip out the fish and immediately pack them in ice. What an experience to watch this!
After four such wonderful days, we took our fish packed in Commercial Fishery boxes with lots of ice, said goodbye to the Gettings and boarded our Bootes Fishing boat that had returned to pick us up. After landing at Warroad, we loaded both canvas boats, one on top of the car and one on top of the trailer and headed to the seed company, thanked the seed company and the guide for such a fine trip and headed for home.
Got home after supper on Saturday night. A.J. and John and Nick unloaded fish in the hardware warehouse. I was already back in the store when Mrs. John Stoesz (Minnie) called me out to look at the heap of fish before they were divided.
Since our fish were packed in Commercial Fishery boxes, there was no limit, and yet I was happy there was no game warden around. At that time, you know, the daily limit on walleyes was twelve and six (not sure) northerns.
It was a trip of a lifetime!