JVG_200906_PECK

Arlen Waag, left, put on a crappie catching clinic last week for his son-in-law, Janesville’s Dave Dvorak. Guide Ted Peck hopes to come close to that success when he introduces the sport of fishing to two youngsters Saturday.

Boat traffic on essentially every Wisconsin waterway has been incredibly heavy all summer long—especially on weekends.

This Labor Day weekend is supposed to mean the official end of summer. But the only thing that will change is falling water temperatures. Expect some close company if you plan on visiting the outboard-powered zoo.

Demands for my services as a full-time fishing guide have been excessive this year. By June 1, I had to change my prices for weekend work: $1,000 for four hours. Thankfully, nobody was that mad at their money. I had every Saturday off.

Rates go back to “normal” after this weekend, although boat traffic will likely be excessive if weather remains good. The special Saturday guide rate is in effect through this weekend.

But one dad convinced me that his kids needed to fall in love with fishing in these troubled times. This mission is so important, he negotiated a 75% discount on the Saturday guide rate.

Lakes and rivers might be a “Boatapalooza” this weekend, but panfishing is about as good as it can get right now. Cooling temperatures are pushing fish into shallower water as they seek food and cover as emergent weed growth begins to die off.

With water temperatures hovering in the low 70s, we’re still at least a month away from “fall turnover” in southern Wisconsin. This semi-annual phenomenon happens when temperatures are at about 55 degrees. Cooling surface water becomes denser, falling to mix with the thermocline layer in lakes that stratify.

Hopefully the kids will learn about this in biology class when they return to school. The best shot at stoking interest in the workings of our natural world will be out there on the water this holiday weekend.

Getting youngsters hooked on fishing requires holding their interest. This means a dancing bobber at least every five minutes or the youngster will start fidgeting in search of their shiny object. One perk of being a captain is setting rules and boundaries. In my Lund, there are essentially just two: leave your demons and shiny objects at the dock.

Saturday’s outing will be with a 13-year-old boy and 10-year-old girl. Their father knows he will have to work as First Mate instead of for his own edification. This is the most important work a father can ever do. All I have to do is put them on the fish and coach basics on how to put them in the boat.

Social distancing protocols on the water differ from life on shore. When it comes to panfishing, anchoring up two long casts away from another boat is acceptable. Unfortunately, those weekend warriors in wild-eyed pursuit of bass or walleyes tend to behave like boors and rubes.

Working as a professional angler, I’ll only throw elbows with space-invading casts and jockeying for position if there is serious cash on the line. This is why my guide business has a special Saturday rate. Fishing has been described as a jerk on one end of the line waiting for a jerk on the other.

The world already has plenty of jerks. Saturday’s trip is all about teaching techniques and fostering a burning desire to dance with finned creatures. It is NOT about being the most productive rat in the human rat race.

With bluegills, crappies and perch all relating to submergent weeds in water less than 10 feet deep right now, there are plenty of places where youngsters can get their strings stretched by a scrappy panfish.

If someone sees our success and horns in beyond panfishing social distancing etiquette, we’ll simply move elsewhere. There will be an age appropriate explanation for this move. This will teach there are times—albeit few—when you need to leave fish to go find fish.

Salty language and hand signals won’t be part of the relocation process. This can require considerable self-discipline. These youngsters might even hear a few words about the need to seek salvation.

The concept of spending eternity at a boat launch waiting to launch or recover scares the hell out of me. Every boat ramp in Wisconsin will be jammed with folks trying to earn their “idiot” merit badge this weekend.

My special Saturday guide rate is the price that must be paid to study under a certified master idiot instructor.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at tedpeck@acegroup.cc

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