by Dave DeMars
It’s Saturday morning of opening fishing and it’s 50 degrees with a light breeze from the north, which follows the Mississippi River down through Sartell. It’s pretty good weather for an opener. At least it isn’t snowing or raining like it has been some past years.
Tanner Brugh and his buddy Dominic Castellano picked their way nonchalantly among the sharp granite rip-rap down to the banks of the Mississippi River just below the old paper mill dam in Sartell. This was their second trip back to the site today. They were here earlier to watch a cloudy sunrise over the the old mill site, then left about 8:30 to take a buddy to work.
“It’s a pretty good spot to fish,” Castellano said, “besides the snags.”
He chuckled a bit as Brugh struggled with a snag. He was using a plastic spinner bait.
Earlier, before a nosy news reporter interrupted fishing, Castellano had pulled in a nice small-mouth bass – well almost.
“Yeah, it was a nice small-mouth, but when I got him up to pull him in, my line snapped. I got my feet wet and he got away,” Castellano said with a grin.
Occasionally they fish above the dam, but right here just below the dam, where the Watab Creek empties into the Mississippi, the fish seem to feed heavily. Finding a good spot to wet a line is usually at a premium, but for the time being, there’s a bit of a lull.
Up above, fishing off the bridge that spans the Watab is Dennis Mosbrucker. He’s been there about 25 minutes he said. This is one of his favorite fishing spots. Mosbrucker is bobber fishing at the moment.
“I’ve fished here on and off for the last six or seven years,” he said.
Mosbrucker is not native born to Sartell having moved here from Dickinson, N.D., about seven years ago after retiring to be closer to the grandkids.
“I do quite a bit of fishing mainly in the spring,” he said. “I fish mainly for bass because (it’s) hard(er) to catch the walleyes. I usually fish off the 10th Avenue bridge. That’s where I catch most of my fish.”
Mosbrucker was going to tell me a bit more about his move to the St. Cloud area when he spotted a fisherman downstream reeling in a fish.
“Look at that lucky stiff – he caught a really nice fish – yeah, look at that fish,” he said a bit wistfully. “But I think he’ll have to throw it back because only walleye season is open.“
He talked a bit about fishing in North Dakota. Lake Sakakawea is one of the premier fishing lakes in North Dakota, he tells me.
“Oh, crap,” he muttered. “I missed that one. I’ll bet he took my minnow.”
I apologized for disturbing his fishing, but Mosbrucker is a forgiving fisherman and he picks another minnow out of his bait bucket. He talks as he rigs the hook. “The better places to fish are down in the rocks among the rip-rap. You have to get there early on most days to get the best spots.
“I don’t like crawling around down in the rocks,” he said. “It’s so dangerous, so I try not to fish down there too much. If I do, I put a life jacket on. I don’t go out where those guys are. With my luck I would fall.”
Looking across to the other side of the river, Mosbrucker said he wishes he could fish on the other side of the river where the mill used to stand. He thinks there would be good fishing over there. He said one of the “new guys running for office” had proposed that something be done with the old mill site.
“I wish they would develop that and allow some public fishing over there and make a pier over there.”
Across the bridge and down among the rocks, Sumo Woodson had found himself a nice comfortable spot to fish. It was out of the wind, quiet and he could gather what warmth he could from the sun.
He’s a regular along this stretch of the river he said. He fishes here about two or three times a week especially on Saturdays during the summer. He’s lived in Sartell about nine years, he said. Fishing gives him some alone time and a chance to relax.
He’s fishing for catfish this morning, but the water temperature is a bit cold and the fish are sluggish.
“They like the warmer water,” he said. “I have night crawlers and leeches, but they pretty much eat anything. Ir’s been a little cooler here the last couple of days.”
Fifteen minutes later he had moved his site half a mile farther up the river above the dam where the water ran calmer and there were fewer fishermen.
In Minnesota, it seems like the opening of fishing is a rite of passage. There is something mystical about it. Herbert Hoover got it about right.
“Fishing is much more than fish,” he said. “It is the great occasion when we may return to the fine simplicity of our forefathers.”