By Rod Bernu

Special to the Dispatch

In the 1930’s, before the invention of television and other distractions, it was common for farm families to spend their free time enjoying the simple things in life like family picnics, visiting friends and neighbors, and of course fishing.

From the time I was a young boy, my parents let me stay on short overnight visits at my uncle and aunts 60-acre farm in Heinola. They were happy times because they broke up the dullness of daily living and something that I always looked forward to.

On one such visit my aunt told me that I could join them on an outing to one of their favorite fishing lakes. They loved to fish Lake Buchanan because it had an abundance of large Northern Pike and also because in the 1930’s it had been stocked with Walleye that had grown close to two pounds in size.

It was a beautiful summer morning, after the cows were milked and the farm chores were done, we loaded the bamboo fishing poles and gear, including the minnows that uncle had picked up earlier, and left for Lake Buchanan.

Uncle Sander drove us to his friend’s farm on the east shore that had private lake access and a dock. We transferred our minnows and cane poles into the rowboat that he had rented and rowed us to one of his favorite fishing holes.

Fishing was good. In a matter of several hours we were near our limit of Walleye. I was sitting in the center of the boat with my cane pole hanging off the edge of a drop-off that angled down from 10 feet to 35 feet when suddenly the tip of my pole dipped down so violently that it almost slipped out of my hands. 

I held on tight and yelled “Help, It’s a big one, uncle take my pole.” He quickly set his pole aside and grabbed mine. 

Being an experienced fisherman, he immediately knew that it was a large fish, so he slipped on a pair of gloves and went to work playing the line to tire it out.

My aunt and I watched the action as the monster broke water and sprang several feet high in the air trying to break free. My uncle kept the pressure on. He was doing his best to tire the monster out, but it was full of fight. Every time he reeled it near the boat it would skim the surface, flip its tail, and twist, turn and fight, determined to break free.

After wrestling with it for a good half an hour, it finally tired and my uncle succeeded in pulling it to the side of the boat. We immediately saw that it was an exceptionally large Northern Pike. My aunt and I watched as he grabbed the monster by its gills and proceeded to remove the fishhook. Once the hook and line were free, as my uncle was struggling to hoist it into the boat, it suddenly flipped its tail so hard that it slipped loose from my uncles’ grip and escaped back into the depths of Lake Buchanan.

Sitting at the kitchen table that evening enjoying our Walleye dinner, Uncle Sander said, “I estimate that your monster fish was about five feet long and weighed at least 40 to 45 pounds, so it would have been recorded as the “prize” catch of the year and probably made the front page of the New York Mills Herald and area newspapers.”

Nodding my head in agreement, I laughed and said, chalk it up to “beginners luck, or not!”