By Ben Gruber
I grew up in the southern part of the state near Spring Green. My grandmother grew up near Dorchester, and there is a lot of family in that area still that I never really got to know as a kid. Last weekend, my father was in town, so we blew off a long list of work and took advantage of the extended stretch of amazing weather we were having and drove north to catch up with his Uncle Fuzzy.
Just a few miles west of Medford is an old-time general store, a leftover from simpler days before the chain stores dominated even our small towns. A single gas pump sits on the corner, and inside the store are all the necessities one could need: ice cream; a few groceries; a small selection of hardware; a few personal care items; and, most importantly, bait. Crawlers, fatheads, crappie minnows, giant suckers, and jigs and lures of all manner are the order of the day. Many of the lures are locally made by old timers who know how to make a hair jig that the crappies cannot swim past.
Fuzzy’s General Store and Bait Shop is where it is at. Make no mistake. The folks who man the counter know what is going on in the area waters, including Fuzzy himself. He has been selling bait over this counter for decades.
We left the house, boat in tow, around 5:30 a.m. and rolled into Fuzzy’s store just after they opened at 6 a.m.
Located on the outskirts of the Chequamegon National Forest, there are countless remote lakes that get very little traffic. Our destination today would be the Chequamegon Waters Flowage or, as it is known to the locals, “Miller Dam.”
We got a bucket of minnows and some worms, topped off our coffee mugs, and headed for the landing. It did not take long once we were on the water to get into the fish. I had a nice crappie on the first cast, and we added a few more on every drift. The entire lake is pretty shallow, mostly sand bottom with some weeds and submerged timber. We picked up a few nice bluegills out of the weeds and even snuck in a nice perch in a little bit deeper water. Dad and Uncle Fuzzy caught up on the family gossip and reminisced of the old deer hunting camps in the national forest.
The cloudless sky warmed the shallow water up by 11 degrees, so we explored some deeper waters and found crappies and bluegills there too. For the most part, all the fish we caught were decent sized, and we threw very few back. It was peaceful fishing. The shallow water keeps most recreational boat traffic away, leaving the lake to the fishermen and a few pontoon boats. There are a few different campgrounds and at least one nice beach too, so I am anxious to get back here with my daughter and fish and swim some day soon.
The DNR, with input from fishermen through the Conservation Congress process, is trying a special bag limit on this water to protect spawning fish from overharvesting. During May and June, the daily bag is 15 pan fish, but only five of each species can be kept.
We had our limits of crappies and bluegills by 1:30 p.m. and were just about to call it a day when Dad managed to pull in a keeper walleye on a bobber holding a worm a foot off the bottom. Fuzzy was impressed to see that, recalling that historically there have been very few walleyes in this lake. Apparently recent stocking efforts are paying off, at least for our group today.
It was a darn good day of fishing and catching up with family. With a little over an hour drive from our area, I will be back again. On a side note, if anyone is looking to own a nice little general store and bait shop, Fuzzy’s is for sale. Fuzzy is ready to retire and do more camping and fishing.
Ben Gruber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.