Tuesday, August 21, 2007

High adventure on a low river

My job is way too fun sometimes.

Like today, when I got to go out electrofishing on the Rum River west of Cambridge, MN. The Rum flows from Lake Mille Lacs in central Minnesota to the Mississippi north of Minneapolis. As I understand it, naming it the Rum River was a serious misunderstanding of Ojibwe language; it was actually called the Spirit River in Ojibwe, but there are spirits and there are spirits. The alcoholic variety won out.

Water levels in this part of the state are very low. Which is kind of strange since there has been catastrophic flooding in the southeastearn part of the state this last weekend. Anyway, we had to maneuver the boat upstream in some areas that had barely six inches of flowing water. Add to that the downed trees in the river channel. We brought a chain saw, and we used it a couple of times, jut to get through.

But the area we were getting to was beautiful, in a strange sort of way. The river was bordered by bottomland forest, and swampland. We saw numerous cedar waxwings catching insects and spotted sandpipers, sandhill cranes, and even an immature bald eagle that looked huge.

In our official sampling we caught more than a few 4.5 pound smallmouth bass. They were all concentrated in a few deep holes near fallen tree cover; the rest of the river was just too shallow. But smallies that size are an awesome sight. Makes me want to get a fly rod and try to fish for them.

We had to walk the boat through some shallow areas. On what had to be the last one, while we were making our way back to the access, I was walking in six inches of water when suddenly I hit a hole two feet deep or greater, way too deep for my hip boots. My pants were soaked, and since I had no changes, I rode home in them.

Oh well, could I trade this for an office job?

NO WAY.

13 comments:

pablo said...

Someone somewhere had the brilliant idea of getting some state agency to pay people to go fishing and to call it a job for the public welfare. Wish I could get a piece of that action.

eric said...

Lucky! My brother-in-law, a fishery biology major at the time, got a summer job with the MN DNR doing surveys on Leech Lake and other lakes in the area. He had some interesting stories to tell.

Also, gender bias not intended, I think it's uber-cool that you know the ups and downs of a flooded hip boot. They're better in August than in November. Hardly seems like work...

momadness said...

Sounds like a wonderful time; enjoyed the "spirited" history lesson, too.

dharma bum said...

Very cool. I'm envious of your job!

I've read the Rum is a good smallie river. Having recently discovered the joys of fly fishing for smallies, I'm going to have to make a trip up there sometime. (Hopefully when there's a bit more water.)

RuthieJ said...

Hi Deb,
It sounds like the enjoyment of seeing and hearing all the wildlife definitely offset the wet pants! Any day spent outside is not wasted (especially when you get paid for being outside!)

barefoot gardener said...

I hadn't heard that about the Rum's name. I always thought it was because of the color of the water...something about tannins.

This brings back memories of floating down the river in my dad's canoe. We all thought it was so fun to jump out when the water was around knee deep and "run" along side the canoe till it got deeper, then jump back in. Ahh...

Thunder Dave said...

OK I'm officially jealous, at least until winter hits!

Deb said...

First of all, a correction. I should have Googled before I posted. The Native American language in question was Lakota (Sioux, although that name is falling out of favor), not Ojibwe.

And, nobody caught my severe grammatical faux pas? "We saw numerous cedar waxwings catching insects and spotted sandpipers"...I've never seen a cedar waxwing catch a spotted sandpiper. That would be quite a feat.

Anyway...

Pablo- Go get your Master's degree in fisheries. You'll get paid at least half as much as anyone who has a Master's in anything else! But it is fun...

Eric- Did he work with the Walker fisheries crew? I know some of them.

It was kind of a warm squishy feeling. In November, I imagine it would be a very cold squishy feeling, if you could still feel your feet. And yeah, it was too fun to be work.

Momadness- I guess there's quite a controversy over the name, and there have been bills introduced in the state legislature to change it. I don't know, it's been the Rum River for so long now a name change probably would not work.

Dharma Bum- From what I've seen this week, yeah, it's a great river for smallmouth. And it would be a convenient day trip from St. Paul. We found some walleye today, one 6 lb 14 ounce, and a whole mess of walleye fingerlings. The water's so low, once you hit a hole over 2 feet deep with overhanging tree cover, that's where everything is.

RuthieJ- Yes, it's great to be paid for being outside. I should have brought my camera; it was some amazing remote scenery for such a populated area!

Barefoot Gardener- Sounds like fun. This year you would get lots of opportunities to run through shallow water. We sampled a station by a campground just south of Isanti today; I thought of you as we drove through town.

Thunder Dave- Good to see you here! Of course, the drawbacks of the job are I probably could not afford a Solstice--looks like a way fun car. ;) But I can afford to try making a homebrew once in a while. Right now we're drinking a really heavy porter.

Lynne said...

Those must be some HUGE cedar waxwings! You really do have a cool job. I'm sure it has it's blah moments but to be able to explore like you do- FUN!

Love the bunnies too. My daughter is envious!

dharma bum said...

Deb - sounds great! Definitely going to have to check it out. You could show me where you found the lunkers in exchange for my highly sought-after skills as a fly fishing instructor. :)

Floridacracker said...

Deb,
Any day with fish sounds like a good day to me.
I can't believe that you are seeing signs of autumn. We won't see a leaf change til November.

Deb said...

Lynne- It is fun, although I pay for it the next morning with aches and pains. Lifting fifteen pound carp out of the water takes some strength...maybe I should do some weight training to keep in shape for the job!

Dharma Bum- I could use all the fly fishing help I can get! Maybe next spring...and I should reread "The River Why" this winter.

Deb said...

FC- The autumn signs are more a result of drought than anything. Paradoxically, the southeast corner of Minnesota got hit with record breaking rainfalls that caused some severe flooding. We're hoping the rain holds off until the roof on the new house is done.