Weather Forecast


PFDs are considered life jackets

Michael Baumert landed this beautiful northern pike on Mantrap Lake this past week, his largest fish ever. Unfortunately his guide fell in the lake upon releasing the fish.

By Jason Durham / For the Enterprise

I made a mistake. Screwed up. C’mon. Really?

When guide clients come out onto the boat with me, safety is imperative. Life jackets, throw-able cushion, life-saving skills that I’ve been trained in and hook-sets are daily. Catching fish is the goal, but safety is imperative.

Clients are the focus. There is nothing more important in my boat besides the people that come aboard. Each year that amounts to 350-450 guests. Safety and an ultimate goal of catching fish in the Park Rapids area creates the perfect profession.

Even though people may want to land a certain species; walleye, northern pike or muskie, in reality, every hook-set is fun. Rockbass, sunfish, bullheads. And of course the walleye, pike, muskies, bass and every fish in between that make it into the livewell or are released are fun. Big fish are returned into the lake to pass on their genetics. Think of it like a professional football player. It’s hard work hard to make it into the NFL. But at the same time the parental genetics play a huge role in size and ability. The same is true for fish. NFL sized fish are released to let someone else catch them and hopefully, if released, will propagate other big fish.

This last week I made a mistake. One of the clients in my boat caught a very nice northern pike. Between length and girth the estimate was somewhere around ten pounds.

After we snapped a few photos, I grabbed the fish with one hand under the tail and the other under the head. Standing on the rear deck of the boat, I put the fish into the water. And screwed up.

This huge fish had to get back in the water. Survival was the goal. But as I extended my arms over the gunnel of the boat, I soon realized my balance was compromised. I reached to steady myself but was already too far overboard. Kaploosh. Splash.

I’ve only fallen in the lake one other time, when I was a much younger man, 20 years old. And the friend I was fishing with caught a 47-inch muskie10 minutes after my plunge.

This past week I was surprised. Fortunately I know how to swim. After a brief soaking I climbed back into the boat.

On the lakes in Minnesota, floatation is the rule.

Kids under 10 need to wear a personal floatation device at all times. If you see the Sheriff’s water patrol out on the lake, they will make sure your registration is current, that you have a throw-able cushion, fire extinguisher and life jackets for everyone on board. The life jackets also need to be within reach of every occupant on board at all times. P.F.D.’s perform best when they’re worn and after going into the water I realized how quickly and unexpectedly it can happen.

I made the mistake of going overboard. In wind, waves and especially if swimming isn’t a skill, a life-jacket is your safety net.