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Kindergarten system pays off? Lost jacket finds the way home

Life jackets have a propensity to fly out of boats, trailers and pickup toppers. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Most every angler is intrigued by a "floater". Whether it's a turtle head poking out from the lake surface, a dead fish (even if it's a sucker or bullhead) or a piece of trash that got away from a cruising boat, the oddity causes us to turn our heads.

I've definitely become frustrated while scooping out empty Styrofoam bait containers from the lake. Yet on the other hand, I'm sure a few have inadvertently escaped my boat in the past. I try my best to put those empty cartons, containers and cans in storage compartments where they can't fly out and possibly harm the environment.

After rescuing a couple lifejackets that others have lost over time, I've started writing my name and phone number inside my personal floatation devices with permanent marker. That way if I ever do lose one, the chances of getting it back are greatly increased.

Yet I haven't written the same information in my fishing jackets. I request that all Kindergarten parents write their child's name inside outdoor items like jackets, boots and snowpants in my classroom, yet I haven't started doing so myself. And I think I should.

Ten years ago I was fishing up on Lake George and took off for the public access after shedding my fleece jacket. Upon arrival at the dock, I noticed the garment had vanished and quickly retraced my route to no avail, it had sunk to the bottom.

The $100 jacket was an unfortunate loss, but to compound the matter, there was $30 cash in the pocket. I still hope to catch that coat one day.

Well over the past ten years I've had a pretty good record of keeping fishing related items from flying out of the boat. Until last week that is. I received an interesting phone message from Al Peterson, a Lake Belle Taine resident, stating that he'd like to buy me a coat. Intrigued, I called him back.

Al was coy at first, explaining that he'd like to buy me a new Crestliner jacket. I thanked him for the kind gesture, but declined since I already had a couple favorites and really didn't need another. "Are you sure you don't want a red one", Al inquired. At that moment I realized Al didn't truly intend to buy me a new jacket.

Turns out Al was enjoying a June afternoon, fishing for sunfish when he spotted something red floating on the surface of Lake Belle Taine and thought he should investigate. Plucking it from the water, Al held up a red Crestliner rain jacket. The same one a guide client of mine was sitting on in my boat the day before. And the same one that went sailing out of my Crestliner boat, unbeknownst to me, after pushing down the throttle once the clients exited my boat at the resort dock.

Fortunately Al checked the pockets and found a handful of my business cards inside. It was a good reminder that from now on, business cards go in my jacket pockets and cash goes in my wallet!