Updated: Aug 1
Beginning in July 2020, I became a regular contributor to Wisconsin Outdoor News (WON) in "From The Little Cabin In The Woods" column.
This article was published in the WON September 25, 2022, issue.
“There is a place in Manitowoc where we can rent Hobie pedal kayaks,” I related to Shannon, after a Google search. “It is only a couple of hours over there. We could ask Roberta if she wants to go with us.”
In my last WON article, I shared that Shannon had become enthralled with the idea of pedal kayaks so she could kayak with her Airedale, Vesper. She was visiting with us during the week that her husband, Dan Honl, was fishing in Canada with cousins. We were spending the week investigating brands, renting kayaks, and learning about how each type would work for us.
So far, Shannon had really liked the Hobie kayaks. We had seen them in a showroom, but the only ones available to rent in our area used a bicycle motion for power. The Hobies use a stepper motion.
My internet search led me to the Manitowoc Marina. They seemed to have a good selection of kayaks at a decent price. I called Roberta Laine (Shannon’s mother-in-law and my fishing buddy). She was in. The plan was to get to Manitowoc mid-morning, kayak for three hours, test our ability to fly-fish from the boats, and have lunch.
The “testing our ability to fly-fish” part was especially interesting to Roberta, a rabid fly-angler. So, I did a bit more internet work to determine what we would be catching. Notice the confident tone in that statement. Various sites say that popular species caught in the Manitowoc River include trout, salmon, smallmouth bass, northern pike, and catfish. This array of potentially larger fish required a reworking of our fly tackle. We were all rigged for smaller trout and pan-fish.
Shannon and I headed downtown Stevens Point for heavier leader, tippet, and flies. The guys in the Fall Line Outfitters shop made sure we were ready for whatever might happen the next day. I did not know what monster bass and pike would think of them, but I thought the fuzzy, sparkly, mouse-sized flies looked pretty cute!
Mary, at the Manitowoc Marina was wonderful to deal with. She was friendly and helpful. In no time flat, our kayaks were rented, we were fitted with personal flotation devices, our fly-rods were rigged, and we were pedaling up-river. The young man who helped us into our kayaks told us we might want to avoid coming back to the dock at 12:30 when the Badger ferry comes into the harbor.
The kayaking was marvelous. I worried about pedaling against the inexorable flow of the river toward Lake Michigan. It presented little resistance. This part of the river is punctuated by the industrial past and present of Manitowoc, as well as Manitowoc’s maritime role. Immediately after leaving the harbor, we glided past a WWII submarine, the USS Cobia. It is moored next to the Manitowoc Marine Museum. This is definitely on my list of places to go back and visit. We pedaled past the Burger Boat Company. That raised memories of a field trip the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board took when I served with them. We had visited the Burger shipyard to get a look at the construction of Research Vessel Coregonus. Burger was building that for us (the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources) to replace the RV Barney Devine. The memory of that trip sparked memories of late Paul Peeters, the fisheries supervisor out of Sturgeon Bay and the person most directly involved with the construction of the boat from the WDNR side. He and another friend, Tim Kroeff, had taken me salmon fishing on Paul’s boat, the Lorax, many times. I had reciprocated with pheasant hunts over my Airedale, Sunny. Many wonderful memories, many stories.
The industrial nature of this stretch of the river was not conducive to catching fish. The shoreline was mostly an extension of whatever industries abutted it. There were only a few places where any vegetation extended to the water. We concentrated our efforts in those places. Perhaps there are salmon, trout, pike, and bass farther up-river, were agriculture and natural areas border the shore. We were unable to reach those areas in the time we had allotted for our rental. I saw two fish during our 3–4-hour trial. They we both carp. They were
disinterested in my cool new flies.
That being said, the real purpose of our fishing was to test our ability to fly-cast from the kayaks. That part was excellent. The pedal mechanism worked smoothly. We were able to maneuver close to vegetation, where we hoped our flies would attract lunker bass hiding under downed logs. I was wearing my purple fly-fishing vest. My fly boxes were in handy pockets. My line clipper on a zinger, was at the ready. There was a cup holder for my water bottle. I easily changed flies. From a fishing standpoint, this is a winner. None of us tried to stand and cast. Supposedly, you can. Perhaps we would after we develop more of a comfort level.
We extended our trip by a half-hour by calling Mary at the Marina. She was thrilled that we were enjoying ourselves. When we decided to head in, we found ourselves pedaling into a moderate wind off Lake Michigan. This was more work than the current had been when we set off earlier. Still, with wind and waves rolling against us as we crossed the harbor, we made good progress. Not once did any of us feel uncomfortable. The Badger was indeed docked in wait of the return trip to Michigan.
As we packed up our gear, Mary came out of the office to check on us. We asked her where to go for lunch.
“I grew up here,” she said. “I love the Fat Seagull.
We took her advice. We shared the very best onion rings any of us have ever had. That is saying something, as especially Shannon, is an onion ring connoisseur.
I would like to tell you the quest is over. Shannon is still trying to figure out how to get Dan into a kayak. I am trying to figure out a few logistical items. I do not see Stan doing this. With that in mind, how much would I do it? The only surface water at the little cabin is in three 110-gallon stock tanks. That means I would have to transport a 70-pound boat. I do not have, nor do I know how to use a trailer. Another option would be a rack. They make ones that do the lifting for you. Still, I would need to figure out how to lift the boat halfway up the height of my Jeep. A third option would be for Stan to transport me and my boat. I am not intending to use it more than 10 miles from the little cabin. He could come back in a few hours to get me.
“Sweetie,” he offered in response to that suggestion. “I would be happy to drop you off with your kayak, wherever you want to go. I am not so sure about the picking you back up part.”