Dimich Outdoors

Always remember fishing boats are not like carnival bumper cars—be respectful and careful.

We are sure most have heard of Watergate and Deflategate (starring “The GOAT,” Tom Brady), but how many have heard of “Baitgate”? To clarify what these mean, we first have to understand what a “suffix” is. Even though the wiseacres (know-it-alls, smarty-pants, wisenheimers) might say, “We thought ‘suffix’ was a fishing line and a ‘gate’ was the hockey penalty box.” Obviously, they are and they aren’t.  And, speaking of “The GOAT”? Wasn’t a “goat” originally a loser like in a “hero or a goat”? How has it now become synonymous with “the best of all time”? Go figure.

Anyhow, after contacting someone who knew more about usage (don’t we all know a “Cliff Claven”?), we were enlightened that a “prefix” comes before a base word and a “suffix” after. To background, the “gate” suffix actually came from the “Watergate” scandal, when on June 17, 1972 there was a break-in at the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. Then President Nixon was suspected responsible of a cover-up and on May 17, 1973, televised hearings began in the United States Senate. Look it up, read the many books or if you want to be like “Seinfeld’s” George Costanza (episode 91) and not read a book, just rent the movie, “All the President’s Men.”

Other than being Rapala-owned, “Sufix” line’s name has no publicly known derivation. To further clarify, the credit for coining the “gate” suffix has been given to William Safire of the “New York Times,” a conservative columnist and former Nixon administration speechwriter, who in 1974 also wrote of “Vietgate” about the Vietnam War.

Before we delve into the “Baitgate” story, however, let’s do a bit of, “How was the opener?” Well, since this column was actually turned in Friday morning, we could do the “projected” thing and fake it. In fact, much like a “fill in the blank” news story journalism students are assigned to do as an exercise in “formulistic” writing, we could say fishing was spotty, that a “cold front” with big winds and a smattering of rain affected anglers “toughing it out” and therefore hindered fishing and we would be pretty close. We could also write some went to the big ponds like Winnie and Leech and found varying results, with larger releaser fish being the norm and again be fairly accurate.

We could also say our Winnie crew found nice walleyes, perch and the occasional northern, being able to keep enough out of the slot fish for a fry. We would also be accurate in saying most anglers have kiddingly come to the conclusion walleyes somehow know the lake’s slot size so they eat more to nudge over the magical minimum size slot or diet like wrestlers to stay under the maximum.

One thing we definitely know is the landings were in great shape, but many people (including us) still brought waders or hip boots. One drawback we have seen or heard about is the water being too high, with some having difficulty putting docks in due to the high water. One past happening our fishing crew will definitely laugh about is when one senior member of our Hawkeye (nothing to do with Iowa, by the way, but Hawkeye of “Last of the Mohican’s’” fame rhymes with “Willie” the walleye) at the landing unboxed his brand spanking new waders. Then, while donning his newbie boots, he got quite a few laughs as he helped unload boats with the attached tags blowing in the wind. The scattered “Minnie Pearl” comments along with a few “Howdies,” added to the jocularity (Father Mulcahy, M*A*S*H) of the moment.

We would also be right on mentioning one issue that occasionally rears its ugly head is the question of “right of way.” For years, many of us have adhered to the unwritten rule we were brought up with, that boats under power should go around those that are not. For example, whether trolling by electric or big motor backtrolling “dragging a drift sock,” anglers should be responsible for going around those who are not, like boats anchored or drifting. What is happening now is a small percentage of fishing people using bow mounts directed by remotes and set courses, feel anchored-up and drifting boats have to stay out of their pre-set paths. One thing we should all remember is to avoid “boat rage” and “combat fishing” when “bumper boat” fishing, be sure to tell the people in your boat to watch for other boats and then respect their space.

Enough preaching from the minnow bucket pulpit. Let us share perhaps one of the greatest Baitgate stories we ever heard that occurred at the Hawkeye Fish Camp. The scenario centers on the exploits of two anonymous by choice self-described “Scientific New Aged Fishermen Unlimited” (SNAFU) and another senior member Hawkeye crew a few openers ago.

Although there are many versions of the incident, here is the way one very reliable young source remembers it. Because the opening weekend bite was shiner-dependent and the year before the crew did the seining thing on Winnie and got two shiners and very wet, the SNAFU boat and the other senior boat decided to get their minnows from a reputable bait shop and put them in coolers.

At the cabin, they changed water in the “skinners,” stood around each boat, kicked the trailer tires, sat at the campfire, talked smart (or so they thought), argued just for the sake of it, told mythically-sized stories, ate the “best pasties in the world,” compliments of one veteran’s mom (ketchup, no gravy, sorry), packed some Iron Range “samiches,” and then hit the hay for a five A.M. wake-up call and breakfast of venison and eggs and coffee.

While the other crew was cooking breakfast and drinking coffee, bedlam broke loose in the SNAFU boat, centered around the cooler which now contained only two shiners instead of the quart that had been in there at bedtime. The SNAFUs initially laughed long and hard at the high jinx played upon them, but then sternly demanded their treasured shiners be returned. To which the breakfast-club crew (still laughing at the panicking pair) swore in earnest they didn’t take them. After the dust settled, with the shiner caper still unsolved and said shiners nowhere in sight, the breakfast Hawkeye crew shared their shiners with the demanding duo and a fishing they did go.

Once back at the proverbial Hawkeye ranch after a successful opener, some tended to fish cleaning and fish fry prep, while the rest went to the bait shop for more shiners. After a great fry and campfire, the SNAFUs made it clear they intended to sleep with one eye open. As it turned out, they didn’t have to. When a member of the non-SNAFU boat went outside at midnight to check the minnows, he saw and thwarted the thief. Case closed.

But, here are the facts, ma’am (“Dragnet”). As they did the night before, Misters SNAFU left their cooler lid up for more cooling. The falsely accused boat did not; consequently, the culprit, one “Rocky Raccoon” (their name, even though the Beatles’ song was not about a raccoon, but a guy from “the black mountain hills of Dakota”) could not paw-lift up the cooler lid for an “all you can eat shiner dinner.” In closing, to this day the SNAFUs still say, “Always remember, no one can bring the ruckus to the ‘skinners’ like a Rocky.”

Nik and Rod Dimich are on the pro staffs of Mercury Marine and Ray’s Sport & Marine in Grand Rapids, Minn. Rod is also a pro-staffer for L&M Supply and his radio show “Woods & Water” can be heard each Friday at 5:50 P.M. on KQDS 95, 106.3 on “The Train Wreck’s Drive at Five.” To contact Dimich Outdoors, please email: rdimich@msn.com. Kristin Dimich contributes to this column. 

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