Every once in awhile in this business you come across a true character and a story that stands out among your favorites.
Such was the case Saturday, when I had the opportunity to fish with Kit Beckel, who recently marked 50 years as a charter boat driver on Lake of the Woods. Beckel, who guides for Sportsman’s Lodge near the mouth of the Rainy River, is still going strong at 63 and says he has no plans to retire anytime soon.
As the old saying goes, when you’ve got a job you love you never work a day in your life.
Lake of the Woods was in an angry mood Saturday, and being out on the water definitely wasn’t for the faint of heart. A stiff northwest wind produced big rollers and waves that I’m guessing flirted with 6 feet high, at times.
That wasn’t a problem for Beckel and his 27-foot Sportcraft, though. Along with a small fleet of other Sportman’s launches, he navigated the rough water to a more protected shoreline off Stony Point, at the very opposite end of Big Traverse Bay.
Getting up there took about two hours, but it was definitely worth the ride once we got there. Anchored and jigging in about 24 feet of water, six of us kept 26 fish, a mix of walleyes, saugers and some of the biggest perch I’ve ever seen. A 25-inch walleye and two 23-inch fish that were too big to keep also were released.
The wind had mellowed, if only slightly, by the time Beckel steered the boat back toward the mouth of the Rainy River at 4 p.m., and with the wind at our backs, the trip across the lake only took about an hour.
I’ll be featuring Beckel and his stories about 50 years on the big lake in this coming Sunday’s Northland Outdoors section. Which, by the way, marks the debut of Northland Outdoors as a free-standing section instead of two pages in the back of Sports. Along with the usual assortment of hunting and fishing content, the new section, which will be in the “E” book, will include stories on travel, leisure and other outdoor recreation.