Some Bike Rides Are More Interesting Than Others

The first three-quarters of today’s ride was pretty mundane. It was just another ride in the hills and farms of Washington County just north of MY Town. Nothing to write home about, and certainly nothing to post on Cycle365 about. (Except maybe for my first flat tire of the season.)

That all started to change after I heard a familiar sound on quiet Highway 21. It sounded like the Spring Peepers (known around here as “frogs”) that Bob from Vermont featured a few days ago. I commented that I’ve enjoyed that sound in some boggy areas of the Minnesota & Wisconsin north woods. This morning I got to hear them right here in a boggy area of southeastern MN. Check it out.

I was pleased enough with that alone for a Cycle365 post. It doesn’t take much for me to do that since I don’t have my own blog for day rides. This is the only place I have to go when I think of something to say, regardless of whether it’s really interesting or really idiotic. But coming up next is the part that was REALLY interesting–at least to me.

I descended down into the St. Croix River valley where I planned to take the new bike trail that follows the Mississippi River back to MY Town. But something caught my eye near the confluence of the two rivers.

I watched what was going on for several minutes. The people gathered down there were quiet and looked somber. My fear was that the guys in the water and the boats were dragging for a body.

Eventually a guy came along and he was wearing rubber boots that came up to his knees.

“Do you know what’s going on down there,” I asked.

“Yeah,” he replied, “they’re commercial fishermen and they’re reeling in their nets. There isn’t much going on right now, but in about a half-hour they’ll have the nets close to shore and you’ll be able to see some fish that you might never have seen before, including some huge paddlefish.”

He went on to explain that he teaches a marine biology class at the nearby University of Wisconsin at River Falls and he brought some students to watch the operation.

At first I thought, “I’m on a roll, I can’t sit around here for a half-hour just to see some fish. I don’t even like fishing. I don’t even like the IDEA of hunting and fishing.” Then I reconsidered and thought, “Damn, this might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” So I parked my bike and hiked down to the shoreline.

At first, I was as bored as the students and other spectators. But things really did get more exciting as the nets closed in. Not as exciting as an episode of “The Deadliest Catch” perhaps, but still pretty interesting. I took about 30 pictures and five videos and now I find myself in the horrible position of having to edit them down to just a few of the most essential ones. Coming up next will be the ones that made the final cut.

The net gets tighter and the gathering crowd starts cheering when they see some pretty huge fish. The University of Wisconsin professor points out various species to his students and the fishermen are happy to hold them up for all to view.

The crew continues to reel in the nets and condense the catch.

That is a small gar, according to the professor.

This is a large spoonbill, according to the professor. He also pointed out the sores on its belly which were caused by parasitic lampreys.

Some of the students got in on the action. I never knew the St. Croix river had porpoises in there.

He ain’t heavy, he’s my spoonbill.

I stuck close to the professor, shown here on the left. He pointed out the carp, sheephead, buffalo, crappie, catfish, walleye, northern pike, gar, spoonhead, smallmouth bass, perch, lamprey, and some things I’ve never heard of before.

At some point I noticed nobody on the beach was wearing a mask. Neither was I, for that matter. I don’t wear one on my bike rides. I hope everyone there has been vaccinated.

By the way, I have a couple more sounds for the April Challenge.

Even fishermen need a gloppita-gloppita machine.

Fish upon fish. The predators are even feeding on some of the smaller fish.

I split that scene when some sprinkling rain began. I had a half-hour race to my home in which the sprinkles turned to a steady rain. I got back home just before the thunderstorms arrived.

9 response to "Some Bike Rides Are More Interesting Than Others"

  1. By: Rich-Illinois Posted: April 7, 2021

    !! You DID find a gloppita gloppita machine! Excellent work on your part!
    So . . . . any idea what did they do with all the fish they netted?

    • By: gregblood Posted: April 8, 2021

      That’s a great question and I’m embarrassed to say I don’t exactly know. At first I thought they’d be tagging some of the fish to follow their movements. Nope, not one fish was tagged. Then I assumed they must be harvesting certain fish for human consumption. Nope, they were removing and releasing almost all the fish, including the walleyes–Minnesota’s prized food fish.

      From what I could gather from evesdropping on a conversation, it had something to do with the smallmouth bass. If you look at the first picture from when the nets are still pretty far out, you’ll see sort of a penned-in area made of nets off to the left. I guess they’re full of bass. Maybe a temporary spawning ground for them? A mini-fish hatchery? I don’t know. I wish I would have asked somebody straight out.

  2. By: Suzanne Posted: April 8, 2021

    Good that you hung around, an exciting experience, at least I would have been excited. And excellent story-telling pictures!

    • By: gregblood Posted: April 8, 2021

      Thanks Suzanne. And yes, I really am glad I stuck around. The professor was right–I had never seen fish like that before and I sure didn’t know the St. Croix had such a variety of species. Nor did I know it had such BIG ones. I can tell you one thing though. Now that I HAVE seen them, I don’t think I’m going to want to go swimming at that beach anymore.

  3. By: Bill Stone Posted: April 8, 2021

    Wow! Very interesting. No idea Minnesota is home to such extravagant piscine diversity. We might have to bestow upon you an “Old Man and the Sea” title to go with all your other honorifics.

    • By: gregblood Posted: April 8, 2021

      “Old Man and the Sea,” huh? Sounds like someone has been watching the Hemingway documentary on PBS.

  4. By: BobinVT Posted: April 8, 2021

    Wow, what an interesting event to come across while out on a ride. Like Bill, I had no idea there was such a diversity of fish in Minnesota. All I’ve ever heard about are walleyes. And yeah, some of those fish are pretty huge. I’m not sure I’d want to come face to face with one of those big ones while swimming.

  5. By: NancyG Posted: April 10, 2021

    How serendipitous for you to come upon such a vastly interesting activity. Great story and good photos to illustrate it. So glad that you were patient to wait for the excitement.

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