When we used to talk about “those tough old buggers” fishing on Lake Winnipeg, we were talking about my father’s generation. They were the kind of guys who fished before there were power augers. They chiseled holes through four feet of ice with a needle bar. And did it again and again as they cut holes for nets. They went out on Lake Winnipeg when it was -30 and no one had heard of wind chill. It was just bloody cold.
They pulled nets out of those holes with mittened hands and when the mittens froze solid, they went into their caboose, threw the mittens into a pan of hot water simmering on a tin stove, pulled them out and put them on and went back to taking fish out of the mesh. Tough, tough as they come.
They pulled nets, they set nets, they rode back to shore with boxes of fish frozen solid, let them warm up, then cleaned them, packed them, got them ready to ship. Somewhere in there, they ate breakfasts that would kill office workers, ate loaves of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pie, cake, anything with lots of calories, wolfed down supper and swirled down everything with pots of coffee. Some of them were legendary.
Today, it is easier and safer. Better equipment, warmer clothes. But it is neither safe, nor warm. They go out on thin ice to get that best first catch. Cracks open up. Blizzards appear from nowhere. Guts and brains. They have to have guts or they’d go find something else to do. Brains because without them, they’d lose limbs and lives.
One of the best known of those tough old buggers is Robert Kristjanson. He’s a bit of a showman, a good talker, a dedicated champion of Lake Winnipeg, a terrific fisherman. He got some recognition for all that lately. Here’s a copy from the Interlake Enterprise.
Robert T. Kristjanson still going strong at age 80
- Written by Bill Buckels, Lake Winnipeg Commercial Fisher
By the time most people reach their 80s, they usually have long retired. But retiring seems to be the last thing on Gimli fisherman Robert Kristjanson’s mind as he prepares to celebrate his 80th birthday.
This past year on the lake hasn’t been much different than most other years for Robert T., (known as “Bobby” by his family and fellow commercial fishermen). After fishing on the ice all last winter, Robert T. (again) fished every day through both the spring and fall open water seasons still in his boat by himself.
As the fall fishing season reached its end this year, the weather turned bitter cold, and the snow storms started north of Hecla in the Kristjanson family’s fishing grounds. His son Chris and his grandsons Trevor and Devon had “pulled-up” the day before; Robert T. was the last to leave.
We had one clear day, so “Bobby” decided it was time for his whitefish boat (the Lady Roberta) to return to Gimli Harbour for the winter (he sleeps on the boat and not back in Gimli when fishing is on).
(read more by going on line to the Interlake Enterprise).