From bassing to birding

August 27, 2009

Faith Outdoors

I got a rare treat yesterday. I was able to fish for a few hours on Lake Calhoun with someone who probably has logged more hours on the lake than any other angler alive.

His name is Chet Meyers and he lives just a few blocks from the lake and has put in lots of time chasing walleyes, muskies and bass on the lake over the last four decades. I had fished with him about 15-20 years ago while working for the Sun-Current weekly newspaper chain in the western suburbs. I recently thought of him and decided to try and reconnect with this local fishing expert.
Turns out, he’s not fishing Calhoun and its two neighbors, Cedar and Lake of the Isles, nearly as much as he used to. That ended up being better news than I thought. Although it meant that I wouldn’t get much of a fishing report from him for this summer, it also meant that he was now willing to reveal some of his hotspots.
Normally, serious anglers guard their honey holes like mama bears guard their cubs. But, Meyers doesn’t have the same passion for fishing that he did when he got serious about it in the early 1970s. It has been supplanted by a new hobby — bird watching.
“I used to fish 180 days a year,” said Meyers, who belongs to St. Stephen in South Minneapolis. “Now, I bird 180 days a year… Birding just sort of seized me. I can’t explain why.”
As he pursued bird watching more, he joined the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis. And, he now takes his place on the shoreline of Lake Calhoun with hundreds of others every fall in search of rare seagulls that stop at the lake on their annual southern migration.
Yet, all of this fuss over birds doesn’t mean he has abandoned his fishing rods. He likes to get out when he can, which is more often now that he is retired from his teaching job at Metro State University, where he has taught, among other things, a class on fish and fishing. So, it didn’t take much arm twisting to persuade him to join me on the lake yesterday.
We fished our way around the lake, starting at the boat landing. He identified little points here and dropoffs there. We pitched jig-and-plastic-worm offerings in search of hungry bass, but found few takers. Finally, toward the end of our excursion, Meyers hooked a dandy 19 1/2-incher along the north shore. As he released the fish after a quick photo, he made me promise not to tell anyone else about this particular spot. I agreed, knowing that I would ask the same of him if the tables were turned.
But, I discovered on this day that I don’t have any spots that Meyers isn’t aware of. I shouldn’t be surprised. He started fishing this lake in 1976 and spent about 10 years trying to learn every nook and cranny. He’s a great guy to have in the boat if you’re trying to learn more about the lake.
In this regard, I considered the day a success, even if the bass proved shy. I’ll be back later to try some of the spots Meyers showed me. Meanwhile, he’ll continue to work on a research project he currently chairs involving the red-headed woodpecker. This species has declined about 50 percent in the midwest over the last 40 years, 40-80 percent nationwide, and Meyers is part of a collective effort to study the bird’s habitat so as to provide more suitable areas for nesting.
Meyers isn’t sure if he’ll get out on Calhoun again this summer — at least with fishing rod in hand. Most likely, he’ll take a position on the shoreline looking at seagulls. And, today, he begins his final fishing class at Metro State. The 25 fortunate students should realize what a privilege it is to learn about fishing from someone of Meyers’ stature.
For one memorable day, I, too, was one of his pupils.

About Dave Hrbacek

Staff photographer and writer for The Catholic Spirit. Also, avid outdoors enthusiast with a passion for hunting, fishing and photography. Married to Julie and have four children, three boys and a girl.

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