An Outdoorsman’s Journal: Operation Musky 2022

An Outdoorsman's Journal

Mark Walters, Columnist

Five of the crew from back in the 80s and our good buddy Gary Jensen, is missing but not forgotten! Photo by Mark Walters.
Mark Walters
Mark Walters

Follow along each week on the adventures of Mark Walters, a syndicated outdoor adventure columnist who lives in Necedah, Wisconsin. He began writing his column, An Outdoorsman’s Journal, in 1989. It includes hunting, fishing, lots of canoeing and backpacking. He currently writes for around 60 newspapers on a weekly basis. He hopes you enjoy reading about his adventures!

Online exclusive made possible by Spicer for 51st

Hello friends,

This was at least the 20th year in a row that I was in what could be best described as a very fun weekend of musky fishing where several veterans and a whole bunch of guys — “The Red Brush Gang” and some other friends, a total of 32 — get together on the Eagle River chain of lakes. Back in the day most of us put in our time at Truax Field in Madison and worked on OA-37s, A-10s and F 16s. About 25 years ago some of the guys started this fun weekend and we have just as much fun socializing as we do fishing.

Saturday, August 27th

High 74°, Low 56°

We are staying at the Hiawatha Motel and our outing is two days of fishing and at night we hang out together in a picnic style setting and also in the game room where pool, ping, pong and darts are free. My fishing partner is Jeff Moll and although we really try hard to win either the musky or northern pike “award” we have a history of totally sucking and I mean pathetic. We do excel in being the last men standing each night and we make sure that there is food, full coolers and a cooking setup for everyone.

The outing started at about first light, Moll and I hit the water about an hour or so later. Within 15 minutes I would miss a northern pike in the 26-inch range and a heavy fish that I did not see. When this weekend came to an end, John Gavinski of Poynette had the biggest northern pike, and it was a whopping 20.75 inches long and his brother Steve Gavinski had the one and only musky and that fish was 31-inches. Moral of the story, take no fish for granted when fishing for bragging rights.

Steve Gavinski caught this musky with a mini Medussa! Photo by Mark Walters.

One of the funnest things that we do during the daytime, when we are on the water, is tie our boats together and shoot the bull, which in my opinion is 100-percent of the reason that I do not miss this event.

We tell stories like when one of my bosses back in the 80s, John Meier, held me under water in a swimming pool in Tucson for five full minutes in a wrestling match. John is still in the tournament with his son Rob, they always suck like Jeff and I, but they sure are fun.

My old buddy Moll has three sons in the Air National Guard. Ross Moll is a fireman, Ryan flys A-10s in Michigan, and Nate is in training to fly F-35s. Tommy Gilbertson was my boss, and he puts this event together each year. Tom was a 1-Man and I was a 3-Man on a weapons loading crew on the A-10, meaning anything from tv guided missiles to bombs, rockets and bullets. I drove the jammer and Tom and our 2-Man put them on the aircraft. All kidding aside, our base was very good at what we did and I mean nationally. I knew that my 6-year enlistment was going to be enough for me as the spring of ‘87 I got and left to canoe up the Mississippi, the following year I started working in the Canadian bush and then it was the Appalachian Trail.

These young fishermen love fishing The Eagle River chain of lakes. Photo by Mark Walters.

In reality folks, and it is kind of sad to say, I think our core group is down to six and no one that is left wants to hear that one of us is dropping out.

We use musky as an excuse to get together, but in reality we are some veterans that are very proud of our service and our country and this event brings us together.

Without our military our lives would not be the same!


Check out previous weeks’ columns here or in print in the paper.

Presented by SPICER FOR 51st