Some of the boat’s best days were spent fishing with Dad.
Some of the boat’s best days were spent fishing with Dad.
IT’S A bittersweet moment when you have to say goodbye to a boat that’s helped create memories for two decades, but the scribbler is moving on from a 1994 Sea Nymph.

That 16-foot boat was purchased in 2001 from Eagle River guide Nick Vanderpuy, a great setup with electronics and power anchors. It was a dream boat compared to the 14-foot “pike attacker” it replaced.

It was the craft used to fish with some very important people in my life, from wife Alice to three kids, several grandkids, our parents and a host of other family and friends.

You’ve read in this space about some great days on the water with my Dad, the late Leland “Korny” Krueger, and dozens of young anglers during the former Eagle River Guides & Kids Day. It’s a darn shame that event is no longer.

One of my fondest memories with that boat was the look on my Dad’s face when I proclaimed, on a morning in the national forest when everything was biting, that there was no more room in the livewell as he took a big northern out of the net.

In disbelief, he fired open the cover only to get a face full of water as northerns and walleyes and bass exploded over the sudden daylight. And he agreed, not happy to be tossing anything back, that the livewell was full.

Our only daughter, Melissa, has spent hundreds of hours in that boat hauling in mostly walleyes, northern pike and crappies from area lakes. Sometimes the quality of a fishing trip isn’t about how many fish you catch, but the time you get to share on the water.

I can’t tell you how many times she’s had to open the front livewell so I could toss in some fiesty fish after removing it from her line. Ditto for the number of times she put bandages on my hands and fingers after getting nailed by a walleye’s gill plate or a toothy northern.

You can laugh at that if you wish, but there’s nothing easy about taking photos for the paper with seven-pound walleyes and 10-pound pike. These are powerful fish with teeth and gills that cut.

The initial 40 hp outboard on the boat died about 12 years ago. The mechanic told me the problem was bad compression from damaged pistons, possibly from the original owner’s amount of trolling or some low-oil event that occurred with a faulty oil pump.

I got lucky at a time when nobody had any used outboards around, that John Lamon at Watercraft Sales in Three Lakes had just taken in a used 40 hp Johnson motor that was in mint condition. It’s an excellent motor to this day.

One of the scariest moments I remember in that boat came on Planting Ground Lake while fishing with my wife. We were busy catching walleyes in the weeds and there was no more than a slight ripple on the water.

In the course of a minute or two, the skies went black as a storm formed over the lake. It felt and sounded like a tornado on the way as white-capped waves were suddenly slamming our boat. It was a rough ride to cover, but two drenched anglers made it back safely.

As you might imagine from the fishing stories and wildlife photos, there have been weeks that I almost spent as much time in the boat as in the office.

No regrets there. Writing a column and taking thousands of wildlife images is a tough job, but somebody had to step up.

It’s amazing what you can see and get into photo range from a floating watercraft: eagles, osprey, herons, owls, loons, raccoons, fox, otters, deer, geese, ducks, turtles, mink, beavers, muskrats and even some trumpeter swans.

We’ve talked for years about replacing the boat with something newer and wider, but it’s hard to replace a craft that works so well. That boat has been proof that it’s the anglers, not the boat, that create fishing success.

Of course the pandemic made the timing even worse, because most marinas in the area are virtually out of boats due to supply chain issues. But my bride, the shopper in the family, went online to find me the perfect replacement.

So now, in family tradition, we’ll be passing a fishing boat to a son and daughter-in-law in Pennsylvania where four of our grandkids will get a chance to grow up fishing.

The boat is no beauty at the age of 27, but it sure is functional. There’s a newly carpeted floor, trolling motors on front and back, two electric anchors and double fish finders with GPS capabilities. And most important, the livewell works.

It was less than a week ago that the boat got its final voyage on the Three Lakes Chain, and plenty of  crappies, bluegills, perch and even a walleye were gracing the livewell. Those fish were shared with co-workers who love a fish fry.

Now I’m going to step into a 17 1/2-foot Alumacraft that’s equipped with a four-stroke tiller and plenty of fancy electronics I may never learn to use, thanks to the previous owner.

My biggest gains will be the width of a modern boat, a 17-gallon gas tank and no more mixing of oil and gas. I’m feeling a little spoiled already.

Time to open a new chapter on fishing, which someday, might even include some guiding. I’ve got some extra room now.

I may have held onto that 1994 boat a little longer than most anglers would, but it did the job for two decades.