NANFA-- The best catch I've ever made...

Todd Crail (
Sat, 22 Nov 2003 18:45:14 -0500

Well I need to get this off my chest... This email could also be titled
"Sorry to interrupt your game, guys." But, I think that'll be the title of
my editorial I send off to the Toledo Blade, so I won't use it up here.

This afternoon while the "Battle Royale" was being played out in Ann Arobr,
I decided to forego the socializing over the game and get out and enjoy what
last remains of nice weather we're experiencing right now. I wanted to pick
up some pumpkinseeds for the tank I'm setting up at Maumee Valley, I went to
Highland Park on Swan Creek where I'd net some earlier this summer. I had
also taken my fishin' pole on rumors in the past, there could be stray
steelhead running the stream. I thought I'd do my best to remove the
exotics ;)

At any rate, the reason for this being a prime spot for spawn run fish is
because of a _pointless_ 6 foot lowhead dam. The dam and the ensuing
downstream pool are perfect "habitat" to stop migratory fish... It's
gravelly, sandy and deep, with a decent current year round. So it serves as
a spawning ground, although the rest of Swan Creek is severed from
contributing it's share to the brilliant fishery of Lake Erie (which upper
Swan Creek is wetlands in the Oak Openings that would be a perfect nursery).
I've seen walleye floating downstream in a heat generated fish kill in the
spring. Trautman also noted that he'd seen sea lampery spawning at this
site. I intend to really get in and understand the year round communities
at this site, and hopefully, get the damn thing tore out. The 400 or so juv
perch I seined today should be reason enough....

What happened next was the exclamation point.

Two young gentlemen (about 9 or 10 yrs old) joined me in the fishing
endeavors. I was somewhat alarmed that they were down there by themselves,
but figured I could keep an eye on them, maybe teach them about the fish in
the stream. I taught them how to cast their open faced reels, gave the one
fella a minnow, cleaned out the ensuing "birds nests" that happen when kids
use open faced reels :) I think they got bored with the slow action where
I was and began being the adventuresome boys that they are. They moved
upstream above the dam and fished there for a bit. They got bored there,
and of course, the grass is always greener...

You know where this is going by now I'm sure....

So they went to the other side, which I had no way of getting to beside over
the bridge. The boil of the dam was pretty strong, it was pulling empty,
capped pop bottles under (very bouyant). Enough to have a healthy respect
for it. Based on what I had experienced in the hole lining the base of the
dam when it was at low this summer, it would have had to have been 6 foot
deep in some places, in between all the rocks that were scattered about from
a bridge repair they'd done this summer (ie the core hole was 5-6' deep at
the current water level and there were concrete chunks all the way through
it). The depth and obstructions were such a non-issue because I wouldn't
even have _thought_ to get in there, even though that where I knew a lot of
fish would be spending their time. No fish is worth "me".

I was concerned that my wading about would inspire the boys to get into the
stream, as boys will do. I saw them get the idea, and called it off
immediately. They were very compliant and put their shoes and socks back on
and resumed fishing. I was sitting down readjusting my seine, when I heard
the noises I _did not_ want to hear...

One of the boys was in the stream. He'd slipped off a concrete girder that
formed the side of the dam. It was very shallow on the side I was on for a
bit, but apparently it was much deeper on the other side. I hollered for
him to "Stand up, it's not that deep!" at which he went straight under. Oh
man. The next few minutes were kind of a blur...

In the time it took for me to _run_ up the side of the ravine, across the
bridge and down the other side of the ravine, he had floated out about
midway in the stream, still in the boil, and bobbing under and up, under and
up. The situation had gone from bad to horrible. He was not making contact
with any of the substrate and was having difficulty treading water. This
wasn't an insane boil like you see sometimes, but it was enough to keep him
stuck in it and was not letting it's grasp go. (What is the technical name
for "the boil"?)

Not having my wader belt on (which will never happen again), I gently slid
down the girder, hoping like heck I made contact with the top of my chest
waders still in the dry zone. I had about 3 inches of room. This didn't
make me exactly comfortable, but I knew even if I ballooned out, the current
wasn't going to be enough to get me in trouble. I wasn't 3' tall and
freaking out. At the same time, I knew the risks I was enacting, but the
situation called for damning all the risks and acting, figuring out what to
do second by second.

I made my way out to him, taking on water with misplaced steps on the
concrete rocks. I made the decision to feel it hit my waist, and then I'd
have to turn back, else I was compromising both of us. I just kept thinking
"You must take your time or all of this will be in vain."

As I got to him, he was screaming that he couldn't feel anything and didn't
want to die.

Man, that has to be the worst thing I've ever heard.

We made contact and began to make our way back. A fella who musta seen the
guy hauling arse across the bridge in chest waders and wondered what all the
excitement was about, I think, made the emergency call. It might also have
been the people who slowed their car and went "Go man Go!" to be smart, and
I consequently flipped off in hopes that they would stop and want to kick my
butt. I dunno. In any case, the guy who was looking over the bridge was
the only other adult that I know of who saw what the gravity of this
situation held.

I got him out of the water, got his soaked cotton sweatshirt off, gave him
all my shirts and had his buddy run for my jacket on the other side.
Unfortunately, because I'd taken on so much water (it was thigh deep in the
waders, which made it real fun getting back up on the girder) my clothes
weren't exactly dry. But by dumping out my waders to wrap and make some
type of thermal barrier, and getting that jacket and giving him my hat, we
started to get him settled down. I sent the other boy off to start loading
all the gear while I got the wet one back to the van (which wasn't exactly

The next few minutes left me deeply irritated with a subsection of humanity.

Why, if you were driving down the road, and you saw a shirtless man with
soaked pants flagging you down (in NOVEMBER) with a soping wet, wrapped in
wet-clothes kid, would you choose _not_ to stop and at least ask if you
could help? We coulda really used a ride right then...

It gets even better.

As we were nearly to the car, and the one boy had taken most of the stuff
over, the fire truck pulled up. I thought "Oh awesome. We'll get some dry
blankets." and assured the boy that everything was getting much better right
then. Pffft. These guys emerged from their truck like someone just woke
them from a nap, and knowing that "The Game" was on, I just wanted to punch
someone ("Sorry to bother you guys!").

I asked them to get him blankets multiple times. They were more interested
in the facts, making it seem like a small deal, and trying to eyeball how
deep the water was by looking from the top of the bridge (mind you, the
turbidity of the stream was about 80 JTU), instead of beginning to pull him
out of a potential hypothermic situation. He was in shock, I have little
doubt, he'd stopped shivering and I doubt that was because he got warm. You
don't just go from "I can't feel anything" and staggering around on numb
feet to warm in three minutes with no additional warmth added to your body.

They kept with the questions, and at the point where they asked him "How
long were you in the water?" I wanted to say "Too ------- Long!" I was
fumed. Instead, I went back to my van (just realizing that I _was_, in
fact, a bare chested man in soaked pants in November) to get changed into my
emergency clothes I'd brought along, and kept from upsetting the kid any
more beacuse adults were being idiots. The paramedics pulled up then, and I
felt better that at least someone might give the kid a damned blanket!

By the time I made my way back to the site, the paramedics were gone, the
firemen were still doing that male game of "who's right about how deep it
is", but sorta broke that up when they saw me. They went back to their
truck and their sgt (or whatever they are came over) and told me where my
shirt was. Man I wanted to scream at the dude, and let him know how
disgusting their nonchalance about the situation was. The cops pulled up
then, I kept shut up (I'm not a big fan of some police personality types)
and just asked where he lived so I could get my hat and return their fishing

So, to recount... Response time by EMS units was a definate "A". They were
there within five minutes. How they handled it when they got there...
Uhh... I think the kid was better off getting in my van and home into a hot
bath, instead of being waylayed by these clowns, so they could eyeball how
deep the creek was below the bridge, from the bridge.

Don't get me wrong... I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, that
they just assumed that I had walked out to get him in my clothes (they did
not see my waders, as they were already at the van) and that it would have
appeared that I'd only gotten wet up to my waist and just got splashed a

But I did tell them twice I was there fishing and seining and was in the

And I do understand that it's not like I had a label on my shirt that says
"Water wise and a local stream authority, spends all free time in water and
is able to fully appreciate dynamics of lowhead dam and kid situation."

But ---- them very much for not being much interested beyond trying to make
sure the kid was calmed down. His shock was doing that well enough for him.

And... They just took him back to his uncle's place and gave him the
impression that nothing really happened. He was kinda embarrased that he
just let them go out and do their thing, but apparently had been assured
enough there _wasn't_ a potentially deadly situation that just happened.
Nor had he done anything lacking judgement.

Hopefully the kid doesn't end up with a nasty ecoli infection from all the
water he sucked down.

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