Herald and Journal, November 16, 1998

Fish no longer laugh at Schmidt name

By Tom Schmidt

For as far back as Elmer can remember, fish have laughed at the Schmidt name.

Generations of Schmidts have repeatedly been disappointed on Minnesota lakes.

Year after fishless year, the Schmidts and their ancestors trolled area lakes to no avail. According to Elmer, "It was rumored once that my Uncle Albert caught a fish back in 1952, but he's no longer around to confirm the story."

Elmer made many attempts as a young dad to take his kids fishing and break the Schmidt curse, with no luck.

There was a glimmer of hope back in 1967. Elmer, his dad and his young son, Tom, caught something on Dexter Lake that almost pulled him out of the boat. It turned out to be a turtle.

Elmer's repertoire of failed fishing tales are endless. Several of them include his old fishing nemeses Charlie Jirik.

"On one fishing trip," Elmer recalls, "I noticed that even Charlie was catching fish on this particular lake, so I was hopeful. The boys and I pulled right up alongside their boat. The boats were so close they occasionally bumped into each other as the waves moved the anchored boats around."

At the end of the day, the score was still Elmer and family, zero; Charlie and company, 40+. Such stories are commonplace for the Schmidts.

When Elmer's sons moved away from home, they both took the curse with them.

For years, I took my boys fishing. Outing after outing, looks of disappointment permeated the boat.

This was not a heritage we were proud of. We considered it a good day if one of the boys caught something big enough for some other fisherman to use for bait.

After 12 years of further frustration on fishing expeditions with my own kids, I was sick and tired of being outwitted by Minnesota fish. I was determined to break the cycle.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I called in a fishing heavyweight, an old baseball buddy, Tom "Stubb" Dressen. Stubb and the Schmidts

"Stubb is sort of the 'Babe Winkleman' of Watertown." I figured that if Stubb couldn't help the family, no one could. Stubb was up for the challenge so we ventured off to an area lake.

On the way to the lake, I gave Stubb a rundown of how fish have ridiculed the name of Schmidt for generations. But amidst the insurmountable odds, Stubb remained confident and assured me we'd be successful.

After the first day on the lake, Stubb got a bird's-eye view of the Schmidt curse in action. Hour after hour went by with no success.

Stubb was becoming convinced that it might, in fact, be hopeless.

He said to me, "Schmitty, I think I've finally met my match. It may take divine intervention for this crew to catch a fish."

But Stubb was determined to give it one more try. On Saturday, Oct. 31, the group ventured out again. They waited two or three hours to no avail.

Then, finally, 12-year-old Robert Schmidt felt something on his line. He worked the line hard and stayed with the fish. It was obvious he had something big.

Now the only question that remained was, "Will we get it in the boat?"

Pandemonium struck the moment we pulled the fish into the boat. It was a northern, measuring in at over 30 inches and weighing in at 6-plus pounds.

After almost 60 years of fish laughing at the Schmidt name, we finally stumbled across what must clearly be the dumbest fish in Minnesota.

And the fish had relatives.

Shortly thereafter, Jonathan Schmidt, age nine, caught a 4- to 5-pound northern.

Later, seven-year-old Tyler Schmidt caught a largemouth bass that snapped the line just as we were pulling it into the boat. Stubb estimated the bass to be approximately four to five pounds.

By the end of the day, the Schmidts' scorecard read as follows:

  • 5 northerns
  • 3 largemouth bass
  • 2 bullheads
  • 1 cold

(Jonathan ended the trip by falling in the cold water).

All of the fish were caught by the boys; Dad didn't even get a nibble.

The Schmidts decided to keep and mount the six-pound northern that broke the Schmidt curse. It will be handed down from generation to generation as evidence that the cycle of fishing dysfunction has finally been broken.

It was a proud moment when we walked up to Grandpa Elmer's house to show off the trophy.

Elmer stared in disbelief. "Surely a fish this size must have tripped and accidently landed on the hook," he said.

But Robert proudly explained that he actually caught him the way regular fishermen do.

Grandpa's eyes beamed with pride as he listened to his three grandchildren tell him about the day they broke the Schmidt curse.

Thanks, Stubb.

Back to Outdoors Library

Outdoors: Home | Outdoors Columns | Honor Roll | Links

Howard Lake Herald & Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal
Stories | Columns | Classifieds | Obituaries
Community Guides | Special Topics | Cool Stuff | SEARCH | Home Page