A Whole Lotta Fish… and Fun

4_caterpillarHello and welcome to the blog today!  The caterpillar (from the Big Spring Trout Hatchery) is not the only thing crawling upside down today… I’m feeling it too!  But in a good way… well, mostly.   (No more “Romulan ale” while fishing!)

It’s been a crazy week.  I’ve not discussed it much but work had been beyond hectic the last couple of months and things were reaching a boiling point.  Due to critically low staffing levels, on a busy Sunday I was the only one working in Toys, Automotive, Sporting Goods, Paint, Hardware, Lawn and Garden, Pets, Health & Beauty, Domestics, and Fabrics.  It had been like this for weeks… and on Friday I was told I was “not productive enough” while trying to “zone” (face all the shelves, too).

Hobbling around in a stinking hot store with a bad foot that could potentially be developing an ulcer, I’d had enough and resigned right in the middle of one of the biggest hurricanes of the year, the Iowa “Tax Free Weekend” as part of the “Back to School” effort.  “Not productive enough?”   LOL.  I wonder  how well things are running now?   🙂  🙂  🙂  🙂

With the Iowa weather being seasonal, I decided to go for a drive north to rest up and, of course, do some trout stream and river fishing.  The favorite campground at the trout hatchery was empty.  I sat outside for a bit,  eating a day-old and slightly soggy Subway sandwich while sipping a cold bottle of water.  The stars twinkled and I listened to the harmonious symphony of crickets, owls, bullfrogs, and  babbling river.  It was soothing beyond description.  I slept like a baby Monday night!

4_Softshell Turtle

Sunday’s catch at a pond near home…. one not-so-happy softshell turtle!  I returned him unharmed.


The next morning I was pumped to do some fishing.  Unfortunately, the Turkey River was flowing high and fast due to recent heavy storms.  After only having two trout on the stringer, I decided to go to the Mississippi River to the barge anchored at Guttenberg.  What a time it turned out to be!

4_Barge Picture

Two views of the barge at Guttenberg

As you can see from the picture, I used the camera to zoom in on the fishing barge to see how many folks were angling.  The trip out there costs $14 so one doesn’t want to go when the place is too heavily fished!  There was an Amish man angling plus a few kids on the other side of the little shack (which contains a wood stove and two easy chairs).  Yes, that’s a blue porta-potty… They’ve got all the comforts!

The 60 quart wheeled cooler was brought along with an ample supply of water and adult beverages.  Though not indulging too heavily, I still sat out there for about five hours with a good buzz going on (gotta love Smirnoff Grape) and fished till the sun turned me the color of a plump red radish.


“Hello kitty!” Here’s the 2 pound, 17 inch flathead catfish… I gave it to a family I used to work with. They LOVE catfish.


The final body count for the 24 hours period was 22 fish:  19 of them were sheephead, 1 catfish, and 2 trout.  The rope stringer was so heavy it took some doing to pull it back onto the barge.  Then the cooler lid would not close until the fish had been filleted out!




Still a wee bit under the weather,  I left the cell phone was left on the barge and the kind boat driver gave me a ride back out there…  Not entirely copacetic, I also tried to fillet a bit of the left thumb… It’s not the first time that’s happened… and probably will not be the last!


Some of the 19 sheephead… That’s 38 nice fillets!

It took an hour or so to clean the fish.  I’m using a Kershaw fillet knife and though multiple cutting instruments were brought, the same knife was used on all 19 sheepheads.  It’s pretty impressive for a value-priced item to take that kind of abuse.


A decent knife for the price, the Kershaw has been on special for as low as $10 through Cabella’s… They really hold an edge!

After the fish were cleaned, I indulged in an ice cream cone and started home, tired but invigorated.  It’s now Wednesday morning.  Kitty Jesse and I  shared some fried sheephead for breakfast.  One can imagine he was pretty happy with the haul.  Tonight’s dinner?  More fish topped with homemade pesto sauce containing fresh basil from the herb garden.

It’s back to looking for a job.  I stuck this one out as long as the body held up.  The good news is that I have always had a safety net the whole time.  Having connections at local businesses, I was immediately offered rehire at McDonalds and another manager suggested I apply at her company’s store.  That’s a lot of reason to smile.

Have a good day and thanks for stopping by!  Safe and happy travels always!

Bradford, Jesse James, and Jennifer
Jones County, Iowa

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About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"

4 Responses to A Whole Lotta Fish… and Fun

  1. Deborah Hoots says:

    Great story… look forward to your storie always

    • VanTrekker says:

      Thanks Debby! Life is good. When things are bad, they’ll always get better! I feel young again after hanging up my blue vest and can’t wait till the next chapter. Stay tuned. Have a fantastic end to the week! I’ve been doing some more work on the van so the next post will be a little trip to test out the change. Take care!

  2. Jo Harmon says:

    I’m not surprised you were treated that way at Walmart. I have one down the road from where I live and it is awful. They never have enough people. But in this case the managers don’t seem to give a crap about anything but their pay check. And yes it is so hot in that store. But soon there will be a Super Center Fry’s right across the street. while the prices are higher it will (I hope)be a better place to shop.

    Your fishing trip was quite successfull. I don’t think I have ever eatin the type of fish before. and haven’t had cat fish in eons.

    • VanTrekker says:

      Jo, thanks for the kind words. I stuck it out as long as possible but we all eventually reach a breaking point and I take the blame for that. I’m going to send you a private email that I’m sure will make you grin! Though peaceful, my departure was unique and a lot of the co-worker friends are still talking about it. 🙂

      We’re having some fish again today. Sheepshead is similar to tilapia in the size and shape of the fillets. The flavor is quite a bit like walleye. It’s kind of a fun change from so much trout. 🙂

      Take care!