RIVERDALE Fall is in the air. For many that means a reunion in the field or on the water, and keeping alive hunting and fishing traditions is important for many families in North Dakota.
This past week John Tczap Sr., of Moorhead, Minn., and son John, Medora, could be found along the shore at the Garrison Dam Tailrace where they were enjoying a fall reunion with fishing rod in hand. At mid-morning they were working with a portable propane grill so that they could enjoy a hot meal in the outdoors.
"I love it here," said John Sr., a former Riverdale resident. "I wouldn't trade it for anyplace else in North Dakota."
Kim Fundingsland/MDN - - John Tczap Sr., Moorhead, Minn., left, and son John Tczap Jr., Medora, enjoy a morning of fishing together at the Garrison Dam Tailrace.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN - - John Tczap Jr., Medora, holds a Missouri River salmon caught in the tailrace the morning of Oct. 6. Tczap was pitching a shallow diving stick bait when the salmon struck.
A few yards away in the Missouri River salmon could be seen surfacing, along with the much smaller cisco and hundreds of gulls, terns and pelicans eager to pick up an easy meal at the water's surface. Suddenly, a northern pike splashed at the surface too. It had been hooked briefly by John Jr. who had been casting a fire-tiger stick bait into the rapid current of the Tailrace.
"I have a hard time not being someplace where I see deer everyday, the river, the lake -- I miss that," said John Sr. "You really can't compare the Red River to the Missouri or catfishing to what we have here."
John Sr. moved from Riverdale in 2009.
The Tczaps, father and son, arrived at the Tailrace about 4 a.m., a time reserved for serious fishermen. They were the only ones at the riverbank at that hour, although there were a few boat trailers in the nearby parking lot and a few faint lights visible on the water, proof of the presence of other fishermen.
"We've been doing this for quite a few years, coming down here in the fall of the year," explained John Jr., between casts into the river. "It's always been hit and miss, but we've been fairly lucky to get a few walleye and some nice salmon."
John Jr. had a nice salmon on a stringer secured to the rocky shoreline. He watched as other salmon swam near that salmon, apparently lured by its presence. Other smaller fish were there along the bank too, probably smallmouth bass.
John Jr. tossed a handful of salmon eggs into the water and they were immediately chased down by fish just deep enough to make exact identification difficult. The eggs had come from the salmon caught earlier and had been deposited on the riverbank.
"I caught that one early this morning," said John Jr. "It put up a pretty good fight for a long time. I was surprised I didn't lose it. I remember the first salmon I caught down here quite a few years ago. It was a little over 17 pounds."
John Sr. was listening intently while trying to decide between a quick nap in a lawn chair or a few more casts. Sleep was inviting but so was the opportunity to spend quality time outdoors with his son. John Sr. recalled the special times of getting together with family while residing in Riverdale for 20 years.
"When we lived here he would come up two or three times a year from Medora to fish with his kids," said John Sr., this past Thursday. "His family is coming up after school on Friday. I'm looking forward to that."
When asked about the fall fishing reunion John Jr. replied with a smile, "It's good except for the days he outfishes me. I think I'm one up on him today. I've got two and don't know if he actually caught one. He snoozes more than I do."
It wasn't all snoozing. John Sr. said he witnessed the largest northern he'd ever seen at the tailrace brought to the shore by another fisherman, only to have it get away at the net. He spent some time cleaning up too. Trash left along the shore by others proved too much for the veteran fisherman to bear.
"I just couldn't stand it anymore," said John Sr. "The place was just covered with trash, boxes, fishing line, bottles and cans. I got a plastic bag, gloves and filled the bag with junk."
The cleanup improved the look of the entire area, making it much more suitable for a fishing reunion between father and son.