Gertie: a Dream and a 44-Lb Muskie

Gertie and her 44 lb MuskieWe all like a good fish story and the late Glenn Ruggles, a teacher, an author and a movie maker who grew up in Elk Rapids, gets our applause for the story here from his “Voices on the Water: An Oral and Pictorial History of Antrim County’s Chain of Lakes.” The words are excerpted from Ruggles’ interview with Gertie Barber who began trout fishing when she was four. Later, she became one of Michigan’s first female fishing guides, as well as a planer in her father’s lumber mill in Rapid City. Gertie died in 1997 in her mid-90s. The interview was conducted in 1990. Her description is of spearing a Great Lakes Muskellunge (it’s legal) from her shanty in 1972.

“Nine times outta ten, I had dreams before I’d get a fish. Every time I would go out to the lake — lotta times before I’d get a fish, I’d dream about getting a fish and then I’d get up and tell my husband I was gonna get the fish. I’d go out to the lake ‘n never see one. So, I told myself, ‘Keep your mouth shut ‘n maybe you’ll get a fish.’
When I got that big one (the 44-pound muskie about as long as Gertie was tall), I dreamed I saw him in the hole. I had a sucker on for a decoy and that big ole spear. I never said ‘boo’ to my husband about getting this fish. So, I waited, here he came right under the stove (in the ice shanty) towards my spear. I got ‘im. Then I had to get my husband (Forrest) to help me get it out of the hole…

I didn’t get excited. You could miss it if you got excited. I thought, ‘If I don’t get you today, I’ll get you another day.’

When I lake fished — speared out on the lakes, I’d look at the barometer before I went. If the barometer was rising, nine times outta ten, you’d see fish. You gotta catch these fish when the moon’s filling up, they fill up, too. You’ll have days after the moon’s full that they’ll bite, but it won’t be easy.”