Fishing buddies

Two Cottonwood men fish more than 20 hours per week year round

Photo by Jody Isaackson Roger Staton and Kelly Johns pose with their summer fishing rods. They have had a lot of success with a yellow grasshopper-like jig on Tyson Lake, Lady Slipper and Cottonwood Lake over the past year.

Most people would find fishing a relaxing hobby, others not so much. For two Cottonwood men, it has practically become a way of life.

Spending 20 to 25 hours per week on a lake year round is only feasible if you are retired, disabled or a professional fisherman. After a life-threatening accident over 13 years ago, Kelly Johns of Cottonwood has been unable to work. With family in the area, Johns had come to Cottonwood to recuperate. Since then it was caring for his sister who has Lou Gehrig’s Disease and fishing on his breaks.

Over the past couple of years, Johns has developed a fishing relationship with his neighbor Roger Staton. Both men have been avid fishermen since they were young.

“I grew up in a fishing boat with my dad,” Johns said.

“My dad taught me everything I know about fishing,” Staton said.

The two shared fishing stories from this past year.

“We got out there just before 3 p.m. (before daylight saving time started),” Johns said. “We had to get out there before everybody else did around from 5-6 p.m. After daylight saving time, they move to after dark fishing. Before daylight saving time, we had about an hour to get our limit, which amounts to six in 20 minutes.

“We started observing the older guys on Tyson Lake and Cottonwood Lake,” he added. “They were using a bobber, but not getting anything. We tried that, too, but the bite count dropped, so we started trying different things. We came up with a yellow grasshopper jig. We’d hand-whip the jig a couple of times. They’d just come in and hit. Then we had the old timers come watch us to see what we were doing.”

“We told them what we were using and gave them a couple,” Staton said.

“We went fishing every day to Tyson,” Johns said. We got a couple of nice perch and crappies, after that it was just walleye.”

Another thing they did that was contrary to popular belief was to play loud music. Some fishermen prefer to fish in silence thinking loud noises would scare away the fish; not these two.

“I have a stereo box and played country music really loud,” Johns said. “The bass beat seemed to attract the fish! We’d play a couple of songs, and all of a sudden — bam! — they started biting like crazy.”

Both men agreed that this fall was the best fishing they’ve had recently.

“I had a lot of fun fishing this year,” Staton said.

“We got our limit once out of the three weeks. The bite time was a short 45 minutes,” Johns said. “We had to keep the minnows right by us to save time, rather than go back to the truck for more when we ran out. That saved time.”

“There were four of us,” Staton said. “That week, we got 19 walleyes three days in a row, one short of limit.”

The two men like to eat most of their catch, but they do some “catch and release” and also give some away to friends and relatives.

They are looking forward to ice fishing this winter, too, but are waiting until it gets colder so that the ice will be thick enough to support weight.

Johns likes to go out on the lake with his 4-wheeler and portable fish house. Staton will drive his pickup out there if the ice is thick enough.

“My intention is to fish around here this winter,” Johns said. “In the spring, I want to go out by Yankton and Vermillion, South Dakota, to visit my daughter and do some fishing out there.”

Staton also plans to do a lot of ice fishing this winter as that is his favorite sport.

Johns and Staton advise novice fishermen to try different things, like different bait, to be more successful.