Steve Hix, the Public Works Director in Dysart, has spent one week during the spring in Nestor Falls, Ontario, since 1973.When he was a junior in high school he started visiting Helliar's Resort, which is on Lake of the Woods, with his Dad, Lindsay Hix, who had been visiting the area since the 1930's. Steve made the trip with his Dad ever year until his Dad was no longer able to go because of health reasons.
"My Dad was there for a year in Canada, one week at a time, because he visited for a better of 52 years. I hope to be able to do that too, if possible. It's just one of those things, that as long as I'm able to go I will probably continue to go," said Hix.
Even though he has been making the trip for 39 years, he says the area has not changed all that much, but the biggest change has been a decrease in the number of tourists visiting the area due to the economy. Previously, he had to make reservations a year in advance to ensure a cabin, but lately, he can make reservations a week or two before his trip and have no problem. Over the years, the resort owners at Helliar's Family Fishing Resort have become like family to him, and they freely admit, that as a community that survives on tourism, they are happy to see visitors like Hix.
Dysart Public Works Director Steve Hix caught a 21-pound musky on his most recent annual fishing trip to Nestor Falls, Ontatrio (Canada). Here, he seems pretty content with the impressive catch, which he released.
The Hix family tragically lost their home during the wind storm of July 2011. Even though they are in the middle of building a new home, Hix still wanted to make the trip. "I probably didn't have the time to go but once in a while you just need to get away and go," said Hix.
While Minnesota is known as the land of 10,000 lakes, Lake of the Woods is known to have 14,000 islands. One can imagine how easy it would be to get lost in such a place. In the past, tourists would hire a Native American guide to ensure that they would make it back home safely.
"We're a little braver than we used to be. Before, you had to learn the lake on your own and each year you might go out a little further. Now with the electronics, there's really nothing to it. Our depth locator also has a GPS and a mapping system on it so I can drive the boat and look at a map of the lake and know exactly where I'm going. In the old days, you could get lost out there real easy," said Hix.
Throughout the years, about 15 different people have accompanied Hix on his annual trip. This year, Ken Gregory, of Dysart, and Chuck Howell, from Oelwein, accompanied him from June 1-9. The temperatures were in the 80's this year, quite the contrast from previous years when they were covered in snow. But no matter the weather, they always make the best of their week in Canada.
Ken Gregory was Hix's math teacher in high school and while, in high school, Hix never would have imagined going fishing with his math teacher, they are great fishing buddies these days. "That man would fish all day, every day if he could," said Hix.
They mostly catch walleye, northern pike, small and large mouth bass, and croppies. They release most of the fish, although they do cook and eat fish for most meals during their stay. The three fishermen made small side bets as to who would catch the first fish of each species per day, just to keep things fun.
Hix caught the largest fish of the trip, a 21 pound musky, which he released, partly because the season was not open yet and because they have to be 30 pounds to be legal.
Most people would call the annual trek to Canada a fishing trip. But to Hix, it's so much more than that. "I would be there if I didn't bring any fish home because I just love being there. I go for, not only the fish, but the scenery. It's as much about the country and the beauty of it than it is about the actual fishing," remarked Hix.
This year, they spotted an otter swimming around right outside their deck, a beaver, and they often see bears and deer. Although not able to this year because of the weather, they often visit Kakagi (Crow) Lake, an isolated lake where they go lake trout fishing, which Hix describes as being clear enough to see down to the bottom, despite the fact that it's 20 feet deep.
Over the years Hix has witnessed a lot during the trips, from an airplane crashing into the lake, some fishermen coming over a waterfall in their boat, to being at the resort when bear hunters went missing for three days. This year was pretty mundane. "You would think after 40 some years you'd get kind of bored with it, but every year I'm just as excited to go as the first few years," said Hix.
When Hix is not fishing in Canada, he spends time fishing with his fishing buddy Hannah, his daughter. The pair often goes ice fishing in the winter. Hix hopes that someday he can take his children with him up to Helliar's Resort and that they will continue the tradition.