There was one fishing story that I wasn’t going to share for a number of reasons. But after telling a co-worker the tale recently I decided to toss it up on the blogilicious to help close out 2009. This was a rare occasion where I have had to call in the officials for violation(s). “Second Craziest” award goes to Mother of All Snapping Turtles.
Early Morning Jump…Ward Pond
Early morning “before work” run on Ward Pond there in Wheatridge off of I-70 and Ward Road. This was mid spring/prespawn conditions for largemouth bass and I was looking to bust a few lips before hitting the office. Prespawn is one of my favorite times for bass fishing so you might see me out there before work, lunch time, after work and just plain missing work altogether. Pulling in I see one vehicle.
“Not too shabby. “ I say with an optimistic grin.
The truck is parked and I grab two rods and the tackle bag. Then proceed to pass sign after sign stating the additional (AFLO/C&R) restrictions and that this is a State Wildlife Area primarily used for fishing. This is a place that metro bassers have tried to set apart from the bait and take public areas of Denver.
Walking down the well-worn wooden stairs grasping the metal railing I start working the southwest corner of the lake. Casting at some shallow cruising bass I plink one and get a decent picture. That is when I noticed the big red dome way over on the west side of the lake. At first it looked like it could be some debris or a really huge person with a red jacket. My eyes caught another bass and the red object moved to the back of my mind.
15 minutes had passed and time was running out. I had briefly scouted the north side resulting in disappointment. Turning the corner and ending up on the west side I finally see the red object in full view. It is a tent. Someone had actually pitched a tent and was camping on the peninsula. I am used to running into baiters and bass takers here but this was way out of bounds.
“You have to be #$%^& kidding me.” I scoff in disgust. “A Tent?” But this is where it really gets crazy.
I keep moving and avoid the peninsula. Just as I am getting to start scouting the rest of the southeast cove, a guy literally jumps out of the tree line with two rifles shouldered on his back. The straps made him look like one of those banditos you see in the old western movies. Too be quite honest I damn near pissed myself in that first moment where two people eyeball one another with bad and fearful intent. He gave me a probing look as scenes of deliverance flashed through my mind. One rifle looked to be a pellet gun and relatively harmless. The other looked as if it was a .22 but hard to tell by just the barrel. That was somewhat of a comforting thought as a higher-powered rifle eliminates the option of running.
I kept moving and did my best to play it cool while still trying to scout the shoreline. Hopefully I could casually make my way past this guy as this cove was super hot for me last year.
I moved around the cove quickly to where I had landed a huge bass last year. This year however the west side of the far cove was moss covered and void of any nests. It is kind of funny how even in the face of pellet or other gun shot wounds…my focus is still on catching fish. I even scan the northern shore a second time on the way back managing to pick up another cruising prespawn bucket. Sporadically I would hear little “pop” noises as the urban commando fired off shot after shot with the pellet gun.
Put the gear away and get in the truck. By this time I am running very late and hanging on the edge of speeding my restrictions to reach work about 8:30AM. Anything after 9AM is “asschew late”. My cell phone of course is still charging (otherwise it would have been worth the time to call before driving to work). Once at the office I made a call first to the State Wildlife office. I figure they run the place, right? They went to the trouble to put up all those signs, right? I put in the call, tell the whole story and the first thing the guy asks me, “Did you call Operation Game Thief?” (I also mentioned the fact the guy had one pellet rifle and the other I wasn’t sure about. This may have lessened his concern greatly.)
“The guy is camping out there and shooting rifles…a threat to himself and society…who knows what he is shooting at out there. Whoever has jurisdiction in this case needs to get down there, ASAP.” Really I just wanted someone to kick him off the property. If he is shooting birds he is probably taking fish. Pretty much breaking every single rule posted on all of those signs they put up everywhere.
Work was kicking into full gear so there wasn’t a lot of time or need for that matter to be jawing it up with the officers. My goal was to notify them immediately and let them handle this matter officially. The guy did have guns after all. I simply told the guy what I knew and asked for a call back for closure. Maybe they would give me the end of the story, maybe not.
“Hopefully they stop him before someone gets hurt.” Was my last word on the subject or so I thought.
The phone rings about 10:45ish and the caller ID says “Operation Game Thief”. I pick it up and the official starts with a similar line of questioning as the first.
“This is officer so-N-so and just wanted to get your side of the story here. Now where was the guy at and what was he doing?”
“Thank you for calling, sir. My name is Matt and this morning I came across a guy camping out at Ward Pond. He was shooting a pellet gun at just about everything in sight. Was the tent and everything still setup when you got there?” Heck, I just started rattling off thinking they had already caught the guy and this was my call back for the statement or sheer courtesy.
“Well we haven’t sent an officer out yet. I was just filling out the report and getting ready to dispatch someone if necessary.”
“Huh?” I sputtered completely dumfounded. “You haven’t sent anyone out yet? The guy is pretty much shooting at anything out there with a pellet gun. At the very least he can’t be tenting it up out there by I-70.”
It was disheartening and the issue was causing more grief than it was worth. Trust you me that had this been I camping out at Ward Pond on a spring day shooting a pellet gun you can bet SWAT would have been called out as soon as the first tent pole went in.
“Oh well” I scoffed a bit disgusted and went off on a rant. “Gave it a shot. Did my part and all that. Let the place go to crap. See if I care. It could be one of the best damn fishing holes if folks would just give a $%& and read all those #$%^& signs they put up all over the #$%^&* place.”
More e-mails, more requests and the usual Lumberg’s roll in. Tackle, battle, get it out the door. Soon I am looking at grabbing some lunch. Maybe even scouting the apartment pond for 20 minutes with modest expectations and a fast retrieve. The phone rings. The caller ID says Wheatridge Police.
“Oh man…” My voice cracks wondering what this is all about. “This can’t be good.” My voice mutters as I answer the phone. It was yet a third rendition of the previous officer.
“This is officer yada-yada. Am I talking to the person who reported the man camping out at Ward Pond?…”
“Yes it is. So what’s the deal. Did you catch the guy? Was he still down there?”
“Well no. Not yet. I was just on my way down there and wanted to get some more information...”
“Wow.” I blurted out forgetting my composure for a moment. “I put this call in about 8:30. I am surprised you folks are just getting out there. This guy could really be causing some damage. Heck he is probably long gone by now.”
“It’s been a busy morning.” He replied with an obviously annoyed tone. ‘I’m about 15 minutes from there now.”
Not wanting to lose this guy from my side of the issue I refrained from the ‘I might have put “possible lunatic with guns” a bit higher on my priority list” comment and filled him on the whole situation. I also remembered to ask for the follow up call.
About 3PM I am wrapping up the daily grind and coast through the next two hours. The nice part about busting butt early in the day sometimes makes that possible. Then the phone rings. It’s the officer from Wheatridge with the follow up. Now I won’t bore you with the exact dialogue of this conversation but will have to summarize in hopes of easing the punishment of reading this 4-page dribble.
The officer searched the tent and found a substantial amount of “chemical drugs” was the term he used. There must have been some other stuff too as the officer ended up calling in backup as well as transport. This means the guy is in serious trouble when the city police turn someone over to the state police.
Honestly I didn’t know whether to feel good or bad at that point. On one hand the guy was removed from the premises and nobody was injured. On the other hand the guy is going to get a good deal more than a simple warning or citation. That part of the story was something I definitely did not intend or would wish on anyone. In hindsight I still don’t know if this was a good call or not. Had the guy not been strapped like Rambo I would have pointed out the regs in person…as I usually have to do out here many, many, many times. Hanging up the phone my heart was heavy.
“#$%^!” The lamenting became twice fold in an instant. “I forgot to ask what caliber the other gun was.”
That makes a big difference in regards to this story. It just sounds better with a pellet rifle and an AR15 or something like that. Two BB guns? Well that sounds a lot less menacing. Still this has to be craziest story of 2009. Fishing past an armed bandito beats battling a turtle the size of a small car any day in my book.
Footnote: Homeless people occasionally set up shelters on the very thick wooded areas of Ward Pond. These wooded areas are a distance away from the lake and difficult to reach. I am not condoning the behavior but at least they are more wise and set up temporary camps deep in the bush away from sight. This is the kind of thing that by the letter of the law is a violation but you have to be pretty ruthless to report it. Pick your battles in this crazy world. Watch out for giant snapping turtles and armed banditos.