In Tribute To Ron Dettloff

Ronald Edward Dettloff, born on January 15, 1932 in Chicago, Illinois, became interested in fishing at an early age. In fact, when he was a teenager, Ron was a tournament caster, placing high in various Chicago area casting competitions in 1948 and 1949. After getting out of high school in 1950, Ron went into the sheet metal trade, earning his journeyman’s card and becoming a layout man for various Chicago area sheet metal shops until moving to Wisconsin. In 1953, he married Pat Wilmsen, and together they had two boys, Bob and John.

Ron first came to the Chippewa Flowage quite by chance. It was in 1956, and Ron, Pat, and her brother Lee, were on their way home from an unsuccessful Canadian fishing trip. As they were passing through Hayward, they noticed the odometer on their car read all sevens. They took it as an omen that they should stop, so they stayed at Squaw Bay Lodge on the Chippewa Flowage for a couple days.

The catching of Ron’s first legal musky was also by chance. He was walleye fishing in Rest Lake, in the Manitowish Waters, in 1962 when an 11¼ pound musky nailed a northern that had grabbed his minnow. The northern came off, but the musky ended up getting hooked. The following year, Ron caught a 19 pound musky out of Oxbow Lake in northern Wisconsin while fishing with the well known guide George Bazso. Not knowing that it was legal to shoot muskies at the time, Ron nearly jumped out of his skin when Bazso pulled out a gun and shot his musky once he got it up to the boat.

In 1964, Ron returned to the Chippewa Flowage, staying at Indian Trail Resort to try his hand at the musky fishing there. On that trip, he caught his first musky out of the Flowage, on the Grass Patch on the Church Burs. Ron and his family became regulars at Indian Trail after that, with Ron boating muskies nearly every year from then on.

In August of 1966, Ron was on his way out to go fishing one morning when Walt Roman and Frenchy LaMay, two of the resort’s regular musky men, told him not to bother to go out because the fishing had been tough. Even so, Ron came back in with a nice 15 pounder that he had caught on Little Kanachkey, and that was all Walt and Frenchy needed to see to get them back out on the water with renewed vigor.

In 1967, Howie and Wanda Hornewer, the owners of Indian Trail, approached Ron and Pat Dettloff to see if they would be interested in purchasing the resort, but they declined because they felt their two boys were too young. Pat’s brother, Lee Wilmsen, ended up buying the resort though, keeping it for four seasons until selling it to Ron and Pat in 1972.

During the years that Lee owned the resort years, Ron was able to wrangle three to four weeks vacation up on the Flowage each year, fishing not only for musky, but also for crappie and bass with great success. He was so successful that Lee would tell his new guests to follow the guy wearing the red hat (Ron) in order to find out where to fish. Ron eventually caught on and started wearing different colored hats while out in the boat.

Adolph Sakowicz, one of the resort regulars, caught his biggest musky, a 23¼ pounder, while fishing with Ron during the Fourth of July week of 1968. They were fishing on Weedy Shore, near the small grass patch that used to be there, where Ron had previously seen a huge musky that may have gone 40 pounds. A short time later, Ron spotted a wake behind Adolph’s black Globe and said, "Watch out, here he comes!" The fish nailed his lure and Adolph was into a big one. Although it wasn’t the big one Ron had seen, it was a trophy fish nonetheless.

The first year the Dettloffs operated Indian Trail Resort (1972), Ron musky fished nearly every evening, pounding the water with gusto well into the night. In fact, Ron was one of the first musky men at the Trails who fished late at night with any regularity, producing a number of nice fish after dark. That June, he caught a 24¼ pounder at eleven o’clock at night on Grampa’s Patch on East Cranberry. After the musky blasted Ron’s Creeper, it leaped out of the water with so much power that it flew through the air for the entire length of the boat before touching down back into the water. Naturally, such exciting experiences only heightened Ron’s desire to going fishing.

Later that fall, on Labor Day, Ron caught his biggest musky ever, a 31¼ pounder on a yellow Globe on Little Pete’s Bar. It was a choppy, overcast, cool evening when he tied into the fish. Although the fish seemed to be well hooked, having four small treble hooks buried in its jaws, after Ron worked the fish closer to the boat–just out of netting range–the musky suddenly held its ground and began shaking its head. Much to his horror, Ron noticed the big musky slowly begin to dislodge each hook, until only one treble was all that remained. Luckily, Ron was able to muscle the fish close enough to the boat to net, and he got it.

Well-known for his long, powerful casts, Ron put so much torque on his equipment when casting that he would rock the boat on a cast and, more than once, snap in half good

musky rods in the process. One time, Ron was cut off by another guide on Little Pete’s Bar, so before the guide got to the weedbed that Ron was working towards, he fired off a fifty plus yard cast with an Eddie Bait, made a few jerks, and Wham! He caught a nice 15 pounder right out from where the guide was heading. To add insult to injury, Ron asked the guide to net the fish for him, which he did.

September 28, 1980, was a very memorable musky day for Ron Dettloff. The entire month of September of that year had been quite warm, making for consistent surface bait fishing right through early October. After getting fired up by a 37½ pound beauty that Wayne Gutsch had guided one of our resort guests to that morning, my dad took his fishing friend, John Carbine, out that evening to get in on some of the great fishing.

At around six o’clock that evening, my dad caught a 30-pounder on his black Hawg Wobbler while working a shallow, gravel point called Ear Point. On the very first cast he had made into the spot, he was slowly chugging his lure along when the musky nailed it. Luckily, he had just retied his knot before locking horns with that musky. The fish was really hyped up, making two long powerful runs that strained my dad’s tackle to its limit.

Once they got the fish into the net, it went wild in the bag and exploded the plastic yoke of the net. The two men had to think fast, so they hauled the fish into the boat by grabbing the rim of the net. We all learned an important lesson that night: never lift a big fish into the boat using only the handle of the net. Grab near the yoke of the net with one hand and the rim of the net with your other hand when preparing to haul a heavy fish into the boat.

One huge musky, at least in the forty pound class, blasted Ron’s Globe so hard late one night, in June of 1983, on East Cranberry, that the explosion was heard by another fisherman a couple of hundred yards away. Ron had the fish up to the boat three different times and tried to net it; however, it took off on one final run and the bait came free and the fish got off. Later that fall, he guided John Carbine to a 34½ pounder in the same area.

Over the years, Ron Dettloff has had great success while out on the waters of the Chippewa Flowage. He has put close to 100 legal muskies into the boat; he has caught impressive stringers of crappies in his day; and in October of 1976 he once caught two 9 pound walleye in one day. Because of health issues, he hasn’t fished muskies for himself much during the past ten years; most of Ron’s time on the water is now spent fishing for walleye.

Ron passed away on October 15, 2017.