Every now and then someone comes along who goes out of his way for the sake of others. Captain Ken Gazarek of the Reel Magic, a 32-foot Trojan Sport Fisherman, is just such a man. His operation is based at North Point Marina in Winthrop Harbor, Illinois, on the shore of Lake Michigan. Recently he and his first mate for the day, Mike Bieber, another local charter captain, generously donated their time and a morning salmon charter to a disabled man and child from the Midwest. The two captains were excited about sharing their wealth of salmon-fishing knowledge with the two guys who may not have ever gotten to experience this type of fishing trip otherwise.
It didn't take long for Alex O'Dell to win favor with Captain Ken Gazarek of the charter boat Reel Magic and get the opportunity to take the wheel.
Alex O'Dell compares his catch to his dad Kevin's "bait-sized" fish as he called it.
Alex O'Dell holds up his Lake Michigan coho with first mate Mike Bieber of the Reel Magic.
Alex O'Dell sits with his father Kevin as the trip and a fantastic day of fishing on Lake Michigan comes to an end.
The crew for the day aboard the Reel Magic charter boat including, Dan Campbell, Russ Campbell, Alex O'Dell, Kevin O'Dell, Bill Konway, author, and Midwest Dir. of the Disabled Hunters of North America, Al Winstead.
Dan Campbell of Northwest Indiana reels in a nice, chunky coho aboard the Reel Magic.
Dan Campbell keeps a close eye on the lines as we trolled for salmon near the Illinois/Wisconsin border.
Alex O'Dell brings in the first fish of the day under the guidance of first mate, Mike Bieber.
photos by bill konway
Dan Campbell of Indiana was paralyzed in an auto accident several years ago and has been confined to a wheelchair ever since. And, Alex O'Dell, 9, of Illinois was recently diagnosed with juvenile tourettes. The two of them, accompanied by Campbell's brother Russ and O'Dell's father Kevin, were joined by the Midwest Director of the Disabled Hunters of North America, Al Winstead, to whom the trip was donated, and myself.
Starting the Day Off Right As we all gathered at the marina around 6 a.m., the dawn only hinted at the perfect weather to come! After some coffee and introductions, we headed offshore. The Great Lake was uncharacteristically flat with only enough of a breeze to keep the bugs away from us. The captain eased the throttles of the ship forward as we headed for a spot in about 100 feet of water along the Illinois/Wisconsin border. The captain took care to keep us in Illinois waters because it was the state's Free Fishing Weekend, which, lucky for us, meant no one had to have a license! After leaving the dock, Captain Ken and Alex became instant friends! In a matter of minutes, Alex was at the wheel guiding the vessel to its destination with the captain at his side. The captain pointed the way and explained all the electronics, including the fish finder, the GPS, the ship-to-shore radio, and several gauges to the young boy.
Hooking One for Alex Once we arrived in the predetermined area, first mate Mike Bieber made short work of setting lines. I couldn't believe that we could troll so many lines at the same time without tangling them into one huge knot. Most of the lines had dodger/fly combinations attached to them in various color schemes. And he set each line at varying depths -- from a few feet below the surface behind a Yellow Bird side planer board to 50-feet deep and beyond clipped to downriggers. We decided that Alex should take the first fish. A few short minutes later, Mike Bieber pulled a pounding rod from its holder and handed it to Alex. With all the skill of a pro, Alex brought the fish to net, and we put the first coho salmon of the day one ice! After that catch, a huge grin crossed Alex's face that remained for the rest of the trip.
Outdoing the First Mate A few fish later, Dan Campbell displayed his talents by landing a nice salmon. He maneuvered the scrappy 4-pound coho to the back of the Reel Magic in no time, and after a couple of photos, placed it on ice with the others. Unfortunately, as the day progressed, the fish became uncooperative and tight-lipped. Alex declined to take the next fish to strike, but was only too willing to net fish for all the others on board. As Alex's skills as a netter increased, Mike Bieber's began to worry that he'd lose his mate duties to this vivacious youngster.
Outdoing His Father The biggest laugh of the day came as Alex pointed out the difference in size between his fish and the bait-sized coho his father Kevin pulled onboard. After arriving back at the dock, Alex found his dad's fish hidden, according to him, under one of the small chunks of ice in the cooler. Again everyone gave in to laughter, and his father looked for a place to hide. With the fish beautifully filleted by the captain and first mate, we each took a bag and prepared for the trip home.
Seeking Helping Hands and Tender Hearts Al Winstead, Midwest director of the Disabled Hunters of North America, stated that the organization caters not just to hunters, but to all outdoorsmen and women. We need people to volunteer their services so that another person's day turns out brighter than it began. Please, if you can help in anyway -- even if you just want to volunteer a few hours for a day once a year, please contact me. I'd love to meet you and share the outdoors with you.
Anyone who can provide assistance or who is disabled and wants to experience the outdoors, can contact Al Winstead by mail at 5166 Hubbard Trail Byron, Illinois, 61010, or via e-mail at JAILBIRDAL@aol.com.
If you're in need of an excellent, huge-hearted charter captain, then look no further than Captain Ken Gazarek of the Reel Magic or his friend Mike Bieber. Both based out of North Point Marina in the town of Winthrop Harbor are ready to show you the time of your life on Lake Michigan. Captain Ken can be reached toll free at 866-FISH-599.
A MESSAGE FROM REEL-MAGIG.net's CAPTAIN My name is Captain Ken Gazarek. I am a USCG licensed full time owner and operator of Reel Magic Fishing Charters. Having fished for salmon and trout in Lake Michigan since 1980, I can tell you we have one of the best fisheries for salmon and trout in the world right in our own back yard in Lake Michigan.
A few years ago, I was given the opportunity to take early retirement from my former job as an engineering manager. It allowed me to pursue my dream of full time fishing, and I seized the opportunity. I am extremely happy with my new profession. It has given me so much enjoyment, as I am doing what I love for a living. I have seen most of my customers catch bigger fish than they have caught their entire lifetime. Many groups have experienced the thrill of a Lake Michigan adventure returning with salmon to eat and many trophies to mount.
I welcome you to try a charter on Reel Magic and I pledge to you that your Captain and First Mate will work hard to make it a memorable trip. -- Captain Ken
Charter Fishing for Lake Michigan Salmon and Trout Reel Magic -- 32 foot Trojan Sport Fisherman
Capt. Ken Gazarek 1 S 221 St. Mihiel Dr. Winfield, IL 60190-1708