Once a year, Erwin Rettinghouse plans a fishing trip. The 79-year-old Hecker man gets his things together and goes just about anywhere to catch some fish.
He’s been living in Monroe County his entire life, spending 47 years as a carpenter.
“I grew up over here by Hecker and I still live on the farm,” Rettinghouse said. “My family bought this farm in 1849. We’ve got a bicentennial flag to prove it and we’re now on the Illinois Register.”
Like many others in the area, his passion for fishing and hunting came at an early age. It could be said that he was “hooked” from the moment he started.
“I started fishing at the Prairie du Long creek when I was between 2 to 5 years old,” Rettinghouse said. “I never went anywhere fishing other than here until I was about 21. We went down to Kentucky Lake and caught some big crappie and ever since that time I’ve been going fishing and hunting.”
Fishing has taken him all over the country, from one coast to the other. He’s been to Key West, Fla., and to Kodiak Island in Alaska.
He drove to Alaska last August with his friend, Roger Miller of Tipton.
“It’s a helluva trip, some 10,089 miles round-trip. There is a Waterloo native that lives up there, his name is Tom Knoke,” Rettinghouse said. “He’s been up there for 27 years and lives up in Kodiak Island. We went up there and had an excellent time. He has a boat and plane. He took us flying and it was a great trip. We spent 21 days going up and coming back.”
If he could make a trip back, he’d love to go.
“I’d go back to Alaska in a minute. It’s getting a little late to go to Alaska at this time in the season because you can expect any type of weather on the way,” Rettinghouse said. “You’ve got to drive through the Canadian provinces of Alberta, the Yukon and British Columbia. It’s really impressive to drive through there. The gas is very expensive — we paid $6.66 per gallon in the Yukon.”
Rettinghouse was quick to thank his Chevy Silverado for getting he and his friend to and from Alaska.
Rettinghouse’s highlight fishing haul came on the other side of the country in Key West. He went on a charter boat owned by a Monroe County native. They caught a shark and all kinds of fish. But it was one in particular that was his prize catch: a seven-foot sailfish.
“We had to back the drag on the reel, which would not hold,” Rettinghouse said. “And (the fish) kept running away with my bait. We had to back seven miles after that fish to get him up to the boat because the drag wouldn’t pull him. We got him on the boat, but he got off. But it’s called a catch.”
Most recently, Rettinghouse traveled to Michigan.
“Lake Michigan is noted for salmon. For a couple of years, I was wanting to go up there,” Rettinghouse said. “Actually, what they want is four to six guys to take the boat out. Well, you can’t find four to six guys in St. Clair-Monroe County to go. So, I talked to my tax man, Stephen Falkenhein from down in Sparta. So, he decided he would go.”
They were there from Sept. 22-23. It was the end of salmon season in Michigan.
“So, we ended up catching lake trout, which were pretty sparse, too,” Rettinghouse said. “You’re only allowed to keep two lake trout. We each caught the limit on each day. We caught one rainbow trout and one fall salmon. It was a good trip.”
Rettinghouse doesn’t have a trip planned in the near future. But he and his wife of 56 years, Mary, will be heading out of the house for the weekend.
“I’m taking my wife over to West Virginia on the 15th of this month for a fall foliage tour. But you never know what’s going to spring up,” Rettinghouse said, hinting at finding a place to fish there. “If I have an impulse, I’ll go out to Colorado in an instant. I’ve driven up there four times. I shot an elk and a big mule deer.”