A Torpedo With Teeth

Growing up in Minnesota and Wisconsin, we paddled, swam, dived, fished, skated and had countless good times in some of the most scenic lakes, wetlands and rivers in the world. Amidst all these youthful adventures, those that remain most firmly locked in my mind centered on the St. Croix river and backwaters on the Wisconsin side of the river east of St. Paul, Minnesota.

For a kid interested in the outdoors and wild things, the St. Croix offered a chance to go nose to nose with soft shelled and snapping turtles, sand pike, craydads sheepsheads, northerns, sunfish and of course those bottom feeders...carp. Yet of all the fascinating happenings we witnessed, one stands out.

It all began when two ten year old boys decided to crawl within an antique rail road bridge. We were there as observers to see what we could see in the backwaters of the St. Croix. The variety of river life was amazing, for we had already seen a four-foot-long sturgeon resting just below the surface of the water and a craydad scuttling about rocks in the shallows. 

After about a half hour of supporting ourselves on a bridge cross beam, a long hefty figure emerged below as it eased out from the shadows of the bridge into open sunlight resembling a yard-long torpedo. We both recognized the intruder as a garfish.

In the shallows near a gravelly beach about twenty five feet away, a small school of sunfish were idling, showing little movement. Slowly, the gar eased closer to the sunfish, seemingly unperturbed. Like a tiger stalking its prey, it edged ever closer when...the water exploded. Minutes later, all was clear. The gar was gone as were the sunfish, except for one cast up on the beach flapping wildly, however, it was in two pieces. It had been neatly cut in half as with a surgeon's knife.

Years later, I found out that the gar's approach and attacked was a common means of gathering food, only it had lost its meal on the gravel beach. My friend and I had witnessed a scene few have seen and surely the gar can be described as a "Torpedo With Teeth."

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