When anglers first start trickling down to the Maumee River to think about catching "spring run" walleye, perhaps as early as mid next month, something - rather, someone - significant will be absent.
Bill "Doc" Kramer, of Bowling Green.
Doc, 81, died Tuesday in St. Vincent Hospital in Toledo after a brief illness. His familiar figure during the spring runs at the Buttonwood Public Access, on the Wood County side opposite Side Cut Metropark, will be sorely missed.
He was an avid outdoorsman, but kept his hunting and fishing excursions mostly close to home, where he helped care for his wife of 60 years, Elizabeth, whom he called Ebie and who has multiple sclerosis.
That is one of the reasons why the spring walleye run on the Maumee meant so much to Doc. It was close to home and his Ebie, who survives.
I'll not forget the late February and early March mornings I would meet Doc on the river, way before dawn. Doc was a night prowler and would have been up several hours, even at 5 a.m.
He would bring along an old cast-iron skillet, bacon, eggs and coffee, and he would fire up a driftwood blaze and cook breakfast on it.
While the coffee boiled and the bacon spit and crackled, we would chew the fat, watch the wood ducks and mallards wake up and start their flights over the river, watch the mists rise from the current, and shiver a little bit in the damp cold.
It was the stuff of old-fashioned outdoorsmen - the seeming stuff of guys whose likenesses appear in nostalgic paintings and old calendars, men for whom just being out there was more important than stacking up a brag-pile of fish or game. I know the being-there meant everything to Doc. The fish were secondary.
I hope you know somebody like Doc. You are very lucky if you got to share a riverside morning with him.
When legal fishing hours would come in, he was all business and breakfast all but forgotten.
He would chew the stub of a cigar and wade on in, casting doll flies and such with his spinning rod.
He knew all the holes.
He would study them at low water in summer and fall, knew where the fish would congregate.
It was pure joy to watch a master at work.
In starting to settle Doc's affairs yesterday, one of his sons, Joe, found Doc's black book. It was on the anglers who fished the walleye run at Buttonwood.
"He had all these comments on the guys on the river," said Joe.
Some were listed as [illegal, unethical] "snaggers," some "legal" fishermen, others "good" fishermen.
One can only wonder who all Doc knew on sight, and what he thought of them.
Doc was a dentist by profession, a World War II B-24 pilot by his country's call, and a lifelong angler and hunter.
In 2001 he donated a beautiful Remington Model 11 20-gauge shotgun to the youth pheasant hunt annually sponsored by the Wood/Lucas Chapter of Pheasants Forever.
The classic old "squareback" gun had been a gift from his father-in-law 50 years earlier. Doc could no longer use it and he wanted to be sure some young hunter could.
Joe Kramer said private family services are set for Saturday.
But there will be a memorial service for Doc.
At his request, after the end of the walleye run.
Tomorrow and Monday - Public trapshoot, 6 p.m., Wolf Creek Sportsmen's Association, 349 Teachout Rd. north of State Rt. 2, Curtice; voice-activated traps available; fish fry Friday with trapshoot; call Rick Ferguson, 419-836-5264; also, Saturday, hands-on session for home-study hunter education course, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., call Jim Daniels, 419-698-3417.
Tomorrow through Sunday - Northeast Ohio Outdoor Sport and Travel Show, arena complex on Summit County Fairgrounds, Tallmadge; call 814-725-3856. or visit www.eriepromoandexpo.com.
Saturday - Hunter education examination for home-study course, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wolf Creek Sportsmen's Association, 349 Teachout Rd., north of State Rt. 2, Curtice; call 1-800-WILDLIFE or Jim Daniels, 419-698-3417.
Saturday-Hawk and owl excursion, 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., from Wood County Park District, 18729 Mercer Rd., Bowling Green, to Killdeer Plains State Wildlife Area, Wyandot County; call the parks, 419-353-1897.
Saturday-Black Swamp Bird Observatory, volunteer work day at new headquarters, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; meet at the former ranger station at the entrance to Magee Marsh State Wildlife Area, 13229 West State Rt. 2, Oak Harbor; call BSBO, 419-898-4070.
Saturday - String band and other old-time music, 1 to 9 p.m., day lodge, Mary Jane Thurston State Park, State Rt. 65, Grand Rapids; call 419-832-7663.
Saturday - Putnam County Chapter, Ducks Unlimited, annual fund-raising dinner, at Leipsic; for details call Dave Bragg, 419-225-6845.
Sunday - Toledo Naturalists' Association, field trip to Killdeer Plains State Wildlife Area, Wyandot County, 1:30 p.m.; meet leader Todd Haggard at Meijer parking lot in Bowling Green, State Rt. 105 just east of I-75 for carpool.
Tuesday - Fulton County Sportsmen's Club, African safari program, 6 to 8 p.m., clubhouse, County Road 14 north of Wauseon and the State Rt. 2-State Rt. 108 intersection; professional hunter Stan Burger to speak on big-game hunting, photographic safaris, and adventure tours in South Africa; call Mike Thourot, 419-533-6832.