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Catch of the day: Rock Islander makes his living fishing Q-C rivers
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Photo: Gary Krambeck
Commercial fisherman Ken Schroeder of Rock Island checks his fishing equipment on his boat as he waits for open water to return on the Mississippi River. He uses the plungers to create shocks in the water and drive fish into his nets.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Commercial fisherman Ken Schroeder of Rock Island checks his Trammel nets.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Commercial fisherman Ken Schroeder of Rock Island checks his Trammel nets.
ROCK ISLAND -- Since high school, Ken Schroeder has tossed fishing nets into the Mississippi and Rock rivers, catching thousands of pounds of fish, likely seeing another thousand sunrises.

A part-time commercial fisherman, the Rock Island man navigates the Mississippi and Rock rivers, familiar territory for a lifetime profession and hobby.

"I like to get out right at daybreak," Mr. Schroeder said. "I like to be off the river at latest by noon so everything is done early."

Mr. Schroeder, 70, comes from a fishing family. He spent many years fishing with his brother Rob, who doesn't get out as often because of other commitments. Their father, the late Kenneth "Whitey" Schroeder, was a Rock Island firefighter who taught his boys to appreciate the great outdoors.

Ken Schroeder talks about fishing with the enthusiasm of a man who appreciates the outdoors. He usually goes out a few times during the winter, but has been homebound due to the cold weather this season.

"I'm just dying to get out," he said recently from his home. "I think I've taken the snow off my commercial fishing boat 95 times this winter, and I haven't been able to get out."

He knows the rivers, knows the spots to look for fish. He doesn't use depth finders or markers, just a visual familiarity with his surroundings.

"I've had eagles follow me and come within five feet of the back of the boat trying to get the fish out," he said. "Once in a while, when I do take fish to market, I'll throw the sucker fish on the shore up on the ice.

"They'll (eagles) just feast on them."

The best catch of the day, he recalls, was 3,700 pounds of buffalo fish. Asked how he brought the nets into the boat, Mr. Schroeder said, "Very carefully."

Mr. Schroeder takes the fish he harvests and puts them in containers that can carry up to 1,000 pounds. The containers are filled with river water. He runs two aerators inside the tanks to keep the catfish alive.

The rough fish, such as carp, buffalo and perch, he puts on ice.

He drives up to Schafer Fisheries in Thomson and Fulton, Ill. He takes in so much per pound of fish.Pay is based on the type of fish he sells them. Catfish can yield 50 cents per pound, for instance.

Commercial fishermen are becoming fewer in number, Mr. Schroeder said. Back 50 years ago when he was going with his dad, he guesses there were about 10 commercial fishermen in the area.He said that number is half that today.

"The problem is the markets have disappeared," he said. "My only market now is Schafer up at Fulton and Thomson.If something happened to them, it would be too far to take my fish somewhere else."

An avid duck hunter, Mr. Schroeder's home is decorated with some of the birds he has hunted. Outside are bird feeders where he can sit and watch them feeding in the sun. On his footstool is an outdoors newspaper with a picture of a walleye being lifted out of a hole in the ice.

"I duck hunt every day," he said. "I've seen a lot of beautiful sunrises and sunsets."

When he talks, there's a smile on the former school teacher's face. It's as if he wants to take a piece of the outdoors and put it in his home. At the front door, hanging on the wall is a picture of a river setting.

He still appreciates a good fish fry at home.

"People don't take the time to fry fish anymore," he said. "They'll just buy things that are very simple to fix, quick to purchase.My favorite fish is the smaller catfish -- maybe 15 inches. They're delicious. Channel cat and small flatheads are really good eating, too."

As Mr. Schroeder displays his boat out in the snow and sun on an extremely cold winter day, he picks out something normally used in the bathroom.He uses toilet plungers, popping them in and out of the water to create shocks and vibrations in the water. The fish react and swim into the nets. He doesn't keep game fish, such as walleye or bass.

There isn't any secret to Mr. Schroeder's continued relationship with the river.

"I like being on the water," he said. "I like seeing the fish and I like the beautiful scenery -- everything you see out there, especially in the morning.It's another world."

For fish eaters, he offers a tip.

"What I like on a whole catfish is the tail," he said. "If they're real crispy, I love 'em. If it's fixed right, they will crumble up just perfect."










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  Today is Tuesday, July 22, the 203rd day of 2014. There are 162 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Everybody is invited to go on a moonlight excursion next Monday evening on the steamer New Boston. The trip will be from Davenport to Muscatine and back.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The mayor and bridge committee let a contract to the Clinton Bridge company for a $1,125 iron bridge across Sears canal near Milan.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Injunction proceedings to compel the Central Association to keep a baseball team in Rock Island for the remainder of the season were contemplated by some of the Rock Island fans, but they decided to defer action.
1939 -- 75 years ago: The first of the new and more powerful diesel engines built for the Rock Island Lines for the proposed Chicago-Denver run, passed thru the Tri-Cities this morning.
1964 -- 50 years ago: The Rock Island Rescue Mission is negotiating for the purchase of the Prince Hall Masonic Home located at 37th Avenue and 5th Street, Rock Island.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Quad Cities Container Terminal is being lauded as a giant business boon that will save several days and hundreds of dollars on each goods shipment to the coasts. The Quad Cities Container Terminal is the final piece of the puzzle that opens up increase access to world markets, Robert Goldstein said.








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