I was fortunate enough to meet and befriend a gentleman named Roberts Koepple.
Koepple was born in Latvia in the early 1930s. His mother was Latvian and his father Estonian. Koepple was a walking history book and I asked him many times to let me write his life story, but he always seemed to dodge the question.
Cancer took Koepple a few years ago, but I learned a lot from him over the years we were able to hunt and fish together.
As a child, Koepple was destined to be a 6-foot-plus, blond-haired, blue-eyed individual, so he was basically kidnapped by the Nazis just before World War II began when the Germans invaded his homeland.
Koepple was put into a boarding school to learn the ways of Waffen SS soldiers when he was about 10 years old. He finally found out what the Third Reich was all about and wanted no part of it.
When Koepple was about 16, he escaped the Nazis and joined the Estonian underground and fought against the Germans. Near the end of the war, the Germans were collapsing against the Estonians on one side and the Russians on the other. Regardless of who got there first, the outcome would not be good.
Koepple hatched a plan with another young man he knew from the Estonian underground and they stole a 160-foot cargo ship, took a group of refugees on board and sailed it across the Atlantic Ocean, in the winter, and the they ran aground in Newfoundland to seek political policies. asylum Do you see why I wanted to hear and write his life story?
In addition to telling his amazing story of coming to North America, Koepple also taught me a lot about ice fishing.
Growing up in northern Europe, he had many months of ice to deal with and ice fishing was a very common way to get food for the table.
Koepple had adapted to the American way of ice fishing and had special rods and tips, but one day he pulled out what looked like a ¾-inch piece of dowel about a foot long with fishing line around it and a hook . the line A rubber band held the hook and line in place against the dowel when you weren’t fishing.
“What is this?” I asked Koepple.
“That’s a Latvian ice fishing rod,” Koepple replied with a laugh.
He went on to explain that he had about 50 feet of line wrapped around the cleat. When he was younger and ice fishing on the Baltic Sea, Koepple explained that he would have hundreds of feet of line on his spot in order to reach the bottom and reach the cod.
Much less fishing line is required to fish Nebraska lakes, but the principle is the same.
First make a hole in the ice. Then remove the hook from the tip, the bait and drop it down the hole to the depth you want the bait to be.
Koepple showed me how to roll the rubber band back over the line to temporarily hold it in place and position the dowel so that it fits through the hole. Then the wait began.
When a fish took the bait, the line came out from under the rubber band and coiled from the spot as the fish ran with the bait. As soon as you pick up the rod, you could start reeling in the line and reeling in the fish. Simple but effective.
Over the course of a day on the ice, Koepple would have a dozen of his fishing tackles on the ice. If the fish were biting, you could have several Latvian fishing rods spinning on the ice at once. It was a fun way to fish and these rigs are very efficient for the task.
Since then I’ve learned a few things to improve Koepple’s design.
The first thing I did was use a bigger dowel. Mine are usually 1½ inches in diameter and about 18 inches long. They are less likely to pull through the hole when they are longer and easier to grab and collect at this size.
I drilled a small hole through the spot in the center to tie my line in so it wouldn’t get all tangled up with a big fish.
I then painted half the ends of the dowel so I could see it spinning from a distance. While fishing with Koepple, there were several times we missed fish because we didn’t see that the line was winding off the cue. Often the fish would come off the hook as no back pressure was applied to try to reel it in.
Over the years, my design evolved to attach large sled bells to one end and a short length of brightly colored surveyor’s tape to the other end. Now he could see and hear the movement.
A modern tip can cost anywhere from $15 to $30, depending on the style you choose. My modified Latvian ice fishing rods cost about $3 per rod. They still catch fish and give me a reason to think of an old friend when I’m out on the ice.
Oh, and the rubber band you’ll need for your Latvian ice fishing rod is wrapped around your copy of the North Platte Telegraph every morning.
It’s not too early to think about the end of spring. A new and improved lure to hit the market is the LIVETARGET Ultimate Frog.
Its design combines biomimetic profiles, anatomical details and extremely realistic color patterns along with ultra-precise movements/actions.
This lure was recently awarded the Champion of the Soft Lure category at the EFTTEX 2022 Digital Best New Product Showcase.
Bass and northern pike anglers will want to try this new lure, and even the occasional angler will pull a frog from the surface of the water.
The design emulates a real frog when it is retrieving and when it sits still it sits like a living frog at rest, with the eyes just above the surface, the body tilted 45 degrees down and the legs tucked under the body
There will be two models to choose from. A Popper model and a Finnish model. They will be offered in 2- and 2 ½-inch sizes and in colors such as green/yellow, emerald/brown, brown/brown, brown/black, black/black, fluorescent green/yellow, emerald/red and albino/white. MSRP is expected to be around $18 per lure.