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July 21, 2019

contributed photograph

Thomas Wichmann shows off a 28-inch northern he caught on a local lake two weeks ago on his visit to Minocqua. He came to the Northwoods specifically to catch a pike. His father, Nathan, looks on with excitement. Wichmann is battling a malignant brain tumor.
contributed photograph

Thomas Wichmann shows off a 28-inch northern he caught on a local lake two weeks ago on his visit to Minocqua. He came to the Northwoods specifically to catch a pike. His father, Nathan, looks on with excitement. Wichmann is battling a malignant brain tumor.
contributed photograph

Minocqua fishing guide Dave Lang, left, presents Thomas Wichmann with a brand new rod from Elk River Custom Rods.
contributed photograph

Minocqua fishing guide Dave Lang, left, presents Thomas Wichmann with a brand new rod from Elk River Custom Rods.
7/6/2019 7:30:00 AM
Minocqua helps make wish come true
Community rallies behind a young fisherman
Jacob Friede
Of The Lakeland Times

Thomas Wichmann was determined to catch a northern pike this summer. The 13-year-old from Plymouth, Minn., had yet in his young fishing career to cross paths with the iconic fish of the north and he was not going to let anything get in way his of achieving his goal. Including a malignant brain tumor.

So, while battling for his life, Wichmann traveled to Minocqua recently where he found lakes full of pike and a whole community supporting him on in his quest to catch one.

The Wichmanns' neighbor was a client of Minocqua fishing guide Dave Lang and they were put into contact with him. Lang immediately invited them up north and they accepted.

In the meantime, Lang and Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Krystal Westfahl, began contacting local businesses and setting up a stay for the Wichmanns to celebrate Wichmann' fishing spirit and commend him on his courageous battle against brain cancer.

Minocqua not only lies in the heart of big pike country, it also has a big heart itself.

"I can't say more great things about the community that we live in," Westfahl said. "Everybody just really opened their arms and their doors and gave what they could to make this kid's experience one of the most memorable he could have."

The Wichmanns arrived in town on June 18 and were immediately treated to dinner at Monical's Pizza.

There, Lang met Wichmann for the first time, along with Thomas' mom Raffaella, his dad Nathan, and his brothers Lucca and Liam.

At Monical's, Lang and Wichmann discussed the upcoming fishing trip and the first matter of business was gear. Wichmann was presented with a brand new rod from Elk River Custom Rods and a reel from Kurt's Island Sport shop. He was also given a custom T-shirt from Design Solutions and, for the chilly northern mornings, a fishing hoodie from Dewey, Catchem, and How bait and tackle shop.

For lodging, the Wichmanns were treated to a stay at The Beacons, and on the next two mornings, they met Lang to fish.

Wichmann wasted no time accomplishing his purpose and caught a pike on the first day with a jig and a minnow. But he wasn't through. On the second day, like all great fishermen, he displayed a determined, almost obsessive, desire to top his previous catch.

When everyone else on the boat wanted to head back, it was Wichmann who wanted to persist for a few more casts. With those casts he caught the biggest fish of the trip: a 28-inch northern pike.

"He did get his pike," said Lang, who himself was quite excited at the time of the catch. "Because he wanted to stay, really made the trip. That's perseverance and that's how he's addressing everything. Let's go to the last minute and I think that's how he's living his life. Not wanting to give up."

And Wichmann was rewarded for it on the water. That pike will be mounted by North Country Taxidermy and given to Wichmann to commemorate his fine catch.

The other fish caught went towards celebrating it. The Wichmanns had never had a shore lunch before and Lang was not going to let them leave Minocqua without doing so.

"They wanted to know where to go for good fish," Lang said. "Well, the best place is my back yard."

He treated them to a meal of freshly caught walleye, perch, and pike as well as baked beans, coleslaw, spaghetti, and bread and butter.

"We had way more fish than I thought we'd need and they ate every bit of it and loved it," Lang said. "Totally new experience."

During their stay, the Wichmanns were also given Chamber Checks, from the Minocqua Chamber of Commerce, to take in Minocqua attractions, including go-karting, mini golfing, and sight-seeing and dining downtown.

It was a fun-filled four days for a young man who needed a vacation from hospital rooms and heavy medication, and for his family who got to see him enjoying life for awhile rather than fighting for it.

"The trip was fantastic, everyone really enjoyed it," Raffaella Wichmann said. "It felt kind of surreal to be able to spend time together outside of the hospital and see Thomas so happy."

Though Thomas Wichmann will have to return to a daunting battle against brain cancer, Lang hopes the memory of setting the hook on that northern will pull him through the toughest of times.

It certainly will for Lang.

"Next time I feel down in the dumps about something I'm going to think about Thomas and that's going to be a kick in my butt to get going again. He's just a remarkable young man," said Lang. "I got more out of this trip than they did."

Before parting ways with the Wichmanns, Lang and Thomas Wichmann had one more matter of business to settle. Next year's trip. And Lang said Wichmann, with courageous optimism, agreed to the plan.

"Same time. Same place," Lang said.

Jacob Friede may be reached at jacob@lakelandtimes.com or outdoors@lakelandtimes.com.





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