Eddie Landmichl was a pain in the ass in all the right places around the Great Lakes.
From Toronto to Wisconsin, his photocopied news stories and studies, with underlinings and handwritten notes, were handed out at bait shops, boat launches and official meetings.
He was no copy, rather an original, one of the greatest citizen advocates for conservation the Great Lakes ever had.
He died Sunday afternoon.
Mr. Landmichl, 82, was a shuffling wild-haired bear of a man in his later years, who fought for the Great Lakes. The fight truly began with the invasive round gobies and zebra mussels, then continued with the approach of bighead and silver carp. (The photo at the top is from the press conference on the great government fish kill on the Cal-Sag in 2010.)
“He is a driver,” said Jack Vadas, of Vet’s Bait on Chicago’s Southeast Side, of his co-fighter. “He was real endless. He loved to travel. He went all over the Great Lakes states, visiting clubs and organization. He lived off what he could and most of us in the business helped him out.’’
David Vogt was the driver for Mr. Landmichl for many years and in his final years housed and helped with him in southwest Michigan.
“I was driver from 1990 on,” Vogt said. “We would drive to Toronto or Cleveland or Green Bay. He felt strongly about telling public about issues with ballast water. That was the real fight. He could talk more about ballast water more than anybody else.
Many ballast-water issues advocated for by Mr. Landmichl are finally being addressed.
Calling him a citizen scientist underplays his knowledge. He put in more time than scientists. He wasn’t always right, but he was right enough that he had to be heeded by media and officials alike.
In the photo at the left, he is shown on a trip to track down a report of silver carp (unfounded as it turned out) jumping in the South Branch of the Chicago River.
Famously, he pointed out that the Des Plaines River would flood and bypass the electric barrier installed to prevent the advance of bighead and silver carp. It took Army Corps of Engineers officials years before they admitted he was right.
Mr. Landmichl was a Korean War vet. He was military police, but his mechanical genius was used to keep machinery going. Later, as an iron-worker, he famously built a massive (about a 60-foot) metal boat.
When he was healthier, he regularly trekked to our home around supper, usually with apples from New Buffalo, Mich. or smoked chubs from Port Washington, Wis.
I suspect the hubbub of our family dinner table touched him. He was estranged from his family all the years I knew him, even though one of three sons, Eddie (same named corrected)., became a top captain on southern Lake Michigan.
The estrangement wasn’t something Mr. Landmichl talked about. I sometimes thought the ferocity of his fight for the Great Lakes filled the void.
What I know is that nobody is like Mr. Landmichl any more. He was one of a kind.
Most of us remember the activist; but he was a helluva fishermen, too.
“The last boat he had was a 24- or 25-footer,” Vadas said. “He would go out in weather you would not believe. One time he came in the bait store and said, `There is not too much ice out there.’ He said, `Do you have an ax in the store?’ I said, `What, are you nuts?’
“Two hours later he came back and said, `Are you ready to go?’ I said, `What did you do?’ He said, `I chopped up the ice at the launch.’ I said, `What happens we get out there and the ice comes back?’
“You know that bastard went out that and caught fish. He was an amazing fellow.”
The photo to the left is from 2011 when Perch America was honoring Vadas. It was one of the last times that I saw Landmichl. He was still talking the talk and walking the walk, as much as his health would allow.
Final details are not set for services. It will likely be this weekend or early next week with burial at Lincoln Cemetery.
STRAY CAST: It begins again, like dead alewives washing ashore on Lake Michigan in the 1960s, broadcasters are being cutesy and saying bump when they mean pitching mound.