Moorhead Youth Fishing For Walleye Hooks A Wallet
September 9, 2023
by Laurel Latham
Fourteen-year-old Connor Halsa of Moorhead was 16 miles from shore on Lake of the Woods in 20 foot deep water, when he threw in his fishing line on June 30th. Almost immediately Conner hooked something that felt quite heavy and gave a good strong jerk to set his hook. As Conner reeled in his line, he imagined a nice-sized fish had taken his bait. But when his cousin, Brandon, netted his catch, what he had actually snagged was a soggy, slimy, moss covered wallet!
Brandon opened the wallet, found it stuffed with twenties, fifties and one-hundred dollar bills and exclaimed a few colorful words when he saw all that money! Connor and Brandon carefully counted out the $2,000 in cash and laid the bills in the sun to dry.
Jim Denney was in his vehicle in the Walmart parking lot in Creston, Iowa, waiting for his wife, Karen, to complete her shopping, when his phone rang on July 3rd.
"It was a trucker friend, Kenny Wayne, calling to ask me if I had been fishing in Wisconsin and lost my wallet," said Jim. "I said I had gone fishing in Minnesota, on Lake of the Woods, last summer and lost my wallet." Then Kenny said, "well your wallet was hooked in the lake by a fisherman. The fisherman called Sherry in Wisconsin, because her business card was inside your wallet, and Sherry called me, knowing I had your phone number!"
"I had hauled livestock for Sherry and still had her business card in my wallet. That's how the Halsa family tracked me down. It was the only phone number in my wallet," explained Jim. "I was in disbelief when I heard my wallet and all my cash had been hooked by a young fisherman on Lake of the Woods! I still can't believe it! Evidently the Halsa family had first called the Sheriff in the town listed on my drivers license, but they didn't contact me!"
Through phone conversations with Conner and his parents, Dave and Melissa, Conner refused to accept any reward for finding the wallet and money.
"Conner wouldn't accept any of the cash as a reward, so I informed the Halsa family that Karen and I would drive to Moorhead in our camper and take them all out for a big dinner," said Jim. "Hauling livestock slows down this time of year, so on August 3rd, we headed for a campground in the Fargo-Moorhead area.
"Conner chose Texas Roadhouse for dinner, where he ordered a big steak," continued Jim. "His parents and two sisters enjoyed their dinners as well. Conner's littlest sister ordered macaroni and cheese and covered it in ketchup," chuckled Jim "We had to wait an hour for our dinners, but the food was really good once we got it!
"I was disappointed that Conner's aunt and uncle, Christine and Marvin Klipping, and cousin, Brandon, were not available for dinner as well, because it was their boat everyone was fishing in when Conner hooked my wallet. They were in Red Lake Falls at a baseball tournament, which if I had known about the tournament, I would have planned to go. After dinner, we all went to the campground and sat around a bonfire talking."
Although Jim was adamantly told by the Halsa family, they would love to have dinner with him and Karen, but would not accept any money or gifts, Jim could not resist buying Conner a personalized Yeti cooler. As one fisherman to another, a Yeti cooler is a prized possession.
"I saw Conner's eyes light up when I handed him the cooler," reports Jim. "Conner is such an honest, polite, good kid and so deserving of the cooler. A person hears so much bad news every day and so when there's a good news story, I'm happy to tell it! I have three daughters and four grandchildren, but I will always consider Conner as an honorary grandson!"
Fishing at Ship's Wheel Resort
Jim Denney recalls when he first realized his wallet was missing the summer of 2022.
"There were five of us who drove up from Iowa to fish at Ship's Wheel Resort north of Baudette, on July 29, 2022," recalls Jim. "At that time the resort was owned by Doug and Kim Brown. Kim is the niece of my friend, Gene."
Gene had fished at Ship's Wheel countless times during the 28 years Kim and Doug Brown owned Ship's Wheel, but this was the first time Jim had fished Lake of the Woods.
"We had a great time fishing! We caught our limit both days," said Jim. "The first night we fried up our walleye and had a good dinner. The second day we kept the fish to bring home. It was the second night, I discovered my wallet was missing.
"Doug and I walked down to the boat but my wallet was not in the boat! The lake had been rough both days, with two and three foot waves and I sat at the back of the boat. My wallet must have worked its way out of my back bib pocket. Doug said he could use GPS and backtrack the 45 miles we went out on the lake that day, but there was no way we would find my wallet! I remember saying it probably floated for a while and some pelican swooped down and got it!
"It was the brokest I'd ever been," added Jim. "I didn't have a penny to my name. No way to pay my bill at the resort and no money for gas or meals on the way home. My friends had to cover my bill. When I called Karen and told her I'd lost my wallet, she asked me if I had fallen in the lake. I told her, I wish that is what had happened, because then I probably could have found my wallet! I remember being so upset on the way home, I told Gene I was never going to fish on Lake of the Woods again. Now I'm reconsidering!
"Every Sunday Gene, our friend Erwin and I drive 10 miles from where we live in Mt. Ayr, Iowa to Allendale, Missouri, population 49, for breakfast at the Oldtowne Cafe," said Jim. "I had quite the story to tell Gene and Erwin the Sunday following the phone call!"
Kim and Doug Brown, who moved from Iowa to purchase Ship's Wheel from Pat and Mel Borgen in 1996, recently sold Ship's Wheel to locals, Denton and Jenny Rose.
"Although we originally moved here from Iowa, after 28 years, the resort area north of Baudette is home," stressed Kim. "Doug and I highly recommend our previous resort guests continue to fish at Ship's Wheel Resort."