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Hanging on the garage wall reads a sign, ‘Gone fishing, be back for deer season.’

It speaks volumes. But the 12-inch-by-6-inch wooden posting gets lost among the deer antlers and trophy-sized walleyes that deny any suggestion of what might have been just another fish story. It’s a garage that can describe Gene “Timber” Witt to a T, too.

“I love deer hunting and fishing,” said the Brainerd-area native, who currently resides in Barrows working as a roofing contractor. “There’s those nine days (a year) to deer hunt that I get real excited about, after that it’s fishing season as far as I am concerned.”

A self-described outdoorsman, fishing is in the blood according to Witt, fondly recalling days out fishing with his dad, Gene – even earning the younger Witt his nickname “Timber.”

“His name was Gene, too, so it was just easier to go by Timber when we would be out together,” said the 56-year-old of the name that has stuck. “And of course my dad was a pretty big fisherman so maybe it’s part of the name (why I love fishing), too.”

With the passing of Witt’s father 10 years ago, he decided he didn’t want to lose that time-honored tradition he had established, choosing to host a fishing tournament on South Long Lake every January in his dad’s memory.

“It’s just an all-around good time out there,” said Witt, who averages 100-plus people at the yearly event. “We get family and friends together where everyone can bring their own icehouse out and have fun.

“There’s a drawing for prizes that we purchase and have donated (from businesses all over Brainerd) and the biggest fish wins cash and a trophy.”

Always a fishing family affair, it was Witt’s oldest grandson, Tommy, who walked away with this year’s cash prize of $125; money that Witt is in the process of winning back.

“My grandson (Tommy) loves coming out to the icehouse with me, and now he likes to bet on who will catch the biggest fish,” said Witt with a smile. “So I say ‘OK I’ll bet you a dollar.’ Now I get to tell him that I’m the only grandpa who has a garage covered with one dollar bills.”

Witt said the 9-year-old has become one of his best fishing buddies, out there as often as he can and learning to filet a fish at the age of 6 after watching Witt time and time again, all so “grandpa can sit back and enjoy himself” once the fish are all caught. Tommy’s little brother, Wyatt (4), will check it out, too, when he can sit still, Witt said.

But it’s more than just ‘boys time’ out on the ice or in the boat. Both of Witt’s daughters have the fishing bug, too.

“The girl’s have always been right out there with me, my oldest daughter absolutely loves it,” Witt said, also noting his newest grandchild — a baby girl born Jan. 24, 2012, will be a fishing gal. “Really it’s kind of hard to avoid fishing in this family I think.”

But Witt said his wife, JoAnn, is trying hard to do just that.

“She never comes out with me,” Witt said and laughed. “Sometimes if she does she will bring a book, in which case I tell her she might as well stay back at home, I’ll find someone else to come with. But I think she is just fine with that.”

JESSI PIERCE may be reached at 855-5858 or by email at Follow her on Twitter @jessi_pierce