La Crosse man reels in unusual catch on Black River

Angler: 'It didn't make any sense to me'
La Crosse man reels in unusual catch on Black River

There’s no doubt been a lot of interesting stuff fished out of area rivers over the years, but what a La Crosse man snagged recently, is a fish tale that he’ll be telling for quite some time.

On almost any given day, you can find Joshua Woods of La Crosse along the shore of the Black River with a fishing pole in hand. “Every single chance I get,” said Woods.

And a Sunday morning last July was no different. Woods said, “Yep, early in the morning right here.”

Woods hadn’t been fishing long when he snagged his line. “I probably break five or six hooks every time I come down here.”

Nothing really seemed fishy about it this time, until he looked more closely. “It started to come slowly in and it was a sock.”

A worn and tattered tube sock. Not exactly the catch of the day. “I almost didn’t even check it, I almost didn’t open it up because I thought it was just a catfish baiter.”

But when Woods took an even closer look, he saw something he never imagined he’d hook. “Inside of the tube sock, it was pretty brown, been there for a long time I guess. I remember, I couldn’t believe it was a wallet.  It didn’t make any sense to me that there was a wallet in a sock.”

And not an empty wallet. It was loaded with credit cards, I.D., and all. “Everything inside of it was in pretty good condition for being in the river.”


But to find out how this fish tale all started, you have to rewind almost three and a half years.

“Came back to the counter to get my drink and realized my wallet was gone, looked everywhere, wasn’t there so we ended up reporting it stolen right away,” said the wallet’s owner Jesse Gomez.

Thieves swiped Gomez’s billfold at a Karaoke gig he was working in 2010.

“It was payday that Friday so I had some money in there for sure that I didn’t get to spend, but I also had credit cards in there, my social security number was in there, my driver’s license was in there,” said Gomez.

Now, fast forward to July of this year.

“I’m getting done with work, everybody’s wanting me to look on Facebook because there’s an important page I need to look at,” Gomez said.

Woods said that “right away, I took a pretty awesome picture of it, posted it on Facebook.”

“The very first thing I took a look at was a picture of a wallet and I didn’t put 2 and 2 together because I currently have an active wallet,” said Gomez.

But it didn’t take long for it to sink in what he was looking at. “I’m just like, crap that’s my wallet. I was just definitely shocked, I’m like you’ve got to be kidding me, this is not happening that you guys found my wallet.”

“He was pretty excited, he didn’t think he’d ever see that wallet again,” said Woods.  

And all that led to a meeting between the two where Woods hand returned the wallet to its rightful owner. Two strangers tangled in the line of one unusual catch.

“He was just a great person,” Gomez said. “It’s good to know there’s still a lot of good people left in this world, wanting to do the right thing and try to help somebody out.”

The truth is, however, there was a time years ago when Woods admits he might’ve had to think twice about returning the wallet. “I was in prison for 10 years, forgery and crimes like that. I probably would’ve seen if any of them credit cards worked instead of giving it back. I know a lot of people are proud of me for that,” said Woods.

And even though the contents of the wallet are now expired and worthless, both will have a story to tell that’s priceless.

“I’m still going to keep it (the wallet) as a little memorabilia thing, just to say hey, I got a story for you,” Gomez said.

Gomez is still dealing today with the fallout of having his wallet and identity stolen three and a half years ago, but he said things are slowly but surely returning to normal.

He and his wife own a beauty salon on La Crosse’s southside and have offered Woods free haircuts for life for finding the wallet.

Woods, who works at a tattoo shop in Onalaska, has offered to hook Gomez up with some tattoo work anytime he needs it.