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Published June 27 2011

UPDATED: Moorhead drowning victim followed passion for fishing

MOORHEAD – A Moorhead man who died in an apparent drowning accident while fishing was remembered by his children Monday as a good father who followed his passion in life and had a knack for knowing where the fish were hiding.

The body of 49-year-old Edwin Carlson, known in regional fishing circles as “Backwater Eddy” or “Ed on the Red,” was recovered Sunday from Wolverton Creek about nine miles south of Moorhead.

He died doing what he loved most, according to his children.

“That’s basically his entire life is fishing, his passion,” said Alysha Carlson, 20, of Fargo, the youngest of the three children.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office responded at 5:40 p.m. to the 12000 block of Third Street South after neighbors who were driving by reported seeing Carlson’s white van parked along the road at a bridge where he’d fished many times, Sheriff Bill Bergquist said.

The van was open with the windows down and radio playing, but Carlson wasn’t nearby. After a downpour, the neighbors returned to look for Carlson but couldn’t find him, so they called authorities, Bergquist said.

A Sabin Fire Department search boat crew found his body about one-eighth of a mile from the bridge over Wolverton Creek, which empties into the Red River.

A lot of Carlson’s footprints had been washed away. But there was some mud on the edge of a concrete bridge culvert where Carlson apparently had been standing, and it “looked like he maybe slipped in,” Bergquist said.

The body was sent to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy.

Carlson had been a fishing guide on the Red River for more than 25 years, according to his Facebook page. The rural Rutland, N.D., native contributed to many publications and was featured in “In-Fisherman,” “North Dakota Outdoors” and ESPN’s “We Live Outdoors,” along with other local and regional publications, the site stated.

He specialized in catfish and walleye fishing on the Red River and its tributaries in the U.S. and Canada.

“He pretty much knew every little nook and cranny or backwater down there. That’s why they called him ‘Backwater Eddy,’ ” said his son, Ian Carlson, 24, of Minot, N.D.

Ed Carlson made good money as a guide but had to stop doing it for other reasons, his son said. He said his father was working in the fishing department at Gander Mountain in Fargo and had plans to return to guiding.

“He always had a knack for reading the water and knowing what the fish were doing,” Ian said. He noted that his dad used to conduct fishing surveys for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department – a job that allowed him to scope out fishing spots.

Carlson’s children – Corrine, 26, Ian and Alysha – grew up primarily with their mother in Milnor, N.D., but also spent time with their father, often fishing, Ian said.

Alysha Carlson said her dad could be serious but also goofy, recalling his deadpan impression of a Donald Duck sneeze that made her laugh as a child.

She said she hopes her father will be remembered as a nature lover who followed his passion.

“He didn’t really care if he was ever going to be rich off it or anything,” she said. “He was happy.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528