News - Sauk Valley

Dixon man fishing for history – and artistry – in the Rock River

Mark Stach casts the line with a magnet from his kayak on July 21. When the line hits the bottom of the Rock River in Dixon, he’ll slowly pull it back as it drags along the river bed.

DIXON – Here’s a real fish tale.

While trying his luck in the Rock River, Mark Stach hauled in a 15 1/2-foot catch.

It didn’t have scales. It was metal.

Stach, who is from Dixon, has picked up the hobby of casting a magnet rated for 1,000 pounds into the depths of the river.

He’s been landing long-forgotten metal that settled on the river’s murky bed.

His interest in this new pastime initially was piqued after he saw videos of the treasures that others have pulled up.

“One night I couldn’t sleep, so I threw this magnet over the edge of the bridge and pulled up some metal,” he said.

The pieces were made of cast iron jaggedly broken off at the end.

Without any real analysis, a civil engineer Stach contacted was confident in saying the pieces were the result of “a catastrophic bridge event.”

So far, all signs, logic and photo comparisons point to these pieces being part of the 1873 Truesdell bridge disaster.

The bridge collapsed, claiming the lives of 46 people who had gathered there to view a baptism on the nearby shore.

What started as a bit of a leisure activity for the 49-year-old has turned into a greater motivation.

Stach, who is an artist, has plans to construct the metal into a cross as a memorial to the victims of the disaster.

“I have a couple of friends who weld, and I’m learning myself,” he said. “When the weather changes, I’ll get to work on that.”

For the time being, Stach has opted for a kayak so he can fish underneath the Galena Avenue bridge, which is located at about the same spot the Truesdell bridge sat.

Alex Paschal

Alex T. Paschal -

Photojournalist for Sauk Valley Media