Remembering Workman the outdoorsman
I didn't know Eric Workman personally, but I wish I had. Before he was killed carrying out his duties as a West Virginia State Police officer, Workman was a widely respected fisherman, hunter and conservationist.
I knew of Workman through the WVAngler.com website, where he went by the nickname "Eworkman." Eric posted frequently to the site's message board, mostly in its forum dedicated to warmwater fishing.
Eric was a muskie fisherman, and a fine one. He spent a great deal of his spare time casting for muskies in the Elk River between Sutton and Charleston, and he enjoyed enviable success catching and releasing the big, toothy fish.
He chronicled his successes by posting photos and brief after-action reports to the WVAngler site. It wasn't long before he was considered one of the forum's muskie 'gurus.'
His ability to catch those notoriously fickle fish caught the attention of fisheries biologists studying how muskies migrate up and down the Elk. They asked Eric to help, and he happily said yes.
They gave him a scanner that allowed him to detect electronic tags injected near the muskies' dorsal fins. He logged the location and size of every muskie he caught, and whether or not the fish bore a tag. Eric caught a lot of fish, and his catches provided researchers with tons of data.
Biologists aren't the only ones who thought highly of the slain trooper. Administrators of the WVAngler message board renamed the site's warmwater forum "Workman's Warmwater Corner." Several threads have been dedicated to Eric's memory, including one titled "Remembering the good times with Eric Workman."
In it, sportsmen who knew or had fished with Eric reminisced about their fallen friend.
"People you meet come and go, but when I met Eric, and the more time that I spent with him, I knew that I had made a friend for life," wrote one man. "I could see us chucking muskie baits and flies on the Elk while we were in our 70s. Even today, I have a tough time putting how I feel into words."
Wrote another: "He and I busted our butts for 26 hours in a three-evening span during a hot week in July, cutting 735 yards' worth of paths, in jungle brush, just so I could rabbit hunt it and he could deer hunt it.
"I had a hunt coming up and needed the spot cut, and he needed it cut so we could get the paths planted in clover. We spent a lot of time talking those three days. It was then that I realized what a truly amazing young man he had become."
"We live in a strange world where the good die young and bad things happen to good people," wrote Cabell County magistrate Mike Woelfel, a friend and fellow muskie angler. "I'm sure I will struggle to understand this for the rest of my life.
"I remember watching a musky DVD once, and the guy was talking about when he died he didn't want pearly gates, he [wanted] a musky lake. That makes me think of Eric. I'll bet he has found his Elk River in the sky and is burning a black Cowgirl [muskie lure] right now."
Future fishing trips were cut tragically short Aug. 28 when Workman was shot while making an arrest along Interstate 79 in Clay County. He died three days later.
The site of the shooting, near a bridge at the I-79 Wallback exit, has become a bit of a shrine to Eric and to Cpl. Marshall Bailey, the other officer killed during the incident. People have spray-painted words of farewell to the slain troopers on one of the bridge's concrete support columns.
"Fish on, brother," reads one message, clearly intended for Eric.
Never has a farewell been more appropriate.