Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Was that a fishing opener to remember? Or forget?


The 2013 walleye-fishing opener in Minnesota will go down as – if nothing else – one of the most interesting I’ve experienced.

In recent years, my group has gotten into spending the opener fishing for rainbow trout. The action tends to be better for trout, given the water’s still relatively cold and the fish are near the surface, and it’s fun to just troll around aimlessly on Bad Medicine Lake, which is among the state’s most beautiful waters. Previous to those Bad Medicine trips, I’ve hit spots like the Upper Red Lake on the year it re-opened to walleye fishing, and Rainy and Vermilion as part of the Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener. I’ve had varying degrees of success, but each opener has been cool in its own way.

Wine and waders. All in all, an odd opener.
Had the ice been off Bad Medicine on opening day this year, we would have gone there. But it wasn’t. So the plan was to fish the lake on which our deer shack is located. (In the interest of being able to return, I’ll keep the lake’s name close to the vest.) There’s a river running through the lake, and the thinking was, A) the current would help speed ice-out, and B) the walleyes would be in the spawning mode and near the area where the river enters the lake.

When we awoke Saturday morning, ice still covered perhaps half the lake. So rather than put the boat in and risk the wind shifting and pushing a sheet of ice toward us, I went into the woods and did a little deer scouting, hoping to find a new hunting spot for this fall. I also hoped the sun and wind would make quick work of the ice. That didn’t happen.

So Brian King and I decided we’d walk down to the river and fish along its shores from where it entered the lake to the first culvert. The first thing we saw was the wake of a fish in submerged grass in extraordinarily shallow water. We never got a good look, but it had to have been a northern pike. We picked our way through the woods along the river, which isn’t an easy thing to do when you’re toting tackle boxes, 6-foot fishing rods, and a cooler (which became lighter the more ground we covered). At some point, we gave up on fishing and just looked at ducks and deer trails. We wet our boots tramping through marshy areas, and saw just a few northern pike and suckers. It was evident the walleyes weren’t in the river.

Fishing at dark at the river mouth.
After dinner that night, Brian and I – and Brian’s dad, John – went back to the spot where the river enters the lake. The plan was to wade into the water a ways, and fish minnows below slip bobbers. By this time, the sun was down and stars twinkled in the sky. The wind had died, the only sound was the plop our bobbers made when we cast them, and the scenery was fantastic. There wasn’t a fish to be had, but that was OK.

The night was so quiet and peaceful that a flopping fish may have ruined it, anyway.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Happy May Day!

Is it just me, or did May Day used to be a much bigger deal than it is now?

I grew up in the small town of Detroit Lakes, Minn. Lived there until the summer before fifth grade. On the lake. Best place to live. Ever. So much fun. Really hard to move. Thinking back to the move to the Twin Cities still hurts a little bit. Am I still talking? Sorry.

Anyhoo.

For whatever reason, I have really fond memories of May Day in Detroit Lakes. It meant cups full of candy (I especially remember those wax candy soda bottles) and, as far as I remember, warm weather. It meant going door to door, but for some reason, I don’t remember exactly what happened at every door. I want to say we rang the doorbell and ran away, but how the heck do you collect any goodies by doing that? Or maybe we put candy on the doorway, rang the bell, and then ran? That would make sense, so long as everyone else did the same thing. The truth is, I honestly don’t remember.

But while I look back fondly on the broad outlines of May Day, there’s one that’s forever etched in my mind. It wasn’t a pleasant May Day, but my reaction to it only solidifies my belief that May Day once was really important. It was in gym class at Rossman Elementary School in Detroit Lakes. Don’t recall exactly how our class got into trouble, but it was the end of the day and we had to stand with our noses faces the gym wall. When my mom came to pick me up at school that day, I distinctly remember saying: “This has been the worst May Day ever!”

I still remember saying it like it was yesterday, and I felt at the time that year’s May Day had been wasted. Had I known then what I think I know now – that May Day is just another day; and that people today don’t seem to have the appreciation for it they once did – I probably would have been even more crushed.

Hard-hitting stuff, huh? Anyway, Happy May Day!