Monday, May 16, 2016

Fishing opener 2016: Cold, wind, and lots of fish

Some traditions die hard. And other traditions – even those you have every intent to kill – simply refuse to be killed. Such was the case when Minnesota’s fishing season opened this past Saturday.

To the vast majority of folks, fishing opener means one thing: walleye opener. But it’s also the day the stream trout in inland lakes season opens. Which brings us back to dead traditions.

Several years ago, a few of us at our fish camp began going to Bad Medicine Lake to chase rainbow trout on opening day. It’s easy fishing – just dragging around shallow-running crankbaits in a relatively haphazard fashion – and I don’t recall a year we haven’t boated a few fish. I’m a terrible walleye fisherman, so it’s always nice to get the season started on the right foot.

John Albert with one of the day's first rainbow trout.

This year, though, I had every intention of breaking tradition. For one thing, few people in our camp planned to go to Bad Medicine. And for another, the weather forecast looked awful – temps in the low 30s and a stiff northwest wind. Sticking on our home lake – Round Lake – so we could easily go inside to warm up seemed very appealing. Alas, neither my brother nor I bought a trout stamp when we purchased our licenses Friday morning.

But my resolve began to crumble as Friday wore on. I didn’t have any illusions about catching walleyes in Round Lake, but I didn’t think we’d catch many trout, either. As we sat around Friday night and did the things you do at fish camp, I didn’t think much about fishing. (I did, though, field large numbers of plot-line suggestions for upcoming novels.)

As we sat at breakfast on Saturday morning, there was no doubt in my mind we were walleye fishing. Then someone asked Mike Hagen, who fishes in our boat each opening day, where we were going. “Ask Joe,” he said.

Suddenly, all eyes were on me.

“Bad Medicine,” I blurted out.

Damn tradition.

Ninety minutes later, trout stamp in hand, John, Mike and I were at Bad Medicine. It’s easily one of the prettiest lakes in the state, surrounded by pine trees and lacking, for the most part, a reliable cell signal. We’d made a good decision to continue the tradition.

Minutes after we started trolling, I hooked a fish. John had one on his line before I’d even landed mine. Yes, we’d made a very good decision.

The trout we catch are generally between about 10 and 17 inches. But they're willing to hit crankbaits hard, and they put up an admirable fight.

So long as we stayed out of the wind and in the sun, it was actually a very comfortable day on the water. And it didn’t hurt that we caught trout – lots of them.

We brought home 10 between the three of us, and probably released another 20. The plan is to grill them this week, and they certainly will taste better than the store-bought walleye fillets I’d otherwise be making.

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