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The Last Windrow: Mom might get her day

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Mom just might be getting a little more attention on Mother’s Day this year in Minnesota. And, she no doubt deserves every bit of it!

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You see, this year’s late-staying winter might just have a dampening effect on the Minnesota fishing “opener.” As I write these lines a week before the traditional weekend when anglers of all ages head for their favorite lake, there still is a hard lid of ice on some of our larger lakes. The DNR has even warned anglers not to park their boat trailers on the ice!

I’ve been in this state for more than 40 years and I’ve never heard that kind of warning. This weather is nothing more than weird, just like 2012 was weird in the other, warm direction.

Many of my readers know that I cut my eye teeth fishing the Big Sioux and Floyd Rivers in northwest Iowa. We didn’t have an official opening day. There were no governors floating atop our waterways in search of the Iowa state fish, the yellow-bellied bullhead.

We opened our fishing season when the ground thawed out enough to be able to dig worms. We used no boats and our tackle could be stored in a box the size of a can of sardines. It was a quiet “opener” sitting on those riverbanks.

Not so here in the Land of 10,000+ Lakes! We revel in the thought that winter has passed and the walleyes are on the prowl and hungry. Bait shops, like the one I began my working career with, Marv Koep’s Nisswa Baitshop, are centers of activity.

Thousands of gallons of live minnows are hauled through the back doors and dumped into storage tanks. Leeches by the thousands of pounds are sorted and counted along with “flats” of nightcrawlers and angle worms. The days are long and the nights are short for those who service the hoards of anglers that descend on the North Country “opener” weekend.

New line is strung on reels, rods are repaired or replaced, a new “never-miss” lure or two is purchased and the cash registers ring like it’s Christmas. I re-installed the batteries in my boat last week among the melting snowdrifts and everything seems to be working. There is nothing like dumping your boat into the water at a busy access on opening morning and then finding that your starter battery is dead. It makes for a long day. Other anglers at the access trying to get their boats in the water find no humor in such an event.

The Minnesota “opener” is a happening, an event, a piece of our collective history. And, amid all the activity and of all things, it sometimes coincides with Mother’s Day, making anglers make choices they don’t necessarily want or like to make. Some of us have come away from the “opener” with a guilt complex due to our thoughts that maybe Mom was somehow snubbed by a walleye.

My mother, being the gentle and understanding soul that she is, always insisted that we boys just get out there and catch a fish. God bless her!

But, not to despair, this year might just be different. Hopefully the ice will be leaving our walleye hotspots before this weekend, but if it hasn’t totally vanished, Mom just might get that dinner out and special attention that she deserves.

I do believe that most good restaurants in our area have walleye on their menus.

See you next time. Okay?

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