The Last Windrow: It's time to sort tackle
It's time to tackle your tackle for the coming warm water season. Minnesota's inland fishing season is only two months away! Ah, that sounds good to me!
After enduring another winter, I've retired my snow shovel for good. I don't care how much more snow might hit the ground, the shovel shall remain retired at the back of our salt-encrusted garage.
I refuse to acknowledge that we still have a week or so of calendar winter to absorb and I'm off thinking of pleasanter things. Things like open water fishing.
In the back of our garage sits our boat. Inside that boat lies an assortment of rods, reels, tackle boxes, minnow buckets, life jackets and worm blowers. The items have been lying in state since last fall when the boat was pushed into its winter home.
During the winter, the boat has been the recipient of almost anything and everything we could store there. But now, during the trashy time of year when outdoor activities await the warm breezes of spring, it's time to evict the shop vac, garden hoe, leaf blower and duck decoys that have taken up residence in the boat.
I know that most fish are lost due to operator malfunction. Many a trophy walleye or northern has been sent on its merry way because the angler forgot to check whether his or her line was rotten.
When that happens there are usually some cuss words uttered as the fisherman watches his prize catch head for the bottom of the lake. Some might also have forgotten to check their landing net. It's always exciting when the fish swims through the net and heads for the next sandbar. Check your nets people!
My tackle box is full of compartments meant to keep me tidy. By the end of the season, nothing makes sense there. Jigs are mingled with spinners, sinkers are mixed with swivels, hooks are tangled up with each other, and dried nightcrawlers and leeches are scattered throughout the box.
The tackle box started out making sense, but through the season things just kind of got out of hand. Only I know where to find any particular piece.
My fishing history dates back to those days on the farm when my granddad would cut a willow fishing pole from the back of the grove, attach some 30-pound black line, hook up a cork bobber, clinch on a sinker and tie on a hook and presto, I had my fishing gear for the season.
A boat was a foreign object, depth finders were not needed on a 2-foot-deep creek, and the only lures needed were the angle worms we dug from under the barn's rain trough. But somehow the excitement of going fishing then equaled if not exceeded the excitement that I have today.
We didn't have many game fish swimming in the waters of farm country. The most thrilling fish to catch were yellow-bellied bullheads, carp or maybe channel catfish. I'd never heard of a walleye or a northern pike or a crappie.
For that reason I cherish the assortment of game fish that occupy lakes in my northern Minnesota home today. But my tackle is much more complex today than that willow pole, bobber and hook.
We've already had a number of sport and boat shows, and the big one in Minneapolis is coming up in late March. Anglers will be sauntering down the aisles looking for anything that might promise a tug on the line. Tungsten is now replacing lead, lines are thinner than ever, rods are lighter and more sensitive every year, and technology can cost you an arm and a leg.
We used to drag a lead weight across the bottom to find a hidden sandbar. No longer. Now we have living color monitors in the boat. A long way from staring into that 2-foot deep creek where I caught my first fish, a creek chub.
So during the upcoming days that will no doubt produce more snow, sleet and ice, I will be untangling my lines, oiling my reels and pumping up the trailer tires. I'm getting ready. With the wind howling outside our salt-encrusted garage, it seems good to be sorting out my fishing tackle.
Spring really is coming! I'm counting on it.
See you next time. Okay?