The Last Windrow: Ice-covered lakes don't cool fishing fever
I hear the groaning out there. "When will it ever be over?" people ask.
Winter does not want to leave, but I have good news. Winter will go; it has no choice!
I was digging out my fishing tackle box the other day inside our garage where the floor is still covered with ice and salt and grit and grime. As I was digging under the seats in search of my aged tackle box I chanced to glance up through the garage window to see heavy snowflakes drifting to earth in volume.
Open water seemed so far away, but I persisted and found the box full of tangled leaders, messed up hooks and sinkers and three dead nightcrawlers that had frozen in November and remained in their contorted state until last week. I was glad I found them before they thawed. That would have been a nasty surprise.
I remembered the spring of 2017 when open water was lapping at the shores of northern Minnesota lakes at this time. Lake home owners were busy installing docks and grooming the beach.
Not this year. This year docks remain covered with snow and ice, and the beach is still frozen as hard as steel. It will take time, temps and rain to get back to normal.
Usually I offer some fishing advice about this time of year since that has always been a passion of mine. I recall my early years when I would wait for the ice to leave the Big Sioux River in western Iowa to allow me to start angling for the whiskered channel catfish. As soon as the ice broke, I was on my way to the muddy shorelines with my smelly catfish bait in hand.
If you've never experienced the smell of A & W catfish bait, you really haven't lived. The aroma would work its way into the crevices of your hands and no amount of soap would remove it. I got strange looks in the school hallways after a catfish trip.
I hear the walleyes are on the "bite" on the Rainy River, up on the Canadian border. I see boats passing on the highway almost every day now, some of them still covered with snow. Anglers are also heading for the Mississippi River below Red Wing and out to the dams on the Missouri River.
The fishing fever has reached such a pitch that no amount of mileage will deter these fisher-people from their appointed rounds with a rod and reel. With two feet of thick ice still on our area lakes, there really isn't much choice but to head for running water somewhere.
The Minnesota Governor's Fishing Opener will take place in the Willmar/New London and Spicer area this year on May 12. I can imagine that event planners are chewing on their fingernails wondering if they will need ice augers or boats only five weeks from now.
The "opener" is a real marketing opportunity for the state, and it would not be real good to see sportswriters hovering around Gov. Dayton while wearing snowmobile suits and earmuffs. This has happened in the past, and the bars and saloons did a brisk business where anglers thawed out their frozen fingers on a glass of bourbon after a couple of hours on the water.
With the late spring, I am expecting a great early fishing season. It has been my experience that late springs tend to find walleyes still grouped near their spawning areas. And, the fish are usually hungry enough to grab about anything looking like a minnow.
The key will be the ability to launch your boat from an access free of ice. Some are forecasting anglers having to dodge ice flows on some of our larger lakes. It could happen.
But, I choose to be optimistic and I know that the good news is that unless something dramatic happens, the sun will continue to climb in the sky and wreak havoc on the ice and snow now coating our favorite ponds. It's hard for winter to linger much longer. It has to go!
See you next time. Okay?