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CHERRY, Minn. — Ten-year-old Joey Smith, a fifth-grader at Cherry School, clutched the northern pike in two gloved hands. The wide-eyed fish, still wiggling, glistened in the sunshine and zero-degree air. Joey had just emerged from a heated fishing shelter on Long Lake near Cherry. He and nearly 90 other fourth- and fifth-graders from the school were taking part in an annual fishing and outdoors day on the lake. Nobody had to teach Joey how to tell a fishing story. "The line was going straight down," he said. "I reeled it in. It felt very heavy."
DULUTH, Minn.—Beth Holst had hunted on the ground for the first two days of last fall's Minnesota firearms deer season, but she hadn't seen a deer. She decided she'd hunt from an elevated stand on the third day. On that November morning, the temperatures were in the single digits, she said. "We had had maybe a 2-inch snowfall," said Duluth's Holst, 64. "I was going up the rungs and just transitioning from the last rung to the stand."
An angler I know was talking about a lake where he used to fish. Crappies, as I recall. Somewhere near Bemidji. "But then the college kids found out about it, and they hit it pretty hard," he said. It was a small lake, and they fished it down until the angler quit going there. So did the college kids. They couldn't catch enough fish to make it worthwhile.
FRENCH RIVER, Minn.—The temperature was struggling to rise above zero at mid-morning on Thursday, Feb. 1. A sharp wind whistled down from the north as Dick Hedberg, 72, sat in his car, heater running, surveying Lake Superior near the mouth of the French River. "I'm scouting," Hedberg said. "This is one of my routes."
The decoy, made to imitate a tullibee, swims in lazy circles as Paul Nelson lifts and drops the line that suspends it in his spearing hole. Sunlight that penetrates the snow and 18 inches of ice on this Itasca County lake reflects off the decoy's aluminum fins. Nelson, 37, of rural Grand Rapids, built the decoy from scratch himself, something he's been doing since he was 10. He sells decoys through his business, Wabana Fishing Tackle (wabanatackle.com), and at decoy shows.
NEAR GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — Paul Nelson stopped in the snowy woods and looked around. "This is where we usually get lost," he said. Nelson and his partner, Liv Mostad-Jensen, both of Grand Rapids, were looking for a lake where they could do some northern pike spearing. They'd been there once before, on this same route. But there was no trail, and on that first trip the two had to do a bit of — well, exploring — before finding the lake.
GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — The sun hadn't yet crested the horizon on Tuesday, Jan. 9, when Greg Clusiau and Lorin LeMire began perforating the frozen surface of the lake with fishing holes. "We'll see what's down there before we set up," said Clusiau, who calls Keewatin, Minn., home.
The morning's first grudging light had just begun to slip over the land as our train of anglers ventured forth. Four of us, well-Thinsulated and wearing ice cleats for purchase, trundled onto the surface of Fish Lake seeking crappie dinners. We knew the ice was good where we were headed, to the little island maybe a half-mile away. Some among us had been there a few days earlier. A skim of snow covered much of the lake, but where it had blown the ice clean, we inspected the cracks. Yep. We could see the ice was a good 6 or 8 inches thick.
A 12-mile segment of the Norpine Trail System on the North Shore will be open to fat-bikers as well as cross-country skiers this winter. The designated ski trail, groomed for both classic and skate skiing, will be open to fat bikes on a trial basis this winter, according to Norpine Trail Association officials. The out-and-back trail segment open to bikers is from the Ski Hill Road at Lutsen to near Cascade Lodge. Fat-bikers will be permitted to ride on the wider portion of the trails groomed for skate-skiing under appropriate conditions.
The snowies have come again. Snowy owls, denizens of the high Arctic with more than 4-foot wingspans, are showing up in large numbers across Minnesota and other Great Lakes states this winter. Many also have been seen along the New England coast. Such an unpredictable invasion is called an "irruption" by birdwatchers. As of Wednesday, Dec. 13, an estimated 173 snowy owls had been observed in 57 of Wisconsin's 72 counties, said Ryan Brady, a conservation biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in Ashland.