I was not among the throng that hit the Minnesota fishing opener water on Saturday at midnight. But my head was full of walleye dreams as I slumbered while other more dedicated fisher-persons motored out into the less than starry night and into the north wind fresh off Hudson Bay. Polar bears had been breathing that same air the day before the opener.
My dreams brought me back to the morning that I and a brother and sister headed out at 4 in the morning on the opener. Somehow we had decided that the early bird gets the walleye, and regardless of the few snowflakes that were descending into our boat I turned the motor to steer us to the north end of the lake where a rock reef was sure to have attracted a fish or two.
With knuckles already turned blue, we dropped our lines to the bottom and within a few minutes I felt the gentle tug of a walleye. Allowing the correct amount of time, I reared back and a dandy 3-pound, marble-eyed fish came to the net. Our boatload of anglers cheered the first fish of the year as our breath froze above us.
It was to be the only fish of the day.
Those who have not experienced how cold it can be on the water on a day such as this have missed a fishing experience that can't be gained by watching a TV show or a video. The still frigid water that we sat atop that opening morning seemed to somehow sink into our very bone marrow. Tears streamed from our eyes, our noses turned blue and leaked droplets that size of small peas. Sitting scrunched over to stay out of the wind made one's joints feel as though they had been injected with cement.
I noticed that we had most of the lake to ourselves. A few boats bobbed near the shoreline, just out of the boat harbor. I figured those anglers were staying close to the breakfast buffet for a reason.
Noticing that my brother and sister were now lying prone in the front of the boat with only their rod tips dangling over the gunnels told me that catching a fish had now become secondary to their very survival. One can get hypothermia without actually falling into the lake. I saw it happening in the front of my boat.
As the wind picked up speed on that early morning fishing trip and whitecaps started to appear in the distance, I made the executive guiding decision to head for home. I was hoping that my folks had fired up their wood-burning cook stove and hoped we would be able to reach it before all of us turned into a statistic.
We made it with one walleye dangling from our stringer.
The three of us must have looked like zombies as we crawled out of the boat and headed for shelter. It was only 8 o'clock. With four hours of bliss behind us we creaked our way into the kitchen. We were met with the luscious aroma of fresh baked, sticky and plump cinnamon rolls, one of my mother's well-known creations. To the three of us walleye mariners, it was the scent of what heaven must be like.
No, I was not among the throng that hit the water at midnight last week. I will await the warm zephyrs of spring when I can hear the birds chirping from shore and loons calling across the gentle waters and I won't need to wear a snowmobile suit.
I awoke at midnight last week during the Minnesota fishing opener and remembered that cold early morning many years ago, turned over and went back to sleep. It was a great opener!
See you next time. Okay? Stay safe!