Looking back on the past year

Published 9:10am Monday, December 26, 2011

As I take the time to reflect on the past year, I realize how lucky I am.

I have been able to spend a lot of time in the northwoods this season and that is something I do truly enjoy. I don’t think that there is anything I enjoy any more than spending time in the outdoors, and when I can spend it with family it gets just a lot more special.

This year I was able to get in a lot of fishing while up at the cabin. I was also able to see my oldest grandson, Trevor, catch his personal best northern pike (10 pounds), while also fishing with his brother, Taylor, while he caught his first walleye. Their younger brother, Grant, outfished a whole boatload of Herfindahls while trolling for northern pike on a small area lake. This success actually fueled his interest in fishing and I have a feeling that he is now actually “hooked” for life.

Their cousin, Dylan, was able to spend quite a bit of time up north with us this year and he, like his cousins, almost lived on our small lake fishing for crappies and bluegills. Dylan also caught some nice pike while fishing on some of the other area lakes. All the boys helped put some nice meals of fish on the table and I have to say that we never have any leftovers when it comes to these kids and eating fish.

For me, this is what it is all about. I used to look for my own personal bests in a fish and it is still nice to look forward to that challenge. I guess if I didn’t care I wouldn’t be fishing. Like my sons before them now, my grandkids are my focus, I am always trying to get them to fish but in many instances I am learning from them, especially Trevor, who never ceases to amaze me in his ability to catch fish.

There is only one grandchild who I have not had the chance to bring to the cabin yet. Maybe this year our little Emma will be able to go there with me and Grandma for a few days. Her dad has already introduced her to fishing when at the age of 2 when he took her to Take a Kid Fishing Day this June. She was excited to get her Snoopy fishing pole and when they caught a sunfish on it she got really excited. Emma couldn’t wait to tell Grandpa, showing me the pole and saying “fishy, fishy” over and over. I think there just may be another fisherperson in the family one day.

This season I also found out that I had some health issues to take care of and thanks to the Veterans Administration, Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and the fine doctors and staff at Mayo Clinic and St. Marys in Rochester, I am on the rebound and hope to be back on the ice fishing and coaching hockey again soon.

Speaking of hockey, this past year was a good one for Albert Lea’s B Bantam hockey team. The 2010-11 team finished with a very good record, and they were a great group of kids who were fun to coach. They got the most out of their ability. This season I have another fine group of kids and am looking forward to watching them develop into very good hockey players as the season progresses.

Although hockey does take up much of my time in the winter, I will be looking forward to spending time on the lake ice with my grandson, Trevor. I know that he will be spending all of his spare time fishing this winter. Just the other day he said that he and a friend caught about 40 walleye in a single evening. Two of the fish were 19 and 18 inchers, which they kept, while the rest were in the 10- to 12-inch range and were released. I am not one to tell people what to keep but it is my own personal guideline that over 14 and under 20 is my personal slot limit. Keeping a limit of 10-inchers might put some meat on the table or make a sandwich but it doesn’t do much to help our area fisheries. Hopefully everyone heeds the limit and doesn’t get greedy. It seems that the punishment really doesn’t fit the crime in most of these cases. Once a fish has been harvested it takes a long time to replace it and if there are great numbers of illegal fish involved then it is pretty hard to take.

This past year also saw a number of our area soldiers deployed for duty in Kuwait. This is a large number of our friends and neighbors who have to spend their holidays away from family. Please do whatever you can to show your support for them and their families.

Until next time, play safe, watch out for thin ice and enjoy the Minnesota outdoors experience. Have a very merry Christmas and a joyous New Year.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers during the holidays and the coming year. They are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.