Column: Spring, are we there yet?

Published 12:16pm Saturday, February 23, 2013

February is the time for getting in some last minute “hard water” fishing, and in my case fighting off the dreaded cabin fever, which usually sets in at this time of year. Although there isn’t one sure-fire remedy for this type of fever, there are numerous things that you may do to relieve the symptoms.

Probably the most inexpensive way to get some relief is to tune in to one of the fishing shows that air most Saturdays and Sundays on many local and cable channels. As I walked past the TV in the lobby at the City Arena last Saturday, I noticed a fishing show was being aired. As I glanced at the scenery surrounding this northern lake, I found myself wishing that I could be there. I’ve always felt that there is something relaxing about watching folks catching my kind of fish on a pristine northern lake. I’m talking northern, walleye, musky, bass and panfish. It was a trip that could have taken place in northern Minnesota, Wisconsin or Canada where the scenery would be about the same. Ahhh, is it spring yet?

My other two elixirs for curing the dreaded fever are both closely related. The first and most inexpensive one involves cleaning and re-arranging my tackle boxes. This can take part of an afternoon, and with any luck, I will find that I am in need of some sort of tackle to replace what has been lost to fish or snags. This need for tackle gives me an opportunity to head to Cabela’s or Fleet Farm in Owatonna in search of necessities. This is my third remedy, and I do believe that I could spend hours in those two stores looking for the few items that I have on the list and also looking at a few things that aren’t on the list. Just the Rapala section alone can occupy me for quite a while.

I look at jigs, plastic tails, sinkers, leaders and snaps to replace my depleted supply as necessary tools much like food is necessary to sustain life. At some point during my visit, I am drawn to the section where the musky lures are caged. To me, there has always been something almost mystical about musky lures, but now I am finding that what actually sets them apart from the rest is the $Price$.

I’ve come a long way since the days of wrapping some fishing line around a stick and putting a couple of washers or some hooks in an old Buss fuse box, hopping on the bike and riding to the lake. I can still remember the excitement of riding my bike back to the old “Mink Farm” and buying some horse meat to use as bait. I think that we would pay a quarter for the meat and Willy, who worked at the farm, would cut it into small hook-sized chunks for us. The reward for spending that whole 25 cents was “monster” yellow-belly bullheads and also some big sunnies and bluegills. Those fish seemed to be fonder of that meat than of angle worms or crawlers.

Angle or earth worms were usually what we used because they were easy to find. The dirt around home was pretty fertile, so I’d dig back by the garden and put a few of them in a tin can, which was eventually replaced by a bait box. I never bought worm bedding (they didn’t have it back then), but I used moist black dirt, some damp leaves and a few grass clippings. A two-pound Hills Bros. coffee can was what I considered a worm farm. My uncle Ben taught me the art of picking night crawlers, and I passed that on to my boys. I took the grandsons out in the backyard a couple of times when they were younger, but I don’t know if they even do that anymore. It’s much easier to buy them, I guess. Over the years, I have spent many nights in the backyard with a flashlight mastering the art of sneaking up on and plucking crawlers out of their holes, making sure that they came out in one piece.

I’d have to say that those days are behind me now, but somehow the memory of those simple times can actually be the best cure for that dreaded cabin fever that I seem to get at about this time each year.

The following is a reminder about ice fishing house removal dates on inland waters. Dates of removal are determined by an east-west line formed by U.S. Highway 10, east along Highway 34 to Minnesota Highway 200, east along Highway 200 to U.S. Highway 2 and east along Highway 2 to the Minnesota-Wisconsin border. If the ice fishing house is south of line, the removal date is March 4. If it is north of the line, the removal date is March 18.

If shelters are not removed, the owner will be prosecuted, and the structure and contents may be confiscated and removed, or destroyed by a conservation officer. After removal dates, shelters may remain on the ice between midnight and one hour before sunrise only when occupied or attended. Storing or leaving shelters on a public access is prohibited. It is unlawful to improperly dispose of ice fishing shacks anywhere in the state. Please clean up around your shack and check with local refuse providers or landfills for ice shelter disposal information.

Until next time, get outside and take in a little fishing, skating or just take a winter walk in the good old Minnesota outdoors.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers because they are the reason we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.

Dick Herfindahl’s column appears in the Triune each Sunday.