Archived Story

Fishing opener brings back good memories

Published 1:18pm Saturday, May 11, 2013

The weather has finally seemed to have turned the corner, and I believe that I can safely hang up the old snow shovel for a while.

The official opener for walleye and northern fishing usually falls on Mother’s Day each year. To me this is a good thing, because it is a time for me to pause and reflect on all of the things that my mother did to encourage me to enjoy the sport of fishing and the outdoors. Although my mother loved to fish, she never seemed to have that much time to enjoy it.

I can remember the times when my dad would treat the family to dinner at the Dairy Bar drive-in, which sat about where McDonald’s is now. He would say that it was his Mother’s Day treat to her, because she didn’t have to cook a big Sunday dinner. Mom would always order the pork tenderloin basket, because she always said that it was her favorite. After dinner, we would sometimes drive to St. Olaf or Beaver Lakes and do a little fishing. My dad was never much for fishing, but he always made sure that mom got to do a little of it on her special day. There were a few times when he even rented a pontoon boat and take my grandma along.

Once my wife, Jean, and I got into camping, we would occasionally take mom along with us for an overnight camping and fishing excursion to Elysian or Waterville. There were a couple of times when I took her to Clear Lake in Waseca, and I can still remember how excited she would get when a fish would hit her lure. Mom and Dad went up north with us a couple of times. On her last summer with us, she went with Jean, the boys and me to Sand Lake, which is near Squaw Lake. I knew that she didn’t feel very well, and I said that she didn’t have to go out in the boat with us if she wasn’t up to it. Her answer was quite simple: “I didn’t come all this way to sit in the cabin.” She ended up catching the largest walleye of the week, and I know that made it worthwhile for all of us. I always say that you can never turn back the clock, but it is sure nice to visit the past on occasion.

The buzz this past week has been about the opener and whether the ice will be off the northern lakes. When this column goes to print, that question will already have been answered. Locally it will obviously not be a problem, and I am looking forward to hearing about how our area fishermen fared this weekend.

This past week, I spoke with a few folks who are a little upset — me included — with some people who come to our waters and fill coolers with fish, while having no license and no regard for the rules. I had also heard of one instance where people were observed keeping walleyes well before the legal opener. This is where our local sportsmen can step in — not taking the law into your own hands — but by calling the tip line and reporting a violation. The number is 1-800-652-9093. I’d have to say that this is one of my pet peeves, and it really bothers me to see someone getting greedy and breaking the conservation laws that the rest of us heed. True sportsmen have an unwritten code of ethics when it comes to protecting our resources, so it is hard for me to even watch when a person keeps an 8-inch walleye, even though it is not illegal. It is just common sense. The walleye limit for inland waters is six and only one fish over 20-inches is allowed.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has released the following information on an investigation called Operation Squarehook:

Authorities are bringing state charges against 21 individuals following a major investigation into the illegal sale and dumping of thousands of protected game fish in north-central and northwestern Minnesota.

The three-year special investigation involved about 60 officers from the DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and tribal authorities from the Red Lake Band of Chippewa and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. This is Minnesota’s largest case of illegal fish commercialization in two decades.

The suspects are facing up to 35 misdemeanor and six gross misdemeanor state charges in six counties in northern Minnesota. Total state fines are expected in the tens of thousands of dollars. Cases have been presented to state county attorneys for prosecution; some individuals have been charged or have already paid fines.

The charges involve both illegal purchases and sales of the game fish — primarily walleye — taken from some of Minnesota’s most popular fishing lakes including Cass, Leech, Red and Winnibigoshish Lakes on the Red Lake and Leech Lake Indian reservations.

Until next time, take advantage of the nice weather and wet a line, soak a worm and watch a bobber bouncing in the breeze as you relax on the shore of one of our area lakes.

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 Tribune each Sunday.