Column: Woods & Water

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 9, 2006

It was a Memorial Day weekend to remember

By Dick Herfindahl

This past Memorial Day weekend we ventured north to my brother-in-law Ron’s place near Longville. Ron was glad to have us coming for the weekend and wanted to do his best to make sure my grandson, Dylan, would catch fish. Dylan and I along with his grandma Jean and his Dad Brad made the trip to Ron’s cabin.

Ron and my nephew Jordan had been there for a few days and had a hot crappie hole for us to try. We didn’t find any crappies on the end of our lines but did manage to tie into a few bass. Ron had the market cornered on the bass and when he got one on he would give Dylan his rod and watch the fun.

They were aggressive and each one jumped out of the water more than once. Whether you’re 7 or 70 there’s no better thrill than having a fish on the other end of the line come out of the water and dance on its tail. Dylan had a blast catching those bass and found out that he could hold them by the jaw and release them without getting bit.

That afternoon we trolled the shorelines in search of a northern or two. Dylan caught what we first thought was weeds but later proved to be a fish. After a real battle for a 7-year-old he brought the fish to the boat which we netted and measured. It was a 30-inch northern and the lake we were on has a 24-inch limit and he was told he’d have to let it go. I know this really bothered him but after taking a picture and doing a little more explaining we released the fish which was none the worse for wear.

Dylan’s great uncle Ron could see he was feeling pretty down about the fish so he asked if he’d like to drive the pontoon.

That’s all it took. He didn’t want to relinquish the wheel the rest of the weekend and fishing took a back seat to being the &8220;skipper.&8221; He had caught some nice fish and now when we caught a fish he was taking credit for putting us on the &8220;hot spot.&8221;

On Sunday we hit the lake about mid morning. It was pretty hot out but the wind made being on the lake bearable. We were once again trolling for northern when Brad hooked into a muskie, which was still a week away from being open. After removing the hooks it was quickly released but only after several minutes of working it back and forth to revive it.

A little later I caught a walleye and as we circled back to work the area we boated two more nice ones. This was about the time the game warden pulled up to check out our catch, our boat and of course our licenses. Everything went smooth except for the license part. I overlooked my license the first time through my wallet and a little thing in the pit of my stomach started to resemble panic. After going through it a second time it was right there all along. With that being done the game warden asked Dylan if he’d caught anything. He said he’d caught a northern yesterday but it was too big and he had to release it. The officer then told him he had a treat for him and gave him a Dairy Queen certificate.

After the game warden left Brad made reference to my George Castanza billfold and everybody had a good laugh at my expense. We never caught another walleye that day but as we continued to troll the shoreline Brad tied into another muskie. This time it was on a small crankbait like the one I caught the walleyes on.

Both of the fish were in the 15- to 18-pound range and the second one was quickly released after making sure it was ready to swim away. After Brad released his second muskie Dylan told him &8220;whenever you get a big fish on Dad, I feel kind of funny.&8221;

That’s called excitement, big guy, because big fish have a way of doing that to fishermen of all ages.

There have been times when I’ve spent a week up north and fished muskie for all or part of every day and maybe had a fish on or a couple of follows. There haven’t been too many times when I’ve had two muskies on in the same day. These times are few and far between. I have to wonder if we’d been fishing for them if we would have had the same result.

I believe it was one of those times when muskies are just very aggressive. Jean was sitting on the end of the dock earlier that morning when a big muskie went swimming slowly past the end of it. I think this was just a sign of things to come.

The thing that always amazes me about fishing is that you can never predict what they will bite on. We had leeches and chubs for live bait and with the exception of the bass hitting crappie minnows; every fish we caught was on a spoon or a small crankbait.

This was a memorable weekend for all of us and one that I’m sure Dylan will never forget.

Here are a few reports from lakes around the state:

BRAINERD LAKES &045; The walleye fishing continues to be strong in the Brainerd Lakes Area. The hottest bite is happening on Mille Lacs Lake. Good numbers, and size have been the norm for the last few weeks. The local lakes, like Gull and Pelican continue to be good, but walleye size has been on the smaller side. Leeches on Lindy rig have been the best bait. The local bass are in the pencil reeds at the current time. Tube baits, and lightly weighted jig worms have been effective baits for these shallow fish. Search out large dock complexes, most of the nicest bass are being caught off these docks at the present time. The sunfish action continues to be strong. Most of the area sunfish are on the beds at the present time.

MANKATO &045; For crappies try Bakers Bay on Lake Washington in 7 to 12 feet of water using flu flu’s. Also try in front of the cracker box on Lake Washington as well. Sunfish and crappies have been going on Duck Lake and the west end of Francis, panfish have been biting in 7 to 12 feet of water.

GRAND RAPIDS &045; We have had a good week of fishing. The walleyes are starting to act more like they should. They are showing up on the bars more often. They are also starting to hit on rigs with crawlers or leeches more everyday. There are still fish in the shallows because the minnows are still spawning. On Winnie look at the west side, around Raven’s Point and Mallard. The High Banks region has been good on cloudy days. Bowstring and Splithand Lakes have been getting better right along. Use crawlers and leeches for starters here. Most of the bass lakes have been hot. A lot of top water baits are doing well. You can also use plastic at the weed edges. Muskie action was kind of slow.

BATTLE LAKE &045; Walleyes have been biting on Stocker, W. Battle and Ottertail. The walleyes have been found in anywhere from 9 to 22 feet of water, they have been biting on shiners but the best luck has been on leeches and jigs or Lindy’s. The best reports for crappies have been coming from Molly, Annie Battle, and Stocker. The crappies have been hitting minnows in 11 feet of water. Try the same lakes for panfish using small leeches or crawlers. Bass reports have been excellent, try using a spinner bait, buzz baits, or plastics for best results. Northerns have been hungry on Ottertail, Battle and Clitheroe, trolling sucker minnows in 15 feet of water on the edge of weeds.

Until next time &8220;let’s go fishin&8217; and make a few more memories.&8221; Remember to keep the troops that are serving our country in your thoughts and prayers.