Looking forward to fishing open water

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Column: Dick Herfindahl, Woods & Water

With the onset of spring and the thaw that has been making the snow cover slowly disappear, I’m almost beginning to feel like a new person.

Dick Herfindahl

It’s funny how spending a lot of time indoors during the winter can give you that stale feeling. I have a pretty full plate in the winter with coaching hockey and watching the grandkids in their endeavors but there is that little gap between winter sports and spring which officially began on March 20. For someone that is on the go pretty much the whole winter it’s almost like giving up an addiction cold turkey.

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Once spring arrived and the sun got higher in the sky the birds started singing their happy songs and life is good. It’s amazing how a little warm sunshine after a long winter can make everyone seem like they have that extra spring in their step.

When you look around and take the time to enjoy our critters that we have right in our neighborhoods it is pretty exciting. The snowbirds will soon be returning and I’m not talking about the part-time Minnesotans but the feathered kind. And of course there are the neighborhood rabbits and squirrels that have been leaving those tracks in the snow around our house. With the return of our feathered friends there is also the feline factor to consider. If you have a cat and like to let it out for a daily prowl keep in mind that in a few weeks the birds will be nesting and their young are easy prey for the common house cat. I can attest to this first hand because there is a neighborhood cat that seems to think it lives in my backyard just to prey on birds and it has been known to take up part-time residence in our garage which makes my wife less than happy. I don’t know which she dislikes more — squirrels or stray cats — but I’d not want to be either one of them if she ever got a hold of one of them.

If you do let “fluffy” out for a prowl on a daily basis and begin to wonder why there are no birds frequenting your feeder, I think that you can probably figure out the answer. Please keep your cats inside during the spring when the birds are nesting so that everyone can enjoy our fine feathered friends. We think birds are pretty but somehow I think that the cat is thinking they are looking mighty tasty.

Right now we are in what I call the “dead zone” between hard water fishing and open water fishing. There still are a few diehards who have been sitting on the ice in the channel with open water nearby. The rest of us are playing that waiting game until the ice is out and we can start fishing perch and panfish.

Until next time, think spring, fishing and plan to enjoy the great Minnesota outdoors!

Remember our brothers and sisters who are proudly serving our country so that we can keep enjoying the freedoms that we have today.

If you are thinking about trying a little trout fishing the season for them in southeastern Minnesota runs from April 1 through April 15 (this is catch and release only). The regular season begins April 16 and extends through Sept. 14. I have not been much of a trout fisherman in all my years of fishing and that has a lot to do with logistics. Having been raised in this area of the state my primary fishing has been for walleye, northern, bass and panfish and reluctantly, with more than my share of bullheads thrown in.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of folks enjoy eating bullheads and when caught early in the spring they can be pretty tasty. My mother-in-law Shirley would always tell us that whenever we went fishing if we caught any bullheads we were to save them for her. She would clean them herself, fry them up right away, serve them with fried potatoes and would treat them like a delicacy. I had been known to indulge in a meal of them on occasion, and it was pretty darned good but I haven’t enjoyed that meal since she passed.

It seems to me that there are getting to be fewer bullheads in area lakes than in the past. I have to believe that it has a lot to do with the amount of rough fish that are now inhabiting many or the lakes on the region. Waterville is the self-proclaimed “bullhead capital of the world” yet the number of bullheads found in Lake Tetonka seems to be diminishing a little more each year. I know that most of us treat the bullhead as a rough fish but then I guess it’s a matter of taste.

There are some folks who have smokers and they say that carp is really good smoked. I have a hard time imagining carp being good for anything but garden fertilizer. They are, on the other hand, fierce fighters and a lot of fun to catch on a hook and line. I assume that my grandsons will once again be fishing in the “crick” in Twin Lakes for those carp when they start running. I’ve fished with them a few times and it is really a rush to tie into one of those big carp in that current. I fought one for about 10 minutes before it finally broke me off, and I put on a lot of walking distance up and down the banks of that creek.

Catching is the one thing about fishing that never gets old. It doesn’t make any difference what the species if you are a kid or just a kid at heart it’s all fun. There is something about fishing that always brings out the kid in this old guy. It’s a way to leave all the stress of our day to day lives behind and just be one with nature. You don’t have to have an expensive boat or the latest rod and reel. Some of us grew up with the old bamboo cane pole, which was what I used before I got a rod and reel. Last spring I bought one at a sporting goods store just to revisit the past but so far I haven’t given it a try. Shore fishing was what I did the most of as a kid and it can still be a rewarding and relaxing experience. So get ready because hopefully it won’t be long before the ice is out and we’ll be fishing on the shore of our favorite lake or stream.

Dick Herfindahl’s column appears in Sunday’s Tribune.