Fishing is great with the grandkids

Published 7:09 am Monday, June 20, 2011

This past Memorial Day weekend I headed north with my wife, Jean, and two oldest grandsons, Trevor and Taylor.

Whenever I go north with them I already consider it a great trip. With the weather outlook spotty at best, we ventured north and arrived at the cabin late at night. It rained pretty much the whole way up and to say it was a miserable drive would be an understatement. Once there, we unpacked in pretty much record time and turned in.

The next morning the rain had stopped and we decided to head to one of our favorite nearby lakes to do a little fishing. The day was windy and partly cloudy but the rain held off for most of the day. Trevor manned his favorite seat in the front of the boat as we trolled the shoreline in search of pretty much any fish that we could entice into biting. Trevor likes casting to the shore or edge of the weedline when we slowly back troll which is the type of fishing I prefer about 85 percent of the time. Over the years I have done a lot of fishing and have found that most of the fish I catch early on are with live bait. We opted for a scoop of fatheads rather than taking out a loan for a dozen shiners.

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The thriftiness of their grandpa was one reason for the bait of choice. I have to say that I’ve always had luck with fatheads when using them to tip a jig or a spinnerbait. Over the years, my favorite way to fish them is to use a beetle spin tipped with a fathead and trolled slowly. It may be an old fisherman’s way of fishing, but it still is pretty effective today. On this day, however, it seemed that the fish were more interested in artificial lures like rapalas or Trevor’s clown colored husky jerk.

Last year the pike were not as aggressive as this year and we caught some nice northern, a couple of crappie and lots of nice bass. Trevor and I seemed to have the market cornered on northern, with me running a distant second in the catching department, and Taylor boated some nice bass. That day we caught quite a few northern but kept only three between 25 and 27 inches because grandma said she wanted us to catch enough fish for a meal.

I sometimes think that Trevor is destined to be one of those guys riding around in a fancy bass boat winning big-time tournament bucks. He never ceases to amaze me with his fish catching prowess, and if they aren’t biting he is constantly looking for that right combination that will put fish in the boat.

By the time we were ready to leave the lake and head back to the cabin the wind had started to pick up even more and the clouds were once again rolling in. Once back to the cabin I showed the boys how to take the Y-bones out of a northern and Trevor tried his luck on the smallest of the three and did pretty well for a first-timer. Although Taylor seemed to show interest I could tell that it would be a few years before he would want to tackle it. Just as we finished cleaning the fish it started raining and we headed inside the cabin.

One good thing about an afternoon rain is it can give a guy the chance to catch a little nap. It rained off and on all afternoon and we all benefited from that with a nap. Once the rain subsided the boys were ready to fish our lake and they headed down the hill while Grandma prepared the fish for supper. They weren’t gone all that long before Taylor came running up the hill and said “Grandpa I just caught a 13-inch crappie and that means I hold the family record for this lake.” He had a good reason to be excited because that was indeed a dandy crappie.

The boys went on to catch a lot of crappie in the two days that followed, and on the last night they got a little selective. We decided that they should keep enough fish for a nice meal for their family to have when they get home. Trevor had caught two bluegills that were pushing a pound, and they kept eight crappies that were over 11 inches.

Now, I have to say that the meal of fish we had on Saturday night was awesome! I know some will argue that we were “only” eating northern and not the king of freshwater fish, the walleye, but I don’t think that there is a fish swimming that would have tasted any better than those pike. Out of the lake and into the pan — it just doesn’t get any better!

One of the perks of having those two boys go north with us is that they are willing to help with any chores that need to be done. After each of their grandma’s fine meals they always thank her for the good meal. They know what side their bread is buttered on.

When we bought our little place up north the realtor told us that there were no fish in the lake. We were okay with that because it is a great location with a beautiful little lake plus there are so many other lakes close by that hold plenty of fish. For a lake with no fish we’ve gotten quite a few meals out of it and there looks to be an abundance for years to come.

What sold us on this little piece of God’s country was the wildlife and the peaceful beauty of the landscape. The boys like to hunt as well as fish, and there are plenty of ducks on the lake in the fall. The woods have a pretty good grouse population, and our six acres border public land. The cabin is rustic and I guess in a way it’s almost like going back in time. We have no running water, no electricity, and we built the small A-frame cabin ourselves on the land that we’d cleared. The feeling of satisfaction that I get out of knowing that is priceless.

I guess in some ways it makes a person feel like a pioneer, and there are times I wonder what it would have been like living in that part of the country years ago. I could go up there and not do a thing but enjoy the wildlife and the peaceful beauty of the outdoors world.

Until next time, enjoy a picnic in one of our parks, do a little fish’n and 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.

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