The warmer weather brings thoughts of camping and fishing

Published 6:00 am Sunday, April 20, 2014

Column: Woods & Water, by Dick Herfindahl

I’ve spoken with a few folks this week who said the trout fishing over east was actually pretty good. This is still a good option for anyone who has that fishing itch that really needs to be scratched. I’ve also heard reports that folks were catching some nice crappie and sunfish in Edgewater Bay just before ice-out. This news was enough to stoke the fire in my fishing furnace and make me feel like all is not lost when it comes to fishing area lakes. I’ve also heard reports of many dead game fish lining the shores of Madison Lake. I can truthfully say that I’ve never heard of that particular lake ever freezing out before.

With the promise of warmer weather being dangled in front of our noses like the proverbial carrot, I’m optimistic that the fishing and camping season is just around the corner.

Email newsletter signup

I know of some folks who started to get interested in camping recently. When my wife Jean and I were first married, we would get together with some friends and go camping not only on the three summer holidays but for a week of vacation at a time. We went up north with a group of friends quite a few times, and we also made it to the Ozark Mountains and the Black Hills.

While we were in the Black Hills, we stayed at Custer State Park. I, of course, never leave home without my fishing gear, so I had a little fishing plan in place. With the purchase of a 24-hour license, we were able to fish for trout in Stockade Lake. We managed to catch a lot of nice trout that day and finished with meal of trout cooked on the grill. There were also some nice largemouth bass in the lake, and we also managed to land a few of them. The boys from time to time will bring up the incident where I laid my fishing pole down to help take a fish off someone’s hook, when a fish grabbed my bait and started dragging my pole into the water. They thought it was hilarious to see old dad scrambling and diving on his belly to catch the pole just before it disappeared into the lake. Comedy act aside, I would definitely recommend taking at least one family vacation to the Back Hills. Camping and family vacations are great memory makers and those memories can be revisited as often as you like.

We Minnesotans are lucky to have so many state parks with campgrounds that we can enjoy almost any time of the year. There are also many National Forest campgrounds scattered around the northern part of our great state that we have available to us. The cost of camping at these campgrounds is very reasonable, and I just can’t think of a better way to experience the great Minnesota outdoors.

Minnesota state parks offer first-time camping experiences for families

People who’ve never pitched a tent or cooked over a fire — or who have forgotten how — can practice these and other outdoor skills when they sign up for one of the 24 “I Can Camp!” programs offered this summer at state parks and recreation areas.

The first programs take place June 7 at Nerstrand Big Woods and Wild River state parks, and both are within an hour of the Twin Cities.

“Camping is fun, and it’s a longstanding Minnesota tradition,” said Eric Pelto, who coordinates the “I Can Camp!” programs for the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division.

All camping equipment is provided, including tents, air mattresses and cook stoves at these beginner-level programs. Participants only need to bring their own food and sleeping bags or blankets and pillows for bedding.

“Our ‘I Can Camp!’ instructors will be on hand to help families with everything from tent set-up to meal preparation,” Pelto said. “They’ll also try to make sure everyone has fun by providing opportunities to try geocaching, digital photography and other activities.”

One-night workshops — which are $40 for up to six people in a tent — are scheduled on most Saturdays in June, July and August. Eight two-night workshops — $60 for up to six people in a tent — are also available for families who want a more complete weekend camping experience.

Reservations are required and can be made online at or by phone by calling 866-857-2757 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily excluding holidays.

These programs are made possible with support from the Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008. The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the sales tax revenue and may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

Find more information, including dates and locations online or contact the DNR Information Center online at or by calling 651-296-6157, or 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Until next time, enjoy the more spring-like weather and make some plans for spending some time in our great 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 Tribune each Sunday.