Fishing reports show mixed rates of success

Published 6:00 am Sunday, December 21, 2014

Column: Woods & Water, by Dick Herfindahl

It’s almost Christmas, and the sound of the season can be heard playing in stores and on the radio. It’s the time of year for church Christmas programs along with choir, band and orchestra concerts.

I had the chance to attend the high school orchestra and band Christmas concert and was totally impressed. We have a lot of talented kids in our school system who should make us very proud.

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When I was a kid, each year I looked forward to the school Christmas program, even though I played no instrument and would never impress anyone with my singing prowess. It is really all about celebrating the birth of Christ and spending time with family. I don’t think that I realized how important this was to me until I spent time in the service away from home on Christmas. We would stand in line on Christmas Day to use the phone to make a five-minute call home where family gathered around waiting their turn to talk.

A long wait in line to have a short conversation with family back home was a pretty big deal. The only times we were allowed to call home were for Christmas or a family emergencies, but I am not whining or complaining because that is how it was back then, and we just dealt with it. Yes, it was totally different back then: no Skype, cell phones or email. Just regular mail. I considered myself lucky that year because many of my fellow servicemen didn’t even have the luxury of a phone call.

I can remember going to my Aunt Ruby and Uncle Harvey’s on Christmas Day when they would call my cousin, Tom, who was in California. We would all gather around the phone hoping to say a few words and just hear his voice for a moment or two. Calling long distance all the way to California in those days was a huge deal. If someone called collect, it was pretty darned spendy, but Christmas time was no time to skimp.

Getting back to the present, it’s almost time to boil the fish and melt the butter that is the key to any good lutefisk-eater’s dining experience. My dad always said you are a true Norske when you roll up your sleeves, roll the fish in lefse and pour on enough butter so that it runs down your arm. I learned to cheat just a little, so that’s why I always eat my fish on lefse with some potatoes mixed in and topped with a lot of butter, salt and pepper. I don’t believe that you would find this fine dining experience listed on the Blue Zones to-do list or on the Mayo Clinic’s list of healthy eating habits. It is only once — or maybe twice — a year, so I guess that like any other Christmas I will be throwing caution to the wind and enjoying it once again. My mouth is starting to water in anticipation of that delicious Norwegian delicacy that I know will be awaiting me on Christmas Eve.

Although we have had a few in my lifetime, I just have a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit without just a little snow covering the ground. Christmas vacation as a kid always seemed to be about sledding, snow forts and snowball fights. I can’t remember many winters where there was a lack of snow, but I know there were some. I guess that I like to push the not-so-pleasant memories to the back and dwell on the good. That might be why I remember the good old days as being so darned good.

I am not really sure how to read the ice right now when it comes to being safe. There have been many fishermen out on Fountain Lake, and I’ve heard mixed reports ranging everywhere from folks catching only small ones to slab crappies and nice pike with a few walleyes thrown into the mix. Hey, that’s fishing folks. Not everyone is going to catch their limit of lunkers, and not everyone is going to get skunked, so the best thing to do is give it your best shot and enjoy the experience of being there. Most importantly, you need to know that the ice is safe before venturing out.

Fishing reports from around the area for the past week have been mixed. Fairmont has reported anywhere from 3 to 7 inches of ice on area lakes with some crappie, bluegill, perch and a few walleye being caught. Mankato reported some low light crappie action on Madison and Washington Lakes with a few walleye on Washington. The Waterville area had unsafe ice conditions before the warmup and looked for things to deteriorate after that. Driving past the channel by Frank Hall Park, I observed some men standing in water while fishing through the ice. I have become fairly cautious as I have grown older, but fish or no fish that just didn’t look like anything I’d be interested in doing.

Until next time, have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Years, and remember it’s always time well spent when you spend it in our great Minnesota outdoors.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers, especially during this holiday season. They are the reason that we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we enjoy today.

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