Spring is a time to enjoy nature and wet a line

Published 6:00 am Sunday, April 19, 2015

Column: Woods & Water, by Dick Herfindahl

I have noticed lately that a couple neighbor cats have been prowling around my yard. I don’t fill my feeders to attract birds so that these cats can lay in wait for an unsuspecting bird to land within striking distance. This has always been a pet peeve of mine because cats actually kill more birds than any other predator.

When the neighbors wonder why they have no birds at their feeder they might want to look at keeping Fluffy inside. Spring is the time of year when birds nest and baby rabbits appear in our yards. With that in mind, please think twice before letting your cat out for a prowl at this time of the year.

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It is hard to believe that the fishing opener for walleye and northern is less than three weeks away. Crappie and sunfish are open year-round along with perch and bullhead. The bass opener is on May 23 with the musky opener on June 6. Does anyone remember the days when we had one opener, one limit and no size restrictions? Things did seem just a little bit simpler then. I know some lakes get fished harder than others in today’s world but sometimes I think there can be a thing called micromanagement.

Today a person has to be careful and needs to know the rules for each lake before fishing it. As far as I know, if a lake has any restrictions they will be posted at the access. I am not saying that I long for the days of cane poles and a can of worms for bait, but in some ways those times were actually pretty darned good. When I fish, I still try to keep it as simple as possible. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to overthink things and take the relaxation out of the moment.

When I was a kid and I would daydream about fishing, I always had this vision in my mind of a picture that I had once seen of Tom Sawyer sitting on the bank of a river with a fishing pole made from a tree branch with his dog laying by his side. To me, this was fishing: just relaxing and enjoying the day without a care in the world. Somewhere along the way we got technology that was supposed to make things better. But did we really make things better? This is why I still enjoy fishing out of my little 12-foot Lund fishing boat that I keep at the cabin. No fish locator. No frills. Just fishing the way I always did in my younger days. Troll the shoreline or drift and cast. Keeping it simple works for me, especially when I’m fishing alone.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for everything, and nothing gives me more pleasure than fishing out of my big boat with my grandkids. Whenever I fish with them, it’s not about me but about them because I get more pleasure out of watching them catch fish than I do catching them myself. In fact, I still get a thrill out of watching my grown sons catch fish. This is what it is all about: being able to see some of my limited fishing knowledge passed on to the next generations.

From what I have been hearing, the panfish are active on Fountain Lake right now. I heard earlier that the crappie were biting, but now the sunnie fishing has also picked up. What a great time of year. Everything is starting fresh, the trees are budding, the lawns are starting to green up and the fish are starting to bite. I will definitely have to get out and wet a line because it just doesn’t get any better than this!

Although it seems like only yesterday, there was a time when folks were lining the shores of Pickerel Lake every spring catching bullheads by the bucket full. It was quite a few years ago when my wife and I were first married that we would go to Twin Lakes to her home place and ride with her mom and dad to State Line Lake by Emmons to fish bullheads. There were a few weeks each spring when the area lakes would produce some mighty big bullheads. It wasn’t uncommon for many local small town bars to have bullhead and smelt feeds. Now you don’t really see that anymore. It seems as if the bullheads are not as abundant as they used to be. I also haven’t heard anyone talking about the smelt run for quite some time. It may just be that not so many folks fish bullheads or net smelt like in the past. There isn’t much better eating than a mess of bullheads caught in that cold early spring water. Pan fry those fish along with some fried potatoes and a can of Van Camp’s pork and beans and you had some mighty good eating. Like I said, I like to keep it simple. A tasty meal like that makes it even better.

Until next time, it’s a great time to catch some of those tasty panfish and enjoy the outdoors at the same time.

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.