The fish that got away tops events from the week

Published 6:00 am Sunday, May 31, 2015

Column: Woods & Water, by Dick Herfindahl

Last week, I was once again at the cabin. This time, my friend, Mark, went along with high hopes of getting into a mess of crappie.

Unfortunately, we were either too early, too late or in the right place at the wrong time.

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The first lake we fished was Bowstring, a popular area lake for walleye, which happened to be the fish we were seeking on that day. This is a lake I had only fished one other time before.

Our arrival coincided with the arrival of a cold front. I told Mark that as calm and clear as it was that morning, I didn’t look for us to have much success. Over the years, I found that the clear lakes of this area are hard to fish on calm sunny days.

We worked the one end of this big, clear lake hard with only a couple of small pike to show for our efforts. It wasn’t much consolation, but a couple of the folks who I talked to at the landing also had similar luck.

After spending a whole morning on that lake, we decided to hit another that afternoon. This was a lake we’d fished many times before. Except for a few more northern, we still couldn’t find the crappie. I believe it was still a little early in the season for them to be where we would usually find them. With no weed cover yet, I marked a lot of fish in deeper water, but getting them to bite was a different matter.

The next day, we headed for Spider Lake which is still my sentimental favorite when it comes to lakes. I have many fond memories of family vacations spent fishing and camping on that lake.

Although the fishing wasn’t as good as anticipated, it is still a beautiful body of water that makes every visit a good one. There were campers taking advantage of the national forest campsites that you can access only by boat. This is something that I always wanted to do, but they are first come-first serve camp spots, and Memorial Day weekend would not be a time to try finding a spot.

On our last day of the trip, we decided to visit a small lake that sits two miles north of our cabin. This lake has been a good northern pike lake for us over the years. The lake holds pike, bass, panfish and perch but no walleye.

We tried a couple of spots that have produced for me in the past and tried trolling the middle of this small, deep lake, which is a technique that I found worked quite well last year.

On our initial pass down the middle of the lake, Mark said, “I think I’m snagged on bottom.” But I told him we were in 55 feet of water, so I doubted that. As he pulled on the line, it started to pull back, and that is when he realized it was a very big fish.

After fighting it for a couple of minutes, it rose to the surface and slapped its large tail on the top before spitting the hook. That was an experience both of us will not soon forget.

After losing a fish like that, the person on the other end of the line always wonders if they could have done something differently. I told Mark that he did it all by the book: constant pressure, rod tip up and no slack. I don’t think that really made him feel any better.

Another memory was seeing a black bear standing at the edge of the forest about a mile north of our cabin.

We were driving to the lake when up ahead standing on a ridge along the roadside was this big black critter. As we neared it, we saw it was a bear. I slowed the truck, but once the big critter spotted us, it turned and disappeared back into the woods. That was just another unforgettable experience of spotting an animal in the wild.

Once again, when we had some down time, we were entertained by the many birds that were visiting the feeders in front of our deck.

The birds, squirrels and chipmunks made sure that we were never bored when sitting on the deck. There were very few mosquitoes this time, so that made sitting outside an extra-pleasant experience.

Even our trip home offered a little wildlife experience when three deer were standing on the side of a road ditch right next to the asphalt. I slowed down anticipating their next move, but as I drove past they just stood there and stared almost like they were watching a parade. My vivid imagination could picture them raising a front leg and waving with a little flag stuck in their hooves. Probably a little too much, huh?

As I write this column, I am already looking forward to my next trip north, but I am also planning on hitting a few of the area lakes before that happens.

Fountain Lake is always a good option with a great variety of gamefish. An early-morning drive to Beaver or St. Olaf lakes could also result in some good fishing. Like I have said many times before, we are fortunate to have so many good lakes in our area, and the opportunity for shore fishing is endless.

All of the aforementioned lakes have fishing piers and picnic areas. Fountain can be accessed from shore and at many of our area parks. Visiting any one of these lakes can make for a day of fishing, picnicking and great family fun.

Until next time, grab the fishing poles, pack the picnic basket and go enjoy the 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.