Heading east may be good if you itch to fish

Published 9:00 am Sunday, March 19, 2017

It seems like I have started my last few columns with the weather. Let’s face it — we are in kind of a lull when it comes to outdoors activities this time of year, and the weather always seems to give us Minnesotans something to talk about. Spring is just around the corner and winter doesn’t seem quite ready to let go.

When my wife and I first moved into our present home in March of 1973, my next door neighbor was an avid fisherman. In one of the first conversations we had, he told me he and a couple of his buddies would soon be taking their annual March fishing trip to the river. I was a little surprised because there was still plenty of snow on the ground at the time, so the thought of fishing on open water didn’t seem too appealing to me. I soon discovered that, although there was snow on the ground, the river was open and waiting for any hardy fisherman looking to try his luck.

Over the years, I have made a few trips to the Mighty Mississippi in search of the wily walleye. The few times I did venture east, I always seemed to have fairly good luck. Early season fishing can be very good on the river, with my best luck coming while fishing the backwaters or the eddys just below one of the wing dams. Bob, who was a co-worker and also a good friend of mine, was usually who I river-fished with. He was originally from Little Falls, which is close to the Mississippi, so he fished the river quite a bit and he really knew his way around.

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I also know some fishermen who venture east to the Lanesboro or Forestville area to fish trout. This is one fish that I have only hunted a couple of times. The first time was in the ‘70s on a creek by Kiester. The local Sportsman’s Club had dug out and stocked a little pool next to a stream that was located a little bit south of town. We did manage to catch a few trout that day. In fact, we actually caught enough for a meal. That was my first time eating trout, and I can’t say it made me want to come back for seconds. I don’t know if there are actually any trout left in that stream these days, but it would be interesting to find out.

The only other time I have fished for trout was on a family vacation to the Black Hills. We went there with our family and some friends of ours and their kids. We camped at Custer State Park, and I have to say that it was one of our better vacations that almost didn’t involve fishing. In those days, I would always pack a few fishing poles and some tackle — you just never know when you may need to wet a line. Although the kids could fish for free, the adults had to have a license so each of us bought a 24-hour out-of-state license. We purchased our license at noon so we could fish from noon that day to the following noon.

We went and fished on Stockade Lake, which is located within the park. Not being a trout fisherman, I thought I would just try fishing them about the same way you would fish a bullhead. I purchased some night crawlers and rigged our poles with Lindy Rigs and we soon found a nice spot to shore fish. It didn’t take long before we were catching what we were told by some regular trout fishermen were some very nice trout. I was busy taking fish off and baiting hooks that, while doing this, I had laid my fishing pole on the ground with my bait laying on the bottom of the lake. It wasn’t long before my son, Brian, started yelling “Dad, your pole!” I looked up just as my fishing pole was being dragged into the lake. I dropped everything and made a dive at it, grasping the handle just before it was disappearing into the water. Everyone had a good laugh on that one, and to this day the boys like to occasionally bring that incident up and have a good laugh on old dad. I actually think they were in awe of the fact I could move that fast.

Once the sun had made its exit from the sky, we headed back to the campground and decided to fix our catch on the grill. I sprinkled them with salt and pepper and added some slices of lemon and onion before wrapping them in tin foil. We did the same with the potatoes, except for the lemon part. Now, I have had northern and walleye fixed this way many times and they definitely seemed to taste a whole lot better than those trout. Needless to say, none of us were too anxious to use our other half a day on the license. I do believe it was the last time I have eaten trout. Give me some walleye, northern or panfish and I will be there with a hearty appetite and my utensils in hand.

I can’t wait for the lakes to shed their ice cover so I can try catching some early ice-out perch and panfish. Who knows, I may even try catching a few of those cold water bullheads. I know they are actually pretty tasty when you catch them early in the year. Early season bullheads in the frying pan along with fried potatoes and some VanCamps pork and beans  — now that is a meal!

Until next time, it won’t be long until the lakes are totally open, but the channel by old Mexico Lindo is drawing a few hardy fishermen so you may want to break out the fishing poles and try some early season action. Remember — walleye, northern and bass seasons are closed now but the rest are fair game.

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