Dick Herfindahl: Fishing openers are always a new experience

Published 8:11 pm Friday, May 11, 2018

Woods & Water by Dick Herfindahl


I have been attending the Governor’s Fishing Opener since 1995 and none of them have been alike.  Even when I have made a return visit to an area, there have been many things that I have learned about that area on my return visit that I was not aware of the first time around. This time I will be returning to the Wilmar area, which is where I first attended a Governor’s Fishing Opener in 1995. I will hopefully be on the water when this column hits the press.

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My first visit was less than comfortable when I think of the weather. It was cold, rainy and windy and less than desirable when it comes to fishing conditions. Weather aside, I was very impressed with the whole event and now I am returning for another visit, which hopefully will not be a repeat weather-wise.

I had the chance to limber up my casting arm the other day when my grandson Trevor texted me and wanted to know if I wanted to go crappie fishing. I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to fish with my oldest grandson, who had been fishing with me since he was barely out of diapers. Now I am the one getting fishing tips from him and I must say, he knows his stuff.

In the years before I started attending the Governor’s Opener, I would take my sons with me on the fishing opener. Which usually meant heading to a little lake called Reed’s Lake, which sits just southeast of Elysian. We would get there in the early morning and usually were able to catch a few walleye and northern before heading home shortly after noon. Things eventually changed on that lake, not so much the fishing, but the number of fishermen on opening day.

The last time we were there the vehicles with trailers were crowded into the small parking area and meandered down the side of the highway on both sides. The next year I decided to try Lake Francis with my son Brian and on that day it was very cold and the access was full once again. We fished most of the morning and had but a couple of crappies to show for it. Brian was chilled to the bone and the fish were not jumping into the boat, so we called it a day.

The next year I decided to fish a lake that not many folks thought about for opening day, Fountain Lake. It was right here at home, so no driving or waiting in line to launch the boat, just drop the boat in, park, and fish. It even got better, me and my two sons Brian and Brad, came home with four walleyes and two northern to show for our effort. This was at a time when nobody thought of Fountain Lake as a place to go to catch walleye. It must have looked like old dad knew what he was doing, but I actually went to that spot on a hunch and it paid off.

There are times when all the electronics and gadgets that we have at our disposal today can still be trumped by sheer luck and past experiences. I am not knocking modern technology because I use it too, although there are times when I do enjoy fishing “old school” and I really enjoy every minute of that. When I am up at our cabin, I will occasionally take our little 12-ft. Lund and trailer to one of my favorite little lakes to fish with no locator just the shoreline and memories of past fishing experiences to guide me.

These are the times when I feel closer to nature than at any other time. It’s just me and all of the wonderful sights, sounds and experiences that old Mother Nature has to offer. I learned to appreciate the outdoors as a youth growing up right here in the area. As a kid, I would explore the slough and “crick” just south of our home on Bridge Avenue and that was where I would spend the lion’s share of my summers. Once I was old enough to venture into town on my bike, it opened up a whole new world of fishing. In my youth, I probably had fished every inch of Fountain Lake from the dam to Edgewater Bay and back.

Over those years I caught a variety of fish, but probably my most memorable one was when I was with my good friend Pat Smith. We had ridden our bikes from the dam to Pioneer Park while fishing the shoreline along the way. We were fishing under some willow trees that hung out over the water when a boat went by and the wake had my bobber bouncing up and down, before it suddenly disappeared from sight. I fought this big fish for some time before victory was mine. Pat climbed down to the water and retrieved the fish, which turned out to be a smallmouth bass.

I had never seen one up close, but I had a book at home with different species of Minnesota fish with pictures and the whole nine yards. I took that fish home, riding proudly out North Bridge Street with that fish dangling from a stringer on my handlebars. Oh, what a magic moment that was to an aspiring young fisherman and future outdoorsman. When I got home, I took the fish into the basement and retrieved my precious book. I opened it to the page and held it next to the fish and sure enough, it was a smallmouth and I might have hurt my arm patting myself on the back.

Until next time: The season is upon us so get out and wet a line and maybe the lunker that you seek is waiting for you.

Please take some time to honor those who have sacrificed so for the freedoms we enjoy today. Also, take some time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops serving today.