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A cold opener for fishing

May 19, 2008

by Chris Schultz

Although the weather during the early morning of the opener was sunny and somewhat OK for fishing, in general the temps were cold and so was the fishing.

Anglers that weren’t on the water early, got hit by high winds and rain by mid-morning and by mid-afternoon angling activity in our area slowed to the pace of a belly up shiner in the minnow bucket.

With poor weather reports on the opener, the first week of fishing has been hit and miss.

The best reports have come from Lake Waconia, where the crappie action has been great, and from Collinwood.

Joe’s Sport Shop and Hardware in Howard Lake reported: the best action probably came from Collinwood and Washington.

On Washington, anglers reported that small mouth bass were biting better than the walleyes, but in general the lake was busy and fishing was good.

Joe’s also noted local anglers that ventured to Mille Lacs for the opener found varied success.

Moving on, most lakes in the area didn’t have a tremendous amount of activity on opening weekend.

Anglers noted Big Waverly was slow, Buffalo provided a few fish and above all, water temps were still to cold for good fishing.

My opening day consisted of wetting a line on a local pond.

The weather just wasn’t nice enough to drag the boat and the kids out.

Slip bobber fishing with crappie minnows, we nabbed one small northern pike, lost one bigger fish that I assume was another northern and couldn’t get the panfish to bite.

I had also planned to fish the south fork of the Crow River a bit, but water levels were still a bit too high for good fishing.

As the season moves on and the weather improves, look for the fishing action to improve dramatically.

Another 3 to 4 degree increase in the water temperature on the lakes in our area will get the walleyes motivated to bite.

Watertown Lions BBQ
From Gary Harding, Watertown Lions

On July 18 and 19, the Watertown Lions will be sponsoring the Crow River BBQ Challenge as a KCBS sanctioned contest.

KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society) is not the only sanctioning organization for BBQ but they are the world’s largest.

Events you may have seen on TV are The American Royal in Kansas City, The Jack Daniels in Lynchburg, Tenn. both KCBS or perhaps Memphis, in May, which is the most popular sanctioned event that is not sanctioned by the KCBS.

OK, back to the patio. We now understand that you should not purchase injected or pre-seasoned meats for true BBQ.

Other things to look for are the obvious freshness and quality clues you use for everyday purchases. Size also is important.

If you’re doing multiples such as three racks of ribs, four pork butts or maybe two briskets, it is very important that they be close to the same size in order to produce consistent quality.

In ribs, you want a nice meaty rib, but look at the bones because very large bones mean old hogs which means less flavor plus you’re paying by the pound for bones.

When I buy briskets I always try to buy “choice.”

The lower grade of “select” is not usually very good and the premium grade of “prime” I have never seen in a brisket.

With chicken, there is no wrong part to BBQ, just be certain it is fresh and not injected with anything.

I do, however, recommend starting with thighs, either boneless or bone in. They take flavor well and are forgiving in a long cook cycle.

OK, let’s recap. We found a cooker on the patio. We figured out how to hold a consistent 220 degree temp. We are starting to understand meat selection, and we have touched on flavor and introducing it to meat.

Next time, we will discuss smoke and how it can be a very good thing or a very bad thing.

Did you know the Crow River BBQ Challenge also has a Friday night chili contest?

It is open to chili cookers everywhere, and you the public can purchase a ballot and be a chili judge?

New web directories to highlight MN’s family-friendly fishing lakes
From the DNR

Introducing youth to angling will be a bit easier using new web tools being prepared by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) MinnAqua and Fishing In The Neighborhood (FiN) programs.

“Taking children outside and using fishing as a fun way to explain environmental awareness and natural resource ownership is a rewarding experience,” said Roland Sigurdson, MinnAqua education specialist. “But finding a family-friendly place to fish where children really catch fish isn’t always easy.”

FiN, which serves the seven-county metropolitan area, and MinnAqua, the DNR’s aquatic education program, are assembling guides that list ideal places to introduce excitable, young anglers to the sport of fishing.

FiN’s booklet will list 50 metropolitan area small lakes and ponds that are managed by the FiN program. MinnAqua’s online guide will list family-friendly lakes in greater Minnesota.

Listings for each location will contain information about species available and successful fishing techniques; driving directions; kid- and family-friendly amenities such as fishing piers, trails, bathrooms, parking, playgrounds, picnic areas, beaches and concession stands; and handicap accessibility.

“Using these guides can make it a lot easier to help kids connect with fishing and get hooked on the outdoors,” Sigurdson said. “Visiting one or more of these lakes also is great way to spend time with your own children.”

FiN works with local partners such as park and recreation departments to create safe family settings in residential areas. FiN will stock fish, conduct population assessments, install fishing structures and restore shoreline habitat.

MinnAqua is a statewide education program designed to teach angling recreation and stewardship as well as the ecology and conservation of aquatic habitats.

Using a curriculum that meets academic standards, MinnAqua education specialists and interns partner with schools, youth groups and community organizations to conduct fishing and aquatic education programs throughout the state.

For information about the guides and to find family -friendly fishing lakes, check online at www.mndnr.gov/takemefishing.

Fishing by the numbers
From the DNR

Anglers

• 2.1 million: Number of people who fish in Minnesota each year

• 1.4 million: Number of fishing licenses sold

• 25 percent: Anglers who target specifically walleye when they fish

• 88: Number of fishing licenses sold per minute during peak of sales 24 hours before the fishing opener

Walleye

• 16 million: Estimated statewide walleye population of harvestable fish

• 3-4 million: Average annual statewide walleye harvest

• 85: Percent of walleye harvest that is naturally produced fish

• 1,200: Number of lakes in Minnesota with fishable populations of walleye

• 58: Number of walleye lakes with special walleye regulations

• 78: Number of lakes that provide nearly half the state’s walleye harvest

• 900: Number of Minnesota lakes stocked with walleye on a rotating basis

• 1880: The year walleye were first stocked in Minnesota

• 212 million: Number of fry to be stocked this year in 319 lakes

• 160,000: Pounds of fingerlings stocked by the DNR this year

• 17.8: Weight in pounds and ounces of Minnesota’s record walleye (Caught by Leroy Chiovette in 1979).

Weather

• 4: Number of fishing openers (of the last 54) in which a trace of snow was recorded

• 24: Lowest temperature recorded for a fishing opener (International Falls, 1996).

• 91: Highest temperature recorded for a fishing opener (Minneapolis, 1987)

• 1 in 4: Years in which measurable precipitation is recorded on the fishing opener

Economics

• 43,812: Fishing-related jobs in Minnesota

• $2.8 billion: Fishing-related retail sales

• $4.7 billion: The ripple effect of fishing-related sales on Minnesota’s economy

• $1.36 billion: Fishing-related salaries, wages and business earnings

• $342.2 million: Fishing-related state and local tax revenues

Fishing – back to the basics
From Tom Conroy of the DNR

Collecting dust on a shelf in the garage was where it eventually landed, a big old bucktail lure I bought years ago in anticipation of the only muskie fishing trip I ever went on. I had forgotten about the bucktail, until the day my rambunctious Labrador discovered it.

Trying to extract a fishing lure of any type from the mouth of a 65-pound dog is not a pleasant experience. Somehow I did finally manage to separate dog and bucktail with the aid of a tin snips.

Don’t ask me how. The bucktail’s final cast was into the garbage.

I used to fish much more often in my younger years. But over time, it seemed, fishing became more complicated and competitive, time got shorter, and I had increasingly fewer fish to fry.

Cane poles and row boats had disappeared from the landscape, replaced with high-powered boats, electronics and an assortment of lures, baits, rigs and tackle so vast it can make a person’s head spin.

Fishing regulations also became more complex as time went by. But were these trends the real reason that I began to fish less?

I think not. The reason I began to fish less often was not because the sport of fishing had changed.

Rather, I simply lost sight of what fishing is really all about. As Henry David Thoreau once noted, “Many go fishing all their lives without ever knowing that it is not fish they are after.”

The reality is that fishing does not have to be complicated and keeping up with the Jones’s is entirely unnecessary.

Grandma and Grandpa used to catch plenty of fish with a plain ol’ hook, line and sinker and that simple approach can still work today. Fishing should be fun and relaxing, not a nail-biting, anxiety-laden contest.

A single trip to the local sporting goods store can provide all you need to be set up for fishing. For less than the cost of a fine-dining experience you can purchase a license, rod and reel, and some basic tackle. And dining on an occasional home-cooked meal of freshly caught fish can be pretty fine in itself.

Begin with the license. Individuals age 16 and older need a license. The cost is $17. A combination husband and wife license costs $25. A combination individual fishing license and a small game hunting license can be had for $29.50. Lifetime licenses are also available as described in the Minnesota Fishing 2008 regulations handbook. (This handbook can be obtained wherever licenses are sold.)

Finding a place to fish need not be difficult, either. The DNR manages a large number of fishing piers, Aquatic Management Areas, and shorefishing areas that are easily accessible and do not require a boat. Some counties and cities also provide fishing access sites.

To locate fishing sites in your area, visit the Department of Natural Resources web site www.dnr.state.mn.us and type in the search words “fishing piers.” This will take people to a list of public water accesses, shorefishing sites and fishing piers.

Another excellent Web site dedicated to fishing is www.takemefishing.org. This site is loaded with information on everything from how to tie fishing knots to the types of lures and bait to use for different fish species. For the novice or casual angler, all you need to know can be found here.

Deciding when and where to go fishing is predicated on any number of factors, of course. The best time to go fishing, someone once said, is when it’s raining. Or when it’s not. But where you choose to go can be another matter. Case in point:

Years ago four of us decided to take advantage of a hot bite on a popular lake. When we arrived at the access site in our old pick-up truck pulling an even older boat, we were surprised to find dozens of ritzy rigs already lined up.

The buddy driving the truck sheepishly got in line to back the boat to the ramp while the rest of us waited off to the side. And then the real fun began.

In the chaotic company of so many fancy boats, cars, trucks and trailers all trying to reach the ramp, our buddy somehow got the trailer off course.

The harder he tried to straighten it out in those close quarters, the worse it got. It got worse still when some clown began to loudly chastise him for his seeming incompetence and someone else began honking his horn. And it certainly did not help when he noticed us doubled over in laughter.

Lesson learned: avoid maddening crowds.

An inexpensive rod and reel, a few worms or minnows, and a quiet spot along a lakeshore or river is all that’s needed.

All the better with a kid by your side, as former president Jimmy Carter can attest. “Many of the most highly publicized events of my presidency are not nearly as memorable or significant in my life as fishing with my daddy,” Carter said.

During a family vacation, back when fishing for me was entirely about catching fish, I shared a boat with two brothers. One brother shared my outlook. The other did not. I still have a photo of the non-conforming brother stretched out on a boat seat that day, rod lying loosely across his chest, his feet dangling over the side of the boat. Napping!

I was perturbed at his nonchalance that day. In hindsight, he had it right all along.

Spring lakeshore projects may require permits
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds lakeshore property owners to check state and local permit requirements before initiating spring improvement projects.

Of particular concern are projects that involve construction near the shore, shoreline modification or protection projects, excavation projects, and projects involving structures in the water.

Landowners should contact their local county or city zoning office about projects above the waterline. For projects below the waterline, landowners should contact a DNR area hydrologist.

DNR permit requirements and contacts can be found online at www.mndnr.gov.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Snakes occasionally can be spotted sunning themselves on driveways. Should property owners be concerned?

A: The most numerous snake in Minnesota is the common garter snake, which is harmless.

The appearance of unwanted snakes is usually due to cracks or holes in concrete structures.

These spaces provide warm places for the snake to spend the winter.

When spring returns, the snakes reappear outside.

Since snakes cannot regulate their own body temperature, they rely on their surroundings, such as rocks or concrete, to warm their bodies.

If the presence of these snakes is a concern for homeowners, a few simple solutions are to fill the holes or cracks in the concrete; make their yards unattractive to snakes by removing yard or other debris piles and keeping shrubs and trees trimmed, and the grass mowed; and eliminate what snakes eat – mice.

Outdoor notes

• The spring crappie bit should be in full swing this week and its going to be a good two or more weeks before the sunfish action really gets going.

• The annual Howard Lake Good Neighbor fishing contest is set for Sat., June 21 on Howard Lake. Registration forms are available at Joe’s Sport Shop and Hardware in Howard Lake.

• The morel mushroom hunt should be underway soon. The best time to hunt morels is when the lilacs are blooming.

If we get some nice hot days the morel hunting could be good this year.

• The bass fishing season in Minnesota opens on Saturday, May 24.

Due to cold water temps expect the fishing on the opener to be a bit slower than normal.

• Take the time to enjoy spring and watch it happen. In the past week lawns in the area greened up and everybody started mowing, leaves on many trees popped out, the first dandelions appeared.

Look for apple tree to blossom next week.

• Take a kid fishing; he or she will have fun and so will you.