The 2011 fishing opener is just around the corner and I don’t know if I am ready. It seems like I wait all winter for the season to open, but always wait until the last minute to get myself into that “ready-to-go” mode.
As a kid, I could tell you exactly how many days there were until that magic time. In fact, I probably had it dissected into hours. Opening day – that was the big one! Even into my 30s, I would be busily checking and rechecking my tackle boxes and at least once during the late winter or early spring I’d clean them all out and rearrange them to make sure all was ready for that big day. I would even take the reels apart and oil and grease them at some time during the winter months.
My father-in-law, Orville, had a much simpler solution to readying for the opener. Rather than replace the line or try to fix them, he’d simply throw away the old Zebco 202s and buy new ones for the upcoming season. In their family, all the kids got the same rod and reel every year — the old Zebco 202 — and they caught fish.
There was one time when he and I had gone fishing on Clear Lake in Waseca and it was getting close to the end of summer. Orv said, “The reel’s not working quite right, time to lubricate it,” and he dunked it in the water and kept right on fishing. Now I don’t know if that actually worked, but he said it did. I think that he probably did that just to make me wonder. He had a way of doing that from time to time, knowing that I was kind of particular about my fishing tackle.
We did a lot of fishing around this area in those days. We fished bullheads early in the spring and caught some dandy ones. My mother-in law Shirley would fry them up that same evening and we’d feast on bullheads, Van Camps beans and fried potatoes. I don’t care what you say, that was some mighty good grub.
There were quite a few lakes in the area that had some dandy bullheads in them. We also tried our hand at fishing the south shore of State Line Lake a few times and usually had some pretty good luck. One thing I learned was that when bobber fishing from shore in the presence of my mother-in-law, you needed to have your head on a swivel. When she went to set the hook, she meant business, and after a couple of near misses with flying bullheads, I learned to keep my distance. I think she just might have passed that trait on to her oldest son Lynn.
Pickerel Lake used to be loaded with bullheads, and I can remember cars lined along the highway in the spring. I recall the time my uncle Harvey Christensen took me there. I believe I was about 10 years old at the time and the fishing was almost elbow to elbow. I can remember thinking I’d never fished around this many people, but because I’d never fished that lake before, I thought it was great, and we were catching fish.
You just don’t see many folks fishing for bullheads these days and I don’t know if it’s because there aren’t that many swimming in our lakes or if they are now considered a rough fish. I do feel the bullhead population has gone down and my own theory is the carp have taken over the primary areas of lakes that bullheads used to roam.
As a kid, I never really set out in search of any certain species of fish. I was just going fishing. It was pretty simple back then. Go in the back yard and dig up some “angle worms” and put them in an old tin can with a little dirt grab some extra hooks, sinkers and a cork, and you had the fixings for a day of fun. Although I never set out to catch bullheads, they were usually the fish I’d catch most, but that really didn’t matter as long as I was fishing and catching a few. Some things never change no matter what your age.
I have to admit that in the time it takes to clean a bullhead you may clean two or three perch. This may be one reason not as many people fish them. Another is probably the obvious: they are not a pretty fish and looks alone may kill the appetite of a lot of today’s fishermen. The stingers on a bullhead can leave a lasting impression on you. Getting one rammed into your hand or finger can definitely make you leery. Anyone who grew up in my time knows exactly what I’m talking about. It almost became a challenge to us kids when we’d catch bullheads and try to get them off the hook without getting stung. The bigger ones were easier, but the smaller they got the harder it was to avoid those side stingers.
I have to admit I’m not thinking bullheads right now because I have my sights set on a different species, but it sure is fun to look back and relish those days of the past.
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The May meeting of Crossroads Chapter 54 of Muskies, Inc. will be Wednesday, May 11. Our special program will be a tour of the Waterville Fish Hatchery. We will meet at 6:45 p.m., at Casey's Convenience Store, on Highway 13, coming in from the south. Anyone interested in muskie fishing is always welcome. Our meetings are second Wednesday of every month and include informative speakers. Check our Web sight at www.michapter54.com. Our goal is to improve muskie fishing and opportunity in southern Minnesota. Also, there’s muskie talk and tips to help members catch more muskies.
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Until next time; it’s time to do a little fishing and get out and enjoy the great Minnesota outdoors!
Remember our brothers and sisters who are proudly serving our country so that we can keep enjoying the freedoms that we have today.