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On some of these cold winter nights, I often picture myself sitting in an easy chair in front of an old stone fireplace with a warm fire blazing while reading a book and sipping a cup of hot chocolate, topped with a couple of marshmallows of course. In reality, I have an old easy chair, hot chocolate and a heat register that fills in for the fireplace. Unfortunately, reality isn’t quite the vision of grandeur that I had pictured in my mind, but it still works. At least the days are getting longer; not much warmer, but longer.

On those nights when the thought of a fireplace and hot chocolate don’t quite do the trick, I often times think back to summer days as a youth and how I actually learned to love the outdoors and especially the sport of fishing. My mother always liked to fish and she encouraged me to go whenever possible. In looking back to those days, I often wonder if it wasn’t a good way for her to get a curious youngster out of the house for a few hours. Although we seldom took a vacation “up north,” there were plenty of avenues to explore close to home starting with the “crick” which was just down the road a ways.

We neighborhood kids would spend many hours exploring that crick and, as we grew older and more adventuresome, we would expand our territory to the small creek that runs under Hammer Road just east of the tracks. I can remember one warm August afternoon when me and my friend Jim Foley were exploring that creek to the north and found a pothole that was pretty much all that was left of a creek that was fast drying up. In that little pothole we discovered tiny bullheads and bluegills, and I can remember how helpless I felt because I knew it was inevitable they were going to soon meet their demise.

Although my dad wasn’t much for fishing, he was a good sport and would take us to St. Olaf and Beaver Lakes from time to time in the summer. Two of my mom and dad’s good friends were Elmer and Mary Deuermier, who we would go crappie fishing with on Beaver Lake. Elmer had an old green 5 hp Johnson outboard motor just like my uncle Ben’s. We would rent two boats and Elmer would tow our boat to the crappie spot where we would sit there until almost dark; when the bite started, the crappies would bite like crazy for about half an hour. It always started at about the same time the evening cool down would begin. That is the time that anyone who has fished much can relate to; the air starts to cool, the frogs start crooning and that certain unmistakable smell of the evening takes over.

Elmer, who also liked to hunt as well as fish, actually got dad to go pheasant hunting a couple of times, which was a rare occurrence. They had gotten a few birds, so the following week Elmer and Mary had us over for a pheasant dinner. I can remember that day clearly because there was a football game on TV and the Cleveland Browns were playing the Chicago Bears, which would eventually be my favorite team in those days. We didn’t have a TV at that time so it was pretty special for me to be able to watch Jim Brown play a game. Before that day I had only seen him on highlight reels at the movie theater and I was amazed to see what a dominating player he actually was.

Up until that time all of my heroes were cowboys like Gene, Roy and Hoppy, but now I had a new hero and a sport that I would come to love. It’s kind of funny how the love of the outdoors can influence other interests whether directly or indirectly.

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As most folks have probably noticed by now, the fishing in the channel and in Albert Lea Lake has pretty much ended unless you are using a net. I’d suspect those folks aren’t doing it for the carp. I guess I have never been one to take fish by any means possible. I enjoy fishing for the sport of it and of course I do enjoy eating fish, but the satisfaction I get out of catching a fish on a lure or baited hook just makes the meal taste that much better. There will always be those folks who feel the need to fill the freezer and that’s fine, but no matter what means a person takes fish by there are regulations and a legal limit that must be adhered to.

I have heard mixed reports about the fishing on Fountain Lake. The area by the beach was hot earlier in the “hard water” season but has since seemed to have tapered off considerably as of late. I have the feeling the number houses and the amount of traffic they bring has to affect the fishing. My grandson Trevor has his house on Fountain Lake and has moved it a few times searching for that “hot spot” that seems to be kind of elusive this season. He did catch a 31-inch northern the other day ,which started my mouth watering when I thought about those fillets sizzling in the old cast iron frying pan.

Until next time, stay warm and get out when you can and enjoy a little Minnesota winter fun.

Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers because they are the reason that we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.

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