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I have spoken with a few folks this week who have said the trout fishing over east was actually pretty good. This is still a good option for anyone who has that “fishing itch” that really needs to be scratched. I have also heard reports folks were catching some nice crappie and sunfish in Edgewater Bay just before ice-out. This news was enough to stoke the fire in my fishing furnace and make me feel like all is not lost when it comes to fishing area lakes. I have also heard reports of many dead game fish lining the shores of Madison Lake. I can truthfully say I have never heard of that particular lake ever freezing out before.

With the promise of warmer weather being dangled in front of our noses like the proverbial carrot, I am optimistic the fishing and camping season is just around the corner.

I know of some folks who have just gotten interested in camping in the past couple of years. When my wife Jean and I were first married we would get together with some friends and go camping not only on the three summer holidays, but for a week of vacation at a time. We went up north with a group of friends quite a few times and we also made it to the Ozarks and the Black Hills.

While we were in the Black Hills we stayed at Custer State Park and I of course, never leave home without my fishing gear so I had a little fishing plan in place. With the purchase of a 24-hour license, we were able to fish for trout in Stockade Lake. We managed to catch a lot of nice trout that day and finished the day with a meal of trout cooked on the grill. There were also some nice largemouth bass in the lake and we also managed to land a few of them.  The boys from time to time will bring up the incident where I had laid my fishing pole down to help take a fish off someone’s hook when a fish grabbed my bait and started dragging my pole into the water. They thought it was just hilarious when old dad was scrambling and diving on his belly to catch the pole just before it disappeared into the lake. Comedy act aside, I would definitely recommend taking at least one family vacation to the Black Hills. Camping and family vacations are great memory makers and those memories can be revisited as often as you like.

We Minnesotans are lucky we have so many state parks with campgrounds we can enjoy almost any time of year. There are also many National Forest campgrounds scattered around the northern part of our great state that we have available to us. The cost of camping at these campgrounds is very reasonable and I just can’t think of a better way to experience the Great Minnesota Outdoors.

Minnesota state parks offer first-time camping experiences for families

People who have never pitched a tent or cooked over a fire — or who have forgotten how — can practice these and other outdoor skills when they sign up for one of the 24 “I Can Camp!” programs offered this summer at state parks and recreation areas.

The first programs take place Saturday, June 7, at Nerstrand Big Woods and Wild River state parks, both within an hour of the Twin Cities.

“Camping is fun, and it’s a longstanding Minnesota tradition,” said Eric Pelto, who coordinates the “I Can Camp!” programs for the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division.

All camping equipment is provided (including tents, air mattresses and cook stoves) at these beginner-level programs. Participants need only bring their own food and bedding (sleeping bags or blankets and pillows).

“Our ‘I Can Camp!’ instructors will be on hand to help families with everything from tent set-up to meal preparation,” Pelto said. “They’ll also try to make sure everyone has fun by providing opportunities to try geocaching, digital photography and other activities.”

One-night workshops ($40 for up to six people in a tent) are scheduled on most Saturdays in June, July and August. Eight two-night workshops ($60 for up to six people in a tent) are also available for families who want a more complete weekend camping experience.

Reservations are required and can be made online or by phone,, or 866-857-2757, 8 a.m.–8 p.m. daily, excluding holidays.

These programs are made possible with support from the Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008. The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the sales tax revenue and may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

Find more information, including dates and locations online or contact the DNR Information Center at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 651-296-6157, or 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Until next time enjoy the more spring-like weather and make some plans for spending some time in our great Minnesota outdoors.

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

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