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With the passing of Christmas, we now welcome the new year which, to me, seems like it has arrived just all too soon. This past year I was proud to have another grandson graduate from high school and move on to college. My youngest son Brad turned 40, which can make a dad feel pretty old, as if I needed any extra help.

I’d venture to guess that after the Vikings won and all of their preseason games and their first five regular-season games, some folks were already pricing Super Bowl tickets. Each year as the Vikings’ season comes to an early end I turn my thoughts to baseball and watching the Twins. It was pretty hard to do this year, but I am a fan of both and will continue to watch with that glimmer of hope still flickering but having to be satisfied, once again, with the little victories. I have always told myself it could be worse; I could have been a Cubs fan spending years mired in mediocrity (what did I just say?) My wife’s cousins and Uncle Jim from the Galena, Illinois area are diehard fans who were finally rewarded for all of those bad years; now that’s real loyalty. My wife’s Uncle Jim is also a big Bears fan and a true Cubs fan so I am glad that he finally got to enjoy that World Series win. I can remember talking sports with him and having him telling me how much he liked the Cubs and disliked the White Sox.

Even with all of the controversy surrounding the Minnesota Gopher football team, they managed to pull off a win in the Holiday Bowl, even without some of their better defensive players. I have always been a Gophers fan and winning nine games and being competitive in some of those losses to good teams is a pretty good season in my book.

This past year I was able to spend quite a few days at our cabin in Northern Minnesota and the time I spent was not all about fishing, but about doing a little work on the cabin and just enjoying the solitude. I was able to do some fishing with my friends Mark and Russ. My grandson Trevor and I also spent most of a week at the cabin. On all three of these trips we were there to fish; although I enjoy all my times spent at the cabin, these were some of the more memorable ones. My son Brad and his girls spent a few days up there with me and their grandma. We did eventually cut the trip short because the weather was so hot that we didn’t want to spend much time on the lake during the day while fighting off the mosquitoes at night. Both my wife Jean and I very much enjoy the times when Brad and the girls can spend time at the cabin with us.

Overall the bass and northern fishing was pretty good all year and although I didn’t spend a lot of my time seeking out the wily walleye, I did manage to catch a few. I hope to do more early-season walleye fishing this coming year. I also have hopes of finding some “slab” crappie this upcoming year; they have been kind of evasive the past couple of years.

I don’t really see a good year ahead for the pheasant population in this area after that rain and freezing rain that we had this past week. It rained enough to put a crusty cover on the snow, which is not a good thing for most wildlife.

When the early ice was on the lakes I’d heard some good reports of nice sunnies and crappie being caught on Fountain. With more and more fish houses appearing on Fountain Lake, I’d venture a guess that the fishing is still pretty good and that the ice is safe enough, at least for foot traffic.

According to recreation safety specialists with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, ice that formed quickly during the recent sub-zero temperatures is now thawing and refreezing, which leads to extremely weak ice that is dangerously deceptive.

“The calendar nor air temperatures can be used as indicators of ice thickness or safety,” said Lisa Dugan, DNR recreation safety outreach coordinator. “There are many variables to consider, including whether a waterbody has a current or run-off, the freeze-thaw cycle, and snow cover. Rivers have been especially problematic, as water levels have continued to drop even after surface ice formed, creating dangerous air pockets under the ice.”

A layer of insulating snow, coupled with above-average temperatures, means new ice takes longer to form, Dugan explained, adding that ice that has thawed and refrozen is only half as strong as new, clear ice.

Conservation officers across the state are reporting vehicles, snowmobiles and ATVs going through the ice on lakes where ice may be relatively thick in one area, with as little as 4-5 inches nearby.

You are probably tired of hearing about ice thickness, but the bottom line is: be careful when venturing out and know the condition of the ice before doing so.

Until next time; I’d like to wish everyone a very happy New Year.

Please take some time to honor those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms that we enjoy today. During this holiday season take a little extra time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops who are serving today.

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