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A couple of weeks ago as I arrived home after coaching a hockey practice at the City Arena I noticed the lights at Academy Park were still shining brightly. This brought back many memories of when my two sons were playing hockey and it gave me a sort of good, nostalgic feeling. Each year as winter set in and the parks opened up the boys would come home from school, grab their sticks and skates and head out. The park attendant closed the warming house over the supper hour so the boys would come home to eat, do their homework and head back for more skating. At almost any time of the day or night you could hear the sound of pucks being shot against the boards and even today when I arrive home in the evening I take the time to stop and reflect on those days gone by; those memories still give me a warm feeling whenever I see the lights or hear the sound of pucks banging off of the boards.

I truly believe that the time that my boys spent at the parks in the winter is what made them better hockey players. The weather that we have been experiencing in recent years has not been friendly to outdoor ice. Youth hockey today is all about structure and many kids feel that an organized practice at the local arena is enough. I can remember my boys coming home and excitedly telling me that there were varsity players playing shinny hockey with them. This is what the parks were all about, older kids playing hockey with the younger kids and just having fun. The good players spend off time working on their skills and using outdoor ice is one of the reasons that they get to be good players.

With the warming weather I would caution anyone who has an inclination to do some ice fishing to give it a second thought. Our Sheriff has issued a warning to those that have houses on the ice to get them off. Once the weather warms up the ice on our area lakes will become increasingly treacherous and unsafe.

If you want to scratch the open water fishing itch, there are a few options to explore. The closest one is our local river, the Shellrock, which has a variety of fish and is open and flowing right now. Another option is taking a trip east to the “Mighty Mississippi” which offers some excellent open water fishing. Another option is heading east and doing some stream trout fishing in the Lanesboro area. Any one of these options will scratch that itch and can get you by until our area lakes are ice free.

This is the time of year when I start to check my tackle box(es) taking inventory on my jigs and plastics. I know that I will go to my favorite store looking for a certain item or two but I will always fall prey to some very necessary lure that is most likely made to attract more fishermen than fish. Nonetheless like the commercial says when I see a certain lure I “just gotta have it” whether it is practical or not. Come to think of it; the only practical bait is a minnow or worm attached to a hook, line and sinker with the bobber being optional.

Years ago, whenever I’d go shopping for tackle and come home with a lure or two that I deemed necessary my wife would ask why I bought them when we usually ended up using live bait. It’s kind of like going hunting just for the “thrill of the hunt” and not so much for the end result.

For a lot of years, when I was much younger, I subscribed to In-Fisherman magazine and pretty much weighed on every tip that Al Linder offered up, I absorbed it as though there would be a written test later on. There was a lot of useful information and I still use many of those tactics today. I must not have been his best student because I don’t have my own fishing show, nor have I been asked to endorse anyone’s big name fishing tackle.

Yes, I even followed the lunar table and made it a point to be on the water at the time that was designated the best fishing time. Sometimes it worked very well and other times not so much. It kind of sounds like the sport of fishing in general; there are good days and there are bad days. I have come to the realization that you can catch fish on the days when the lunar table indicates you should stay in the cabin. There are also days when all signs point to fishing success and the fish will have nothing to do with whatever you decide to throw at them. To me, that is fishing in a nutshell, and the old “luck” equation definitely factors in on any fishing adventure.

Until next time: in last week’s column there was a part that said some folks had caught a 55-inch perch on Geneva Lake; well they did catch 55 perch and unless there is a transplanted Nile perch in that lake it was a typo. I’d like to blame “spell check” which has a habit of changing things to what it thinks you want to say. That’s my alibi; it could also be an old guy thinking one thing and typing another. One thing about this column, if there is an error in it my brother-in-law, Lynn, will waste no time in contacting me to let me know. I would not have it any other way because he reads my column religiously and it “usually” keeps me on my toes.   

Please take some time to honor those who have sacrificed so much for the freedoms that we enjoy today, also 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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