Makin' Waves column: The enchantment of the opener
This coming weekend marks the start of another fierce and fearless fishing season on Minnesota lakes for walleyes and northern pike. Well, maybe it is a cool, calm and calculated season this year with ice chunks still bobbing around in the bays. Regardless of the weather and conditions, the MN DNR reports that on average 500,000 folks take part in wetting a line on "Opening Fishing Weekend." The DNR also reports that the average angler in Minnesota spends $1,500 a year on fishing. Having visited many lakes and many bars over the years on opening weekend, I am a bit suspicion of both sets of statistics.
The sacredness of fishing opener was never wasted on my friends and family in the past and still continues. There were plenty of years that we fought wind, waves, snow and the hordes and throngs of overeager anglers trying to get the first crack at fish for the season. Many times that meant the bait hit the water at midnight, the official start of the fishing season.
One memorable year in particular, a buddy of mine and I decided we were going to hit it hard at midnight. We will call him "Chuck" to protect his identity and shaky innocence. We, of course, did not decide that until about 11 p.m. that night after a few refreshing beverages and a pep talk from each other. In a panic, we threw random rods, tackle and whatever other relevant equipment was handy into the boat and dunked it in the water.
Fast forward to about 3:15 a.m., past the part where we forgot to put in the boat plug, had to bail out the boat with the pee can, and Chuck snapping off the backlight, dumping out said pee can, to when we started catching walleyes. We started catching really nice walleyes. Fast forward again to later that morning, past the part of somehow driving into the cattails, getting an armload of cattails tangled in the prop, flooding the motor, and then having to paddle the last couple hundred yards to the dock. Instead, focus on sipping coffee, regaling our fellow fisherman, and making memories of how successful opening fishing can really be.
Some of the better fishing memories are often made with limited planning and sudden inspiration. Some of the most memorable fishing adventures are made with no preparation or planning at all. I often try and find a delicate balance in between the two; for the memories of course.