Something was extra special about the Extravaganza this year. It might have been the amazingly warm weather or maybe the fish that were caught. For the first time I can remember it took a fish weighing over a pound to even get on the board. Usually fish that size are on the top 50. And just the number of walleyes coming in was good to see.
I was lucky enough last weekend to be asked to go to the first "Fear the Spear" get together. The event was held near Garrison, where fishermen could go to any area lake and spear for pike and rough fish. Growing up sitting in a spear house all winter long, this really brought back memories even though I haven't thrown a spear in 25 years. I think spearing is either a love it or hate it thing, and if it's in your blood you will miss it. One of the things that I think is pretty cool is unlike all other types of fishing that are evolving every day, spearing has remained very primitive.
Now that my spur of the moment trips out west are over, at least for eight months or so, it is back to ice fishing. I know it sounds like a broken record, but there are still lakes with as little as 8 inches of ice—hard to believe with the cold snaps we've had. The little bit of snow is just enough to insulate it.
The third time is the charm. You have no idea how happy I am to be able to use that phrase instead of the alternative—three strikes and you're out. Last week, while arctic air was covering Minnesota, I got a chance to go somewhere a little warmer, actually about 60 degrees warmer. Where else but Montana, and what else but chasing elk.
I seem to see a lot of people on social media complaining about anglers keeping too many fish or frying up ones that are too big. And, on the other hand, everyone is wondering why they can't catch trophy fish. Remember all the old black and white photos with huge fish that grandpa caught wearing that funny looking fishing hat. Or that old mount on the wall of the cabin of a huge walleye that used to be plentiful in Minnesota lakes.
It's hard to believe Christmas is behind us and we still do not have safe ice on many lakes. Although we do have a few spots with walkable ice, this does not mean you should try to drive a minivan out there. Yes, that actually happened last weekend on North Long.
You can sure tell it doesn't take long for Minnesota anglers to go crazy when there is no ice to fish on. The only thing people are talking about is Red Lake. Even last weekend when I was working at Cabelas in East Grand Forks everyone there was heading to Red. But after a slight shift in the ice this week, which mainstream media blew up into a huge rescue of over 50 anglers, even Red seems to be unsafe. By the way, the huge rescue you all heard about was actually nothing at all. The truth is the ice opened a small crack, the fishermen walked a few hundred yards around it and got off safely.
As we are rolling up to mid December it is hard to believe that there are more boats out fishing than ice fisherman. At the time I am writing this, it is raining. That will surely ruin what ice we did have. There are even walleyes being caught on Mille Lacs for the few that haven't put their boats away yet. A few eager anglers have been going to Red Lake and catching a few walleyes and even an occasional crappie. But just a little further north Lake of the Woods is completely open. Sooner or later it will happen, we will get ice.
As muzzleloader season wraps up with no big bucks in sight and another waterfowl season is coming to a close, at least we have ice fishing. OK, so we almost have ice fishing. With a good start in the ice, the warm weather has taken its toll this week and in the upcoming forecast. Some ice fisherman had to be rescued on Red Lake when a crack opened and a 15-foot gap opened on Thursday. It is not time to venture out yet if you ask me. With the recent snow, the little ice we had is insulated, and even though it might look safe, it isn't. But it is time to start thinking ice fishing.
On my way back to Minnesota this week one thing was for sure—it's hard to leave the mountains. Although we only came home with another mule deer, the trip, I feel, was still a success. Especially for my first year on a self-guided hunt on public land. We were quite shocked when we arrived in Deer Lodge to find the snow had melted a few days before we got there. I was really hoping for snow so the elk would be coming down to lower elevations, but ... oh well.