Birdshot and backlashes

by Bob Cary

Black ice. It showed up everywhere last week and indicated that spring was pretty much on schedule. In most years, ice goes off Shagawa Lake (where the ice-out contest is held) and most of the other shallow water lakes somewhere around the 20th of April. Ice on some of the smaller ponds and lakes is already clear. So are the streams where the trout season got underway last Saturday. That’s for brook, rainbow, brown trout and splake in streams. Not for trout on lakes. That season opens May 14 along with walleye, bass, northern pike and lake trout.<BR><BR>Nobody seems to know why it is that trout in streams become legal in April but the same fish in lakes cannot be caught until mid-May. Other freshwater fish like walleyes are spring spawners and thus there is a good reason for not opening the season too early. <BR><BR>But the stream trout in lakes don’t spawn at all. That fishery is strictly stock and catch. The DNR does a heck of a job raising trout in the hatcheries and stocking them, providing a spectacular fishery, but why the season opens in mid-May is not easy to understand.<BR><BR>It didn’t always. Once upon a time, stream trout could be taken in those stocked lakes as soon as the ice went out in April. And it furnished some great fishing for anglers with enough moxie to portage in and paddle around with numb fingers.<BR><BR>But somewhere in the tombs of St. Paul, somebody determined the stocked fish in lakes had to be protected, probably from local anglers. You get the feeling that the folks in St. Paul are worried that the northern Minnesota fishermen might get a few fish before the tourists get here. Or something like that. <BR><BR>But they don’t have the same protective attitude toward the same fish in streams. Trout fishermen are at it already along the North Shore and in inland streams. Lucky for them.<BR><BR>BEAR PERMITS<BR><BR>Anyone wishing to go bear hunting next autumn need apply for their permit pronto. That is, for some of the more popular permit areas. Last year, there were 16,450 permits available and there were 16,466 applicants. Only 16 would-be bear hunters didn’t get a permit. <BR><BR>Not too many years ago, there was not a even a bear season. Not particularly popular as a game animal, bears could be hunted whenever anyone with a gun got the notion. Around these parts, bears were classified as pests. Through the effort of people like Lynn Rogers, folks got to know bears better and they not only were classified as game animals but got a whole new status in the wildlife world. They also became somewhat of a money-maker for the DNR, since now there is a license fee of $39 for residents and $196 for nonresidents. <BR><BR>The thing is, there is somewhat of an aura built up around bear hunting which has considerable appeal to people who don’t live adjacent to them.<BR><BR>The first thing, writers for outdoor magazines have boosted the reputation of bears as dangerous carnivores. This gives hunters a sort of thrill to go after a mammal which would possibly attack. Black bears don’t normally do this, but it makes nonresident hunters feel brave going after something dangerous. We know they aren’t but as long as nonresident hunters are willing to shell out their cash for a bear hunt, why not go with the mythology? <BR><BR>Over the years we’ve taken some bears and eaten some. Bear roasts are good and bear meat makes excellent Polish sausage. Old timers swear that bear fat rendered into lard is the best stuff for baking. OK, we’ll go with their word on that. Bears make sort of picturesque rugs in front of fireplaces, especially with the head left on the hide and with the teeth intact. <BR><BR>The main trouble with bear hunting is skinning them out. The hide does not come off easily and the carcass is larded with fat. Usually, a bear hunter is a bear hunter just once. Too much work.