Birdshot and backlashes
Peak time. Memorial Day weekend is usually one of the red hot fishing periods every summer. Walleyes are gorging after their spring spawn. Northerns are cruising around mad at the world. Bass are coming up to start making nests on reefs and bars. Sunfish are starting to gather in spawning areas, intent on eating anything nearby. And trout? Ho! Ho! Ho! It is also trout time.The problem is, an angler does not know exactly which species upon which to concentrate the effort. Of course, bass, walleye and northerns are pretty much found in the same areas so it is mainly a matter of which bait and how to present it. Lake trout are going down deeper but can be dredged up with big Shad Raps trolled 20 or 30 feet below the surface. Stream trout are cruising just under the surface, especially at daylight and dusk and will hit anything, particularly tiny metal lures in 1/8 oz. And trout like nightcrawlers, too, trolled or still fished on a plain hook or with a gang troll of spinners. All the rain we’ve had made mushrooms pop out all over the woods. Quite a few mushroom hunters are frequenting the tackle and book stores seeking printed mushroom books. One of our favorites is “The Mushroom Hunter’s Field Guide” by Alexander Smith. It’s comprehensive and has large photos of the various mushrooms, edible and otherwise. It must be a good book because we are still around.The Ojibwe people call this “zaagi-bagaa,” moon of budding leaves. It was a time of rejoicing after a long hard winter, a time to gather nature’s new bounty. Fish were running in the stream mouths, particularly suckers which were held in esteem by the native people. Maple syrup gathering had been completed and the year’s supply of maple sugar stored in birchbark baskets. In another month, strawberries would be ripe.The Ojibwe ate directly from the woods although they also had gardens in some areas where they grew squash and other vegetables. Lots of stuff is popping out in the woods, simply there for the taking. One of our favorites is the fiddlehead fern.When the common bracken fern first appears, they poke up out of the forest floor on a pale green stalk with the cap folded over somewhat resembling the head of a fiddle where the strings are attached. We find these stalks in large numbers along the power lines and other clearings where bracken makes a solid mass of green in the summer.These ferns are only edible in the spring, however, before their leaves come out. It takes only a few minutes to fill up a basket with fiddleheads. We wash them, cut them into small sections and use them for salad, either as is or added to lettuce, spinach or endive. They have their own flavor - a rather mild one - like most wild plants. Sometimes we simply make up a dish of cut up fiddleheads and sprinkle a little salad dressing on them or perhaps just vinegar and oil. When out fishing, we sometimes pluck a few handfuls of fiddleheads along the portages and eat them as we walk. On thing: You don’t have to worry about what kind of herbicides they got sprayed with.Dandelions are good right now. Actually, getting toward the last part of the dandelion season. The leaves are usually best before the flowers come. My mother usually blanched dandelion leaves in hot oil and then added them to mashed potatoes along with a few spoons of butter. People don’t seem to eat dandelion leaves much any more but those of us who grew up during the Depression ate bushels of them. They were free and anything free was in great demand in those days.