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Birdshot and backlashes: Remembering old cane poles

Ely’s walleye pro, Jim Orcutt, competed at the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail (PWT) contest a week ago at Cass Lake near Bemidji. There were 120 professional anglers in the tournament plus 120 amateurs. Each pro teamed up with an amateur for each of the three days.In the pro ranks, Jim was 27th overall at the end of the first day. “At that point, I was doing pretty well,” he confided. “Then things went bad. The second day I was 67th and the third day finished 88th out of 120. Nine anglers scored limits. Ten pros didn’t catch a fish.”Winner of the tournament was Dave Anderson of Walker, Minnesota, who no doubt knew the hot spots on Cass Lake. Walleyes had to be 15 inches or longer to count. Jim wasn’t discouraged by his finish, however, and is itching to get back into competition.In the meantime, he’s guiding Ely anglers out of area resorts. As for his 88th place finish at Cass Lake? “Hey, that’s fishing,” said Jim.WILDFLOWERS IN BLOOMWe are moving into the season of wildflower blossoms, with all kinds of color in the woods. Bright gold marsh marigolds appear in clumps in lowlands and roadside ditches. Some of the best examples are along the Firetower Road, going east from the Fernberg Road to the old Forest Service firetower site. A bunch of them are in the waterfilled ditch across the road from the site of Uncle Judd’s cabin, now gone back to dust. Who was Uncle Judd? That’s another tale for another time.Millions of strawberry plants show their tiny white flowers and blueberries are starting to bloom. With the wet spring, there should be a banner blueberry crop this year with the fruit getting ripe in early July. Strawberries will be ripe in a couple of weeks. We picked and ate a basket of fiddle head ferns a week go. The crisp, green fiddle heads are forerunners of bracken ferns that spread their leaves over the granite ledges. Fiddleheads are tasty in salads or in sandwiches, but only before the leaves begin to form, at which time they start to secrete some kind of chemical that can make a person sick.FISH ARE WAKING UPWhat started out as a slow season is now heating up. Walleyes are hitting quite well on both minnows and crawlers…and coming more into the shallows where they are normally found in early summer. Bass are up, starting to nest on the bars and reefs and in sandy bays. They’re taking surface lures at a good clip. Northern pike are hitting big minnows, buzz baits and big crankbaits, fished in a hurry. A good trick for big pike is to troll crank bait or spoon about 15 feet behind the motorboat, right in the churning motor wake. The pike come up in the wake to smack the lure. We use fairly heavy tackle for this. When the boat is clipping along at about half speed, a pike strike is ferocious.TROUT GOING, TOO Stream trout are taking lures, flies and worms in the state stocked lakes. Tip: Don’t overlook Miners Lake, on Ely’s northern edge. The city provides a paved access, boat launch and ample parking. Troll or cast the edge of the lake down to the narrows at the east, then work the sunken treetops where trout are feeding on insect larva and little minnows.TIME FOR SUNFISH We picked up a couple of light, graphite bait rods, 14 feet long. These are modeled after the old cane poles we used as kids. For panfish you can’t beat ’em. Rigged out with bobbers, tiny hooks and worms, the bait can be easily dunked around sunken trees and lily pads without getting hung up. When the bobber goes under, a sharp lift will derrick the sunny back to the boat. Maybe it isn’t as artsy as using a flyrod, but it’s very efficient and simple if the aim is to put a platter of crisp sunfish fillets on the dinner table along with new potatoes and sweet corn. It’s that time of year.

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