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Hook and bullet club

I knew I wasn’t the only one. There were many unnamed anglers who sat out the 2005 Minnesota fishing opener. Sure, we broke tradition. We ignored those innate urges to throw on all our warmest clothes, top it off with a rain suit and waddle down to the dock. Somehow we persevered.For me it was actually an easy decision. First my brother-in-law called from Apple Valley to say he wasn’t coming up for opener. Silently I thanked him for this move, knowing it would be another reason not to go. “Well, I was going to go out with Mike but he chickened out. You know how those Twin Cities boys are.”But I refrained from using that line. Even if Mike had come up I don’t believe I would have been unloading my boat in Birch Lake Saturday morning.For one, Jake had two baseball games in Duluth that day and there was a funeral at 11 a.m. I wanted to attend. Of course I talked to a guy at the funeral that day who had been out on the water that morning fishing, so that shot down those reasons.I still had the “my boat has not been out of the garage yet this year” reason, but that one rings kind of hollow. No, basically I looked at the forecast and decided that when it came down to it, I didn’t have to go. There are many weekends in the open water season to load up your Lund and head out on the water. The vast majority of them don’t even include snowflakes and pouring rain. So even though my Minnesota sportsman’s license was bought and paid for, and I could have had the boat ready inside half an hour, I didn’t wet a line on the opener.The funny thing was throughout the week I found out I wasn’t the only one. Others would at first sheepishly admit they too sat this one out. But the thing that made me feel the best about my decision was talking to the guys who did go. Many said they wished they would have stayed home.There were an abnormal number of boats that came back in with empty stringers on Saturday. Throw in frozen fingers, soaking wet and shivering and it sure doesn’t add up to a good time. I saw one of those die-hard Winton fishermen in the parking lot of Sir G’s on Saturday night. He was sitting in his truck with the engine running and the blower on high still trying to warm up.“How’d you do?” he asked. “Didn’t go out. How about you?” I replied.“Wish I would have stayed home,” he said between clattering teeth.But he did go out, prowling around White Iron Lake, managing to pick up some northerns, a keeper walleye and other assorted fish. But all in all, not a banner opener.Of course, there are always the guys who limit out and let you know about it. John left his cabin at 6 a.m. and was back at 8 a.m. with two limits. He bragged about this but did throw in that his wife caught more than he did. We did put the boat in Shagawa on Sunday. I loaded the kids in and said this was going to be a test ride to make sure the motor was running right. That was actually true, but I also wanted to see how they would last in the cold and wind. Or, more precisely how long I would last. After 40 squeezes on the primer bulb and 10 pulls, the old Suzuki roared to life. The wind was blowing into the landing on Sandy Point so I pointed the bow into the waves and took off. We headed west and made it down toward Stinky Ditch when I idled back and asked how everybody was doing. “COLD!” was the answer from the youngest two in their Arctic Cat snowmobile jackets. We tooled around for a little while longer with Evan taking his turn running the controls. Each of us had life jackets on, definitely for safety, but the warmth factor was there as well. We came back into the landing and there were others heading out now as the air temp was warming up into the mid-40s. I asked one lady if they went out yesterday as well.“No, but we drove down here three times just seeing if it looked any better. We’re going today, though,” she said. “Hope you dressed warm,” I said.“I’ve got three layers on the bottom and five layers on top and an extra set of gloves,” said the lady. “That ought to do it,” I replied.I know people who didn’t wear that many layers deer hunting last fall. But that’s the Minnesota fishing opener for you. Dress in layers, prepare to be cold and don’t be surprised when it snows. My main surprise came when Jake said he wanted to go back out with some friends. He didn’t seem to be suffering from hypothermia so I figured he was serious. We dropped him off a little while later and he was gone several hours, enjoying being out on the water even if it was cold and windy. Whether you went out on the lake for the opener or stayed in the cabin and played Texas Hold ’Em, the most important thing is you celebrated a day dedicated to fishing. With all of the other distractions in life, we should all find the time to enjoy all that the great outdoors has to offer. Whether that’s hunting or fishing, running a trapline or taking a walk in the woods, get out there and enjoy it. But you might want to wait for it to stop raining first.

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