Brute’s Bleat: April 16, 2014


I went on one of those impromptu fishing trips last week Friday when Tom Ney caught me at a weak moment Wednesday and invited me on an overnight run to their cabin not far from my home town of Henning to fish sunnies and crappies. My final fishing attempt on Cedar Lake wasn’t anything to write home about and, after getting an overnight pass from my wife, I was set to go. I was a little concerned about the lake ice in Ottertail County and hearing that Jim Goelz got a wet foot coming off Phelps Lake early last week didn’t help. Ney reassured me we shouldn’t have a problem on his secret lake so we left ML Friday morning and were fishing about three hours later on one of Ottertail County’s 1,000 lakes. On the way to their cabin, we came across a roadkill turkey and later a nice-sized live Tom that was showing off his beard and tail feathers apparently for any hen turkeys that might be in that part of the Folden Hills. Just to be on the safe side, Tom’s neighbor, Dewey Loser, who planned to fish with us, brought along a plank to get from shore to solid ice. It turned out we didn’t need it. We planned to sight fish and brought clam-type angling houses along. It was a short hike to holes already drilled, some of them from a previous outing by Joe Rassat who joined us later that afternoon with his brother, Ron. Some of the other anglers used similar shelters, but most were content to sit on their pails or chairs and watch for fish to bite in the clear water. The advantage of using a shelter was to go for the larger sunnies and pull away from those that didn’t measure up. We were in about seven feet of water, the ice was 14 1/2 inches thick and partially honeycombed, safe for those two days but not for many, if any, more. Fishing was great for all of us with many of the sunfish in the half-pound class. The fourth fish I caught was a crappie that came through just under the ice. It measured 13 1/3 inches and I figured that would be our largest. Wrong. By the day’s end, the other three had each caught one larger with Joe’s 14 1/2 inches tops. We did a lot of hole hopping for sunfish and they were accommodating. We finished out the day with our limit of 80 sunfish and 14 crappies. The crappies didn’t come on in the evening like they apparently often do, but who’s to complain! Dewey also went home with his limit of sunfish. One of the local anglers we visited with commented he sets his goal for keepers at 1/2 lb. and it may have taken him most of the day, but it was achievable. It was a great day for fishing, the sun was shining and there wasn’t much wind. In fact, I noticed Joe had stripped down to a tee shirt. I was impressed with the bite and the size of the sunnies. After something of a lackluster season of winter fishing, this was a great way to wind up the hard-water season. In fact, it was awesome! A couple of male Canada geese entertained us briefly when they got into a sparring match and chased one another on the ice, apparently trying to decide who would get wooing rights. We stopped for something to eat at the Oakwood Golf Course, which is just west of Henning, and I thought I might see someone there who I’d recognize, but that didn’t happen. It took the four of us about an hour and a half to fillet the fish and clean up. We had about 3/4 of a 5-gallon pail full of fish guts, which impressed me. I hadn’t anticipated seeing any anglers from ML other than the four of us, but we got the hellooo from Brian Gordon and his son, Andrew, when they came onto the lake. They were thrilled with catching their limits and, like us, impressed with the late ice bite. Brian commented he used only artificial bait and still had his wax worms in his pocket.    .     .    Locally, anglers could still get out on some lakes here Saturday, but I figure it’s over in this area and now it’s time to clean out the tackle boxes, pick up some new stuff, get the boat and outboard ready for a trial run once the ice is out, and then wait for the walleye opener, May 10.    .     . 
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On my way to church Sunday morning, I noticed a turkey on the west side of County Road 8, just north of the last row of Maple Lake houses.  That season opens this week. I’ve also been seeing a few pheasant roosters and hope the hens are busy laying eggs. An early report on pheasants indicated the survival rate in South and North Dakota should have been good because those states had only about half of the usual snowfall. Minnesota birds were reported to have benefitted from the strong winter winds, which swept many of the southwestern fields free of snow allowing the birds to find food. The report also said a favorable nesting season would be the key to next fall’s bird numbers.