Brute’s Bleat January 11, 2017

Last week’s cold snap is not much more than a memory now, but when I stepped outside last Wednesday with Vanna into a -20 windchill I immediately looked down to see if I had my trousers on. I did, and hopefully, that will be our coldest week of the new year. Temperatures moderated by the weekend and brought out a horde of anglers who, like me, had been hibernating. Each winter Minnesota’s baseball fans go through a period called “The Hot Stove League” where predictions are made, trade talk increases, and stories of past incidents and practical jokes surface. The same can be said for anglers who have participated in their share of practical jokes, or have been the butt of one. One such incident came to light last week that happened a decade or two ago and involved four Maple Lake ladies who were winter angling on Lake Mary. As the story goes, three of them decided to play a trick on the fourth angler. A previous angler had caught a walleye from the fish house, cut off its head and nailed it to the roof outside, more or less to show his expertise. The three decided they would remove the walleye head before the fourth lady arrived then hook the head to the fourth lady’s line at an opportune time and wait to see what happened. Everything, including the constant chattering, went as planned and suddenly the fourth lady said she may have a bite. Another lady asked if the bobber was down? A little was the reply. Another, in the excitement of the moment, advised her to set the hook and pull in the fish. She did so and was pretty wide-eyed and astonished when she came up with just the walleye head and its large eyes looking back at her. Her angling friends maintained their composure and explained a larger fish must have bit off the body of the walleye while she was bringing it in. They kept up their fish house bantering and later joined their husbands at one of Maple Lake’s watering holes and kept the lady’s walleye fishing experience alive, much to the amusement of the group. The truth didn’t come out until the next morning when an in-law spilled the beans . . . It was a great practical joke, and to show their appreciation for her good sportsmanship, she was presented with a different walleye head mounted on a board at a later date. . . I purposely didn’t identify the perpetrators to protect the innocent! . . In the meantime, let’s play a little game, we’ll call it “Can you top this?” and ask our readers to submit their true practical jokes suitable for publication in this family gazette. Publication will be at my discretion. Just send them to the Messenger, P.O. Box 817, Maple Lake, MN 55358. . . Who knows, it might attract as much attention as Les Nelson did in his Messenger column “The Mess by Les” many years ago when he named the 10 Best Dressed Ladies in Maple Lake!
* * *
Rock Lake seems to have attracted lots of anglers over the weekend and I managed to visit with several of them and found out the crappies were biting (sometimes). One fellow coming off the lake said the ice was 13 1/2 inches when asked, and he had one crappie that was 15 inches long. He was smiling, and who wouldn’t, that’s a large fish! Another was in the process of moving his clam, commenting he couldn’t find any larger than 6 inches. I went after sunfish late Saturday, but was blown off the lake by 4 p.m. without as much as a bite. On Sunday my late afternoon effort yielded one keeper sunfish and a few other bumps around 4 p.m. Another angler, close by, had caught five, but said some weren’t keepers. . . I ran into Donna and Ron Edmonson who live on Ramsey Lake last week and Ron showed me a picture of a 10-pound Walleye caught by his son on Ramsey; and another of a huge Northern Ron said was caught in one of the lakes near South Haven by a grandson.
* * *
If you’re into winter camping the following DNR Question of the Week might be just your cup of tea.
Q: What options are available for staying overnight at Minnesota state parks in the winter?
A: Some state parks and recreation areas have campsites available for winter camping, often with electricity. If you’re looking for warmer accommodations, heated camper cabins are another option. Camper cabins have bunk beds and mattresses – just bring your own sleeping bags or blankets. Some state parks and recreation areas also offer all-season yurts or guest houses, and Itasca State Park has modern suites. For more information, or to make reservations, visit
Amy Barrett, information officer, Minnesota state parks and trails.