I’m not a fan of daylight savings time. I’m also not a big fan of how long it stays dark this time of year. I understand that it’s part of the sacrifice of living in the Northland, but it can be difficult to enjoy the outdoors much when you go to work in the dark and get off work … in the dark.
Exploring new lakes, chasing birds and trying to fill a bow tag become tough tasks to accomplish in December. Throw in a move to a new area and it can become downright impossible.
After three consecutive weekends of trailering more stuff than I should probably still own at this point in my life, I finally had a weekend free to throw on the heavy boots and charge up the flasher.
I’m also lucky enough to have friends in the area to help out the process.
With the weekend open, I skipped the semi-important job of unpacking and tagged along with a group of guys who planned a trip to a hidden gem: an out-of-the-way body of water that held secrets. A quiet lake with monster fish placed among the favorite fishing holes of the hordes of anglers that make up their way into the watery jungle of the Brainerd Lakes area.
Eight of us would meet at a local gas station and caravan our way into the woods. Jamie Dietman, Adam Herron, Ryan Kempe, Chip Leer, Erik Osberg, Larry Stromback, Nick Spaeth, Dave Wenker and I exchanged handshakes while I struggled to contain my schoolgirl giggles at the prospect of getting on good ice and chasing giants.
The journey would require us to trudge nearly a mile through fresh snow, while we pulled gear and stressed our cardiovascular systems. The promise of strong head-shakes coaxed us along with plenty of breaks to ward off the potential heart attack. I really need to exercise more.
Finally bits and pieces of our destination appeared through the trees and our pace quickened. When the woods gave way at the end of the trail, our pained expressions turned into smiles as we looked out onto the white, sparkling jewel that we worked so hard to get to.
Adam grabbed his spud bar and shuffled his way onto the ice. With baited breath, we watched as he dropped the bar in front of him. Our hopes were dashed when it slipped through the 2 ½” of ice with little resistance.
It was like reaching the end of the rainbow and instead of gold, the pot is filled with DVD copies of Jersey Shore. Such is life on early ice. We turned around and headed to lake #2.
The second lake had similar ice so we retreated to a third spot as the clock crossed over the midday mark. With tired shoulders and draining will power, tip-ups were placed and the sound of cans being opened echoed across the ice. It became clear that this would become more of a recreational trip now.
While only the occasional pike would make an appearance, the highlight of the day came when Jamie tried out new bait on a quick strike rig: hot dogs. The prompted a string of jokes that would continue throughout the day and make me wonder what else could be used as bait.
After a few hours, we’d taken more bites of beef than the fish so the group decided to pack it in. With only an hour-and-a-half to sunset, I thought I’d stick it out. That decision left me with a bucket full of crappie minnows and an ego that was slightly dented. Maybe I should have tied on rib-eye chunks?
On my way home, Jamie called to relay a message that someone caught a limit of crappies on another part of the same lake that I struck out on. I slight consolation knowing we had the right idea-just not in the right spot. And it happened after dark, so I can head out when the workday is over.
I may have to play hooky to get that bow tag filled in the next 10 days, but at least now I can tell you exactly where I’ll be after dark tonight. Well, maybe not “exactly” where I’ll be, after all, this is fishing we’re talking about.