Morning rain gives way to fine fishing finaleThe rain and sleet pelting the cabin window didn’t bode well for our last kick at a five-day adventure on Lake of the Woods. Or the drive home we’d reluctantly make that night on highways sure to be icy from the freezing rain.
By: Brad Dokken, Grand Forks Herald
OAK ISLAND, Minn. — The rain and sleet pelting the cabin window didn’t bode well for our last kick at a five-day adventure on Lake of the Woods. Or the drive home we’d reluctantly make that night on highways sure to be icy from the freezing rain.
Despite the remoteness of our surroundings on the Minnesota-Ontario border, the cabin’s satellite TV had allowed us to keep tabs on weather reports that predicted the onset of this “wintry mix.”
First, it was supposed to hit Tuesday. Then, the weather prognosticators moved the forecast back to Wednesday.
Batting 100 percent, they were wrong both times. Aside from a wind that was just brisk enough to be unpleasant, at times, both days were beautiful.
Our luck ran out on this drippy Thursday morning.
The late Northwoods writer Ted Hall might have described it best in “A Rainy Lake Chronicle,” a book of short-story gems he published in 1989 while living in Ranier, Minn.:
“It was the kind of day you’d have a hard time explaining if the assignment was to produce nice weather.”
This, it seemed, was that kind of day.
A high school friend and I have been making this trip to Oak Island every winter since 1994. Various other friends have joined in along the way.
This year, five of us had made the trip to Walsh’s Bay Store Camp, a trek that required three pickups to accommodate a fleet of gear that included five snowmobiles, three portable fish houses and three tow sleds.
A lot of stuff, to be sure, but all of it essential for the “run-and-gun” style of fishing that allowed us to travel wherever we wanted to go.
Getting there, in our case, definitely is part of the adventure.
Before this year, we’d scheduled the trip to begin the Sunday of President’s Day weekend every year but one. In that stretch, fishing basically the same days every year, we’d encountered temperature extremes ranging from a high of 64 degrees in 2000 to last year, when the mercury plummeted to 37 below zero the last morning of our trip.
Over the years, the weather has been just as memorable as the fishing.
This year, we decided to move the trip back a couple of weeks in hopes of dodging the subzero temps we endured last year. The strategy paid off, and the chilly temperatures that greeted us upon our arrival at Oak Island that first afternoon soon gave way to the high 20s.
Perfect, in other words, for the 40-mile round-trip snowmobile ride we made two of the days to access a favorite fishing spot.
We’d heard the rain was coming, though, even if it didn’t arrive on schedule. And when it pelted the cabin window that last morning, it cast a gloom on what had been a good fishing trip.
Still, we wanted to make the most our remaining time on the lake, and so we forced ourselves from the warm, dry cabin and into the wet morning. A layer of ice covered snowmobiles and portable fish houses as we set off down one of Oak Island’s trails.
Time was limited, so we picked a fishing spot near the island. Maybe, we hoped, the temperature would rise enough to melt ice from slick highways.
We set up in the rain and soon were huddled in portables, trying to ignore the sound that continued to pelt the canvas and the prospects of an icy drive home.
Then, it happened.
The pelting sound grew less pronounced, and by noon, the rain suddenly stopped and the sun peeked out from behind the clouds.
With barely a skiff of wind, what started as a dreary morning turned into the nicest afternoon we’d encounter the entire trip.
The fish seemed to respond, too, and we’d landed a respectable number of walleyes, saugers and perch — including a couple of fish too big to keep — before we pulled the plug shortly after 2 p.m.
As with all good fishing trips, heading home was tough.
But at least we didn’t have to worry about the weather.
Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 148; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.