Notes from the Dockside: Way too early
By Mike Yurk
Snow covered the back deck on my house and looking out the kitchen windows while the coffee was brewing I saw snow blanketing the ground. It was early November and seemed way too early for snow but the reality was it was here and soon enough there would be a lot more.
I had plans to go fishing today on the Mississippi River and I wasn’t going let a little snow interfere with that. There was still a lot of fishing left this fall and snow was just one of those things we were going to have to deal with.
When I went out to get the newspaper I was crunching through about two inches of snow on the driveway. When I went to bed the night before, there was a light rain. Sometime in the night the rain turned to snow but the temperatures had dropped enough before the snow to freeze a thin layer of ice on everything before the snow came down. After a couple of inches of snow it changed back to a light rain as the top of the snow was crusty with more ice. Every now and then my feet slipped a bit on the icy pavement underneath. I noted both cars were cloaked in snow.
Before I could move my van to hook up the boat trailer I had to scrape the windows. This was the first time I had to do this since late last spring and I didn’t even have a scrapper in the van yet. I found the long handled scraper I normally use in the garage and cleaned the snow off. I had to push the snow off first and then scrape the ice underneath it.
I drove over to pick up my fishing buddy Rod. The tires broke through the thin layer of ice on the puddles and made tracks through the unblemished snow in his driveway. One of the first things he said to me as we looked out over the snow was “this is a little early for this isn’t it?”
At the landing we dressed in layers of clothing. I had on a long sleeve T-shirt and over that a flannel shirt, a fleece jacket and down jacket, and a Gortex jacket along with a pair of insulated bibs. I pulled on a hat with long fur ear flaps and stuck my hands in leather mittens. All bundled up, I felt like a snowman in camouflage.
We would need every bit of the clothes we were wearing. A cold wind barreled down the river out of the north, whipping between the banks on either side of the river. It was a chilling ride upriver until we got to the dam north of Red Wing.
We baited our hooks and dropped them overboard. It seemed even the fish felt it was too early for the first snow of the season. The fish were slow and sluggish and it took longer than normal before I felt the first pop on my line. That was it was. Just a light pop and before I could set the hook the fish was gone. It took the minnow too. I baited my hook again and dropped it back in the water.
A few more minutes went by and I missed another fish on another light strike when Rod finally caught the first fish of the day. It was a small sauger. But size did not matter; it was the first fish of the day and that is always a good thing.
I missed another fish and Rod caught another small fish he returned to the water. As I was lifting the rod tip up a fish hit and this time I was quicker with the hook set and finally my spinning rod came alive as a fish took off. In a moment it was splashing alongside the boat and I hoisted it in. It also was a small sauger and went back in the water.
It must have started to warm up some because the snow was starting to disappear on the banks as so happens after an early season snow but the wind continued to lash at us and push around the boat. The cold wind seemed to take away any warmth, as far as we were concerned, as we sat in the boat.
The fish continued to hit lightly but we steadily caught fish. None of saugers or walleyes was very big. Every now and then one of us would set the hook and there would be a strong pull on the line. We were hoping for a bigger sauger or walleye but they turned out to be white bass. That was ok; they put up a good fight and there was a bend in the rod and that is what we were out there for anyway.
It was late afternoon and we were talking about leaving soon when I felt a heavy thump on my line. The fish raced off and it doubled over my spinning rod as it tore off. I was expecting to see another white bass but when I got the fish closer to the boat I could see the dull silver color of a sauger. It was probably about a three pound fish and was the first real keeper we had but it went back in the water. We estimated we caught and released about forty fish. They might have been small but it still was a good day of fishing.
We left soon after that and in the falling darkness it seemed to get colder again as we motored back to the landing. Was there more snow coming? Although the snow on the ground was gone now it was inevitable that eventually we will get more but for right now it seemed way too early.
Editor’s Note: The Notes From The Dockside is an exclusive feature appearing in the Hudson Star-Observer on the first and third issues of each month.