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Woodland Trails: Bad weather for opener

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outdoors River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

I can only remember two previous fishing openers that had worse weather than the one we had last Saturday. The worst was when I opened up on Lake Wissota a few years back. It was cold.

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Did I say it was cold? How cold, you ask? By midmorning we had over 6 inches of snow in the bottom of our boat. We had caught two little walleyes around the size of a cheap cigar. But the food was good at the sportsman luncheon. And the clubhouse was warm!

The next worst, and it didn't take second by much, was an opener I spent with my old fishing partner and long-lost friend Steve Jenkins on Tainter Lake. I was living in that neck of the woods and I knew where the walleyes were and where the 12- to 14-inch crappies were hanging out.

We launched my little 12-foot aluminum boat which was my first-ever boat. It was powered by an impressive 6 hp Wards Sea King. We shoved off with confidence!

The wind caught us and we started to drift out onto the lake. But the old Sea King was the most reliable motor I ever had (it was the first motor I ever had)! I never did a thing to it as far as maintenance went. It would always start on the first or second pull every time I used it. Even though it was cold, windy and raining, I knew we were going to have a field day on the lake I knew so well.

First pull on the motor -- nothing. Second pull and nothing. I checked the choke and pulled again. Not even a pop. I pulled again and again and again. Not even a pop. Off comes the hood, wires are checked, and the pump ball on the fuel line gets pumped until it's hard. All seems well. Pull. Nothing. Pull. Nothing. Pull. Nothing. Check everything over again and again. Pull. Nothing. Not even a pop.

By now I have blisters between my fingers from pulling the starter cord. Steve offers to pull a few times and I say, nah. I'm mad!! It's gonna start in a minute. By now we have drifted way out in the lake. The wind is coming up cold out of the nor'west. Rain is coming down in sheets and is running down my neck. I pop out the spark plug and it looks like it has been dipped in the Libra Tar Pits. I learned about outboard motor maintenance that year.

When I got up last Saturday morning, I looked out the window and rain was still coming down in sheets. It reminded of the previously mentioned Lake Tainter opener! I looked out the window and saw that there were whitecaps on the duck pond. There was a river running through the cornfield.

I can see that Plan A was a bust. No way I was going to go out and fish in that wind. On to Plan B, but I knew that was a bust because I knew the trout stream was going to be way too high to fish with all the rain. Good thing I had a Plan C.

That plan was to go back to bed and rest and then go over to the DNR service center and pick up my free seed corn for food plots and grab some free trees and shrubs for habitat. I decided on some dogwood and hazelnut for planting. I took 25 of each. If we planted them in the right places they would offer some great habitat, food source as well as attract and maintain wildlife on the homestead.

I was grabbing the shovels when son Josh pulled in and we headed down for the pond. Last year we had a couple of food plots there and we had not checked them out this year. We found a great carryover from last year's clover so we planted the bushes and small trees around the clover near the pond. With all the rain you couldn't have asked for better soil conditions to plant trees and shrubs. Now we have to work on a plan for locations of corn, chufa, oats, soybeans and anything else we decide to plant this year.

I was really happy when I woke up Sunday to a partly sunny sky and a warm forecast. Day 2's Plan A was to go to church and then head for the lake. Not sure about which lake so I talked to Josh who had heard crappies were hitting on Big Lake and walleye and white bass were running at Interstate Park at St. Croix Falls. I had a friend who wanted to guide me. She claimed to be a great angler so I decided to head out with my good friend Julie Williams.

Sure enough we found the lake she wanted to fish after she got a license, then lost it and found it again. Then it was cast out some bobbers rigged with minnows for crappie and maybe a walleye. The guy fishing next to us was taking a few nice crappies and then he nailed three big, bad bass that all were pushing 4-pounds plus. Talk about nice fish.

Then Julie decided to show me up by catching the first fish. She enjoyed every minute of it. She had switched over to crawlers and started taking some nice bluegills and rubbed in the fact that she was out-fishing me. What can you say when you aren't holding any good cards in your hand?

Eventually I got a few good cards, and the rocket bobber I was using started to come alive. When it was all said and done, we had probably caught and released a limit or more of bluegills. I also noticed my smile was a little bit bigger than my fishing partners' as the better angler for the day has the right to have. And the best part about it is that we all have the rest of the summer to work on those smiles when the fish are biting! I can't wait for the rematch.

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