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Notes From the Dockside: No burgers for us

It had been a tough day of fishing. My buddy, Doug, and I had driven all morning and early afternoon to get to Red Lake in northern Minnesota. It was the middle of June and normally a dynamite time to fish Red Lake. The year before on this very same week we were catching over fifty walleyes a day.

But this year was different. We had an abnormally warm spring that started in early April. The warm weather continued through May and on the opening of the Minnesota walleye season, where normally we could expect snow, we had a warm, balmy day. I had even seen fishermen sitting in their boats with bare chests. I had never seen that before. Typically we are in winter jackets in the middle of a blizzard on opening day. The warm weather stayed right through May and summer seemed to start a lot earlier too. By the time we got to Red Lake the weather was more like mid-July then mid-June and the fish were hitting like it was mid-summer too.

We checked in our cabin, unloaded what we had to from the van and raced off for the landing to launch the boat. On the water we ran into our friend, Dennis, his brother Terry and Dennis' friend Greg. They had been fishing since early morning and did not have a keeper fish. This seemed hard to believe. We should be catching lots of fish.

Doug and I started fishing and were catching nothing. Eventually I would catch a small perch. That was it. Late afternoon Dennis came by to tell us that they were heading in but we would see them tomorrow. Doug and I stayed out until the sun started to slip behind the western shore of the lake. We caught nothing more.

We had planned on having fish for dinner that night but that one little perch could not have even qualified for a snack. We ended up at the resort bar and grill and had burgers. The burgers were good and there is nothing wrong with a good burger. However, when you had your heart, not mention also your taste buds, set for freshly caught walleye fillets, a burger pales considerably in comparison, no matter how good it is.

The next morning Dennis and Greg came by our cabin for breakfast. Dennis' brother Terry opted out of joining us, citing other commitments. We had much enthusiasm as we ate breakfast. A new day can rejuvenate enthusiasm regardless of how bad the fishing had been the day before.

Our plan was to again have fish for dinner. We needed eight fish for the four us to have a fish fry and although the day before we had tough fishing we were filled with the eagerness of a new day.

"No burgers tonight," we said.

The wind had picked up and large rolling waves were frosted with white caps. At best we could have called it a robust walleye chop. Dennis and Greg dropped anchor and Doug and I drifted as we fished.

Our enthusiasm quickly waned. After an hour without a strike things were not looking good. Finally I picked up a keeper walleye. We had the start to our fish fry. But fishing remained slow. Can this be possible? Last year at this very same time we were catching fish until our arms were sore.

Doug and I did not despair. We had a lot of fishing in front of us yet but we were starting to wonder. Our morale improved significantly when Dennis and Greg caught a couple of keeper walleyes. Then Doug caught a keeper fish and our fish fry was getting closer. We were half way there.

Doug and I got another fish and Dennis and Greg caught a couple more.

We were going to be eating fish. By late afternoon we had seven walleyes. We were close enough to our eight fish goal and decided that we could make do with seven fish for the fish fry.

A little while later we could see Greg lift his spinning rod to set the hook and his rod was bent in half. We watched as Dennis eventually extended the net. As he lifted the net out of the water a large fish was thrashing in it. Dennis waved for us to come over. When we pulled up alongside of them Greg was holding up a twenty-six inch walleye. "It's the biggest walleye I ever caught," he told us. I took a photo and Greg slipped the fish back into the back into the lake.

Half an hour later Dennis caught the last fish we needed for our fish fry, and a few minutes after that we all headed back to the landing. Back at our cabin I fired up my big two burner propane stove. On one burner I cooked potatoes with onions in butter and on the other burner I was deep frying walleye fillets that had been coated in Italian bread crumbs. Then we sat down to dinner that included coleslaw and tartar sauce.

It was a great dinner and life was good. No burgers for us.

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..