BRAD DOKKEN: Early spring seems likely

I'm not a gambler, but if I was, I'd put my money on an early spring. The winter of 2016 is looking a lot like the winter of 2012, when the snow was gone by mid-March and the temperature on March 17 soared into the 70s. I remember the day well be...

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I'm not a gambler, but if I was, I'd put my money on an early spring.

The winter of 2016 is looking a lot like the winter of 2012, when the snow was gone by mid-March and the temperature on March 17 soared into the 70s.

I remember the day well because I was doing yard work, a concept that was difficult to comprehend so close to the Canadian border, where March and yard work typically aren't mentioned in the same sentence.

I also remember the same day in 2013, when the yard was buried under 3 feet of snow.

Such is life in the Northland.


No doubt this winter is going to be good for deer, pheasants and most other wild critters. Deer especially should benefit from the lack of snow and absence of extended cold weather. Considering deer on both sides of the Red River remain in recovery mode, that's a welcome turn of events indeed.

I'd just as soon see winter continue through March because I like snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice fishing and skating or playing hockey outdoors. The brown, barren landscape that dominates the Red River Valley this winter doesn't do it for me.

But if winter ends as early as it did in 2012, I won't complain too much, either.

Remembering 2012

Spring fishing on the Rainy River got an early start that year, and by late March, the border river was open all the way to Lake of the Woods. Two friends and I fished near the mouth of the river on March 26 and had a banner day catching walleyes. We anchored off the edge of the channel in a depth that varied from 8 to 10 feet of water, depending on the wind and the current.

Adhering to the "never leave fish to find fish" philosophy, we never moved the entire day.

Fishing was even better a couple of weeks later when we made a return trip to the border country. Walleye season on Lake of the Woods, Rainy River and other Minnesota-Ontario border waters normally closes April 14, but it stayed open through April 15 in 2012 because the date fell on a Sunday.

Lake of the Woods past Pine Island north of Baudette, Minn., already was ice-free, and if that's the case again this year-which I think is a distinct possibility-I'll be hoping for a repeat of 2012.


That year on April 14, we checked into our cabin at Ballard's Resort and launched at the Wheeler's Point boat ramp early in the afternoon. We could have headed upriver to some time-proven walleye spots, but since the big lake was wide open and the reports were favorable, we headed through the mouth of the river and Four-Mile Bay, past the Lighthouse Gap and out into the lake to see what we could see.

We saw several boats anchored on the horizon, but the lake wasn't crowded by any means.

Venturing out to about 24 feet of water, we decided to drop anchor after marking several fish on the depthfinder screen. The afternoon was cloudy, and the wind was strong enough to stir up a pretty good chop on the water that still wasn't more than 40 degrees.

Fishing was decent, if not fast and furious, right from the get-go, but it got even better later that afternoon, when the sky cleared and the wind subsided.

Nearly every drop of the jig, it seemed, resulted in either a bite or a walleye at the end of the line. And since we were leaving the boat in the water that night, there was no rush to get back to the landing to beat the crowd.

The sun was below the western horizon by the time we pulled anchor and reluctantly headed back to shore.

It was one of those days anglers live for-the kind of days that end too soon.

Headed north


Another sign of spring showed up in my email inbox earlier this week when Nancy Hvinden of Thompson, N.D., shared a photo she took Monday along Interstate 29 north of Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The photo showed a soggy field covered with thousands of snow geese making their northward migration.

"For over a mile it was covered like this," Hvinden wrote.

The spring snow goose season is underway in both North Dakota and opens Tuesday in Minnesota. Given the balmy temperatures of recent days, the geese Hvinden photographed early in the week soon could be passing through North Dakota.

If they're not here already.

It's looking like that kind of spring.

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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