BRAD DOKKEN: Weather extremes stand out when spending time outdoors
I spent this weekend last year raking leaves at the getaway in northern Minnesota, something I normally do in late May. The remnants of snow from the previous weekend were nowhere to be seen, and the yard was dry. The weather was amazingly warm f...
I spent this weekend last year raking leaves at the getaway in northern Minnesota, something I normally do in late May.
The remnants of snow from the previous weekend were nowhere to be seen, and the yard was dry.
The weather was amazingly warm for March, yet also strangely unsettling.
As humans, we tend to use weather as a benchmark for memorable events in our lives. Raking leaves in March like I did last year is just one example. Last week, the snowstorm that hit Grand Forks was compared to the Blizzard of 1966 because the day's snowfall exceeded what fell during the final day of that epic '60s storm.
Like me, most people, I suspect, are comparing this lion-like March with last year because the weather we enjoyed a mere 12 months ago was so unusual. After three consecutive harsh winters, last year's Winter That Wasn't provided a welcome reprieve not only from cold and snow, but the spring flooding to which we'd become so accustomed.
Two weeks before raking leaves last March, a friend and I drove snowmobiles from Warroad, Minn., to Oak Island on both legs of an annual ice fishing trip. It was the first time the sleds had been off the trailer all winter, more or less, and the riding conditions on the lake were excellent -- especially the return leg -- as we followed a freshly groomed trail the last 20-or-so miles back to Warroad.
Less than a month later, I launched my boat at Wheeler's Point at the mouth of the Rainy River, and three of us spent the day anchored and jigging for walleyes in Four-Mile Bay of Lake of the Woods. The wind was brisk and the weather miserable, but fishing was good.
More than the fishing, though, I'll remember having my boat in the water March 26, something that would be unfathomable most years on that part of Lake of the Woods.
There certainly won't be open water in the same place this year on March 26.
Another spring that stands out for its weather -- in this case, at the opposite extreme -- resulted in a memorable opening day to Minnesota's 1996 walleye season, when four of us spent the day ice fishing on Lake of the Woods.
We had a boat hooked up and planned to hit the open water of the Rainy River later in the day, but the opportunity to fish through the ice on the mid-May fishing opener was too good to pass up.
There wasn't another boat in sight that morning when we ventured onto the ice at Graceton Beach north of Williams, Minn. -- just the Grumman Sportboat we pulled as a makeshift sled.
If we ran into trouble, the Grumman also could serve as a rescue craft, we figured.
The Grumman didn't have to do double-duty that day, but the 3 feet of ice below our feet had the consistency of a giant snow cone when we drilled holes about a mile offshore. I don't remember how many fish we caught, but we landed a mix of walleyes, saugers, perch and tullibees and enjoyed a big fish fry that night to top off a memorable day on the water ... er, ice.
Aside from the fact we were fishing through the ice, opening day 1996 also served up perhaps the nicest weather I've ever experienced for a Minnesota walleye opener.
That might never happen again in my lifetime -- the ice fishing part, at least -- but given how particular seasons can vary from one year to the next, I'm not ruling out the possibility.
Hopefully it's not this year, though. I'd much rather be in my boat.
The raking will keep.
Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1148; or send email to email@example.com .