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Brad Dokken: We need a break from this cruddy April weather

Spring 2022 might just be a candidate for Worst Spring Ever – in recent history, at least.

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Spring has been slow in arriving in 2022.
Brad Dokken / Grand Forks Herald
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Brad Dokken
Brad Dokken

GRAND FORKS – Ranting about the weather isn’t a particularly productive pastime, and perhaps is even a bit petty, given the numerous problems facing the world these days. But during springs like this one, it’s hard not to complain.

Spring 2022 might just be a candidate for Worst Spring Ever – in recent history, at least. And considering the conditions we sometimes endure in this part of the world, that’s saying something.

Enough with the Colorado Lows already.

Mother Nature’s ugly turn last weekend – the most recent ugly turn in a year of ugly turns – put the kibosh on a long-planned sturgeon trip to the Rainy River. We’d reserved a log cabin near Baudette, Minnesota, back in January through Airbnb and were anxiously waiting to do battle with some of the prehistoric giants that roam the Rainy and adjacent Lake of the Woods.

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“You pays your money and you takes your chances,” as the old saying goes, and so it goes when picking a date for a fishing trip on the calendar and hoping Mother Nature cooperates.

This year, to date, I haven’t had much luck on that roll of the dice.

READ MORE WEATHER COVERAGE:
In recent weeks, the strength and position of the jet stream has favored very little storm activity.

Prospects for the sturgeon trip began to diminish in the week leading up to the planned excursion as the weather forecast grew progressively worse. Sitting in a boat along the Canadian border on a 30-degree day while getting pummeled by snow and a stiff northwest wind isn’t my idea of a good time – not anymore, at least – so I canceled the Airbnb reservation several days ahead of time with a full refund. I could have waited until the day before check-in and still gotten a full refund, but there didn’t seem much point in prolonging the inevitable.

The cancellation and refund process was painless. That’s something, anyway, I guess.

As I write this column, the prospects for rescheduling the “sturgeon excursion” for this weekend aren’t looking any better as the second Colorado Low in as many weeks is predicted to roll through the region over the next few days.

Ugh. Grrr. Sigh.

If April was a fish, it would be a carp. If it was a plant, it would be a weed. As months go, April has been an invasive species.

Given the way things are going, it will be interesting to see if northern Minnesota lakes are ice-free by the May 14 fishing opener. This is another late opener – Minnesota statute sets the fishing opener as the Saturday two weeks before the Saturday of Memorial Day – but chances are good that at least a few northern lakes could have some ice.

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If the opener fell on May 9 – as it did in 2020 and will again in 2026 – I think ice on some lakes would be almost a guarantee, considering the abundance of cold, cloudy days we’ve had so far this spring.

Truth be told, the crew I normally fish with on the opener isn’t even making plans this year. If Mother Nature cooperates, a couple of us might make a scaled-back trip to Lake of the Woods, but the way we’ve been burned by the weather so far this year, it’s going to be a “game-time” decision made a day or two before the opener.

At the price of gas and everything else these days, you have to pick your moments.

Lake of the Woods 4.19.21.JPG
Satellite imagery from April 19, 2021, showed Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake and numerous lakes in northwestern Ontario mostly free of ice.
Contributed / MODIS Today

That being said, a late ice-out wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing – at least on Lake of the Woods. Two of our best openers in recent memory occurred in 2013 and 2014, consecutive years when spring weather was slow to arrive.

On opening weekend both years, the Rainy River was loaded with walleyes that hadn’t returned to Lake of the Woods from their springtime spawning run. Some of the walleyes we caught hadn’t yet spawned, and the number of fish we caught in the 19½- to 28-inch protected slot – the regulation on Lake of the Woods – was nothing short of spectacular.

Lake of the Woods 4.19.22a.JPG
Satellite imagery from April 19, 2022 – a rare day, albeit a bit hazy, when there was actually enough clear sky to see the landscape below – showed Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake and lakes in northwestern Ontario still covered with ice.
Contributed / MODIS Today

The hard part was catching walleyes small enough to keep. That’s not a problem in my world, as I’ll never complain about catching fish too big to keep.

Much can change between now and opening day, but we seem to be locked in a nasty weather pattern that doesn’t appear to be loosening its grip anytime soon.

That doesn’t bode well for picking a date on the calendar and hoping the weather cooperates.

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We’ll see how this goes.

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 bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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