An email I received from a reader in response to last Saturday’s column about sitting out this year’s Minnesota Fishing Opener because of the risk and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 struck a positive note with me.

For those of you who missed it, I explained the crew with whom I traditionally gather for the fishing opener decided to cancel this year’s trip. Converging on Lake of the Woods from different parts of the region – and different levels of potential exposure to the coronavirus – didn’t seem like a prudent thing to do, given the social distancing guidelines and the recommendations to fish close to home and only with people in your household.

There was no debate among our crew about the decision; it was unanimous.

I don’t think that makes us “sheep,” a perception many seem to have, unfortunately, about people who follow the recommendations to avoid potentially contracting or unknowingly spreading the coronavirus.

Anyone who thinks the danger isn’t real is living in a dream world.

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I did receive an email from a reader who quoted a Bible verse and told me I should go fishing with my friends and loved ones. The email didn’t have a nasty tone, and while I appreciated the reader’s viewpoint, I’m going err on the side of caution until there’s a vaccine or widespread testing program that tells me it’s safe to resume life the way I used to live it.

That day, unfortunately, seems to be a dim light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Which brings me to the other perspective, which I thought was worth sharing.

Here’s some of what the reader had to say:

“I just wanted to say thank you for your stance on traveling to fish on rural northern Minnesota lakes. Counties like Roseau, Lake of the Woods, Beltrami, Koochiching and Hubbard have none to few confirmed cases (which have now since recovered).”

The reader went on to cite concerns about traveling anglers spreading the virus to communities like Baudette, International Falls, Park Rapids and Ely, Minn.

The concern is legitimate, but so is the survival of the resorts, fishing guides, bait shops and others who rely on the money anglers spend in areas blessed with resources like those that abound in northern Minnesota.

It’s a tricky balance; people can’t stay cooped up forever and they have to resume their lives just to maintain some semblance of sanity. As states begin reopening and loosening restrictions, now more than ever, it boils down to personal responsibility.

Be safe. Be smart.

Catfish tourney a go

A new normal is emerging for North Dakota anglers with word this week that the Game and Fish Department is lifting a ban on fishing tournaments that was in effect for events scheduled in April and May.

In Grand Forks, local catfish guide Brad Durick, who runs the Scheels Boundary Battle Catfish Tournament on the Red River, got word this week from both the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources that the tournament set for June 27-28 is good to go.

But it won’t quite be business as usual.

Limiting close contact is a permit requirement, and the pre-tournament rules meeting will be recorded for anglers to watch online. Weigh-ins will be conducted on the water and not from a stage on shore, Durick said. The awards ceremony will be live-streamed with no spectators, and the winning teams will get their checks in the mail.

Limited to 50 two-person teams, the Scheels Boundary Battle tournament filled to capacity months ago. None of the teams signed up to fish the tournament have canceled, Durick says, and he’s even getting calls from teams still wanting to enter.

Durick on Thursday said he’d spoken with the Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau and was told they are “thrilled” to have an event happening in town.

“I'm excited we can move ahead to have an event,” he said. “The anglers are itching to get out and back to some sort of normal.”

More info: boundarybattle.com.

Pull!

Another welcome turn of events in the outdoors world is the summer sporting clays season at the Dakota Hunting Club and Kennels west of Grand Forks.

The league season gets underway Monday, May 18, and continues for 10 weeks, said Mike Elgin, owner of the Dakota Hunting Club and Kennels.

“We’re down, obviously, from last year, which is to be expected, but not as much as I thought it was going to be,” Elgin said. “Usually, we have 35 teams. I think we probably have 28 or 29, so we’re only down like six teams, which is pretty good. I just thought it would be way worse.”

Often referred to as “golf with a shotgun” because participants follow a course to a series of shooting stations just as golfers do, sporting clays offers a safe option for social distancing outdoors.

“You're outside so you’re kind of away from each other,” Elgin said. “Everybody goes out at different times anyway so nobody’s really crammed up. Even before this all happened, I would say each team was probably 50 yards away from each other.”

Organizers of the Grand Forks Park District’s Ladies Sporting Clays program at the Dakota Hunting Club this week announced they were canceling the program for this year because of COVID-19, with the hope of resuming the program in 2021.

There was a period, Elgin said, when he wasn’t sure if he’d offer the regular sporting clays league this summer, either.

“We were up in the air for quite a while to actually even do it this year,” he said. “I had so many calls from the shooters saying we had to do it just to give them something to do.

“They kind of made me open,” he added with a laugh.

Anyone who wants to join a team or give sporting clays a try can call the Dakota Hunting Club and Kennels at (701) 775-2074.

“There’s always teams looking for people,” Elgin said.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Call him at (701) 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1148 or send email to bdokken@gfherald.com.

Brad Dokken
Brad Dokken