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DULUTH — St. Louis River muskie anglers learned something fascinating this past week about the fish they chase all summer: Not all of them stay in the river. Of 60 muskies that have been fitted with hydro-acoustic "tags" by researchers, nearly 40 percent have ventured into Lake Superior, and 25 percent have remained there for more than a month. One of them swam all the way to Chequamegon Bay near Washburn and another to Bark Bay of Lake Superior near Cornucopia.
INTERNATIONAL FALLS, Minn. — Billy Dougherty remembers clearly his first day as a paid fishing guide on Rainy Lake. Opening day, 1965. He was working for his grandparents at the Kettle Falls Hotel on the lake. "This guy walked up and said, 'I want somebody to take me fishing,' " Dougherty recalled. It was early afternoon. All the fishing guides were on the water. But Mr. Wagner wanted to go fishing.
DULUTH — A biting east wind whipped across Lake Superior on this March afternoon. A half-dozen hardy Kamloops rainbow trout anglers, bundled against the cold, stood on shore near the mouth of the French River and watched their rod tips for the telltale sign of a bite. Small waves rolled against the cobblestone and bedrock shoreline. Hundreds of domino-sized shards of ice sloshed in each incoming wave. Mark McDonell of Duluth had been fishing since sunrise, he said. He had caught one Kamloops rainbow. Another angler passed him, headed for his car.
RED CLIFF, Wis. — Already, this February day in the Apostle Islands had provided a lot of lake trout action. Four- and five-pounders, plus a few smaller fish for the frying pan. This was a day off for Iron River, Wisconsin, fishing guide Josh Teigen. He guides winter anglers four or five days a week, and often goes prospecting new areas when he's not guiding. A couple of buddies he has known since childhood — John Darwin and Acorn Armagost, both of Iron River — had joined him on this outing.
DULUTH—Fisheries officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources expect to make a decision soon about future management of rainbow trout in Lake Superior. The agency is considering four management options after a recent genetics study confirmed interbreeding between stocked Kamloops rainbow trout and a different rainbow strain called steelhead, which reproduce in the wild but are supplemented with fry stocking. Fry are tiny, recently hatched fish.
A friend of mine was watching his grandson play hockey the other night. His grandson is seven. He was playing outdoors at a Duluth rink. "It was a really cold night," my friend said. "I was all bundled up, and I was freezing. But the kids were having fun. The cold didn't bother them a bit."
DULUTH—I put my snowshoes on quickly and dropped into the river valley. Down here, the wind couldn't find me. Snow swirled into the river bottom on this 15-degree morning in February. The dog led the way past narrow slits of open water that gurgled and whispered on its way to Lake Superior. Already, a couple of inches of new snow had fallen.
On the way to work last week, two days after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., I listened to a newscast in which a sobbing father lamented the loss of his 14-year-old daughter. It was deeply emotional and heart-rending. It brought the horror of the tragedy to a personal level. It is one thing to talk in an abstract sense about such an event in terms of death toll and shooter profile and what went wrong. It's quite another to drive along imagining if that had happened to your own daughter or son.
CHERRY, Minn. — Ten-year-old Joey Smith, a fifth-grader at Cherry School, clutched the northern pike in two gloved hands. The wide-eyed fish, still wiggling, glistened in the sunshine and zero-degree air. Joey had just emerged from a heated fishing shelter on Long Lake near Cherry. He and nearly 90 other fourth- and fifth-graders from the school were taking part in an annual fishing and outdoors day on the lake. Nobody had to teach Joey how to tell a fishing story. "The line was going straight down," he said. "I reeled it in. It felt very heavy."
DULUTH — A buddy of mine went to see his doctor the other day. Just a regular checkup, no pressing concerns. He's a contemporary of mine, which is to say he's enjoyed several decades of life on Earth. He checked out just fine, he said. No issues. The doctor was reviewing my friend's chart, just looking at his medical history. He casually mentioned to my friend: "You've probably got 10 to 20 years left." There. Just like that. Understand, I wasn't there. I didn't hear the exact words. I'm quoting the doctor as my friend related the story to me.