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home : columns : columns April 29, 2016

5/7/2014 8:36:00 AM
Minnesota, the land of 10,000 outdoor openers

Ron Kuecker
Outdoors Columnist

Well, of course we don't have 10,000 hunting and fishing openers in our outdoor-loving state. But, we have to be the nation's leader in coaxing a bunch of people off the couch or from in front of their iPad to buy a license, rent a boat or cabin, load a shotgun or rifle and spend some money at retail outlets, small or large.
I'd try to list them all but would certainly miss one or two so just suffice it to say this coming weekend is the annual walleye opener. It's no longer the first, we've already had border water openers on all sides, a turkey hunting opener and various trout stream openers but this is the granddaddy of them all. The one that made us almost as famous as the Hamm's Beer ads of several decades ago.
Too young for that? Google it!
Minnesota, known across the globe for its walleye almost as much as its 10,000 lakes, finds their favorite fish under some population pressures all across the state for varied reasons. Here in southwest Minnesota our shallow lakes suffered tremendously from a couple of hot dry summers. Then came last winter with its low water levels and even lower oxygen levels and fish life ended in many lakes. They now await restocking of game fish by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fisheries but will have to wait even longer, if ever again, for a permanent fix.
It's going to be hard to find a good walleye lake in our region of the state with probably only Lake Shetek and Lake Sarah able to confidently say, you can catch some walleye here on Saturday. The trick will be to seek a lake that had adequate oxygen levels all winter.
Then, of course, you've got to find them in a feeding mode and present them a temptation of live bait or an artificial lure. That feeding mode may be hard to find with cold waters common to our late ice-out spring.
Live bait should be available at most bait shops with leeches being a bit unpredictable. They too depend on lake and marsh conditions where they are trapped by licensed dealers. Minnows are usually best early anyway, followed by leeches and crawlers.
Regarding the various artificial lures available, there are 100's even 1000's that all try to mimic a minnow or small fish. I have noticed that the presence of a highly visible eye on a lure has become a big attraction, both for the fish and the fisher. It's also come to my attention that the cost on some of these fake minnow baits have become exceedingly high. Many have now broken the ten dollar barrier going quickly toward $20, even higher.
You'd better find a snag free zone when using those babies!
I'm thinking that the old jig and minnow, maybe with a twister tail, is set to make a huge comeback. That's especially true when you take a kid or grandkid to the bait shop. It's fun for them, fun for you, but I'd suggest you put a limit on them ahead of time and steer them past those expensive fake minnows in fancy clear plastic boxes with three sets of treble hooks and a big round black eye with a white crystal ring around it.
You'll max out your Visa in a hurry if you don't.
PC gone awry
I've disliked the term politically correct for a long time. It seems to this German/Norwegian it's an attempt by one sub-set of people to restrict what another person or group can say. That's almost speech control, if you will, and I'm not talking about the horrible things some allow to leave their lips. They need self control not word control by others.
A foolish discussion arose during a recent session of our state legislature. A legislator proposed we change the designation of the species of carp currently threatening our state waters from Asian carp to invasive carp. He felt some of our more recent Asian immigrants might be offended by the term.
Being of European descent I've never been offended by the term European carp, the type that horribly invaded our waters 100 years ago. I guess I just don't think of myself or others relative to a carp. To me the terms correctly identify the difference between the two and it allows us to differentiate between them considering they are both invasive.
If it was a state representative that said that, we can be thankful he has to face the electorate every two years. If he's a four-year state senator maybe he needs to reacquaint himself with a statutorily correct term, recall election.
Some good viewings
Here are a couple of good outdoor viewings I've had from last week.
• The return of numerous white throated sparrows to our birdfeeders. They are ground feeders and are welcome to pick up the spilled seeds before they germinate.
• A male and female cardinal sitting on our bird feeder for probably five minutes just before dark. That's about four minutes longer than usual.
• A female wood duck escorted back to her nest, a man-made box, by her beautiful, er, handsome drake just before dark two days ago.
• Then, finally, something I've never seen before. Driving back from Marshall a few nights ago, just west of County Road 5 on County Road 13, trotting along on the south shoulder, a red fox probably carrying something. I stopped, backed up and found where it had dropped a portion of a road-killed raccoon. I know of a perennial fox den about two miles away from that site and assume it was a parent bringing something back for its pups.
If you can top that, or even if you can't, let me know of your sightings. They might appear here.

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