Friday's Weekend Column
I Am Telling You It Is Spring

by James Glaser
March 19, 2004

I know it's spring because the crows are back bugging the hell out of us every morning. According to my bird book, (Birds of Minnesota by Stan Tekiela) "the American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) can be a partial migrator." Well they are gone from here in the dead of winter and it has to start warming up before they come back, so they must have migrated someplace.

It started about three days ago. Early in the morning as the sky is starting to lighten, we hear about twenty of these crows "caw cawing" to each other as they fly by our window and they keep it up for a good half hour.

The book says crows can live for twenty years and that "large extended families roost together at night, then disperse during the day to hunt." It is also written that they often entertain themselves by provoking chases from other birds. Charmaine and I can testify to the fact that they are excellent provokers.

Every year before the ice goes out; scavenger birds like the Crow and the Bald Eagle clean up the lake. They eat all the frozen minnows and any dead fish left by ice fishermen. Now that the snow is melting you will see lots of road kill and the birds are feasting on them. Sometimes you can stop your vehicle on the side of the road and watch an eagle have lunch on a deer carcass while twenty or so crows sit waiting patiently for the eagle to finish. Up close an eagle is a mean looking bird and they are huge. Crows won't even try to sneak in and grab a bite.

Last Saturday the town of Northome was filled with people. Ellen's Café was packed as was the hardware store and gas station. About 9am the wind picked up and the blowing snow made it a blizzard. The hundreds of fishermen on Red Lake had to get off and many stopped in town to eat and gas up. They were hoping that the wind would die down so they could go back out on the ice. The hardware store sells fishing tackle and a fisherman never has enough.

Red lake is the home of the two pound crappie. A few years ago it was known for walleye, but they were fished so much the DNR made it illegal to catch and keep them. With the walleye gone the crappie population flourished and now people come from all over the United States to fish them. Local people tell me that the walleye are coming back strong and in a few years it will be like it was years ago, a walleye lake.

I have to wonder about "sports fishermen." It is hard to see the "Sport" in the fishing because almost everyone now has a locator that tells them where the fish are. On top of that they have video cameras that allow them to see exactly what the fish are, their size, and if they have taken the bait.

Years ago people fished by knowing how and where fish liked to feed. The bends in a river, underwater rock piles, or where the bottom dropped off were good spots. Now when you find that good spot on the lake, you set your GPS so next time you can go right back to that exact spot. I would have to call this new type of fishing a technical skill before I would call it a Sport.

Now money has taken over. It is nothing for a guy to have three to five thousand dollars in personal fishing equipment. That isn't the boat or motor, just the stuff they hand carry on. One lure can cost twenty five dollars if you are going after Muskie and it is nothing to pay ten to fifteen for a walleye lure. I don't, but many people spend hundreds of dollars on their fishing pole and then they put a two hundred dollar reel on it.

I have seen lots of tackle boxes that are as big as a small suitcase and cost over a hundred bucks. Then there are fishing clothes, an expensive life vest, and cold beer. All of this hand equipment on top of the computerized electrical stuff adds up to a real investment. .

What amazes me is that so many of the local guys in our VFW are avid, well really more than avid, I would say fanatical fishermen. They go nuts because I live right on the lake and fish maybe ten times a year if I am lucky. Oh, I do go down on the dock in the evening and cast for Northern, but they don't even count that as fishing.

I don't care if I catch a fish or not. I take the rod down there to enjoy myself, these guys work at fishing, but they don't go in for all the latest equipment. Many of them are using live bait and do better that anyone that spends thousands. These guys learned how to fish with their dads, when the fish were caught to feed the family.

It was hard for many of the local people to get behind the "catch and release," program, where most of the fish you land are put back in the lake. They now see that they have to do that if they want our lakes to keep producing. Years ago these lakes were theirs; today people drive hundreds of miles to fish and the pressure on the lakes has made management of the resource a necessity.

There is nothing better in life than getting out on a lake before the sun comes up, so you can watch, as all of the wildlife wake up and start their day. Ducks swimming, Loons calling, Fish jumping, and the Great Blue Heron as it walks along the shore fishing, are out there for you to watch. It starts out pretty chilly, but as the sun hits you and you pour that first cup of coffee out of the thermos and the boat gentle rocks back and forth, all your cares are far away. Sometimes you even catch fish too.

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