Fishing opener weekend brought the usual buzz of excitement to the Bemidji area. After a rough week of weather, the skies cleared Friday and the sun broke through. The traffic in town was significant … no longer was it a 10 minute drive through town! Even Taber’s Bait in town hung colored streamers in their parking lot to add to the festive mood (much like those in car lots).
Unfortunately, a sense of “anxiousness” was also around town Friday with the lakefront demonstration by the Leech Lake and White Earth Bands challenging the 1855 Ojibwe Treaty in regards to hunting and fishing rights. Driving to work at 8 am I saw the KARE 11 Television truck from the Twin Cities parked at a local hotel. The last time I’ve seen one of those in Bemidji was during the Red Lake school shootings, and it brought back those terrible images.
Without taking sides on the issue, watching the situation for over an hour at the Lake Bemidji Waterfront, I was very impressed by how everyone conducted themselves for the most part. Everyone treated everyone with respect and all situations were handled with dignity, communication and in listening to one another. The organizers spent a lot of time talking to the the two Department of Natural Resources officers who were observing. The ACLU representative was monitoring the situation and seemed to be invited into most conversations. There was no visible police presence from either Bemidji Police nor from Beltrami County Sheriff, which kept the crowd of several hundred calm. And there was no visible counter protest from any opposition. In all I really think in about an hour’s time everyone pretty much “got” what they wanted. And I for one was thankful. What a different fishing opener it could have been if this rally had become angry. Thank you to all involved.
Moving on to the real fishing opener…the experts had said to fish the opener like it was Memorial Day…and the weather was really more like Memorial Day. Our group of 6 were on Leech Lake in 2 boats. Our “lead” boat with our Leech Lake fishing expert went out early and scouted locations and soon gave us a cell phone update. The boat traffic was as tremendous as the weather. As for the walleyes, we ended up with 8 keepers by around noon. Not exactly jumping in the boat, and truthfully not as good as in past years, but still very respectable.
After a great breakfast of bacon, sausage, eggs and toast, some wanted to take a nap. The afternoon was very warm and someone in our group suggested crappie fishing. With the warm weather, it certainly seemed more like summer…which is a perfect crappie time. We got our crappie minnows and 3 of us in one boat headed to a spot we had scouted out earlier on Leech Lake. Using a slip bobber and a plain small hook we started landing beautiful 10 inch plus crappies. With short sleeve shirts on and the sun beating down on us, we fished for the next 3 hours. Total haul, 24 crappies and all as someone said “Red Lake” size. My prize was landing a jumbo 14 inch 2 lbs. male crappie which will go down in my illustrious fishing career as the largest crappie I’ve ever caught.
With a very very calm Saturday evening and Sunday morning…fishing slowed up considerably. Weekend total was 10 keeper Walleyes and 30 crappies for 6 people. We really didn’t go into the weekend expecting this years bragging to be about crappies, but it was the highlight of a great weekend. If this is any indication of global warming…we in Minnesota should be in pretty good shape!