Heilman: Outdoor activities are sometimes the price | local sports

I’m not an opening day guy. So it’s not strange at all that I didn’t wet a line yesterday.

If the opening of the fishery had not been so widely publicized, it could have passed without warning.

To be honest, it doesn’t bother me much. I don’t feel any urgency around this landmark in the calendar.

I mean, it’s not like I’ve been sitting down since last summer. My ice season has been pretty good, and as soon as conditions (personal and weather) allowed a few weeks ago, I visited a few small trout streams in cliff country.

In fact, this little overnight trip exemplifies what really gets my blood pumping: finding something new to do.

I had never been in these streams before. But they looked good on paper, and it was the perfect excuse to see a new country, spend a night between two trees deep in the woods, try to land my first brown trout and hopefully bring back something home for dinner.

I was lucky enough to tick all of these boxes, which of course is never guaranteed.

As soon as I got home, the planning started for the next adventure.

That’s how it goes; I always look forward. Whether it’s new methods, new careers or simply a new destination, my favorite thing to do is always what I haven’t done yet.

And that’s why if ever the peach feels like it’s lost its luster, I suggest you try something new.

It could be as simple as catching a walleye in the Minnesota River for the first time. Or as elaborate as learning to fly fish so you can land an arctic char the size of your leg at a fly-in camp on the other side of Canada.

If nothing else comes to mind, try adding a new fish to the “life list”. Whether it’s raw fish or game, the opportunities are probably closer than you think.

For example, few anglers in Minnesota can say they’ve caught a yellow bass; Fairmont’s lakes are full of them.

A little closer to home, German Lake appears to be a longnose gar hotspot.

Never caught flathead or river catfish? The May/June period before spawning is an excellent opportunity, and the Minnesota River is considered by many to be a world-class destination.

My own quest for species new to me has added four to my own list since the start of 2021. As an added bonus, these new species almost always come with new, sometimes extremely scenic, destinations.

I can also count at least two “new” fish by different methods this year alone.

Speaking of methods, this alone could be enough to transform an entire fishing season. For example, I plan to dedicate the next ice season to catching as many new species as possible per offload.

Another way is to become primitive. A few years ago I got the bug of trying cane sticks. (They are widely available and fairly inexpensive; who knew?)

Plus, making bobbers out of wine corks was a fun layer to add to an already rustic business.

At that time I bought a few old reels at estate and yard sales. Some are so old that they don’t have swipe controls and/or free-queuing capabilities.

I cleaned these and some of my grandfather’s old reels and started using them. They were primarily used for trolling due to their limitations, but it’s a fun way to connect to Grandpa and our wider fishing heritage, while adding a bit of a challenge.

You know what else is a challenge? Beat your own fishing records.

A few summers ago I spent a lot of time trying to find a new personal best pike. It didn’t happen back then, but it got me familiar with a few new lakes and made me a better trolling fisherman.

When I caught up with this “record” north, it was quite by accident. It was on a solo winter trip to the BWCA in pursuit of my first speckled trout, another adventure saturated with novelty – and satisfaction.

Another challenge, and one that I only considered, would be to catch all (catchable) species in a given lake. Of course, you might have to devote a lot of time to a single body of water, but it would take a lot of learning, patience, and versatility to get the job done.

I don’t know if the idea itself is entirely new, but there are over 10,000 different lakes in this state to choose from. Some might be on the easy side.

For example, the DNR lists Cleveland’s Lake Henry as having only three species: black bullhead, bluegill, yellow perch.

It doesn’t seem that difficult; one person could do it in an afternoon.

But just across the road in West Jefferson, there are about 20 species to chase (depending on what is considered catchable).

Completing the “Little Jeff Grand Slam” would take much longer, but would guarantee proof of his fishing prowess, not to mention lifetime bragging rights.

While all of these ideas revolve around doing something new for yourself, there’s yet another one that I think is worth mentioning: making a new angler. And I’m not necessarily talking about taking a kid fishing.

I mean your city sister-in-law, or that co-worker who just moved from Texas. One of those people who, saying “I’ve never fished”, may have glimpsed your astonished face.

As with our children and grandchildren, we owe it to them to provide this experience.

Will it be a challenge? Perhaps.

Will it be rewarding? Most likely.

Will you find a new fishing buddy this way? Not if you spend all your time blaspheming about how you caught all the fish in West Jefferson.

Seriously, though, given the number of ways a person can create a new fishing season, the question isn’t why anyone should try something new, but why not?

There are at least 364 chances before the next opener. Let me know how it goes.


And send pictures.

Roy Heilman is an outdoorsman, writer, musician, and native of Minnesota. Tell him where you went and what you caught everagoosechase.com.

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