The Outdoors

By Scott Rall, Outdoors Columnist

There are lots of days on the calendar that Minnesotans’ look forward to, but none of them can hold a candle to the Minnesota Fishing Opener which is only a few days away. It could actually be an un-paid Minnesota holiday if you didn’t know any better. As the time winds down there are anglers in garages everywhere getting ready to holler “start your engines” like at a NASCAR RACE. I really used to be one of those die-hard anglers that would do things I won’t even consider today. I was on the water at midnight in both Minnesota and Iowa for one of the many walleye fishing tournaments held over opening weekend. I even finished 3rd in the Great Walleye Weekend on Big Spirit Lake in Iowa about a life time ago.

I once unloaded my boat on the border water of Big Stone Lake one year after we shoveled about 5 inches of snow out of it. Seems like a lifetime ago. I still like to fish and actually purchased a new kicker motor for my old Alumacraft Trophy 17 this spring. It was the only 9.9 horsepower motor made by Yamaha that I could find in about five states.

If the weather shapes up a bit and I can get my prescribed fires finished I might actually give it a try with about 500 thousand other people. One of my favorite pastimes on the fishing opener, assuming the weather is good enough, is to sit on a lawn chair at a busy boat landing and watch the circus unfold. 

If you hear a story that is just too hard to believe you should probable still believe it. I have seen just about every folly and mistake you can imagine. There is the new rule in Minnesota that you cannot trailer your boat with the boats drain plug in it. This is to insure you are not transporting water from lake to another. This is required to slow the spread of aquatic species of both animals and vegetation in live wells, boat hulls, etc. 

Forgetting to put the plug in was common and now is very common. Sooner or later, you will see the boat heading to shore to bail out the boat or wait until the bilge pump catches up. 

I have seen boat trailers with their wheels ½ down on the dock. Others will forget to remove the rear trailer tie downs and the wind will blow their boat parallel to shore. There is no way to pull it out now without a good cold water wading seminar.

Probable the best one I can remember was an older guy landing his small fishing boat. It took him about 10 minutes to crank the boat up on to the trailer in 15 second increments of physical exertion. After the line of other boaters was getting very impatient, he got in the truck and slowly drove out of the ramp. Unbeknownst to him was that the boat winch was not secure. 

As he drove very slowly away the boat in slow motion gently slid off the trailer onto the ground and when the winch ran out of rope it just pulled the boat behind the truck on the ground with the motor leaving a plow furrow about 4 inches deep. Lots of folks were hollering to help him but he paid no mind and drove out of the ramp and unto the street about 100 yards away.

The boat cut the corner and missed a parked car by only a few inches. He stopped to transfer his gear in the truck, and when he came to realize what had happened the first thing he did was to look around to see if anyone had seen him. Kind of like when you fall on the ice and hope nobody witnesses the human body yard sale that just happened.

He did not flinch even a little bit.  He just started cranking on the hand winch and about four rest breaks later he had the boat on the trailer and was on his way. There were lots of helpers but he declined any of their assistance. I had another incident in a Canadian shield lake where a member of our party unloaded their boat in a river flowage and the motor would not start. My friend, the owner’s son, asked him what was up and the dad responded that it ran good last year when he put it away. They drifted 5 miles before the other boat retuned from a supply trip to a distant cabin to tow them to home base. The engine never did run on that weeklong trip.

If you’re a die-hard angler, go chase a few walleyes this opening weekend.  If the weather is not nice enough to be on the water, enjoy opening day anyway by sitting on a lawn chair at a busy boat ramp. You might even go viral on the internet if some unfortunate soul really steps up their un-preparedness game.