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- 3 years 11 months
CHERRY, Minn. — Ten-year-old Joey Smith, a fifth-grader at Cherry School, clutched the northern pike in two gloved hands. The wide-eyed fish, still wiggling, glistened in the sunshine and zero-degree air. Joey had just emerged from a heated fishing shelter on Long Lake near Cherry. He and nearly 90 other fourth- and fifth-graders from the school were taking part in an annual fishing and outdoors day on the lake. Nobody had to teach Joey how to tell a fishing story. "The line was going straight down," he said. "I reeled it in. It felt very heavy."
DULUTH — A buddy of mine went to see his doctor the other day. Just a regular checkup, no pressing concerns. He's a contemporary of mine, which is to say he's enjoyed several decades of life on Earth. He checked out just fine, he said. No issues. The doctor was reviewing my friend's chart, just looking at his medical history. He casually mentioned to my friend: "You've probably got 10 to 20 years left." There. Just like that. Understand, I wasn't there. I didn't hear the exact words. I'm quoting the doctor as my friend related the story to me.
DULUTH, Minn.—Beth Holst had hunted on the ground for the first two days of last fall's Minnesota firearms deer season, but she hadn't seen a deer. She decided she'd hunt from an elevated stand on the third day. On that November morning, the temperatures were in the single digits, she said. "We had had maybe a 2-inch snowfall," said Duluth's Holst, 64. "I was going up the rungs and just transitioning from the last rung to the stand."
An angler I know was talking about a lake where he used to fish. Crappies, as I recall. Somewhere near Bemidji. "But then the college kids found out about it, and they hit it pretty hard," he said. It was a small lake, and they fished it down until the angler quit going there. So did the college kids. They couldn't catch enough fish to make it worthwhile.
FRENCH RIVER, Minn.—The temperature was struggling to rise above zero at mid-morning on Thursday, Feb. 1. A sharp wind whistled down from the north as Dick Hedberg, 72, sat in his car, heater running, surveying Lake Superior near the mouth of the French River. "I'm scouting," Hedberg said. "This is one of my routes."
DULUTH, Minn.—She's 58 years old and lives on a corn and soybean farm in Iowa. Vacationing with her husband on the North Shore last summer, she picked up a dogsledding brochure in the lobby of a resort. The brochure was for Chilly Dogs Sled Dog Trips in Ely. "It looked like so much fun," recalled Ramona Bracker of Neola, Iowa. She showed her husband the brochure. "I'm going to do this someday," she told him. This winter, she pulled out the brochure and called Chilly Dogs to book her trip.
The email came from a friend up the shore. Subject line: "Mid-winter." He had purchased some maps of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, he wrote. He wanted to talk about some possible trips later in the year. But mostly, he was feeling what he called the "mid-winter doldrums" and just needed to look ahead. On the heels of that email came a text from another friend. We usually do a walleye and lake trout fishing trip to the canoe country in June with several others. "Is there a trip this year?" he wrote.
The decoy, made to imitate a tullibee, swims in lazy circles as Paul Nelson lifts and drops the line that suspends it in his spearing hole. Sunlight that penetrates the snow and 18 inches of ice on this Itasca County lake reflects off the decoy's aluminum fins. Nelson, 37, of rural Grand Rapids, built the decoy from scratch himself, something he's been doing since he was 10. He sells decoys through his business, Wabana Fishing Tackle (wabanatackle.com), and at decoy shows.
NEAR GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. — Paul Nelson stopped in the snowy woods and looked around. "This is where we usually get lost," he said. Nelson and his partner, Liv Mostad-Jensen, both of Grand Rapids, were looking for a lake where they could do some northern pike spearing. They'd been there once before, on this same route. But there was no trail, and on that first trip the two had to do a bit of — well, exploring — before finding the lake.
TWO HARBORS, Minn.—The shadowy forms ghost through the forest almost like a procession of deer. They travel in single-file, rolling through a dense snowfall coming down in flakes the size of Wheaties. The only sounds are the squeak of nubby tires on the fresh snow. A cadre of fat-bikers, riding their balloon-tired cycles, are out for a Sunday afternoon tour of the groomed trails of the Lake County Demonstration Forest north of Two Harbors, Minn. "This is one of my favorite places to ride," says Josh Kowaleski of Duluth, Minn.