COLUMN: There are plenty of reasons to go fishing

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Why do people fish? With the abundance of lakes, rivers and creeks in Northwest Montana, I think it is a rare adult who has never fished.

I know Flathead citizens who fish at least 100 times a year and others who only fondly reminisce about an old fishing trip with dad or grandpa. But almost everyone has a fishing story or two. So what is the attraction to fish? Catching a fish is always part of the reason to fish, but certainly not always the primary reason to go fishing.

Last night I had a great evening of fishing even though I never caught a fish. My wife, JoAnn, and I are on our annual spring fishing trip to Minnesota. While the primary purpose of the trip is fishing, this trip is also about family, friends and experiencing nature.

While I have lived in Montana for the last 40 years, Minnesota is my home country and as much as I love Montana, there seems to be an irresistible urge to return home each spring — sort of like ducks and geese flying north each spring.

Not only do we still have family here, we have good friends that we’ve known for 50 years.

This is why we made a questionable economic decision to buy an old Minnesota lake cabin several years ago. Our cabin is in North Central Minnesota on Lake Benedict. Benedict is a smaller 400-acre lake that provides lots of fishing opportunity.

When I tire of fishing Benedict, it is a five-minute boat trip through a river channel to Kabekona Bay of Leech Lake. Leech Lake covers over 105,512 acres of great fishing for walleyes, northern pike, muskies, bass and an assortment of pan fish. At my doorstep, I have a lifetime of new fishing opportunities.

Last night was a picture-perfect time to be on the lake. Nice warm 70-degree weather, no wind and blue skies with a few puffy clouds. It was the midweek, so there was only one other boat on our lake. We motored across the lake to a good walleye hole and turned on our electric bow-mount trolling motor. It was perfectly quiet except for the sound of nature.

We have at least three nesting pairs of loons on our lake and occasionally the evening quiet was pierced by the haunting cry of loons.

A small flock of geese honked their way across the evening sky. Otherwise there was the quiet of this North Country lake. That is one reason to fish — peace and quiet, away from the sounds of civilization.

Then we experienced a beautiful sunset of red and orange skies. This is another good reason to go fishing — the ever-changing beauty of nature.

The next morning I was fishing the same place with two good friends. A new natural sound that morning was the mating gobble of wild turkeys in the nearby hardwood forest. When I lived here 40 years ago, there were no wild turkeys. But in Minnesota, as in Northwest Montana, wild turkeys have learned to adapt and have spread their natural range. It was great hearing the turkeys gobble while we fished. Next spring my spring fishing trip to Minnesota may include some spring turkey hunting.

Today, three old high school hunting and fishing buddies will arrive at our cabin to spend four days of fishing, eating too much, card playing, reminiscing about the old days and doing some fishing. This will be a fun time and another reason to go fishing — maintaining friendships.

Oh yes, let’s not forget another reason to go fishing — catching fish.

The other morning, JoAnn and I motored through 10 miles of stormy water to fish the Goose Island flats in Leech Lake. We had good fishing. We caught several nice walleyes and one northern pike. JoAnn had to release one large female walleye because it was in the “slot.” Those big females must be released to protect the breeding stock of fish.

The next evening I fired up my new deep-fat fryer and cooked delicious walleye fillets. We enjoyed the fish fry with longtime friends and lake neighbors. This is another reason to go fishing — great eating of natural food.

So plan to go fishing this weekend to make your own fishing memories. Who knows, you may even catch a fish or two!

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