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Two Boys and a Cold Minnesota Fishing Opener


My son has fished with me on the Minnesota fishing opener since he was in kindergarten. We always camped at a remote campsite on Lake Winnibigoshish from that first time until his senior year in high school. When he was in fifth grade he asked if he could bring his friend Brian along for the opener. Brian’s a good kid and it seemed like a great opportunity to introduce another kid to fishing and camping, so I said, “Sure.”

Our routine has always been that we get up at 4:30 A.M., leave at 5:30, breakfast in Deer River about eight, baitshop and then on to Winny. Everything was going smoothly. We’d left on schedule and we were making good time. We were in a caravan with three other cars. I was mentally going through my list of gear and clothing while drinking coffee and listening to John Hiatt. Two pairs of gloves, down vest, stocking cap, winter jacket...

“Hey, you guys brought your winter jackets, right?” No answer. I looked at the two deer in the headlights staring back at me and I knew we had a problem. They’d forgotten their jackets!

Fawkinnae! You knuckleheads have got to be kidding me. You don’t have your jackets? What were you thinking?” I was so pissed. All I could think was what a good lesson it would be for them, camping in 30 to 40 degree rainy, snowy weather with no winter jackets. It seemed like a really good idea and it helped me with my anger, but there was one problem. Two problems actually, two moms that would Fawkinnae kill me.

As we drove through Deer River on our way to have breakfast I saw a garage sale sign. “Hmmm... that’s the answer,” I thought.

At Breakfast I told the others in our party about our dilemma, but that I had it all figured out. We’d just find a garage sale and we’d be right behind them. After breakfast I went back to where I’d seen the garage sale sign, did a U-turn and started following the signs... err, sign.

After fifteen minutes of driving around I saw a garage with its door open and one table sitting in the driveway. It didn’t look promising. All they had were some baby clothes and a box of cassette tapes. The woman there told me I might find some cheap winter coats at the surplus store. Another fifteen minutes and we found the surplus store. They had two jackets, a youth large and a youth extra-large for eighteen dollars each.

“We’ll take them. You guys are paying me back,” I said.

Back in the car, the boys were wearing their dorky new, matching blue jackets with orange shoulders. I had to laugh. I apologized for being so crabby and we continued on to the bait shop. We picked up a half pound of leeches and 6 dozen shiners. I decided to put the shiners in a bag until we got to the landing. I asked Brian to hold them for me, but before I could say anything else Brian grabbed the top of the bag, pulled the rubber band off and dropped the whole thing, spilling about half the water into the back seat. Fawkinnae!

When we finally got the landing, about half the minnows were on their sides. Somehow Brian managed to resuscitate most of them though (nice save by the rookie).

The rest of the weekend was great. The boys were warm... well, as warm as you can be camping in that weather. We caught a few fish, the boys terrorized a few of the local varmints, and another Minnesota fishing opener was in the books.

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