Getting ready to scratch my winter itchWORTHINGTON — The changes in self-defense laws in Minnesota just crashed and burned. Even after passing in both houses by a big margin in a bi-partisan manner — and after a three-day wait — the governor vetoed the legislation. The same reasons that have never materialized on other self protection initiatives were used, and in this case were successful.
By: Scott Rall, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — The changes in self-defense laws in Minnesota just crashed and burned. Even after passing in both houses by a big margin in a bi-partisan manner — and after a three-day wait — the governor vetoed the legislation. The same reasons that have never materialized on other self protection initiatives were used, and in this case were successful. The “sky will fall” rational was all it took. There is no veto override planned, so Minnesota will continue down the same path as before.
The 50-plus degree day on Tuesday makes me look forward to my trip to the Missouri River even more. Some folks can tell you what the weather was like in 1953 or who won a particular sporting event in the same year. These I cannot do. What I can tell you is that the best time to make a river trip to South Dakota is when the NCAA basketball tournament is revving up.
There is a necessary agenda I follow when I make my river trip. I used to run out to the Missouri River two or three times every spring. I always bought a season license, although I rarely ever went back to fish there later in the year. It is a destination where you can catch walleyes when the season in Minnesota is closed.
For South Dakota, the season never closes. Walleye fishing is open year-round. They ice fish on this river all the time, but I have never tried it. I am a spring walleye pursuer in South Dakota, and when the season opens in Minnesota in mid-May, there is little reason for me to drive three hours when I can fish right here.
Getting back to my spring river fishing agenda, the first thing you do is book a room at Allen’s Hillside Hotel. This is the center hub of all fishing activity on the wide spot in the river, called Lake Francis Case. Each hydro-electric dam on this river system backs up a reservoir and each has a name. The one at Chamberlain, S.D., is Lake Francis Case.
It is not the biggest reservoir in the system, but it is the closest and most convenient to get to. After getting the fishing report from the guy who answers the phone, I go online and buy my license. This is so much more convenient than standing in line at a gas station or other vendor. You just fork over the money on your credit card and print the license and you are ready to go. Taking the boat out of the shed when there is snow on the ground is not a common sight for most boat owners. It takes a little extra attention to some important details.
I often have to move the snow from in front of the shed door to get the boat out, but for the first time in years this step can be skipped. The boat is moved to the driveway and the muffs applied. These are rubber suction cups attached to a garden hose that you put over the lower unit. It allows you to start the motor out of the water and provides a water source for the water pump so the motor does not overheat.
Once the motor gets started then the entire rig gets a once over. It is important to remove the muffs and trim the motor all the way down to allow the water from the lower end to drain. If you leave the motor trimmed up even a little, the water can freeze and you will very quickly come on to hard times.
Assuming the motor starts as planned, then topping of the batteries and short of loading the rods and reels, you are set to go. You would normally check the wheel bearings on the boat trailer, but I do this every fall before I tuck it in for the winter.
It takes two hours and 40 minutes from the time I reach the on-ramp of Interstate 90 in Worthington to the off-ramp in Chamberlain. If you leave at 4 a.m., you can be on the water by 8 a.m. A stop is always required at Allens’ before you hit the water. Almost all of the fishing done on the river in the spring is done with a jig and minnow.
A jig is just a chunk of lead molded onto a hook to get your minnow to the bottom. They come in all weights, sizes and colors. I have at least 750 pounds of jigs (exaggerating), but when you stop to get bait at Allens’ they will always tell you the hot bite is taking place on whatever weight or color of jig I do not own. So, a tackle purchase is always necessary. If 10 of one jig is good, than 50 of that same jig has got to be better. My boat always weighs more after the trip ends that in did before it started.
You can put your boat in at Chamberlain and work your way up river to the north. It is 17 miles by water to the dam to the north. I usually fish within three miles of the dam. Depending on the wind and temperature, I usually trailer the boat by the dam and put in there. This is about a 40-minute trip.
Most anglers start their day by dropping in the boat and looking for the crowd. Fishing is generally very good. I have had 10 great trips for every bad experience. Most bad experiences are weather-related.
Drifting with a jig dropped over the side catches fish. You move spot to spot, trying to find the fish that are biting. When the dam is releasing water for the generation of electricity, the bite is usually better. The dam runs more during the week than on weekends, so a mid-week trip usually nets the best results for me. However, I have caught many fish on the weekends as well. The fish are numerous, but they are not normally very big. Good eaters in the 14-16 inch range are common. The biggest walleye I have caught in the stretch of the river weighed 7 pounds. I have caught 20 larger than that in southwest Minnesota.
After a day on the water, you need to find a chair in the lounge/restaurant of Charlie’s. A great steak and the best pea salad on earth make the perfect end to a great day on the water. Did I mention that Charlie’s shares the same parking lot with Allen’s Hillside Motel, so it is just a short 100-yard walk back to the room?
The fact that the water is open, the walleye season is open, the temperatures are normally about 15 degrees warmer than home and that it is close all make a river trip a much anticipated excursion. The other thing that should put this trip on every fisherman’s list is that it is cheap. Who doesn’t like cheap? A room that sleeps three people is $54 a night and the bait, meals and other amenities are very reasonably priced.
Scratch the winter blues itch with a trip to the river. The number at Allen’s is (605) 734-5591. Anything over 50 degrees, with winds under 15 mph, will make for decent conditions. I used to go all the time but have missed the past few years. I can’t wait to get this tradition started again.
Scott Rall is the Daily Globe’s outdoors columnist. His column can also be read weekly at www.dglobe.com.