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home : outdoors : outdoor news June 27, 2017

5/13/2017 7:23:00 AM
The lake where you live
Opportunity fishing
By Ted Rulseh

Last Saturday was the fishing season opener. I stayed off the water. The day dawned late-March cold with a stiff northeast wind and a crystal sky, about the worst conditions for walleye fishing one can imagine. So I didn't go out. No law says I have to. I'm no more obligated to fish on opening day than to drink to excess on New Year's Eve.

One benefit of lakefront life is being able to fish - or not - as I choose. I remember opening days coming north with friends and encountering miserable weather. We fished anyhow; we'd planned the trip for months, booked a motel or cabin, driven four hours, spent money. Was it fun on the water? Not exactly. What fish we caught we paid for dearly in discomfort, and sometimes we caught nothing. Evenings around a card table or campfire made the trip worthwhile, but we could have had that without the fishing.

The thought process is different when the lake waits just down the hill. If opening weekend is dreadful, why bother? There's next weekend, and any weekday evening after work. Nothing is lost except a couple of days on the calendar, and there are lots of those to come, week upon week, month after month.

I like to call my approach opportunity fishing - a privilege elusive to those who need to travel to a favorite lake and make advance arrangements. The late outdoor writer Gordon MacQuarrie explored this concept in a classic story. Though he worked in Milwaukee, his friend Gus lived in the north and would call him when the flights of ducks were moving over the marshes. Every hunter or angler, MacQuarrie said, needs a Gus.

Now, I suppose I'm Gus to my brothers who still live to the south. They can't always come if I call to say the walleyes are biting, but I'm ready to go almost any time the conditions are right. I'll admit that, being hyper-disciplined in my self-employed career, I often work straight through days that look and feel ideal. But then there are the evenings.

There's also the advantage of going out only for the hour or so of prime time. Here on Birch Lake, that typically starts when pines across the lake just brush the setting sun, and ends when it gets too dark to see a slip bobber.

So, I let opening day slip by. Well, all right, not completely. I did go out for an hour or so in the evening and hopped a jig and minnow over some rocky areas where I know walleyes prowl. The wind blew the boat around, I had not one strike, my hands got cold and a little stiff, so I packed it in just as the sun went down. I fished on the opener. I might as well not have bothered. And that just helps confirm the luxury of opportunity fishing.

Ted Rulseh, who lives on Birch Lake in Harshaw, is the author of the "The Lake Where You Live," a blog where readers can learn about the lakes they love - the history, geology, biology, chemistry, physics, magic, charm. Visit Ted may be reached at

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