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Summer fishing memories

Fishing the Midwest

— Submitted photo Bob Jensen with an August largemouth bass that ate a Hornet crankbait.

It started way back at least fifty years ago. That’s when I developed an interest in fishing. In that era, fishing was a summer thing. Not many people fished through the ice in the winter, and we went to school in the spring and fall, so all of the fishing that we did was in the summer. When we weren’t baling hay, walking beans, or mowing the cemetery, we rode our bikes to the small stream that was near our home. We got there early in the morning, and when the noon whistle blew, we hopped back on our backs and headed home for dinner(we called the noon meal dinner back then. The evening meal was supper). When we finished dinner, we re-mounted our bikes and returned to our fishing. We wandered up and down that stream, catching mostly chubs, suckers, sunfish, and every now and then a smallmouth bass. Smallmouth were a big deal back then, and to me, they still are.

Speaking of smallmouth, one of my favorite summer memories is a trip to Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin. This was a good number of years ago before smallmouth became so popular on The Bay. I was fishing with a couple of friends. It was hot, mid-day, and the water was flat and clear. It’s been said that smallmouth “like the sun”, meaning they, unlike some other fish, are susceptible to being caught when the sun is bright. On this day, they really “liked the sun”. We could see the smallmouth cruising over sand flats. We had to make long casts because the boat would spook them. However, if we were quiet and keep our motions to a minimum, almost every bass that we saw, we caught. They weren’t all big, although a good number of them were, and they were all fun. Most smallmouth are fun.

It was another summer day even longer ago that I was with the late Otis “Toad” Smith. Toad was an outdoors legend. He was especially well-known for his expertise in catching catfish, but in reality, whatever Toad was fishing or hunting, it was in trouble.

We were on a lake in northern Minnesota. Toad and I were after crappies. We were eight hours from our homes in Iowa, and almost every boatload of anglers that we saw on the water that day knew Toad, or Toad knew them. All day anglers pulled up to our boat to reminisce about past fishing experiences. We didn’t catch a lot of crappies that day, but we had a wonderful time sharing past outdoor adventures. And Toad had a lot of adventures!

With the good comes the bad, but even this very unpleasant experience brought a good lesson with it. I was fishing a mid-August tournament near Park Rapids Minnesota. Practice day was a Friday, tournament day was a Saturday. This was early in my fishing career. Friday was a clear, hot day with a moderate breeze. I was fishing shirtless and shoeless, wearing only shorts. Very, very bad idea. Late in the afternoon, I was starting to notice a little discomfort related to sunburn. At suppertime the discomfort was more noticeable, and when I went to bed I knew that I was in trouble. I was seriously concerned that I might not be able to fish the next day. When the next day arrived and I tried to get dressed in appropriate clothing for fishing, I couldn’t put my clothes on. It was just way to painful. I ended up fishing the tournament that day wearing a rainsuit on a cloudless day. The rainsuit was the only thing that was loose-fitting enough to allow me to fish. From that experience I learned the value of sunscreen. I also learned that a moderate breeze can camouflage the effects of the sun.

My fishing adventures have certainly branched out since those formative years. I’ve had the good fortune to fish across North America. I’ve been blessed to catch lots of fish of varying species and have been even more blessed to have fished with many, many wonderful people. And many of those wonderful memories took place in the summer season. If you get the opportunity to go fishing sometime during the remainder of this summer, do so. Better yet, make the opportunity to go fishing sometime in the next few weeks.

To see new and old episodes of Fishing the Midwest television, fishing articles and fishing videos, go to fishingthemidwest.com

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