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NEAR SAWYER, Minn. — Just minutes into this particular fishing excursion, Bret Baker started the verbal barbs with a backhanded comment about his son Joseph's first largemouth bass of the day. "Cute one, Joseph,'' Bret said. It didn't take long in the Bakers' 20-foot Lund Alaskan to realize that "cute" meant "small." "Bigger than yours," Joseph, 15, fired back instantly, referring to the fact that his dad still hadn't landed a fish.
ON LAC LA CROIX, Ont. — For Jim Glowacki of Britt, Minn., this was his second trip to the big border lake here in two years, after last year's trek when he bumped his outboard on an infamous rock in the Loon River. For Mike Appelwick of Biwabik, Minn., it was his first time back to Lac La Croix in more than 20 years. But it was Appelwick who remembered precisely where the "56 Rock" on the Loon River was and how to avoid it in the fast-flowing current.
DULUTH --When REI Co-Op, the national outdoor recreation chain, commissioned a poll about women in the outdoors last year, they got some mixed results. The poll found more than 85 percent of women surveyed believe the outdoors positively affects their mental health, physical health, happiness and overall well-being. Some 70 percent agreed being outdoors is liberating.
Pick your fishing partners carefully, and coddle them when you find a good one, because good fishing partners are hard to find. That's about the extent of my fishing advice. Good fishing partners listen well, are ready to go on time and are willing to net your fish. Fishing skill is a plus but not mandatory.
LAKE WINNIBIGOSHISH — Forgive Gerry Albert if he gets a little excited when he catches walleyes here. "Here's another one!'' Albert shouted as he set the hook on a walleye, working to keep a tight line and run his outboard in whitecaps. "Ohhh, and I think it's a keeper!" Big Winnie is Albert's lake, so to speak. He's the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' large lakes fisheries specialist for the huge reservoir — 67,000 acres, 88 square miles — northwest of Deer River.
COTTON, Minn. — Bob Reed has a little breathing problem that requires oxygen, had a heart stent put in last winter and can't walk very far because of arthritis. But get him on his Polaris four-wheeler ATV and Reed looks like a 15-year-old kid ready to cut loose. You can find Reed every Tuesday morning from late April through October riding ATV trails across the region with a dozen or more of his closest Cotton friends. They don't have a name for their group, but others have come up with something that seems appropriate.
JAY COOKE STATE PARK — As his stubby, plastic kayak dipped under the wave of a rapids, between two boulders and then out of sight, Jon Schmidt let out a primal scream audible even over the roar of the river. There was nothing wrong, mind you, just a sign from Schmidt that he was shredding it. Schmidt, of Proctor, Minn., is a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie. In winter, he gets his kicks snowboarding. But when the snow melts and fills Northland rivers with water, Schmidt grabs his kayak and hits the rapids.
DULUTH — For his day job, Lorin LeMire drives a massive iron ore haul truck at Hibbing Taconite, a two-story behemoth that can carry 240 tons of rock. But that's his easy job, Lemier says. It's this side gig on Lake Superior that causes him concern. "This is my stressful job, the one i do on my days off,'' LeMire said as he piloted his 28-foot Grady White boat out of Duluth's harbor and onto Lake Superior. "It can be a little nerve-wracking when people pay you to catch fish."
DULUTH — When Troy Skorich of Hermantown, Minn., and Tim MacDougall of Duluth won last weekend's 2018 Berg Construction Walleye Cup on the St. Louis River, they pulled up to the dock with no fish to weigh. In fact, none of the 60 tournament boats kept any fish to weigh. Instead, the winners of the tournament were determined not by weight of the fish measured at the dock, but on length, as measured by each two-person team in their own boat. The team with most total inches of fish — up to eight fish could be entered — were the winners.
DULUTH — John Hanna started messing with 12-volt electronics when he was in high school, installing stereo equipment in his car. Pretty soon, his friends were asking them to rig their rides as well. "Eventually I started on my boat ... And then I had friends wanting me to do their boats. It was sort of a hobby that's expanded,'' Hanna said. That hobby grew into Psycho Billy Marine Service — we'll explain the name later — a part-time job for Hanna, a Duluth resident and supervising carpenter for Johnson Wilson Constructors during the day.