Remembering Opening Day!

by Free Speech on May 15, 2011

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

Family Fishing Trip

Opening Day Memories


The opening day of the inland fishing season has always been a very special day for me. I grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago and came to Wisconsin to further my education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and play football and hockey. But, all my vacations and summers were spent in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota fishing and enjoying the outdoors with my grandfather and family. The opening of the fishing season was a very special time for me when growing up.
My grandfather came from a fishing family whose father was a commercial fisherman in the oceans and lakes of Sweden. Though my family originally settled in Chicago,where my grandfather was a carpenter, Northern Wisconsin and Minnesota was where all vacations and free time was spent fishing and being in the outdoors. My grandfather always said that the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota reminded him of his native Sweden with the many lakes, pine trees, abundant wildlife, and the fishing. I got my fishing skills and love of the outdoors from Grandpa John and if it wasn’t for him I might have chosen another path and not have been be introduced to fishing, hunting, and the outdoors in my early and formative years.
My father, who died when I was in college, was an athlete attending Northwestern University during the days of Otto Graham while playing football and baseball. Dad, at one time, was even a major league baseball scout and involved in youth sports till his early death. But, my father was not an outdoorsman and I owe that part of my life to my grandfather. Dad would go with fishing during vacations, but his loves were baseball, football, hockey, and basketball.
Opening Days of the fishing season were always something special in my youth. There weren’t the sport shows during the winter and spring as they are now, but there was always a show in the Chicago area that Gramps and I would go to and make our plans for the Opening Day and weekend in Vilas County. I’m not even sure why our family started to go to the Boulder Junction/Presque Isle area in the 1950’s and 1960’s, but as I earlier said this reminded my grandfather of his native Sweden.
I was just a youngster, but I had the “fishing bug” engrained at an early age and it’s lasted to this day. I was a lucky kid because my grandfather always took me fishing with him every time he went on the water. The family had a boat, which was rare in those days, and every spring it would be towed behind the family station wagon to Amour Lake Resort in Vilas County. The closest town was what is now called Presque Isle. But, back then the town was named Winegar.
Opening Day of fishing was something that I and Grandpa looked forward to from Christmas to early spring. I could always depend on getting a new fishing rod or reel from Gramps for Christmas and now I could dream of the upcoming fishing season and all the fish that I was going to catch with my new gear. We usually fished for walleyes in those days and my grandfather was a “muskie nut” before people knew what that was. There wasn’t any catch and release in those days and I can recall that most fish were eaten and a rare trophy might be mounted. I remember that Gramps had my first muskie mounted for me which in the 1960’s was “pricey” when then. I still have this fish though the years have taken there toll.
There was always a distinct odor in bait shops that is still there today in some of the older shops that instantly brings back the old memories. We would always be waiting for the bait shop at the old Standard Station in Presque Isle to open at 5:00 am or we had gotten our minnows the day before the opener. There was always the threat that the northern Wisconsin lakes might still have ice for opening day, but we seemed to always find a smaller lake to fish if Crab, Big, Wildcat, or Horsehead Lakes were still covered with ice.
The family would always leave for the northern counties a day or two before the Opener to make sure that we were “up north” in plenty of time. There were always people to stop and see to get the latest fishing report, say hi after a long winter, and stop by all the bait shops and sporting goods stores to make sure that we had all the gear we would need. This still sounds like what we do today before the inland opener or go fishing. Socializing was as much a part of the Opener as was fishing! I can remember that we usually caught fish because I can remember that we had many fish fries of walleye and northern pike. The Opening Day of the fishing season was much like the opener of deer season used to be, it was a tradition and I was happy to be a small part of it! Opening Day of fishing was one of the great traditions that still brings back wonderful thoughts and memories of a time when I was introduced to fishing and the wonders of the outdoors.
Things have changed these days and do to the great work that has been done by the DNR and other conservation groups (Muskies, Inc., Walleyes Forever) there is great fishing in the southern part of Wisconsin and one doesn’t have to travel 200 miles to fish. The recent gas rise has people looking for places to fish and vacation closer to their homes. There always will be something magical about going away on a fishing trip and especially on the opening day of fishing. Opening Days will always be special to me and bring back memories from decades ago. I drove around this past Saturday which was opening day of fishing in Wisconsin and was glad to see that there were many anglers out fishing on our lakes, rivers, and streams. The parking lots on Lake Wisconsin were crowded, cars and trucks were parked along Highway 14 where trout anglers were fishing Black Earth Creek, and the Madison chain of Lakes had boats and anglers out in numbers. It was great to see so many anglers out on Opening Day and especially those who took their children along and introduced them to fishing, the outdoors, and to Opening Day. Things change, times change, and people change but to me Opening Days will always be the same and bring back so many wonderful memories of Opening Days past. Thanks Gramps!

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