Without question one of the favorite summer pastimes in Minnesota is fishing.
I’ll never forget the first big fishing trip I went on with my dad, grandpa, and two uncles to Leech Lake in Cass County, Minn. I was all of 8-years old and had finally cleared customs with respect to meeting the criteria of being an able-bodied male who could carry his own tackle box. The previous summer I had still been deemed ineligible, which meant another trip to the Renaissance Festival with the ladies of the Ludtke brood, staring at men in tights. Therefore that summer I was thrilled to be included in this manly rite of passage and desired more than anything not to be labeled a pylon during post-fishing film studies. Getting sent back to the Renaissance Festival just wasn’t an option. Unfortunately there is no happy ending to this “fish story.” Just two days into the trip my old man and I were headed home. Somehow the only thing I managed to catch was the stomach flu.
Little did I know at the time, but that first experience would in many ways symbolize my future career in the sport of fishing. At the risk of being ostracized within the fishing community, I feel called to expose what I believe to be THE dirty little secret among most Minnesota anglers. And that is, the majority of us have absolutely no idea what we’re doing with a rod in our hands. Why do you think we travel in packs to parts unknown north of the border?
The fishing trip to Canada serves two primary functions. One, it allows us to hide our ineptitude in deep-wooded areas lacking quality cell phone coverage. And two it provides the perfect backdrop to stroke our egos by enabling us to drop our lines in what is essentially a well-stocked aquarium. Let’s be honest, Canada’s real appeal is as an outreach program for Phony Fisherman Anonymous.
Part of me thinks even the fish are in on it, as if they’re taking turns being caught knowing worst case some hapless poser with gloves on drops them during the manufactured photo-op prior to being released. Think about all the work we go to getting on the Big Fish List just so we can return that river monster back into the cool Canadian waters. I can’t think of another species that actually hunts for food but throws it back on account of proper etiquette. Have you ever seen a Grizzly Bear snare a salmon, and then attempt to revive its gills in the water? I didn’t think so. I can’t blame them either. I too have never been a huge proponent of the catch and release concept. I think it unfairly discriminates against those fish caught prior to shore lunch that have the unfortunate distinction of being “good eatin’ size.”
The ultimate shame for me personally comes during the sunrise walk to the dock. This is when your cover as a fishing purist is completely blown. You can feel the eyes of the guide/ fish whisperer just sizing you up as you slump down into their boat practically rubber-stamped in your brand new Cabela’s fishing attire. The matching top and bottom all weather pant suit scented with Berkley Strike screams pretender. And if that doesn’t do it the moment you hurl your suitcase of tackle into the boat, only to see your guide baiting his hook with a kernel of corn, you know it’s officially game-over.
What’s my advice then for those seeking the serenity of the upper Midwest’s lakes and rivers this summer? Don’t forget the cooler. Based on personal experience a well-stocked cooler can more than make up for an under-utilized live well. In fact I recommend loading the cooler first. If you happen to remember the fishing poles in the process consider it a bonus. Good luck all you wannabe anglers, and rest assured, Canada’s not going anywhere.
Marcus Ludtke graduated from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn., in 2001 and started working for POET Risk Management in May of that year. His primary responsibilities include managing POET’s corn position and market research.