Maple Lake’s freeze-ups and open water for 2016 and 2017 are some kind of a record with an extra freeze-up and opener this year. The 2016 freeze up was Dec. 17; and 2017’s first opener was March 9. The lake froze over again on March 16 and remained frozen until March 21 when it opened for a second time. Last year’s opener was March 15, something of a record in itself! There just might be something to global warming!
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Maple Lake became an official settlement in 1855, bringing settlers from all over to live in the wild back country that once was, and still is, Wright County, Minnesota. The Messenger received these photos, which were postcards at one point, and thought they were worth sharing. The above left and above right photos are from Donnelly Drive in Maple Lake, right off the shores of Maple Lake itself. Another historic landmark in Maple Lake was the creamery building. This building was built around 1912 and had only three workers or less. The cream, milk and butter were refrigerated in the early years by blocks of ice which was delivered to Maple Lake regularly. In the year of its fiftieth anniversary, the creamery had over $2,000,000 in sales.
(Photos and postcards submitted by John Haack)
Kate Heberling edged Bill Eccless with this 39 3/4 inch Northern while fishing on Lake of the Woods early in March. His was 38 1/4 inches. Kate’s father, Rick Heberling, said this year’s entourage consisted of 10 anglers who fished Mar. 4 - 7. Besides Kate, Ann and Jason and himself, the others were Todd and Bill Eccless, Tom Lauer, Jordan Lauer, Eric Lemke, and Dianna Hermosillo.
They had two days of excellent weather (36 and 48 degrees) on Saturday and Sunday. Monday was foggy and windy and a blizzard on Tuesday cramped their style. They caught a total of 23 Northerns and Walleyes along with some perch and an 8 lb. Poor Man’s Lobster (Eel pout) which Rick said was delicious. Kate threw back a 13 inch perch, another delicacy of that lake, when she got some incorrect legal fish size information unintentionally, I think, from her cousin, Jordan.
The latest harbinger of spring at the Brutlag household are the tulips on the south side of the house that are showing about two inches of stems. That’s more than enough fresh food for the neighborhood rabbits to nibble on. This has been an unusual winter for Minnesota with the Central Minnesota lakes opening up March 9th only to freeze up again last week (a first in my lifetime). The Mar. 6 three tornadoes, thunder and lightning, and the March 13th snow adds to the confusion as we head into spring. Local gardener Patrick Lahr figures two lake openings in one year has to be some kind of record (one opening still to come as of March 20) and suggested a new chart for record keeping is in order. A portion of the East Coast wasn’t spared by the Mar. 14 storm either. Phyllis Bowen, friend of mine who lives with her husband, Harry, in Merrimac, MA. (north of Boston) said she had her snow shovel ready anticipating lots of late season snow.
I barely got into the Messenger office Monday when I received a call from Dale Welter, Chaska, who has a wealth of town team baseball information and statistics between his ears as well as some of his exploits in other areas. He was a former room-mate of mine (behind Ed’s Barber Shop) while on the ML high school faculty years ago. Along with the box scores from town team baseball in the 1940s and before which I need to review before publishing, was a story about Welter winning the Hamm’s Hit a Homer Contest at the Metropolitan Stadium back in the ‘70s. Welter was 29 years old at the time and one of the contestants. His was a 380-foot “blast into the right-field bleachers. Over 2,000 people tried to do the same, but failed.” His prizes were a trip to the World Series in New York with his bride, Yvonne, and a case of Hamm’s beer each week for one year.
My last attempt at late ice angling was a solo effort on Maple Lake Feb. 28 when it took me too long to find any sunnies. I was on a time restraint from the better half with a request to be home by 11:30 a.m. Actually, I was out earlier than normal 9:00, but didn’t find any sizeable fish until about 10:30 when my first keeper hit my wax worm. The next two sunfish were also keepers and then some smaller fish moved into view. I was sight fishing in about five feet of water and two feet off the bottom. It was interesting to watch how cautious the larger sunfish were. Sometimes they’d swim up to the bait only to back off and let the small sunfish nip away at the waxie. Most of the time the larger “keeper” fish would keep their distance and hit the bait sometimes when I switched to a different rod and jig. I kept six that I wasn’t ashamed of and I made Janis happy when I showed up only a half-hour late!
Dittberner with a 14.5-inch perch caught on a jigging spoon.
(Photos submitted by Don Dittberner)
Fernando Songstad with his 23- inch walleye from Devils Lake.
It sounds like Devils Lake in North Dakota was the place to be recently if you like fishing walleyes and northern fishing. Six anglers, Bart and Tom Lauer, Jordon and Dominic Lauer, Ryan (Jordan’s friend) and Rick Heberling, have fished in North Dakota, but mostly on Pelican Lake for Northerns. As a group they harvested 42 walleyes off Devils Lake and 3 off Pelican, 48 Northerns off of Pelican and Devils Lake, fishing with tip-ups. Their perch came off Devils Lake. Rick said his largest northern was 10 1/2 pounds. He said Jordan had the largest walleye, 21 inches, and Bart had the largest northern, 13 lbs., and a 14- inch perch. Their walleyes ranged from 14 inches on up to 21, releasing anything under 14 inches. Rick said this year was a huge contrast weather-wise, 39 degrees compared to the -18 and -25 they fished in three years ago when their final day was still colder, near -40, too cold to fish.
I finally got back on Maple Lake Feb. 13 when George Palmer and I gave that lake one of our better efforts. It wasn’t a fast bite for either of us but Palmer out-fished me six to two. The small northerns seemed to be feeding, and in some cases just swimming around and stopping sometimes to take a look at the wax worm. I was sight fishing in about six feet of water and had one stop dead center. It was reluctant to move, even though I dropped my jig on its nose several times. I finally moved to a different hole. The eight were enough for a meal for George and we quit about 4 p.m. . . I was back on the lake Wednesday for a couple of hours and sorted out two keepers before releasing them. The sunfish liked to swim up to the bait, bump it sometimes, but more often would just swim off. Two other anglers had been out the day before fishing in Tuesday’s wind. Both said sight fishing had been much better.
Sad to say I haven’t been out fishing for about three weeks, something I’m changing this week. The fishing grapevine tells me small sunfish are biting on Maple Lake, but check the shoreline for a safe place to get on the ice. Steve Loch says there’s an open hole out from the access that’s about 3 feet deep. Anglers were still driving on the lake over the weekend and there’s about 18 inches of ice, but with sunshine and warm temps the shore ice is the first to go. . . There were several anglers on Pelican Lake Sunday and two motorcyclists were out for a spin Saturday east of Buffalo. Another lake, Moose, in the Lake Sylvia area has been producing suspended crappies (23-24 feet) in about 40 feet of water.
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I was an Atlanta fan Sunday evening and figured they had the game in the bag after three quarters, but I was proved wrong once again when the Patriots pulled off an overtime win. As for the game commercials, which get a lot of hype, for me it was a toss-up between Mr. Clean and Skittles with Skittles winning that contest. There was lots of glitz and glamour in Lady Gaga’s halftime show, but this year’s Super Bowl will be remembered for being the first overtime game in its history, and for the way veteran quarterback Tom Brady rallied his team.
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My thanks to Nick Pawlenty for pinch-hitting for me and his OnStar practical joke was a good example of what can happen when a group puts their heads together for some fun. In this case getting OnStar travel directions in the dead of winter on a Minnesota lake from a representative answering from down south who probably had never seen a frozen lake!
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