In my early 20's, I lived in Duluth and had a job that required I work a split shift. I would go to work at 7 am and work 'til 11 am, then my second shift would start at 6 pm. That was a seven hour break every day. Since I was single at the time, I thought what better way to spend this long lunch break than to go fishing! Especially Minnesota Fishing!
I did not own a boat, so I was rather limited as to where I could go. There was this one spot I found, however, that was accessable by vehicle and pretty much vacated at that time of the day. It was a dirt road that ran between two bays on Island Lake. You could park and fish pretty much anywhere along the road on either side. The only other people that fished out there at that time of day were some of the locals. Being it was less then a half hour from where I lived, I started to spend almost every day there, even weekends as I became more proficient at the art of angling.
Now this was a time in my life when I was pretty green when it came to fishing. I preferred to fish alone because it always took a long time for me to tie a line or bait a hook. I didn't want anyone else to see my lack of experience. It wasn't that I hadn't fished before, just that it was relatively new to me.
Oh I had fished with friends and such as most young kids do, but I rarely caught anything worth mentioning. This new job with the wierd hours made fishing more often a possibility, and the more I went to Hag Creek, the more I started to enjoy the sport.
Along the dirt road was a telephone pole that had wire strung about thirty to forty feet above the ground. Kind of funny because there were hundreds of lures, sinkers, hooks, and line that were caught up in the wire. Must have been pretty bad casters in the neighborhood, I thought, and me not being much better.
I got there around noon one day, and the only other person fishing besides me, was an old farmer that I had seen there before. On the way, I had picked up some new fangled live bait called "Golden Shiners" and I was going to see if they would work on the mid-day Northerns that usually swam around shore and through the current of a bridge that happened across the road. They were expensive, but what the heck.
I got my stuff out of my truck and grabbed the minnow bucket and walked to the edge of the water. I reached in and pulled out a shiner about seven inches long and started to bait my hook.
The old guy, who was about twenty feet down the shoreline, picked up his rod from the "y" stick he had driven into the ground and started to reel in. He looked at the new bait I had and then inspected the big sucker he had dangling from his line.
"What ya got there?" he asked, making an expert and smooth cast out into the lake.
"Golden Shiners," I told him. I had never seen shiners before and I don't think he ever had either. People here usually used suckers or fatheads.
He kept glancing at me out of the corner of his eye while he was fishing, and to tell you the truth, he made me a little nervous. He was much older than I and was obviously much more experienced.
He looked up at the line of the telephone pole that had all the tackle tangled to it and said "Boy, the water sure musta been high that day," and gave a little chuckle. It must have been a local joke but it actually made me feel a bit more comfortable with him. At least there was no critisim of my ability involved. I believe it was his way of trying to start a conversation.
I finished baiting up and threw a cast with line and bobber out into the lake. No sooner had the bobber hit the water, then it disappeared underneath. I thought, oh boy, I am not very good at this. I had obviously rigged my setup all wrong or maybe the shiner had pulled the bobber under. It was a pretty big minnow after all. So I started to reel in to see what the problem was.
"Whatchya got goin' there?", the old guy asked. I was getting ready for him to make some smart remark and tell me I was doing it all wrong.
"I don't know." I replied.
As I was reeling in, there was no drag whatsoever that I could feel. No bottom. No nothing. But where the line disappeared into the water, a large wave was coming in towards us at the shore. I thought this rather odd since there was no wind and the water was like glass.
I kept reeling in and the wave kept getting closer with still no feeling the bottom. When the wave got about twenty feet from shore, all heck broke loose. The wave stopped and suddenly the drag of my reel started to scream. I grabbed my drag setting and tightened it, but I couldn't get the line to stop spooling out.
By the time it took to try to tighten the drag again, it was all over. The line had spooled to the end which had been tied to the reel. The rod was snapped in half with two broke eylets off the tip. And my reel? Well, I swear, the reel was smoking! That wave must of been some huge fish pushing the water around.
The old guy next to me started laughing, slapping his knee. "that musta been Bertha," he said. I was embarrassed and I was sure the guy was laughing at me. Probably the way I was rigged or something.
"Bertha?" I asked, pretty much flustered and eying my busted rod.
"Yeah," he said, "we've been tryin' to catch her for the last couple years. She's a bigin'."
"But I had twelve pound test on here," I said holding up my rod and smoldering reel, "How big is that fish?" Maybe the rigging was okay after all, at least I hoped.
"Well," he said, spitting some tobacco into the lake, "I've seen ducks disappear off the surface. Somethin' just draggin' 'em down. I never got a good look at 'er, but we've been out here tryin' for a long time now to catch 'er."
I reflected on what he said, then looked at my rod and started getting bummed out because my fishing was over for the day. The old farmer looked at me and grinned, turned and headed for his truck.
"Don't worry," he said. "I got a rod and some line in the truck you can use."
I realized at that point that he wasn't laughing at me at all. It wasn't my inexperience or clumsiness he found humorous. It was just the situation. It was the fact that Bertha had screwed up another fisherman and got away. Something, I had found out later, that had happened to quite a few locals from the area.
In fact, it appeared this was the beginning of a friendship. Maybe it was because we had shared a unique experience together. Maybe it was because it might have happened to him before. Maybe it was because he knew I was rather green. Maybe it was just the fact that we both liked fishing. It didn't really matter anyway. I knew that this was the beginning of some great times on Hag Creek and I would be spending a lot of time out here.
I was grateful as he handed me his spare rod and spool of Stren. I sat down on the edge of the lake and started to put my temporary rod and reel together. The old guy still had a big grin on his face. He picked up his rod out of the "y" stick and wiggled it a little bit and started to reel it in.
"By the way," he said, looking out over the water still kind of looking at me out of the corner of his eye.
"Yeah?" I replied, busily winding on new line.
"You wouldn't happen to mind if I borrowed one of them there shiners, would you?"
Minnesota Fishing with My Fishing Pals