Saturday's opener on Crane Lake, near the Ontario border, northeast of Orr, Minn., was great for us in a number of respects — most of which had nothing to do with the fishing. The fishing is important, to be sure, but our group — and this year we numbered more than 20 — considers the laughs and good food nearly as important to the total experience as the fishing.
Here's how we do it:
Each year, usually in January, I pick a spot that we will fish on the opener. If I weren't writing about it in the next day's Star Tribune, perhaps I would be like most Minnesotans, and fish the same spot on each opening day. But moving around the state is fun, and a good way to learn how to fish different waters. I also think it makes it more interesting for readers if I'm reporting from a variety of places, year to year.
This year I chose Crane Lake because the fishing has been good here, and because we were able to secure excellent accommodations at Nelson's Resort on Crane. Nelson's is a Minnesota treasure, with a great lodge and comfortable cabins stretching along perhaps a mile of beautiful Crane Lake shoreline.
Of course the fishing, as always, was a surprise. I thought we would have a little easier time catching walleyes to eat — and we planned a big fish fry for Saturday night — but as it turned out, finding walleyes less than 17 inches (there's a 17-28 inch protected slot on Crane) was challenging.
We found walleyes that size, but they weren't jumping into the boat.
The great news was that we caught lots and lots of walleyes 23 inches and longer, and perhaps eight or so longer than 25. Our biggest was 29 inches, and all were released.
Additionally, we saw lots of similar-sized walleyes caught by boats near us.
Great fishing? Yes. And our fish fry Saturday night, complete with all the fixings, went off as planned.