TALMOON, MINN. — Minnesota on Saturday turned into a Walleye Winter Wonderland.
So -- it had to be opening day, right?
And was everybody happy? Hard to tell.
Most angling faces were tucked into hooded coats or covered with wool hats pulled low to stifle a raw northwest breeze that rolled across 48 degree water on Bowstring Lake in Itasca County.
The only sign of warmth was the best sign of all ... landing nets flying like a race starter's flag.
Joe Moravec and son Joey, of Plymouth, and Dick Kendall, of New Prague, didn't even get into their boat at first light. They pulled in at least six walleyes off the dock at Bowstring Shores Resort by tossing slip-bobber rigs adorned with spot-tail shiner minnows.
Indeed, fishing luck appeared as common as numb fingers among the heavy turnout of fishing boats. Walleyes -- mostly males -- were roaming the 6- to 10-foot shallows and softly nabbing shiners and fatheads in the early going. The bite slowed by midday, but by then, lots of walleyes were headed for the eventual frying pan.
Let there be no doubt, catching fish helps ease the pain of frostbite or the light close-to-snow rain that fell sporadically Saturday afternoon.
Bowstring Shores owner Darv Oelke said a few boats had limits by midday, and nearly all returning to the dock had something to brag about -- walleyes, northern pike or jumbo perch.
The key to success was to fish slow and not expect a hard strike. Most often, the bite consisted of nothing more than a feeling of something hanging on the end of the line.
The Schara Family Opening Day Party began as usual on Friday night with plenty of exaggeration about previous fishing opener success.
By midday Saturday, there was more bragging amid the family.
The largest walleye, a 20 1/2-incher, was caught by 13-year-old Ronnie Hebel of Prairie du Chien, Wis.
In my boat, the loudest braggart was my daughter Simone, who not only nabbed the first walleye of the day, an 18-incher, but also caught the most fish, including six walleyes and a pair of 12-inch perch.
Uncle Charles, 88, of Austin, Minn., also broke the ice with a nice walleye, which left me in last place until my luck improved later on.
Bro' Rick, of Fergus Falls, and bro' Robert, of Hutchinson, returned with their usual number of walleye catching heroics, taking great glee over my poor performance.
Two sisters -- DeAnn Schara, of Hastings, and Mary Jane Orth, of Cresco, Iowa -- also managed to catch a walleye, a fact that surprised her brothers. Wendy Orth of Lime Springs, Iowa, also caught a walleye, which proved they really were biting.
Uncle Bob Dickens and Al Klein, a pair of Wisconsinites, reported catching walleyes, but there were no witnesses.
Bob Johnson of St. James, Minn., and his son, Brian Johnson, of Plymouth, also fought off the chills to reel in a few keepers.
All of which means, the annual Schara Fish Fry would be held as planned Saturday evening with fresh walleye for all.
The proper dinner attire: snowmobile suit.
Ron Schara is a former Star Tribune outdoors columnist and now occasional contributor. • firstname.lastname@example.org