Jim Braaten

Jim Braaten lives near Kenyon, Minn., and has been an avid outdoorsman for more than 35 years. He lives on the family farm that was first settled by his ancestors 152 years ago. He has been an outdoors writer and photographer, and he owns a business producing and marketing calendars.

Posts about Fishing

Overwhelmed by the contents of your tackle box?

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: July 2, 2009 - 6:58 PM

I popped open the cover of my tackle box yesterday and then spent a moment just gazing at the assorted contents.   The question I was reluctant to even ask myself was... "do I really need all this stuff?”   Seriously, over the years my tackle box has become an accumulation of lures, tools, fishing accessories and related knick knacks much of which I’ve reluctantly determined should be more appropriately found in a garage sale grab bag.

Subsequently, over my fishing career I’ve witnessed my tackle box morph from what once resembled a small mechanic’s tool box to now appearing sized more like a jet-setting traveler's suitcase.   Indeed, my current tackle box is big, cumbersome and sorely disorganized with unnecessary clutter — an affliction I’m quite sure many other modern fishermen also share.

In comparison, I thought back to my father’s tackle box from 40+ years ago.   It was a small, rusty ol’ box that contained mostly just the bare essentials likely needed for a day of fishing fun.   No fancy electric hook sharpeners…no digital electronic scales…no hi-tech LED flashlights…no hand-held GPS lake navigational device…not even an electric filet knife.   Not to mention, dad’s tackle box certainly did not include a wide array of lures sporting every color combination contained under the rainbow.

Yet, the old timers caught their fish and likely weren’t severely disadvantaged by the lack of all the modern technology still many years off in development.   The point I’m trying to make is fishing doesn’t have to be as complicated and complex as much of today’s fishing industry has made it.   Sure it’s always fun to use this gizmo or that gadget to seemingly increase your odds of putting fish on the stringer, but the fact is keeping things basic while fishing does not have to be a bad thing, either.

Ron Schara, long-time Columnist on these pages, has lamented and been an outspoken proponent of simplified fishing rules here in Minnesota.   My suggestion is fishermen could take it one step further and carry this simplified concept over to the strategies they employ to catch fish, as well.   I fear many potential newcomers to our angling sport take one look into the sporting goods isles of their local discount store and immediately become bewildered by all the equipment choices available.   These same people then listen to seminar speakers and fishing reports promoting the use of this particular lure or that lure fished in this specific manner.   Great information, indeed…but nevertheless it can also be rather intimidating and daunting for the beginning angler to own all the fishing equipment being touted by the experts.

So, is your tackle box loaded with the sort of fishing gear some of which you seldom use?   Or are you one of the few anglers among us who meticulously culls out lures and equipment that never sees any legitimate fishing use.   I’m not disputing there are times when a certain lure sporting a specific color can dramatically increase your success on the water…but in most instances I contend it’s just not practical for the average angler to carry it all.   I’d like to hear your thoughts on this topic of keeping one's fishing gear less complex. 

Make a commitment to take a kid fishing

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: June 6, 2009 - 6:54 PM

“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles.”  ~Doug Larson

How important is it to take children fishing?   Well, important enough that this weekend the Minnesota DNR will let you do it for free.   That’s right, adults can fish for free on all Minnesota waters if they are accompanied by a child under the age of 16 (check regulations for complete details).

Sure, that’s a nice incentive to get a kid outdoors and introduce them to the wonderful experience known as fishing, but honestly it usually takes an adult making a commitment of precious time to allow this to happen.   These days families seem to have busier schedules than perhaps they did three or four decades ago — that’s simply a fact of life.   Nevertheless, it’s crucial to make it a priority to introduce a child to the excitement of fishing.   Whether the child is your own, a neighbor’s or even a niece or nephew…if you know a child close to your life that has never baited a hook or perhaps removed a perch, make a resolution to yourself that during the summer of 2009 that statement will change.

When I think back to some of my earliest memories in life many seem to involve some aspect of fishing.   Moreover, my father died when I was only 10–years old and I can honestly say my fondest memories of him were the times we spent sitting on a river bank or in a boat fishing.   Come to think of it, those memories didn’t always involve catching fish…nope, instead they were created by simply sharing the experience together outdoors.

Sometimes it’s easy for us to forget that something as simple as spending an afternoon fishing with a child can be so critically important in their life.   Indeed, a child who develops an interest in fishing early in life will probably grow into an adult who better appreciates those pleasures throughout their lifetime.   On the other hand, a child who never gets the opportunity to fish as a youth will be more apt to grow into an adult wondering why fishing is such a great pastime enjoyed by so many of us.

Keep in mind, if someone took the time to introduce you to the outdoors you owe it to the next generation to share that same enthusiasm and knowledge.   Take a kid fishing…and pass it on. 

Join the fishing opener fun on Twitter

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: May 6, 2009 - 9:17 PM

This weekend Minnesota anglers from throughout the state (actually, the world) will be able to keep up with the fishing action simply by reaching for their cell phones.   That’s right, if you’re the tech savvy type who enjoys texting on the cell phone nearly as much as jigging a shiner, this blog post might be right up your alley.

Introducing Twitter.com, the wildly popular social networking service that allows you to function from either your computer or a mobile device, such as a cell phone.   Consider it somewhat like a mini blog requiring the user to post information containing 140 characters or less, sometimes even including a picture.   With an estimated 14 million current users, Twitter has become one of the hottest websites on the Internet with daily traffic often ranking it in the top 25.

So how do you use it?   Well, best of all everything is FREE.   To join Twitter and start “tweeting” (the lingo for posting a message) all you need is an e-mail address and a little time to set up some basic information about yourself.   Then you start “following” people and posting an occasional message.   HINT:  One of the best ways to figure out who to follow is to observe someone sharing similar interests and watch who they follow.   Simply click on the “follow” button and soon you’ll be reading all the tweets made by that person.   Keep in mind to tweet from your mobile device you’ll have to take some additional steps in the set-up process.

Sound too confusing?   Not interested in joining?   No problem there, either.   If you’re willing to forego posting pictures of yourself holding that lunker walleye, you can still use Twitter.   For instance, I will be tweeting from www.twitter.com/jim7226 and you can follow my messages just by linking.   My plans are to start detailing my Minnesota Fishing Opener experience near Bemidji beginning on Friday morning.

Yet, don’t just follow me.   If you want to read about how other Minnesota anglers are doing and reporting their fishing results on Twitter, go to this website: www.search.twitter.com and simply type in the search block #mnfishopener as your query.   On Twitter the words or characters preceded by the #(hash sign) are considered hashtags.   By inserting a hashtag somewhere within your posted Twitter message it allows other people searching to easily find your relevant comments.   In other words, performing a search as I just described should result in reading tweets made by everyone pertaining only to the Minnesota Fishing Opener.

The key is if you’re using Twitter and you want your tweet to be found by others you must include the following hashtag #mnfishopener somewhere as part of each message.   Keep in mind you can also “follow” the Star Tribune’s Club Outdoors (www.Twitter.com/cluboutdoors) on Twitter to get the latest updates made to the website.

No doubt about it our polite society has come a long way since the days when Izaak Walton epitomized angling in its purest form.   Certainly using Twitter while dancing in the waves sitting in a Lund isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time.   Still, this year for those opening day anglers with a penchant for modern technology, it might be just another way to pass a little time once the fishing action becomes slow.

Avoid these common opening day mistakes

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: May 3, 2009 - 10:35 AM

Are you tired of experiencing the opening day walleye fishing doldrums often caused by not having a good plan?   Is 2009 the year you finally vow to change your luck on the lake?   In most cases, avoiding some simple, yet important behavior often made by anglers can vastly improve the mood in your boat.

Remember that fishing, like any other sport, requires a good game plan to be successful.   You don’t become a player on a championship football team without some basic skills and a carefully thought out strategy to implement those talents.   Likewise, if you head to the lake expecting things will automatically happen, well my friend, you are quite possibly in for a disappointing time.

Consider avoiding these missteps when formulating your angling game plan this weekend:

  • Getting on the water too late.   Take advantage of the pre-dawn bite and avoid the congestion at the public landing.   Start your day early.
  • Failing to study your lake map.   By interpreting the lake’s structure you should have a minimum of 10 pre-determined fishing spots on the lake worth trying.   Befuddled by what the lake map should be telling you?   Now is the time to ask someone for their opinion rather than stressing about it come Saturday.
  • Don’t fish based entirely on what happened last year.   It’s an age-old problem for anglers that can lead to disappointment.   Conditions and circumstances are different from year to year so the angler who is not prepared to adapt can needlessly waste precious time.
  • Assuming all lakes will fish the same.   A big part of what makes walleye fishing fun is the technique that works in one lake may not work exactly the same in the next lake.   Approach each lake with a unique plan of action.
  • Joining a large group of boats.   It’s human nature we all want to be where the action is.   Problem is, unless you actually witness boats regularly landing fish, a large gathering of boats might better indicate where the walleye action once was perhaps an hour ago.   This is particularly true in shallow water where a large gathering of anglers can easily spook fish from the area.
  • Don’t become lazy.   Be willing to change up your technique often until you find the right combination that appeals to the fish.   This could mean your favorite way of walleye fishing may not be best suited for how the walleye are willing to bite on a particular day.
  • Disregarding the weather conditions.   Springtime weather in Minnesota can be highly variable.   The water surface can be glass-smooth at dawn and later turn into rolling whitecaps by lunchtime.   Your strategy must also adapt as the conditions fluctuate.
  • Limiting your fishing to certain depths.   Sure, it’s commonly understood that opening day walleye will generally tend to bite in shallower depths, but if they aren’t…go deeper.   Depending on the lake and the fishing pressure, hungry fish can often be found at depths outside the expected range.
  • Staying on only one lake.   Indeed, it can be a big hassle, but when all else fails trailer your boat and check out a different lake.   Sometimes this can prove to be the best strategy for the day.

So, now it’s your turn.   What information are you willing to share with fellow anglers to increase their odds for success on opening weekend?   Please leave your helpful comments below.

Anticipation grows as fishing opener draws near

Posted by: Jim Braaten Updated: April 29, 2009 - 1:09 PM

Fishing license…check!   New line spooled on the reels…check!   Tacklebox cleaned and decluttered…check!   Boat taken out of storage inspecting all critical components for operation…check!   Boat trailer serviced ensuring against any unpleasant surprises while driving to the lake…check!   Trip to local sporting goods store purchasing the latest gizmos and gadgets for fishing fun…check!   Snacks for munching on between fishing bites…check!

Indeed, with the Minnesota Fishing Opener just days away these are some busy, yet exciting times for Minnesota’s anglers.   In fact, often times the preparation phase leading up to the big day can be nearly as much fun as the opening day itself.

Whether plans are to drive just a few miles to the lake, or perhaps driving several hours northbound, the Minnesota Fishing Opener represents a much celebrated event for sportsmen located in all corners of our state.   For many of us, taking part in this annual piscatorial ritual is often even more important than catching a stringer full of walleye.

It’s about family and friends getting together after a long winter to renew a kindred outdoor spirit.   Oh sure, the goal is always to catch ‘ol glass eyes and to savor the fishy odor left on your hands…but during the opener “catching” fish is only part of the equation that measures a successful outing.   The other factor is simply sharing a boat or cabin with special friends who also cherish the annual spring fishing tradition.

Perhaps no other state in the country can claim what Minnesota has going for it.   Sure, other states have opening days of their fishing seasons, but in Minnesota when nearly a million anglers take to the waters on one single day…hey, now that’s something special.   Especially, considering that Minnesota is so geographically diverse that an angler near Faribault might be swatting mosquitoes during the day, while another angler near International Falls might still be navigating the boat around ice.

To many of us the tradition of taking part in the Minnesota Fishing Opener dates back to our childhoods.   Often, it was an experience such as the fishing opener that baptized a young child into the outdoor world.   Even decades later, the act of heading to the lake can still hold as much intrigue and excitement as it once did during those earlier years of life.

No doubt there are families and friends throughout Minnesota eager for the 2009 walleye fishing season to open statewide.   Some might claim the event signals the true arrival of spring here in Minnesota.   Others might use the event as nothing but an excuse to escape the usual chores associated with life.   No matter what the reason for participating, when the clock strikes midnight on Friday night the waiting ends and the fishing fun officially begins.

Let’s see.   Lake maps…check!   Personal flotation devices…check!   Landing net…check!   Camera…check!   Rainwear…check!   Polarized sunglasses…check!   Coffee thermos…check!   That’s it, let’s finally get this 2009 Minnesota walleye, sauger, northern pike and lake trout fishing seasons underway.



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