This winter has been full of skiing and ice-fishing and other explorations for us, and I can’t complain. Still, I have ideas for so many other adventures left in my mind. There are so many places left to explore in northern Minnesota. So many trails to ski. So many fish to catch. Thankfully, this Sunday we took a trip that I’d been thinking about doing for a long time. And we got paid to fish – sort of.
My wife drives to Ely, MN once a week for half a day’s work at the local long-term care center (nursing home), and I feel bad about all the driving she does (it’s 113 miles each way). She’s alone in her car for four hours on these days. Considering how much I want to get north to places like Ely, and how lonely it must be for her to do all that driving, it’s been a dream of mine for a while to turn her trip for work into a FAMILY trip. I could do the driving, my wife would get plenty of company from me and the girls, and then, while she’s working, the girls and I could fish, or ski, or just hang out in Ely. God knows there are a million places I want to check out up that way.
This Sunday we made it happen. I drove us, and as we traveled due north, I got to see some stretches of Minnesota’s Iron Range that I had never passed through before. I was able to follow on the map as we drove past lots of signs for “Public Access” to lakes and rivers, so well marked in Minnesota. I made mental notes of all the possible routes to new fishing spots.
Then, when we had gotten almost to Ely, we turned into Bear Head Lake State Park, and enjoyed a return visit to Norberg Lake, a 6-acre trout lake that we had fished with wild success last June. That time, we caught seven trout in 45 minutes from our canoe. This time we were fishing through the ice, and once again this little body of water came through.
Inna dropped us off at the parking lot, and continued on to work. The girls and I headed out by foot with our sled full of ice-fishing gear. I towed the sled behind my waist, and the girls and I did the short hike, first up a steep hill, then straight down, to get to beautiful Norberg, which is nestled in an alpine setting, at least by Minnesota standards.
I got a strong hit on my jig just five minutes in, and I hooked the fish, but the trout went berserk and managed to spit the hook out as I was getting him into the hole. It was disappointing to lose the fish, but on the other hand, it was definitely a good sign that the fish were there, and active. It took about 30 minutes to get the next strike. I felt the hit, but missed the hook set. I waited patiently though, and sure enough, about a minute later, my rod tip went down hard and fast, and this time I made no mistake about it, and got the fish out onto the ice. It was a beautiful rainbow trout.
This fish would end up being the only one we got for the day. But we had a lot of fun playing on the ice, as usual. Adriana took the initiative to build an igloo “for a fox”, using ice blocks made from holes being drilled in the lake. The construction work was just what she needed to keep warm on yet another cold winter day. The temperature was actually above zero this time (quite a rare occurrence the last two weeks), but the stiff north-west wind was cold as usual.
We also had a great time sledding down the very steep hillside, right onto the lake. The sled we use to transport our gear can still hold both the girls for some very fast sled runs. The girls climbed trees and rocks, and we found snow drifts several feet deep where the wind had piled the snow against the shore.
We stayed out in the wind and cold on the lake for over two hours, then did some hiking in the woods.
All this time Inna was treating patients and writing notes, catching up at the care center. When she finished, she gave us a call, and came and picked us up back at the State Park. She gets paid for her two hours at work, and for her four hours of driving. In my fantasy, I consider this trip to be the first time we’ve ever gotten paid to go fishing. Sure, Inna did the work, but we there supporting her, and some fishing just had to be done while we waited…