OAK ISLAND, Minn. -- When former Vikings coach Bud Grant, a renowned outdoorsman, retired following the 1985 season the franchise hired colorful and long-time assistant Jerry Burns as his successor.
When Burns was introduced as Grant's replacement, he was asked if he liked to fish as much as Grant.
"I'm not old enough," Burns replied.
That became my standard response whenever someone asked if I liked to fish. But, I guess if you're 46, like me, you're probably approaching the age where you're old enough to start dangling a line.
For the past three years, I have embarked on an annual trip with my dad and brother. In 2000, we went on a golf and baseball excursion to Houston and Dallas. Last year we attended Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at Cooperstown, N.Y.
Upon learning that a fishing trip was being considered as this year's family excursion I shuddered at the thought because my fishing experiences have been anything but enjoyable.
As a kid, I frequently accompanied my dad and grandpa on what seemed like marathon fishing outings. The outings usually ended with me throwing a fit because it was uncomfortably hot, I was hungry and thirsty and the fish seemed to purposely avoid my line.
Since then my annual fishing experience usually has consisted of an outing for panfish.
My attitude toward angling changed June 21-24 when I accompanied my dad and brother to the Northwest Angle of Minnesota and Angle Inn Lodge, operated by former Crosby resident Debra Kellerman and her husband Tony Wandersee, on Lake of the Woods.
Oak Island is about 300 miles north of Brainerd. You travel to the end of the dirt road, then board a boat for a 10-mile, 15-minute ride to the Angle.
There I experienced fishing like I never could have imagined, although I remained a doubting Thomas.
Day one began with me living a nightmare about past fishing experiences. It was about 95 degrees, completely still, and we caught two walleyes, one of which somehow found its way to my line. In the past, it seemed fish never bit on my hook even if I sprayed fish attractant on my bait, jumped in and directed the fish to my line. I was convinced fish were joined in a conspiracy against me, knowing how often I engaged in the sport, and were going to do everything they could to skunk me.
Day two was much like the first -- for me, of course. It began to rain and lightning flashed around us so I informed our party that it was time to bolt back to shore. Since lightning killed spectators at the 1991 U.S. Open at Hazeltine in Chaska, I have had a high level of respect for storms.
We returned to the lodge and waited for the weather to clear, which took about five hours. Convinced this was like previous fishing experiences, but 300 miles away from home, I remained in the lodge to read and re-read Sports Illustrated and watch ESPN report, about 100 times, on the shocking death of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile.
While I simmered in the lodge, my dad and brother each caught a limit of walleyes. Obviously, their success was related to the fact I was not in the boat, maintaining my reputation as the Sultan of Skunk.
Somehow my luck improved late on the final day of our trip. Fishing in front of Flag Island, from about 8 to 9 p.m., the walleyes were in a feeding frenzy. Seemingly, as fast as we could take one walleye off our hooks and return our lines to the water, we had another, with many in the 3- to 4-pound range. Unfortunately, since my dad and brother had already caught their limits, all fish had to be released except the five reeled in by me.
Astonishingly, it was my brother, not me, who couldn't buy a bite. Being the good sport that I am, I needled him endlessly, informing him that apparently he didn't have what it took to reel in big walleyes.
I just might be hooked on fishing for walleyes and making another trip to the Northwest Angle.
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