We spent the weekend fishing and playing on a small lake near Hackensack, Minnesota. This is in the north central management zone for northern pike. Regulations in this zone encourage the harvest of small northern pike. The lake has quality bass, crappie and bluegill fishing. But, we wanted to take advantage of the generous pike regulations. And, in doing so, improve the size structure of the pike and protect the crappie and bluegill fishing.
We spent a few hours targeting small "hammer handle" pike. And had no problem getting six of them under 22 inches. I fileted them and left the "Y" bones in. Next, I put the filets through a meat grinder, mixed them with crackers, egg, mayonnaise and Old Bay Seasoning.
I put them through the grinder again so the sausage stuffing tube could form them into fish sticks! Rolled them in bread crumbs and fried for two to three minutes.
Kids and parents alike loved them. There were no leftovers!
My life passion is catching fish, particularly Minnesota's native fish. I think a lot of people presume that everything living here in Minnesota is mundane or plain, but the fact of the matter is we have a ton of mysterious and amazing fish right here in Minnesota. For example, researchers recently discovered bigmouth buffalo can live over 100 years. These native fish were thought of as a "run-of-the-mill" species, but they are actually one of the longest-lived freshwater fishes and it’s right here in Minnesota!
When I was a kid I caught a mooneye, and I had no idea what it was. That silver fish inspired me to explore Minnesota's waterways. If a drainage ditch can hide a mooneye, what will I find in the Mississippi River? Or the Boundary Waters Canoe Area?
It's so important to maintain a sense of wonder and excitement. When we look closely at the world, there’s always new things to discover. On a recent family trip to the Boundary Waters, I went out at night and shined a flashlight in the water around our tent and found an eastern newt. I didn't even know Minnesota has seven species of salamanders. Finding new and unexpected things keeps my sense of wonder alive. Well, that and exploring with my kids. I really enjoy taking my kids fishing on the Mississippi river and seeing their excitement. Everything is new and fascinating to them, so catching any fish is cause for celebration. I make sure our fishing adventures give them plenty of time to play and explore. Even if we don't catch fish, we can catch crayfish or find agates. At least once a week my kids ask, “Dad, can we go fishing tonight?” I’m like, “Yes, of course we can!”
If you want to get outside more, look at a map and find an easily accessible waterbody close to home. If it is easy you'll go often and at different times. And that gives a better chance of observing rare or seasonal animals. Try to find out as much about the animals living there as you can. Challenge yourself to catching every type of fish in that river or lake. If you don't fish, try counting how many types of dragonflies live there. Or notice when turtles come out of hibernation and when they disappear in the spring. I guarantee that every pond, stream and lake in Minnesota has something interesting in it.
I want people to get outdoors. The more people who go out there, the more stewards who are invested in the fish, the water and access. As we invest in the outdoors, we can create more opportunities and get even more people outdoors.
- Tyler Winter