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Prime Time: Lake vacations were wonderful memories

Mom and Dad were anglers. Consequently, our vacations were fishing-oriented. Good old Highway 59 led us up north to the fishing areas around Fergus Falls and Detroit Lakes.

That is how I happened to relocate to Bemidji. Occasionally on a rainy day, we visited Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. When I was moving back to Minneapolis from San Francisco, I remembered a dream I had as a little boy of moving up north and getting a dog. We always had dogs, so that was a given. Our trips up north to the land of lakes and forests mesmerized me from my youth on.

We five boys -- Rolf, Don, Bob, Dave and I -- all loved the outdoors. We got up at around 4:30 a.m. - that is before Daylight Savings Time - and went fishing until around 9. Mom and Dad were also involved in these activities. Then we had breakfast and laid around for an hour or so before we went swimming. We spent the day in the lake, and then after supper we went fishing again.

Our favorite spot was Strawberry Lake, which was north of Detroit Lakes and then east a ways. A relative of Dad's had a resort on that lake. It was rustic and just right for all of our energy. It was a small lake, about one and a half miles in diameter. Selmer, Dad's second cousin, showed us the various spots for fishing. Early in the morning, we fished on the northeast side for smallmouth bass. Later in the day, we fished the east side for northern and largemouth bass. In the evening, we fished the east side again and on the west side of the lake where the walleye holes were. Our vacations were in the middle of July, which was not the best time for fishing. But we seldom were skunked because of our knowledge of the lake.

The most exciting times we fished were when Selmer and Dad took us out later in the evening when the sun had set, which was around nine o'clock. This was when we went out for the big ones. This happened once each vacation. We never did land a big one, but the anticipation was exciting.

Being the middle of July, the sun was obviously hot. We occasionally forgot the power of the sun and got sunburned. One time Bob and I were fishing the walleye holes on the west side of the lake. We were in our bathing suits and forgot to get out of the sun. Mom flushed our skin with vinegar, but it still hurt. Bob and I moaned throughout the night every time we rolled around in bed.

Don was old enough to be on the outlook for girls. It was always fun to get to know kids from other parts of the state. We had lots of time to spend with them. We swam. We took boats out and dove off them. One time at Cass Lake, we fled from leeches.

Strawberry Lake was and still is considered one of the best fishing lakes in Minnesota. Dad taught us how to filet the fish. We had fish for our meals every day. There is nothing better than catching a few fish, cleaning them and then having them fresh each day. I have never liked store-bought fish, but on those vacations I couldn't get enough fish.

We also fished Lake Shetek during the summers. One time when I was 5 years old, Mom and we four boys (Dave wasn't born yet) were fishing on a little hill overlooking Shetek. Dad was busy putting worms on our hooks and taking off fish - bullheads were the only kind we caught. From what I heard Shetek was a shallow lake, and when it froze during the winters, often the other fish could not survive. I loved bullheads then, but no longer care for them. When we got home that night, we had about 100 fish. We boys helped clean a few, but then we were off to bed. Dad stayed up until the whole batch was caught. Poor guy! He didn't have a chance to fish, and he ended cleaning the bunch of them. I never did like the sharp stingers they had on the top and sides.

Vacations were wonderful memories. As a young man I spent a lot of time up north working at camps and canoeing. Now I prefer staying in a cabin, but those trips were always great.