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Mom's passion for fishing extends through four generations

Jo Clayton is all smiles as her favorite time of year approaches: Mother's Day and opening fishing. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer1 / 2
Mother's Day and fishing opener are special events for Bemidji area angler Jo Clayton. She developed a passion for fishing by spending time in the boat with her mother, Nick Hansen. Nick was 86 years old when she and Jo teamed to catch this largemouth bass a few years ago on an area lake.2 / 2

BEMIDJI - Mother's Day and the opening weekend of Minnesota's walleye and northern pike fishing seasons are not compatible, according to some of the state's lawmakers.

Jo Clayton of Bemidji, however, has a different opinion and is elated that those lawmakers were unsuccessful in their late bid to move opening weekend ahead one week so it wouldn't clash with Mother's Day.

"Having fishing opener on Mother's Day is the best combination you could have," Clayton said. "I just think it's a wonderful opportunity for me to fish with my husband and family. Fishing is a passion we both share and the best present I could receive is to be in the boat fishing with my family."

When Clayton has the urge to hit the water, she usually doesn't have to search very long to find a partner.

"I grew up fishing with my family and Bob (her husband) and I always took our daughters (Kari and Lori) fishing," she said. "I used to put the stroller in the boat for the girls and we would fish for whatever length of time the kids would allow.

"It wasn't in our thought process to have a babysitter and fishing gave Bob and I the opportunity to spend quality time with the kids," Clayton continued. "Our hope was that at some point the girls would enjoy fishing as much as we did."

That hope was realized as both girls embraced fishing and have shared that passion with their kids.

Clayton's love for catching a fish is strong but her mother, Nick Hansen, was a better angler than she is.

"My dad liked to fish and was a very good fisherman but my mother had the passion for fishing," said Clayton, who was raised in Austin. "From Memorial Day to Labor Day we camped on Lake Francis near Elysian, Minn., every weekend. We had four kids and two adults slip-bobber fishing in a 14-foot boat.

"When we fished for bass the kids took turns because we needed the extra room to cast."

Following her mother's lead, Clayton learned to enjoy the benefits of being in a fishing boat. And, following her mother's lead once again, Clayton translated that love of fishing to her own daughters who shared that love with their children.

"We try to take the grandkids fishing as often as we can and we're lucky because our daughters and their families live on the same lake that we do," Clayton said. "And that gives us many opportunities to fish with the grandkids."

As long as her dad and mom were able to fish Clayton knew what present she would give for the dedicated holidays.

"When dad retired and they moved to Wisconsin each year on Mother's Day and Father's Day we would give them a Minnesota fishing license," she said. "And for many years they would come up here and I would block that day off to go fishing with them."

Clayton's dad has died and her mom is in a nursing home and no longer is able to fish. But the memories of those special trips will always remain.

"Mom was 86 the last time we went bass fishing. That was one of the most enjoyable trips I've taken," Clayton said. "I'll always treasure the days in the boat with mom and dad."

Clayton has maintained the tradition passed down by her mother and, on Sunday, she'll be in the boat chasing walleyes, northern pike, panfish or whatever is biting.

"When Mother's Day is on opening weekend it's an added plus," she said. "I will always cherish Mother's Day because I have wonderful kids and grandkids and, if possible, I'll be in the boat with them.

"Thanks to the tradition passed down by my mother, I really can't think of anything better to do on Sunday than to go fishing."

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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