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We are well into spring, and everyone at the Lake View Inn has survived March Madness—and I don’t mean the college basketball tournament. Our local challenge is slogging through the month of March here in the North Woods, a time when we are all finished with winter, but winter is not finished with us. Day after day, we wake to an overcast sky slung low over the landscape like a sodden gray blanket. Dirty snow cakes gutters and ditches. By St. Patrick’s Day, the snowmobile trails are closed and the ice shacks are off the lakes. So, now what do we do? Retire to the Lake View to wait for opening day of fishing season, which is many weeks away.
This year we had a winter that was especially hard on everyone’s outlook. Each snowfall seemed to be followed by a gale that stripped fields and yards to bare dirt and left an enormous drift in the driveway. Then it rained in late February, which made a real mess. It was not long after that disappointment that I found my good friend Chuck Larson sitting alone at the Lake View bar in his unzipped galoshes and red Stormy cap, staring into his iPad. Chuck turned the screen my way.
“What do you think of this used Whaler Montauk?” Chuck asked. “I’m boat shopping.”
“Always weigh a used Whaler,” chirped Dan the Outboard Man from across the way. “Just sayin’.”
“I have a dream,” Chuck said. “I’m going to buy this boat and take it to Florida, and I’m going to night-fish every full moon for a year. When I was a kid, my uncle had a place on a canal near Stuart, and I’ll never forget the frenzy of swarming snook in the full moonlight.”
“Unless you are planning to move, this sounds like an expensive proposition,” I said. “And Florida is hot. You normally sweat while ice fishing.”
“And the gators,” Wally said from behind the bar, “are like bears in Alaska. One always has its eyes on you. They charge right out of the storm sewers.”
“I think you’ve got a bad case of the mud-season blues,” I said. “Only eight weeks until opening day! Hang in there.”
Then I had an idea. “Let’s plan something special to do around here this season. Your best day ever on the water.”
Chuck stared off into the distance. “What was your best day ever?” he asked us.
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That was easy. A gorgeous sunny day in June when a magazine buddy from California, my daughter and I rode PWC up the Wolf River from Fremont to Shiocton. The river is narrow and twists and bends. It was like riding motorcycles on a mountain road. We saw bald eagles, and funky fishing rafts tied up to the bank. After lunch in a Packer bar, we discovered there is no gas dock in Shiocton, so we had to carry fuel in jugs from a Kwik Trip. On the way back, we zoomed past a DNR warden in a johnboat and thought we’d get a ticket. So many memories from that one day.
“It’s the memories that get us through March,” I said. “That’s why we are on the water in June.”
We clinked glasses to making more memories this season.