Over this warm weekend, most of the lakes in the southern half of Minnnesota lost their cover of ice. I heard that Grindstone Lake, near Sandstone, lost its ice the earliest in thirty years. The lakes north of my place may still have a mass of slush floating on them for another day or so.
It is such a thrill to see open water, after five months of frozenness. It's an amazing transformation, when you can walk on water one month and float a boat on it the next.
I spent my work day on what my elder fisheries professionals would call a "gravy run". That is, you drive a lot, go pick up fish somewhere and dump them someplace else, not much work involved. In this case it was muskies or muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) , an esocid predator fish that some people in this state are obsessed with. It's not considered a food fish; the minimum harvest length is 48 inches, so if you kill one it generally ends up on your wall. I don't get it, but whatever pays the rent.
The above lake was the rearing pond for muskie. I arrived at the lake at about 10:30, whereupon I waited about two hours for the guys that were pulling the nets to have any fish for me. I spent that time exploring the lakeshore, enjoying the warmth of the sun. The call of the sandhill crane was constantly in the background, and I observed four of them flying around. A frog chorus erupted from an adjacent shallow wetland, with Western chorus frogs, leopard frogs, and spring peepers performing a symphony. On the water I heard a loon give its laughing call, and I watched a small group of bufflehead ducks dive and fly. Buffleheads are among the most beautiful of ducks, in my humble opinion. They are a contrast of white and iridescent black. On the land I saw a red headed woodpecker, something I just don't see where I live. That, and some tree sparrows.
After I received the fish, it was a long drive and an exercise in contrast. The lake I stocked them in is on the northern edge of the ever-expanding Twin Cities metropolitan area. I endured city-like traffic, and monstroso-mansions built where there used to be humble little weekend lake cabins. I hope they enjoy their trophy fish.
Back to the office at last, ten minutes after quitting time, and on the drive home I had a perma smile on my face. I love this day, the welcome warmth of spring and being able to drive around and see so much of it. I love that I don't live in one of those cookie cutter houses on the edge of suburbia like I used to. It could be no other way for me.
I forgot to add, the frog symphony tonight is absolutely intoxicating. Breathtaking. I'm going outside for more. Who cannot be overwhelmed, joyful over this?
Unfortunately, I think I know. But hey, if you can't appreciate the first evening frog chorus, well, you're not goddamn alive. What have you got to lose?