SPICER, MINN. - Half a million Minnesotans went fishing this weekend.
None of them caught fewer fish than me.
Which is fine, because the last time I caught a fish I was 9, and the hook came out the fish’s eye socket, and the entire Brooks family decided that maybe gardening was more our thing.
But! I moved back to Minnesota from Washington, D.C., a week ago and, like a diver surfacing from murky depths, I need to decompress or I’ll get the bends every time I check Twitter.
There is no better time or place to reacclimate to Minnesota than fishing opener weekend.
My long-suffering guide, Randy Zitzmann, steered us onto Green Lake in Spicer at 7 a.m. Saturday while I showed him the fishing lures I made for the occasion — a wee felt dumpster fire and a tiny Admiral Ackbar to give the fish fair warning (“IT’S A TRAP!”).
Randy explained the three W's to me — walleye, whitetail and waterfowl — and opted to bait his hook with bait.
Randy Zitzmann ate walleye for dinner Saturday night.
We shifted to Long Lake, where the walleye were said to be biting. The lake was dotted with happy Minnesotans in boats, all avoiding eye contact in contented silence.
Wind ruffled the new leaves along the shoreline. A pair of cormorants winged low across the water, scanning for walleye. I could no longer remember how many votes are necessary to achieve cloture in the Senate.
Waves lapped against the boat hull. An angler in a neighboring boat hauled in a carp the length of my arm. I felt my interest in Rudy Giuliani’s old law firm dwindling.
We reeled in a log that anyone would be proud to mount above their fireplace. I dangled Admiral Ackbar enticingly over water that had been covered in 2-foot sheets of ice a few weeks ago. My phone blew up with royal wedding news alerts. I ignored them.
A cover of coots paddled by. Coots reminded me of the Senate, which reminded me of cloture. I checked Twitter. Gov. Dayton had caught three fish — three more than me, but 10 fewer than Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis caught during her first fishing opener.
“I caught three bass, which made my whole day,” the governor said afterward. For the first time in my life, I almost understood.
We got our first bite. And by “we” I mean “Randy.” I flailed around with the net and knocked various objects out of the boat and into Long Lake. I wanted to peek in on the walleye in its livewell, but I’ve never had much luck with nature. A dolphin bit me when I was 11. That is incredibly hard on a young girl’s self-esteem. It’s like getting kicked by a unicorn.
In spite of me, Randy landed another walleye while I stared fixedly at the fishfinder, which was like Twitter, but useful.
Randy had enough fish for a nice plate of walleye fingers by the time we headed for shore. It wasn’t as cold as everyone said the fishing opener would be, but I’ve been living in a place where winter barely qualifies as weather. I turtled into my life preserver and grinned into the wind.
As proof that you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, I didn’t have a fishing license, so I never actually put Admiral Ackbar in the water. But I still take my zero-fish-caught as a personal failure.
I’ve been a reporter my entire adult life and expressing opinions is hard for me. But here goes: Boats are excellent and we should all be on boats as much as possible.
I scanned the shores and wondered how many of the 500,000 people at the fishing opener are undercover investigators. Apparently more sex trafficking occurs during the fishing opener than during the Super Bowl, despite the fact that the fishing opener is ON MOTHER’S DAY WEEKEND, YOU MONSTERS.
Which reminds me to call my mother, who is away at hooker camp. Mom’s gotten big into rug hooking and the only thing that gives her more joy than hooking a rug is describing herself and her friends as hookers, usually in the middle of the produce aisle in the grocery store.
When I reach mom at hooker camp Sunday, I think she’ll be pretty pleased that we didn’t have a repeat of the fish eyeball incident.
I’ll tell her the Brookses should give fishing another try. Being terrible at fishing frees up more time and energy for fishing-adjacent activities like being on boats and making felt fishing lures and eating the fish other people catch for you.
As the governor said after his triumphant day of bass mastery: “The temperature may have been cool, but the spirit of the occasion warmed everything up.”
This was my first column. Surely things will improve from here. If you have questions about other animals, bodies of water or beloved Minnesota pastimes I have wronged, call, e-mail or tweet me below.
Today Jennifer Brooks debuts as our local columnist. As a Star Tribune reporter, she covered the Capitol and our congressional delegation in Washington, and she has traveled across Minnesota writing thoughtful, surprising stories about the people and issues of the state. Her column will appear here every Sunday, and you will also see it on weekdays in print and online.