Whitefish debacle

In the previous post I mentioned that the weather hadn’t cooperated when some friends came up during the whitefish gillnetting season.  Well, one of those friends returned about a month later and brought three additional friends to try again.  There was quite a bit of fresh snow along the Gunflint Trail and Poplar Lake was expected to freeze over within the week.  We had heard that a group of gillnetters who had just left a day earlier had caught around 60 whitefish.  All we would have to do is run up to Saganaga Lake, grab my boat, launch it at the Poplar Lake boat landing, and set the nets on the far side of the lake.  By this point in the journey, we had driven up from Duluth with a leaky gas tank for the outboard motor stinking up the car and it was far too cold to crack a window.  We were not looking forward to driving much more with all the gasoline fumes but the possibility of catching a good number of whitefish made it seem worth the health hazard and discomfort.  When we finally got to the boat, the first problem we encountered was the cable lock securing the boat was frozen.  To aggravate us even further, the key broke off inside the lock.  We eventually freed the boat by smashing the locking mechanism with the poll of a hatchet.  In the future, I will not buy a cheap cable lock ever again and just stick with the tried and true chain with a padlock, although I’m happy I didn’t in this particular instance.  We were able to free the boat but not the trailer so we had to strap the boat to the roof rack.  When we got down to the road for the boat landing, it hadn’t been plowed and wasn’t going to be.  We trudged precariously through the deep snow to the boat landing only to find the bay was completely frozen over.  Our last hope was to ask one of the resort owners on the shore of the big, open water basin if we could use their landing.  Thankfully, and after we purchased a few beers at his bar, the owner agreed to let us put in the boat.  We loaded the gear and headed across the lake to the shallow bay where the whitefish spawn.  We set the nets and headed back to the bar for another round before calling it a night.  When we returned the next morning, the whole lake had frozen over and there would be no hope of launching the boat to retrieve the net.  We searched along the shore for somewhere we could walk in and pull the net from the ice while wearing waders.  Luckily, we found the guy who owned a cabin right in front of the spot we had set the net and he let us use his dock to wade in, break the ice out to the net, and pull the net free.  Our efforts were rewarded with only two whitefish.  We missed the best gillnetting by only a day or two.img_20161212_140533

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