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Family vacations and fish you meet along the way

GAYS MILLS - We decided to take the plunge! Well not the plunge into marriage, but rather, into a family vacation.

Chasca and I have vacationed as young, wild and free, childless adults. We were able to drink mojitos to excess, lay on the beach all day forgetting to reapply our sunscreen and wander around at night eating street food and dancing to music.

So this whole concept of planning, packing and preparing for a little person to accompany us for several days away from home is both exciting and slightly terrifying.

Luckily, we aren’t traveling internationally for our first go around; just a little journey to the Wisconsin North Woods for five days of fishing, mosquitos, and camping.  

I had wanted to go to Hayward with Chasca since we got together. He had only been there once with his mom and sister, where as I had spent nearly all of the family vacations of my youth there. I joked the other day to him when he relayed his shock that I had never been to Devils Lake, or the Dells before I met him, that my parents were not exactly creative with their travel and stuck to what served them well, for, about 10 years.

They only strayed twice; once when my mom was pregnant with my brother did they actually go camping. My dad will readily tell you, “This is where I learned you never take a pregnant lady camping.” He will insist with great gusto,  “I would go out fishing in the boat all day (probably problem number one with this scenario) and you (as he points at me and squints with one eye) wouldn’t stop eating dirt, sand and bugs the whole time! Your mom was hot, and ornery and swollen and had to sleep on the ground. After that, she told me we would never go camping again.”

My poor mom—the long-suffering Rhonda.

Her suffering turned out to be our boon however as we always stayed in a nice cabin, on the lake in Hayward for the rest of the family vacation time. Aside from that one mishap where we decided to go to Minnesota and stay, when the water smelled like rotten eggs. The plus side was that we got to see what was claimed to be the world’s largest Paul Bunyan.

 Our vacation doesn’t boast nice cabins with screened in porches or a TV that gets two channels, but we are lucky enough to have friends who need a ‘break from doin’ nothin’ (as they put it) and who have a sweet little pop-up camper. That made me feel a lot better about booking the site far off in the woods and away from the water, as the canvas may make me somewhat more protected against hungry bears.

We will probably look like some semblance of the Beverly Hillbillies as we’ve decided to truck it together (thanks to the outrageous gas prices!) complete with three kids, four adults, and a barrel-shaped beagle, named Louie. Don’t forget the canoe and whatever else we can fit strapped on top.

I longed for the ability to have a real boat on this trip, because I have this fantasy of catching a real large game fish. The boat over the canoe plays into this because well, when you hook an enormous fish, what is the first thing you do? Stand up. At least that’s what I’ve always been told, stand up and keep your tip up.

I’ve also learned there is no such thing as safely abruptly standing in a canoe—at least when you’re me.

In discussing this with Chasca last night, we came up with a plan. If I hook onto a enormous northern or the big daddy of them all-the musky, we will just pull up anchor and let the fish drag us about the lake on some kind of scenic tour. Then, when it gets tired enough, I’ll reel it in without a fight.  However, it remains to be seen if that would really happen. More likely, the world’s largest musky would probably snap my little blue ultra-light pole in half like a toothpick and carry it on to its next victim—but a girl can dream.

It’s too bad that Thatcher is still a little young to enjoy the fun of fishing off of the dock all day.

My brother and I would spend our time almost exclusively doing this. I baited the hooks and he removed the tiny bluegills, sunfish and perch.

One year, at the beginning of the week, my dad set a rule, only catch fish as big as your hand or larger. Of course, he meant his hand, not our tiny little child hands. However, my dad has never been one to be very clear with instructions. So when we returned, well over the legal limit of pan fish, he just sighed He realized it would be a long night in the fish house and made a point of explaining that it was in fact his hand we were shooting for when sizing our catch.

Giant fish or tiny fish, it doesn’t matter to me. I am just happy I’ll be spending a few days with my family and friends in one of my favorite places, enjoying nature and hopefully not getting harassed by any bears.