For most fishermen, Lake Vermilion is considered a muskie or walleye lake where serious fishing boats, tackle and bait are in play for the “big catch”. Or, if it is not muskie or walleye, then definitely bass, particularly at fishing contest events. Come the spring just after the ice is out it might be crappies the fishermen are after. No one talks about the lake as a sunfish haven, yet that is the sport for me. I think it is because I like to eat them, and it is the fish I caught as a kid with a cane pole.
Having a cabin on Lake Vermilion allows me ample opportunity to find just the perfect quiet little bays to while away an hour or two watching bobbers floating in the water. I consider it zen time where the solitude of the bay is interrupted only by a loon diving or an otter playing on the shore. A few bounces and a quick tug and you have got a fifty/fifty chance your catch will be big enough to save for the frying pan. A few hours invested and you’ve got a meal for four. Head out with a mate and it is a meal for eight.
Grand children make particularly good mates, at least when they are old enough to bait their own hooks. Out in my old Lund aluminum, they learn the art of patience and that male conversations can occur in three word sentences. “It’s a strike!”; or “Sun’s too hot!”; “Time for lunch.”, or “I gotta’ pee.” There are just a few particular traditions a grandfather is responsible for and fishing for sunfish is one of them.
My brother-in-law, the farmer, was a cabin guest on one memorable fishing weekend. He is as casually committed to pan fishing as I am and we both look back at the two hours on a Saturday morning as a wonderful memory. The bobbers rarely remained above the surface for more than a few seconds and the size of the blue gills and pumpkin seeds just keep growing. I think in the five or six years that have followed, that day is the day that I caught the largest and the most. That evening, dining in the screen porch with extended family, those sunnies tasted better than Julia Child’s French salmon recipe.
Dale Mulfinger is a principle architect of SALA Architects, Inc. of Minneapolis, Stillwater and Excelsior. He is an adjunct professor of architecture at the University of Minnesota, where he teaches a class on cabin design. He is the author of Cabin, published in 2001, and Cabinology: A Handbook to Your Private Hideaway in 2008.