Fishing the Big Water

Shoreline of Lake Sakakawea by David Becker CC BY 2.0  via Wikimedia Commons

Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota

I have little experience with lakes, despite being born and raised in Minnesota. Rock County is one of about three counties in Minnesota with no natural lakes. We have gravel pits south of Luverne that have been turned into fishing holes, and where I caught my first sunfish with my dad. My dad loved going up to Lake of the Woods to visit his uncle and catch walleye, but I was seldom involved on those trips, so I had very little opportunity to enjoy the delights of lake life. In my imagination, a real lake is one surrounded by trees and quaint summer homes with docks leading down to blue water and little boats.

I now live in a part of the country with no natural lakes. We have dams out here, little ponds on dammed up little rivers that have been stocked with fish. People love to go fishing on them, except now that the blue-green algae season is upon us. They also have “lake homes” on some of them, which usually turn out of to be mobile homes set on grassy plots with no trees for miles. Many of these dams were built  by the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation  in efforts to control flooding and improve agricultural irrigation and water supply. The grand example of our “lake” here is Lake Sakakawea, formed by the Garrison Dam.  According to Wikipedia:

” In order to construct the dam, the US government needed to purchase 152,360 acres  in the Fort Berthold Reservation that would be flooded by the creation of Lake Sakakawea. These lands were owned by the Three Affiliated Tribes, who had been living there for perhaps more than a millennium. Threatened by confiscation under eminent domain the tribes protested. The tribes achieved remuneration, but lost 94% of their agricultural land. in 1947, when they were forced to accept $5,105,625, increased to $7.5 million in 1949. The final settlement legislation denied tribes’ right to use the reservoir shoreline for grazing, hunting, fishing, or other purposes, including irrigation development and royalty rights on all subsurface minerals within the reservoir area.  About 1700 residents were forcibly relocated, some to New Town, North Dakota. Thus Garrison Dam almost totally destroyed the traditional way of life for the Three Affiliated Tribes.”

The lake is big and butt ugly.  There are no natural beaches. The 1300 miles of shoreline  are rough and abrupt. The depth can change suddenly  from 10 feet to 70 feet. Sometimes when the water is low you can see the roofs of buildings that were submerged when water filled the dam.  It is the largest fish hatchery in the world. I was fishing there a couple of weeks ago with fishing-fanatic friends. All I caught was a tiny perch and the trolling motor.  My line was wrapped so tightly around the motor we had to head back to shore and go home. People here think this “lake” is just wonderful. They call it “the Big Water”. I want to yell at them “That is not a lake. It is a big tub of water with fish in it”!

The Corps of Engineers recently decided to give many thousands of acres of shoreline back to the Three Affiliated Tribes. These are the tribes husband works for, and the families of many of our native friends were displaced and lost land when the Dam was built. There is a certain amount of anxiety in the campers and fishers about this. The Tribes are trying to reassure everyone, saying that people will still have the same access to the lake.  It interests me how differently people see the lake. Some see it as a sportsman’s paradise. Others see it as a constant reminder of trauma and loss. People in communities down stream depend on the dam to keep the Missouri River from flooding their homes. I see it as a fake, a sham. I admit I also depend on it, as it is our city’s source of really good water. The lake leaves me conflicted. 

What is your favorite lake (or fish) story?


59 thoughts on “Fishing the Big Water”

  1. Until I was 11 we lived in Storm Lake, Iowa. There were beaches, two city parks, and on one end the town’s only decent restaurant, Cobblestone Inn. We have home movies of swimming with cousins on a remote beach where we had to climb over a fence to get there. I remember fishing with my dad and grandpa in a rowboat. One year we lived a block from the lake, and skated on it once it froze, before snow fell.

    By the time we moved away in 1959, the lake had deteriorated – the spring that fed it was plugged, the shoreline lowered, and trees were growing where they should be lake. Luckily the city eventually had the lake dredged, so the spring ran free again. It came back to its former beautiful self, which we were happy to see when we visited. My mom and I stopped there in 2009 when we were traveling, for a picnic lunch at a park that hadn’t even been there back in the 50s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My favorite story comes from Storm Lake. I am off to see an attorney this morning about the contract to SELL THE PRACTICE. WAHOOOOOO. Will try to get back online later today to regale you.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Congratulations, Jacque, and welcome back.

    I’ll step in later to answer the question again, but I will briefly mention that I grew up in Iowa (a state with just a handful of natural lakes, none of which lay near my home in Ames). The only “lake” near Ames was the farm pond on the Izaak Walton land. It was fishable from shore for a few weeks in spring, after which shoreline weed and algae growth made the lake and its fishy denizens untouchable.

    But we had access to Minnesota lakes. In those more economically relaxed times, my dad had two weeks of vacation each June. We went to Eagle Lake one year, thereafter going to Long Lake near Park Rapids. I have tried (and failed) many times to express how exotic, beautiful and magical those vacations were. Instead of elm trees and cornfields, Minnesota offered birches and Norway pines. Instead of hogs banging the lids of their feeders, Minnesota had loons. Instead of bullheads and carp, Minnesota offered us northern pike, walleyes and bass, not to mention all the rainbow-hued panfish I chased so fervently.

    My dad didn’t need his imagination to conjure up a picture of Heaven. It would, he trusted, look pretty much like Park Rapids, Minnesota. As a kid I didn’t want my mom to wash my blue jeans because after our vacations there was always a little Minnesota beach sand in the pockets, and it was as precious to me as fairy dust. I grew up loving Minnesota. I’ve never gotten over that.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Finally, one childhood memory that matches yours completely! I recall the building excitement after crossing the border into Minnesota. I think it was about an 8-hour road trip. Other than my parents chain-smoking, it was fun because we had the whole backseat flat like a large playpen. Suitcases filled up the foot spaces and blankets placed over them so my brother and I had plenty of room to play or nap. We usually got new toys or games for the long trip, making it even more fun.

      Being in Minnesota felt like another planet. I knew we were getting close to our little log cabin when the trees went from pine to birch. I think I had more fun on the car ride than once we arrived since I had no interest in fishing, but just being in Minnesota thrilled me to no end.

      To this day, I am proud to be a Minnesotan. We’re tied with Hawaii for the “Best Quality of Life”, and #1 for raising children. We are represented by two of the finest senators in Congress and also have the only Muslim in the House. Depending on this election’s results, we may very well be sending the only Muslim woman to Congress as well. Although our high taxes reflect this quality of living, I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. OT – this is for BiR. BiR, in response to my comment the other day that I might think the pictures I took in Duluth – with the resulting tick bites, illness, and hospital stay – might not be worth it once I got the hospital bill, you asked if I had insurance. Today, I got an email with the EOB from the hospital stay and I was shocked to see that the entire claim was denied! Yikes! I was ready then and there to declare those pictures totally not worth it.

    Luckily, a phone call to member services straightened things out. Apparently they had sent me a request to ask 1) if I had any other insurance and 2) if any of the claim was due to the actions of a third party. I never got that request, so didn’t provide the information, which was why they denied the claim. I was able to answer No to both those questions (since I didn’t think they could make a claim against the ticks that bit me) and they will resubmit the claim. Whew. My day just got brighter.


        1. Either you’re not 65 yet or, if you are, you don’t have a good supplemental policy to fill in the Medicare 20%. I have both, and probably approached at least 1 million for my cancer journey. I didn’t have to pay one dollar of it! the supplemental (BSBC Platinum Blue) costs me $109/month.


        2. That’s right, Crystalbay. I answered a truthful No to the question “Do you have any other insurance?” And I am not on Medicare. You have a better deal in health insurance than I do, both in cost and in coverage. But I’m happy that I have some insurance and don’t have to pay 100% of my medical bills.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. my lakes as a kid were all second hand. my grandparents had a place on leech but my moms family was screwed up so we didn t go often and didn’t enjoy it when we did. my dad worked for the father in law and it was not good. the reverse of favoritism is not a fun place to be, my dads family had Detroit lakes outside fargo every summer and we loved those cousins but that was odd to. two brothers one was the boss the other the worked the boss was a loud drunk the other brother was my dads best friend and a great guy but the family dynamics were often screwed up.
    in Bloomington where I grew up bush lake was the public lake with a beach and lifeguards swimming lessons but you had to be going hter eon purpose and we seldom did. I live there now and am surprised how much and how little it has changed. the land around the lake that had sheep on it when I was a kid is now mc mansions but the beach is exactly the same as it was but it costs 7.00 to park there now. it is full of immigrants today who bar b que and do family outings here every day and night. we did fathers day there and it was delightful it is our new neighbor but I grew up with it learned to swim in it. etc. I love the water and wish I was able to spend my time there but being close is good enough for now

    as for my people being screwed by the great white father back int eh day… I think they should sue and nail the usa to the cross. it is their land that was taken from them in the cruelest most ugly ways possible by a thoughtless and heartless people who felt entitled to what ever they wanted destroying the world the found to create their own life at the expense of all other life forms in their way . so is man and his progress. so is the end of the ways of life that relied on the circle of life as the guiding light.

    water. its a cool thing and a vital thing and one that every society since the beginning of time has built their lives around. it will become a bigger and bigger deal as time goes on. maybe the biggest. we will see

    Liked by 2 people

  5. There are a wide range of lakes that I have lived near, fished in, or swam in. However, none are the equal of Lake Superior. I can’t think of any favorite story I associate with that lake. I just enjoy walking along the shore and looking out across the lake.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. hey wessew its bogart day on tcm. started with angels with dirty faces goes t king of the underwrld before some of his lesser seen films and then after klunch moves to casablanca dark passage and key largo with the maltese falcon in the wee hours. they left out the big sleep and the african queen but i suppose they know you have seen those. there are a couple of other obscure ones you might enjoy if you want to invest a day in watching your favorite actor. maybe find a way to record the day for future watching

    Liked by 1 person

  7. My dad and his buddies were in the country near Chamberlain, SD heading to fish in the Missouri River when they came upon two human bodies lying in the road. It was a man and woman . They had been shot. The man was dead. The woman was barely living. Both were Native Americans. My dad insisted they go find a phone and call an ambulance. One of my dad’s buddies disagreed, sayng why bother since the victims were just Indians. Dad insisted. They found a phone a few miles down the road and called for an ambulance. The ambulance went the wrong direction and took twice as long to get there as it should have. The woman was dead by the time the ambulance arrived.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. its tough when you realize the buddies you hang with are more redneck than you knew. i waled away form any group i ran ito with those inklings. it is surprising how nice people that are brought up with no moral compass can find the right answer invisible. run away or like my friend who told off color jokes and was shocked when i told him e had to stop that. he said i was just kidding and i told him that the way these things get to continue in the world is for the issue behind the issue to be dismissed. he never told another i know of. your dads buddies werent kidding. its hard living in north dakota and not being a redneck. i get that when playing cards in georgia. i wont tolerate black jokes or demeaning. they call me a yankee. i tell them its being a human being


  8. That’s a terrible story, Renee. I sometimes think that one unfortunate consequence of Native American history is that crime on tribal lands is a chronic problem. I’ve heard that there are many, many unsolved attacks on Native American women in particular.

    I’ve spent hundreds of hours on the two reservations near Chamberlain, Lower Brule and Crow Creek. We used to hunt pheasants there in the 1980s, especially on Lower Brule. Lower Brule was described by whites as “a happy reservation,” but we were shocked by the poverty. Our dealings with people there were mixed. The few times I dealt with folks on Crow Creek I felt uncomfortably aware of tensions. People at Crow Creek are descendants from Sioux who fled there or were exiled there after the Dakota War of 1862. I assumed that if I was polite and respectful, people would not find me odious. That was true (mostly) on Lower Brule, but the folks at Crow Creek were so visibly bothered by us that we stopped going there.

    We felt much more welcome on Standing Rock Reservation, and I assume you and your husband know it, Renee. An Indian friend there used to let us hunt sharptail grouse on his land, a huge sprawling bit of prairie near the river.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. OT for Twin Cities baboon: a friend of mine is renting out the lower level of her NE Minneapolis house, as she moves to California for the next few years. They leave Tuesday, and the person they had lined up has backed out. Email me ( if you know of anyone looking for a nice, small place as follows:
    – The rent is: $900 (plus all utilities) for ONE person, and $1,100 (plus all utilities) for a couple.
    – The tenant is also responsible for snow removal (I’m planning to get a brand new snow-blower) and they need to take care of the lawn / mow.
    – They can use washer/dryer in basement.
    – They can certainly garden in the back yard.
    – The garage space is negotiable, but there is ample off-street parking.
    – It is a 1-bedroom, formal dining room, living room, kitchen with nook; the kitchen is newly remodeled, new electric, nice new lighting and plenty of new outlets in kitchen, so good for someone who likes to cook.
    – They also have use of the front porch and back deck and yard/garden.


  10. OT: Since the blog is quiet this weekend, and since I wasn’t at the Blevins meeting, can I ask, how did “Other Powes” get chosen as one of the October Blevins selections?
    From my perspective, it’s a seminal book, but I’m not accustomed to anyone sharing my enthusiasms…


    1. We thought something political would be a good choice with the election coming up, but contemporary politics did not hold much appeal for those present. So we went with something tangentially related. I think it was Anna’s suggestion, though I could be wrong. I just got my copy from the library, but haven’t started it yet.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ironically, on of the personalities presented in Other Powers was Stephen Pearl Andrews, who, among other things, was the first to publish The Communist Manifesto in the U. S.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. i ave alway intended to read the communist manifesto. i had an exchange student from a rich german family who turned radical upon his entry to the usa and when he came bac he made me promise i would read the communist manifesto but i didnt tell him when. hopefully time isnt runnign out. does facebook work in germany/. ill check.
          my other foreign exchange student was a spanish flower bulb grower who was the most happy go lucky guy i ever met. back when long distance was still breathtaking i got a call from ignatsio just to say hi. we talked for 15 or 20 minutes and i smiled the whole time. he died early i was sorry to hear. every time i think of the german grouch theo i scowl. you can have an impact on the world. the communst manifesto. the book of pissed off people


  11. I’ll probably read Other Powers, too. It sounds good. Meanwhile, I’m checking out another book related to the current political culture that could have been chosen for the Blevins club. Hillbilly Elegy sounds like a fascinating read. As I sometimes do, I suggest you peek at the reviews on the Amazon site for this book. I like to read used paperbacks, but there has been no paperback release yet for this book. So I might need to do it on the Kindle.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of the threads I’ve been reading along this year has been recountings of southern culture (mostly by non-southerners): Paul Theroux’s “Deep South”, V. S. Naipaul’s “A Turn in the South”, Tony Horowitz’s “Confederates in the Attic”. It sounds like “Hillbilly Elegy” fits in as another illumination of the workings of a society defined not only by poverty and deprivation, but by an honor-based ethic.
      Its on my list.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. it occurs to me that everywhere you go if you are campling or visiting an area the location of the water is an important factor as to where you want to be. i have stayed in many campsite that were in a football field setup with electrical for campers and the lake or river down the road or at the end of the park area. i have seen the newest phenominia where walmart encourages rv people to park in the parking lot and come buy sweet rolls and diet pepsi for breakfast but that is not my idea of quality travel. i did do it once in alaska in a maybe fairbanks where the trailer park was bleak and 40 dollars and we wouldnt arrive until midnight (nevermind that it was still broad daylight) and the wal mart was on the other side of the street looking across at the trailer park. we spend 3 days there and saved a few buck but the nicest places i have stayed in alsaka and in my travels anywhere have a tie in to the lake the river the sea or the reservior that makes the feel work its way into your spirit. parks with trees are good, breathtaking cityscapes are great but the mountain stream or the river winding throught the town or the view from the bedroom of the sea out the window makes it special.
    my favorite body of water is almost always the one im near

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Don’t expect to hear from me today after this. The power company (for reasons it has not shared) is cutting off electricity to this sizable community. They have not hinted at how long the power will be out, but I get the impression it will be for several hours. It is overcast at the moment, so I won’t be able to read a book. So: no TV, radio, computer or lights. No car, since that is in a garage behind a door operated by electricity.

    I can think of only one or two things I can do in the dark, and I can’t do them for hours on end. 😦


    1. Geez, you don’t own a flashlight?

      I have a couple of those little LED booklights. The batteries are surprisingly durable. My power outage drawers contains at least one, along with candles matches, and a flashlight. I’m never caught without light, or reading material.


  14. Morning all. Back from my friend’s cabin – wonderful, relaxing weekend but confirms my belief that I would not be happy owning a cabin on a lake. SO MUCH WORK. Maybe if I lived in the cabin full time, then it wouldn’t be any worse that owning a 100-year old house in the city, but even then I’m not sure. And of course, I don’t think I could handle living out on a little lake in the middle of nowhere full time!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Greetings! Back from Brookings and Luverne for a family reunuion. “You look just like your mother!” was the cry from my mother’s remaining cousins and their families. It was at the home of TJ’s (Plain Jane and Krista’s friend) Unce Elmer and Aunt Eunice. The German relatives we met in May were there. It was very fun.

    Liked by 1 person

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