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Articles written by Bret Baker


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  • Prehistoric monsters are a thrill to hook

    Bret Baker|Apr 14, 2023

    Winter has officially worn out its welcome in the Baker household, and we decided to do something about it over spring break. Half our crew - Jamie, Josh and I - traveled to the Osage Arm of Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri to chase prehistoric monsters. I first got the itch to chase spoonbill, aka paddlefish, last winter. We tried unsuccessfully to battle one in northern Oklahoma last year, but our luck would shift dramatically in the late March sunshine and muddy waters of southern Missouri.... Full story

  • Fishing skill lands a scholarship

    Bret Baker|Mar 31, 2023

    Sixteen hours south of his hometown of Esko, Noah Wells entered a combine excited to showcase his skill set to the coaches gathered around. Unlike the NFL combine, his 40-yard split time or vertical jump were not on display. The coaches were taking note of his pitching, flipping, and knot-tying prowess at the Bassmaster High School Combine at Wheeler Lake in Decatur, Alabama. For the high school senior, the combine, held last summer, was a culmination of years of hard work. He walked away with... Full story

  • Plan for opener success this year

    Bret Baker|May 13, 2022

    A couple of weeks ago I predicted the 2022 fishing opener could be fantastic. As the big day approaches and the weather forecast solidifies, I’m sticking to my guns. I believe the May 14th Minnesota opener will be one of the best opening days in recent memory. For walleyes, the most predictable opener locations will be in and around spawning grounds. In lakes, focus on any rivers or inlets that dump into the main lake. Walleyes will congregate in the shallow bays and points around these s... Full story

  • Out In It: April snow brings May optimism

    Bret Baker|Apr 22, 2022

    The last couple of days of April I’m scheduled to be chasing cohos and browns on Chequamegon Bay out of Washburn, Wisconsin. If you have spent any time outside the last couple of weeks, you will recognize the potential problem — we may still be iced up. In fact, the marina dockmaster recently reported 48 inches of ice in the harbor! This spring is shaping up to be one of the coldest in recent memory. But it’s not all doom and gloom — the late spring could have a positive impact on area fishing...

  • Out In It: Spring bass Texas-sized

    Bret Baker|Apr 8, 2022

    We slid Cap'n Ron's Skeeter into the warming water of late March. On each side of the landing, the docks towered above us, a harbinger of how dangerously low the water had receded. We slowly worked our way onto the main lake, straddling the slimy off-white navigation buoys bobbing in the morning wind. In all directions, the reservoir revealed its scarred, exposed underbelly. My son Josh and I had come to Texas for one thing: to chase the Florida strain largemouth bass lurking in the back bays... Full story

  • Out In It: Winter fish fry stirs up warm memories

    Bret Baker|Mar 5, 2021

    I twisted and pulled at the icy bags scattered along the bottom of our basement chest freezer in mid-February. The Minnesota winter had proven mild until that week. Bone-chilling winds pummeling the house convinced me to hunker in place, forgoing my weekend pursuit of fish trapped below the ice. I turned my attention to the fish encapsulated deep in the freezer. A midwinter fish fry seemed like the perfect way to protest our weeklong frigid reality. I scooped up the first bag of fish and turned... Full story

  • Dig deep for fish during these heated dog days

    Bret Baker|Jul 31, 2020

    The last couple of weeks, I’ve been on several lakes all across the upper half of Minnesota. One thing they have in common, they register the highest surface temperatures I’ve ever encountered. On the Canadian border, mid- to high-70s are pretty common, and around Cloquet, water temps in the 80s are the norm. The heat hasn’t shut down fishing, but adjustments need to be made. Some fish, such as largemouth bass, have no problem with the heat and can be found ultra-shallow all summer long, espec...

  • Out In It: 'Just looking' morphs into unexpected camper buy

    Bret Baker|Jul 10, 2020

    The entire Baker crew was in Duluth the other day, and, on a whim, we decided to check out some campers. We pulled into Bullyan RV and proceeded to drive through the line of small travel trailers along the edge of the parking lot, pointing at the ones that our Suburban might safely pull. By the time we parked, we had our short list already narrowed down. We weaved and bobbed around the row of trailers like a flock of ducklings paddling cross current on a lazy afternoon. We jumped over trailer...

  • Out in it: Thanks prop, it was a nice run

    Bret Baker|Jul 3, 2020

    A quick yank on the cotter pin, a spin of the wrench and she was loose. Ten years my Honda prop has been with me every second I've been on the water. Unceremoniously, I relinquished her to the bullpen, dropping her into the side compartment of the Lund. She clanked in disgust. If the old prop could talk, it would have a few tales to tell. It would relive all the miles spinning aimlessly behind the trailer covering endless stretches of northern Minnesota. It would recall the hundreds of lakes... Full story

  • Out in it: Tech dominates fishing plans

    Bret Baker|Jun 19, 2020

    Recently I got a text soliciting some advice about fishing a lake a couple of hours north of Cloquet. Within seconds I responded with a detailed map indicating the wind would blow at 20-plus mph around noon the next day, limiting fishable water. Minutes later I added a couple of screenshots of GPS-marked spots to try for walleyes. It struck me that I rely on a whole toolbox of technology on my smartphone that was nonexistent just a few short years ago. Some are free, several cost money to... Full story

  • Out in it: Trolling in Brookston

    Bret Baker|Jun 12, 2020

    If you read my column regularly you're already aware I'm up for new adventures. This week I jumped at the chance to fish a new stretch of the St. Louis River with Cloquet's Chad Vermeersh. We hooked up his Lund and headed slightly northwest to downtown Brookston to chase walleyes. The boat landing is easy to locate, upstream of the bridge, just off the beaten path. The landing drops at a precipitous rate, its concrete pads swallowed up by the root-beer stained water far below. I drew the short s...

  • Out In It: An old boat brings new memories, welcome distraction

    Bret Baker|Jun 5, 2020

    My two oldest, Hannah and Joseph, were just kids when they saved up their pennies to buy their first boat. They split the cost of a 1984 Alumacraft with an old 50-horsepower Merc hanging off the back. I remember their beaming smiles and how proud they were of their “new” boat and how they had big plans to fix it up. Then life got in the way. It was baseball, soccer, basketball or floor hockey season. Or boyfriends and girlfriends to spend time with. Or friends to hang out with. Or jobs, school,... Full story

  • Out in it: A shallow mind helps right now

    Bret Baker|May 29, 2020

    If you are reading this, you should probably stop. Hook up your boat and read this later. The fish are biting. The light switch has been turned on this week. Many different species have moved shallow with the warming water and they are active. I've been on three crappie lakes in the last 10 days. The fish were staging just off spawning grounds with the temps holding in the low to mid-50s. As the weather and water warmed, those fish pushed en masse toward the shallows. This is the time for...

  • Out in It: Red-eye trip to Red Lake pays off

    Bret Baker|May 22, 2020

    Bouncing along the backroads of Mahtowa, I leaned hard into the glow of my headlights, seeing the fine line between dirt and marsh. My eyes strained and blurred searching for my turn. Cottontail rabbits and woodcock scattered upon my approach. Gravel crunched under my tires as I worked my way up my cousin Ben Nynas' driveway, a billion stars enveloping me from above. As I broke free from my Suburban, a chorus of frogs echoed through the darkness. It was late ... or was it early? Either way, we...

  • Out in it: Nice opener haul despite short outing

    Bret Baker|May 15, 2020

    Avoiding the expected crowds, I slid the big blue Lund into the water a little past 4 a.m. on opener morning. By the light of the full moon, David, Joseph and I made our way slowly upstream from Boy Scout Landing on the St. Louis River. Several boats zipped by in the moonlight and shadows, brave enough or carefree enough to forge the river full speed ahead. I had planned to avoid the masses, but the draw of openers past nagged at me until I relented. Also, I wanted to target big fish. I decided... Full story

  • Out in it: For openers, fish where the fish are

    Bret Baker|May 8, 2020

    This week I've been able to get out and chase some pre-spawn crappies, brook trout, and sample the annual sucker run. Most of my focus is on the impending Minnesota walleye opener Saturday. The march of the boats has already begun through Cloquet, mostly headed north. I'm hoping most anglers are sticking close to home, but my gut tells me otherwise. I have decided it's best to avoid crowded boat ramps and fish off the beaten path for the opener this year. My approach will follow a pattern that... Full story

  • Outdoors: Finally landing that dinosaur

    Bret Baker|Apr 17, 2020

    The wind gathered momentum and funneled directly down the narrow stretch of the river channel, unleashing its strength against the far bank before dissipating around the bend. Current and wind and waves blustered past. Collar popped against the torrent, I sat plopped along the edge of the chocolate-milk stained St. Louis River of early April. For the 15th time, I tried to convince myself I knew what I was doing. My target was a springtime dinosaur; a sturgeon I could call my own. I chucked a...

  • Pine Knot outdoors: With winter waning, finding solace in the spear shack

    Bret Baker|Feb 28, 2020

    The bitter northeast wind relentlessly reshaped the landscape, shifting and sculpting dunes of snow across the expanse of the lake. I pulled hard against the heavy door separating me and my warmth from the tempest outside. This would be one of the last Sunday mornings of the spearing season, and I was settled in for the long haul. My portable heater hummed on high over my left shoulder. Its orange glow radiated against the darkened walls of the spear shack. Stripped down to a flannel shirt, I...

  • Out in It: Castle Siege

    Bret Baker|Feb 14, 2020

    I shouldered my way through the early morning crowd at Hi-Banks Resort on Fish Lake. A patron glanced my way, unimpressed, through a forest of celery sticks jutting from his Bloody Mary breakfast. I plopped $5 on the bar to access the lake out front. The bartender scooped up my cash and thanked me. No receipt, no dashboard tag, just an honor system and an agreement. They plow the road and I pay. I like that. I shuffled my way back to the Suburban. The whole vehicle shook from our dog, Mogli,...

  • Pine Knot Outdoors: Let's hope Band will give young hunters a permit break

    Bret Baker|Feb 7, 2020

    The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has decided to charge an annual fee to access thousands of acres of reservation land for non-band members. It’s $25 a month or an annual fee of $100. I have enjoyed hunting and fishing on tribal lands the past 40 years. I can say paying no fees and taxes has been a real bargain. Have I taken over $100 annually in fish and game? Probably not. Have I collectively done $100 in damage to the land? Not to my knowledge. I’ve respected the land as if it...

  • Pine Knot Outdoors: For any endeavor, never stop learning

    Bret Baker|Jan 10, 2020

    When most kids my age were playing Nintendo or watching “The Goonies” on VHS, I was nose-deep in a Stephen King novel. My mom developed my love of reading, even if “Misery” or “Pet Semetary” kept me up late at night. Flash forward to the present. Following more of my dad’s love of nonfiction, Jared Diamond’s “Upheaval,” Sigurd F. Olson’s “The Lonely Land,” Stephen Ambrose’s “Undaunted Courage,” and Alex Messenger’s “The Twenty-Ninth Day” all sit within arm’s reach, dog-eared at various poi...

  • Pine Knot Outdoors: Mirage

    Bret Baker|Dec 27, 2019

    When I slow down, staring out the window late at night, it eats at me. It pulls at me. It bothers me, but I try to ignore it. Thirty years I’ve hunted whitetails. Not this year. It began in September. I could barely walk, and pulling back my bow was an exercise in frustration. It ramped up during rifle season. I knew I could sit for a while, but dragging and processing a deer would prove difficult, if not impossible. I waited. Each week I hoped the next weekend would find me healthy enough to s...

  • Pine Knot Outdoors: A clearcut rendezvous gone by the wayside

    Bret Baker|Dec 13, 2019

    A couple of nagging health issues have kept me out of the whitetail woods and off the newly formed ice. I have to rely on the stories of others or think back to hunts of the past to keep me sane, knowing bucks and bluegills are out cruising. Some of my earliest hunting memories revolve around my brother Bruce taking me under his wing. We covered a lot of ground chasing grouse and woodcock in the fall, and speedy cottontail and snowshoe rabbits in the winter. He took me deer hunting just once. I...

  • Pine Knot Outdoors: Making time for outdoor pursuits can pay off

    Bret Baker|Nov 22, 2019

    Sometimes you can’t wait for perfect, you just have to jump in. A week-long vacation in Canada slamming walleyes? Sounds nice. Two weeks bow hunting elk in Montana. Sign me up. When I’m retired. Most of us are under varying degrees of a time crunch. Jobs, families, finances, responsibilities all take up large chunks of our time, as they should. When it comes to the outdoors, it’s not about having the time, it’s about making the time. The night I got a crack at my biggest buck is a prime example....

  • Pine Knot Outdoors: Up a birch tree with a treasured family gun

    Bret Baker|Nov 1, 2019

    There is no way he could have imagined my world, and I find it difficult to imagine his. We are separated by a century or more: generations of Bakers have come and gone. Nothing directly connects us, except for the gun cradled across my lap, 12 feet up a birch tree. He was my grandpa's grandpa; I know very little about him, and his name even escapes me at the moment. That saddens me. I hope my great-great-grandson will know my name - know a little something about what made me tick. The morning...

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