2008 Roughfish.com Root River Roundup

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The 2008 Root River Roundup was once again a great event!  Weather cooperated for the most part, with typical spring conditions for Minnesota.  Early mornings were quite chilly and those who crawled out of their sleeping bags at dawn needed warm fleece and hot coffee.  However, by noon the sun warmed the valley and made for some beautiful, warm fishing weather.

 

The wonderful Root River was running at near-ideal levels, a bit high and colored but very fishable.  The main run of silver redhorse was in full-swing, and spawning fish covered the shallow gravel bars.  This year we held the Roundup over walleye opener weekend – a sacred day in Minnesota.  Our group in effect thumbed our collective nose at walleyes, preferring to camp out in bluff country and sample the smorgasbord of fish that the Root boasts in the spring.  Throughout the event, 12 species of fish were caught – silver, golden and shorthead redhorse, white sucker, northern hogsucker, smallmouth bass, rainbow and brown trout, channel catfish, shovelnose sturgeon, mooneye and carp. 

 

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A few campers showed up mid-week prior to the Roundup, and unfortunately these folks endured a strong thunderstorm.  Tornado warnings were in effect, and these folks got to experience cowering in a small tent as the thunderstorm punished the river valley.  However, Rich caught a big channel catfish on Wednesday night.  Catfish are few and far between on this small, coldwater stream.  On Friday, a flotilla of 7 kayaks and canoes floated the Root from the Lanesboro dam to our camp at Eagle Cliffs campground.  We encountered some lively rapids on our journey, and huge numbers of spawning redhorse in the clear water.  Gary and J Knuth had driven over from Oshkosh, WI, and their first look at the Root River was on the float.  They were amazed at the beauty of the river, as well as the astounding numbers of large silver redhorse. Each racked up a new lifelist addition with silver redhorse caught from a swift run.  Many awesome fish were landed during the float, including a few trophy-class smallmouth bass, hogsuckers, and lots of silvers and other sucker species. 

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As paddlers trickled back to camp around suppertime, they were greeted by newly-arrived campers who were setting up tents, cooking burgers and sampling the fishing on Hogsucker Beach which lies within spitting distance from camp.  The weather was gorgeous, and folks fishing from the beach Friday evening caught many fine fish.  Andy stayed on the riverbank well after dark, and was rewarded with a shovelnose sturgeon!  This species is a rare treat for an angler on the Root.  The group gathered around a large crackling bonfire and swapped stories late into the night, our stories fueled by a bottle of fine Scotch graciously shared by Brian P.

 

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Saturday morning was very chilly.  KPE and JK discovered a small patch of morel mushrooms in the grass around our tents, and we stashed them in the cooler to have with our evening meal.  What a treat!  Good fishing continued around camp, as lots of trout and suckers came to hand.  Folks were honing their tactics in preparation for the species derby which would start at noon.  Everybody gathered at camp as derby rules were explained, then numbers were drawn from a hat to see who would fish where.  Two locations were being fished in this year’s derby, due to the large number of participants(around 30).  Group “A” fished around camp at Hogsucker Beach, and group “B” traveled upstream to a nice stretch of river.  The folks upstream found better action.  Corey and Andy refereed the derby, keeping in contact with two-way radios.  It was a two-hour derby, and with only 5 minutes to go a four-way tie existed at 5 species.  One of the leaders, KPE, cast out but a huge tangle snarled up his reel – then a fish began pulling on his line!  As the end of the derby neared, he battled a large fish hand-over-hand and ended up landing a derby-winning silver redhorse in dramatic fashion.  This was one of the finest acts of Roughfishing prowess ever displayed! 

 

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After the derby, rain started to fall.  Preparations began for the much-anticipated trout/sucker fry. Group “A” had kept 8 nice shorthead redhorse, and as a group we had accumulated a good meal of fresh trout.  The rain got heavier, so a big tarp was stretched between the trees and a screen-tent set up for cooking under.  The redhorse were filleted and run through a grinder to make sucker patties.  Three Coleman stoves cranked out food for the entire group, starting with sautéed morels and redhorse patties for hors d’houvres.  The redhorse patties were a huge hit, as they were devoured eagerly by anyone lucky enough to get one.  The main course did not disappoint either – pan-fried trout served with fried potatoes, veggies and a cold beer.

 

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A steady rain persisted through the evening.  Roughfishers were not deterred at all by this.  One group grabbed lanterns and headed to a deep hole upstream, hoping a sturgeon would find their baits.  Instead, numerous large silvers were caught along with the token willow catfish.  Very early Sunday morning, the back end of the storm passed over our camp with extremely high winds.  Our large cooking shelter was blown away and ended up in the Root River, suffering severe damage(the cooking shelter was great for our rainy fish-fry, so for next year if anybody has one bring it).

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Sunday is always a tad bit depressing, as tents are taken down, kayaks tied onto cars and fishing rods packed away.  Some folks fished right up to the end, and kept on catching.  Eventually, though, everybody shook hands and headed off in their own direction, and we left the Root for another year.

 

Well, that’s about it.  I didn’t get around to writing this until 10 months later, so if I forgot anything please let me know.  The 2008 Roundup was a blast, to say the least.  We had a record turnout, the fishing was fantastic, and everybody made some new friends as well as memories.  I can’t wait for Roundup 2009, it’s right around the corner!

 

~andy

 

 

Video of KPE's dramatic derby win!

 

 

 

 

Species Covered: