I will be the first to say that I am as much a walleye angler as anything else. They put up a respectable fight, you get a good filet off of each fish, and I would take them over a ribeye any night. That being said, I’ve never been a “walleye snob” that won’t spend any of the season chasing other species. I make sure to make a fly-fishing trip to Montana or Colorado at least once a year, I have no problem with catching channel cats in the late summer, and pitching tubes for smallmouth gets my heart racing.
But it’s April, so chasing anything other than walleye right now is generally a waste of time, right? Well April isn’t far from May, and for me the month of May in South Dakota means one thing; A hold onto your britches, buy the store out of minnows, crazed crappie bite.
Crappie typically start moving into the shallows with water temps in the mid-50’s, and it happens en masse. With all the lakes sprinkled across Eastern South Dakota, you’re sure to find a body of water hitting these temperatures while the masses are chasing walleyes, and you’re missing out on fun for the whole clan if you don’t give it a shot. There’s no doubt that crappie are great eating, but a lot of anglers underestimate the excitement that comes with every-cast catching. Get yourself some 1/16 ounce jigs, a few scoops of minnows, a light spinning rod, and prepare to fill your bucket with some slab crappies. With any luck, you’ll be cleaning fish late into the night.
Five years ago, I was a junior in high school with the whole world ahead of me and not a clue in the world of what I wanted to do with my life. I was a three-sport athlete with a respectable throwing arm (part of that can be attributed to being a southpaw), a good head on my shoulders that translated to good grades, and an addiction to the outdoors. When I wasn’t playing baseball I was either fishing or hunting with whoever wanted to split gas that day. I was the definition of an Iowa boy from a small and quiet town. Looking back, I see a lot of clues that just didn’t seem that significant at the time.
Junior year is the time for visiting colleges, and I did exactly that. University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, ICCC, University of South Dakota, and South Dakota State University were all on the list. Of all those visits, SDSU was the one I disliked the most. My visit took place during the summer when there was nobody around, lots of construction, and buildings that just weren’t quite as fancy as the ones I saw at the Iowa schools. The only reason I visited the school was my dad’s assurance that I would enjoy both the school and the awesome outdoor opportunities.
Senior year rolled in, and I chose University of Northern Iowa with almost half of my graduating class of 60-something. We had all been great friends throughout high school, and it really just seemed easier to stick together than lose touch. Boy was I wrong. The school itself was not the problem, with good resources and good teachers. The reason the school just didn’t appeal to me was an ideological one; I didn’t have the same values as most of the students or the professors, and finding someone who enjoyed trudging decoys through a slough at 3 AM was nearly impossible. Two months in, I decided to revisit SDSU because of their accelerated pharmacy program. This time the visit came in October, and the entire town came alive. By the end of the first semester at UNI, I had decided that the following year I would be transferring to South Dakota State University as a pre-pharmacy student. I had realized how important my roots were, and I wanted to return to them (in the form of moving 5 hours away from home).
The rest is history as they say, and these 5 reasons attribute to why I now call Brookings, SD my home:
Being five hours from my hometown in a town where I knew nobody before moving here has been a blessing in disguise. I realized that although my family is a science family (both my parents were in the sciences here at SDSU), I am not. It took the move to a place with a wealth of access to the things that I enjoy, to realize a white lab coat was not the best thing for me.
- Learn what you want to learn
The SDSU Economics department is the “business school” of the University, and the opportunities are endless. The professors are not all just academics here for the research, they are actual teachers. This isn’t meant as an insult to universities that have great research programs, because research is the spawn of innovation and it definitely has its place. However, being able to sit down with professors who have worked in top-notch ad agencies, started their own businesses, and succeeded in the real world does a lot more for the average student than an Economics research internship does.
- Small-town values in a not-so-small town
By most people’s standards, Brookings is still a small town. Yet there is still plenty to do, and in comparison to other college towns of its size scattered throughout the midwest it hasn’t lost an ounce of its small-town feel.
- Its not cheap, it has value
The school has one of the lowest tuition rates of anywhere in the country. As a Business Economics major, the usual correlation between price and quality is more than apparent. But it just isn’t the case here at SDSU. The professors here (at least most of them) want to do whatever they can to help you learn. Your classes can’t teach you everything, and its up to you to go the extra step and learn the rest. Your professors want to be the people that help you with that.
Through my time at SDSU, developing relationships has been easy. Relationships are an intangible resource that has changed the course of both my work and my college life. I’ve worked hard to expand my knowledge as well as my network, and its foolish to not embrace both. Going through college and not reaching out to those who are smarter than you, more experienced than you, or just those who you’d work well with is a major misstep for college students.
Finding a weekend in recent history that was this jam-packed with excitement is impossible. A few days ago I got a call from two very close friends of mine, who also happen to be the guys running the show at Drift Prairie Outfitters. They had a good snow goose feed and I was going to be rockin’ it in the Power Hunter with my trusty Canon come Saturday morning. 2 AM came along, and it was one of those mornings where you aren’t really sure if your eyes had ever closed before the alarm sounded. A sugar-free red bull, an hour drive, and 500 decoys later and we were set. As the light started to show up on the horizon, we had what every snow goose hunter (and cameraman) can’t wait to have: 12-15 mph wind, no frost, and the sun at our backs. After some great flocks, some not so great flocks thanks to some wannabe-martyr speckle-bellies, we had 70 snow geese on the ground. The “cherry” on top was really solid hunting footage and a banded 2-year old female that was banded in Sachs Harbour, Northwest Territories. If you look at a map you’ll find that she was still 2100 miles from home as the crow flies, and who knows how many miles as the snow goose flies. Snows really never cease to amaze.
By the time we arrived back in Brookings, it was noon and I had an engagement shoot to begin at 3:30. Erika and I had done some good scouting of locations for the couple, but we needed to do some more detailed investigating to figure out how we were going to handle any potential lighting problems. One sub-sandwich and a few hours later, and we were as ready as you can be. The shoot went spectacular, with the only problem ever arising being a nasty South Dakota wind that wreaks havoc on hair. In hindsight, the wind just added to the very raw and natural environment that had ruled the day.
Now it’s time to run up the tach on some editing hours.