ON LAKE VERMILION - Libbie Shaffer asked the question many anglers think but few are willing to blurt out.
"Why is it taking so long?'' Libbie, 11, asked of her guide, Lonnie Johnson.
Libbie, of Aurora, had been fishing with a nightcrawler under a slip bobber for a full five minutes and the bobber had yet to dip below the surface.
Sometimes, Libbie, the fish just aren't hungry, Johnson explained.
And so started the ninth annual Take a Kid Fishing Day on Wednesday, sponsored by the Lake Vermilion Guides League. Shaffer and her friend, Jon Ross,13, also of Aurora, were in Johnson's boat, among 100 kids who got to fish with 45 local guides and anglers.
For many of the kids it will be the only time they get on the water all summer. They each received hats, t-shirts and even a rod-and-reel combo along with a goodie bag and a fish dinner to cap off the day. All of it is free, organized by the Guides League. Fortune Bay Casino hosts the event at its marina with other sponsors, including University of Minnesota Sea Grant, the Vermilion Lake Association, Lions Club and the Lake Vermilion Resort Association.
It was a picture perfect day for fishing, with temperatures near 80 degrees, a few puffy white clouds overhead and a steady breeze to keep the bugs away. And, for many of the kids, the fish were biting. Quickly printed digital photos at the boat landing showed multiple kids holding walleyes over 20 inches long.
In Johnson's boat Shaffer and Ross landed a couple bass, walleye and bluegills. But there was also a stop for ice cream at a lakeside resort and plenty of motoring across the big lake to cool off.
And questions. Lots of questions.
"Is that a real worm?'' Libbie asked when Johnson reached into a box for a nightcrawler. "I don't do real worms."
But it was only a few minutes later when Libbie was reaching into the nightcrawler box by herself and impaling the worm onto her hook.
"Ewww, cool," she said.
Every five minutes or so the focus would shift from fishing to something else.
"Can we go fast?" Libbie asked.
"If you sit down,'' Johnson replied.
"Look at the baby ducks!'' Libby exclaimed.
"They're loons," Ross corrected.
"Cuuute baby loons!'' Libbie said with glee. "Can we touch them?"
"When I get older I'm not taking her fishing,'' Ross said of Libbie, his next door neighbor.
And so it went with kids soaking up the sun, usually smiling, interacting with nature and eating ice cream in the bow of a boat. Summer in the Northland, personified.
"I'm done," Ross exclaimed as the afternoon moved toward evening and he had lost yet another nightcrawler to an unseen fish.
"Let's go eat,'' Johnson declared.
"Good idea,'' Libbie said. "But can I keep fishing?"
For more information on the Take a Kid Fishing Day or fishing on Lake Vermilion go to lakevermilionguidesleague.com.