Over the years I’ve photographed hundreds of people fishing on area lakes— and if there’s one thing that I’ve learned in that time it’s that Minnesotans love fishing with their dogs— at …
Over the years I’ve photographed hundreds of people fishing on area lakes— and if there’s one thing that I’ve learned in that time it’s that Minnesotans love fishing with their dogs— at least with a certain kind of dog.
You won’t find many toy breeds out there on the water. Yet to a lab, a springer, or a setter, a northern Minnesota fishing boat is hallowed ground, the next best thing to sitting in a duck blind or working an alder thicket along a woods road for ruffed grouse. While we may be distracted out on the water, checking our phones or grabbing a beer or a pop from the cooler, a dog in a fishing boat is an image of concentration.
In this day and age when most dogs are kept simply as pets, it’s easy to forget that, for centuries, dogs had a purpose beyond companionship and, for the hunting breeds in particular, that purpose centered around the gathering of game in close cooperation with their human masters.
We may see our day out on the water as mere recreation, as a lark, or a chance to be with friends or family. To a dog, it’s about reengaging ancient instincts, about shared experiences passed on through countless generations of dogs who hunted with their masters or herded and protected livestock. It’s the essence of what it means to be a working dog— to be in the outdoors with their humans on a mission in the primal quest for food.
I think it says something also about those of us who fish. It speaks to our relationship with the natural world. You take a dog fishing because, for us, the dog is part of our experience in the outdoors, just as it’s been for centuries. Humans turned to dogs as helpers because they had abilities and senses that often put ours to shame. We relied on their speed, their acute hearing, and their incredible sense of smell to give us the advantage over the game we sought.
While we may not need those same skills in our quest for walleye, that really doesn’t matter. The dog comes along because they are part of just about everything we do in the outdoors.
They are our companions, always ready, always eager, whether it’s hiking in the woods, jumping in the canoe, or heading out in the fishing boat. And when evening comes, they’re at home, curled up by our feet, dreaming of the day’s adventures. We bring our dogs fishing because why would we do anything else?