I can’t believe I’m writing this, but here’s the thing:

We need rain. Bad.

I’m worried about low-water levels on rivers and lakes across the region and the effects they will have on everything from boating access to fish populations.

Farmer friends are worried about the dry conditions and the potential impact on spring planting.

Unfortunately, the worry in both cases isn’t unfounded.

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I’ve often debated which is worse – too much rain or not enough – and have yet to come up with a satisfactory answer. Both are bad in their own ways, and we’ve experienced both extremes in the past couple of years.

A happy medium would be nice, for a change.

The light rain falling outside my kitchen window as I write this – and the prospect of more in the next few days – will hopefully bring much-needed relief.

Just so the rain knows when to quit.

On the “too much” side of the coin, I think back to that Saturday morning in late September 2019. Five inches of rain had fallen during the night – I slept through it – and I woke up to a basement floor covered with water that seeped back in as fast as I could wet-vac and squeegee it up. That fall was a soggy mess. Any thoughts of fall walleye fishing on my favorite rivers were washed away in a torrent of muddy, debris-filled water, and sump pumps ran until the onset of subzero weather in early November began freezing the hoses.

Some of the ruffed grouse hunting spots I normally frequent in the fall would have required waders to access.

Fun and enjoyable are not words I would use to describe the fall of 2019.

Brad Dokken
Brad Dokken
On the “not enough” side of the coin, I look no further than this spring. According to a fishing guide friend who tracks such things, the Red River that flows along the eastern border of North Dakota now is already 2 feet lower than it was at this same time in 2012, the last year spring arrived this early and stayed this dry.

Another of my favorite rivers that shall remain nameless is at a level more commonly seen in the dog days of August.

I shudder to think what that means if drought conditions persist.

At the same time, Red Flag Warnings and extreme fire danger levels have been almost daily occurrences during the past couple of weeks. The so-called “Oxcart Fire” near Mentor, Minn., burned some 15,000 acres before firefighters from multiple agencies were able to bring it under control.

Earlier this week, the Grand Forks County Commission enacted an emergency burn ban that remains in effect until further notice.

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“No persons should ignite any object or product in an outdoor environment that produces an exposed flame for the purposes of disposing of any object or product,” the ban states. “Persons shall not dispose of cigarette butts or other smoking devices in any area besides designated collection sites. Persons shall not have recreational fires in Grand Forks County, including within the city of Grand Forks. This includes the burning of trees, grass, leaves and ditches.”

Despite the extreme dry conditions, just the fact that I’m writing this column should be seen as cause for optimism because I have a remarkable track record for producing rain.

Here’s just one example:

Several years ago, in the dim and distant past when crossing the Canadian border was an option, a friend and I crossed into Ontario at the Rainy River, Ont., port of entry en route to Crow Lake near Nestor Falls, Ont., for a few days of lake trout fishing.

Personnel at the border were handing out pamphlets highlighting the extreme fire danger conditions and steps for reducing the risks.

Conditions were bad indeed.

Reaching our destination barely 2 hours later, we’d barely gotten the boat in the water when the skies opened up. The rain came down in buckets, and we spent much of the day inside.

By the next morning, fire danger was but a distant memory.


Some friends and I have a sturgeon fishing trip planned for next weekend on the Rainy River, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if conditions on the river were rainy.

Time will tell.

The downside to this seemingly extraordinary ability to produce rain is the fact that I don’t have a very good track record for getting it to stop once it starts.

“Be careful what you wish for,” the old saying goes. “Lest it come true!”

So it is for me when it comes to rain this spring.

I’m doing my part by writing this, but I think I’ll play it safe and wish for a happy medium instead.