A week at the lake | Midwest Living

A week at the lake

Our tips help you savor vacation's sweetest moments, including fishing off a dock, napping in a hammock and building a sand castle.


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Sunburns, Cold Water and Fish



If the long-term effects of sunburn, such as wrinkles or even skin cancer, don’t convince you to slather up, at least consider how blisters and peeling put a damper on lake fun. With help from Myra Pravda, a longtime camp nurse in Indiana and Ohio, we pulled together some tips to help keep your sun-filled week sunburn-free.

APPLY EARLY. Sunscreen needs time to sink in. Smooth on one with an SPF of 15 or higher at least 15 minutes before you step outside.

BE THOROUGH. The most regularly neglected areas include behind the knees, the tops of ears and toes, hair parts and bald spots. And don’t think you’ve got things covered if you throw on a baseball cap. Opt for a wider brim, or extra sunscreen on your ears and the back of your neck.

REAPPLY, REAPPLY, REAPPLY. Do this every couple of hours, sooner if you go in the water, towel off or even just sweat a lot.

DISREGARD CLOUDS. 80 percent of ultraviolet rays still penetrate them. Apply sunscreen as usual.

Get used to the water

There are two schools of thought on how to enter a cold lake: Get comfortable or get it done. Either way, the water’s just as cold, though psychologically it may seem to matter. Jane Hansen favors the ease-in. When the Masters Competitive Swimmer takes her early-morning plunge in Bay Lake near Brainerd, Minnesota, she doesn’t test the water first for fear of chickening out. "I just slide in off the end of my dock, where the water is usually about waist-deep, then get used to that before I go down a little ways, then a little farther, up to my neck. Getting the chest under is the hardest part because the water takes your breath away. "

It takes your breath and constricts your blood vessels quickly, two major ways your body deals with the shock. The latter’s a red flag for people with hypertension or heart disease, though honestly, chances of anything serious happening from a summer-cold lake are slim. Even if you dive right in, like triathlete Jim Meyer. When Jim trains in Iron Creek Lake, near Spearfish, South Dakota, he’s all business. "I just hop in and go. I guess it’s a carpe diem attitude, " he says. "And sometimes there are people watching, so of course you have to look tough. "


Not a summer week goes by without Daryl Bauer’s line dipping into Midwestern lake water. He teaches basic fishing classes as Lakes and Reservoirs Program Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and regularly fishes with his kids, 7-year-old Emily and 15-year-old Daniel. Daryl’s advice for beginners:

CHOOSE A POLE based on what he calls the K.I.S.S. Principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Your local discount store probably sells a basic outfit for 20 or 30 bucks. Try to splurge on at least this level of quality over a plastic kid’s pole. Get an enclosed reel, or just use a plain old cane pole—no line tangles or casting challenges.

USE SMALL HOOKS AND BOBBERS. Off the dock, you’ll likely see panfish such as bluegill, perch or bullhead. Use nightcrawler pieces or worms on size 6 or 8 hooks, and a bobber just heavy enough to float that bait. Daryl says one of the most common mistakes is using a bobber that’s too big for the fish to pull under.

ADD WEIGHT to sink your bait. Clamp a small split shot onto your line a few inches above the hook.

JUST DO IT. Use Daryl’s tips, then just sit back and watch your bobber. Eventually, it will go under, and you can check out your catch. Daryl’s parting advice: "Don’t be intimidated. Just go fish and have fun. "



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