The best Black Fridays are sunny

Dustin Murguia of Chicago joined writer Dave Mull on a Black Friday kayak excursion to Lake of the Woods near Decatur two years ago and caught this dandy largemouth.

Black Friday. If you think about it, those two words are about as ominous as two words can be. I wondered where the term came from, what the day after a favorite family holiday, so I turned to the Interweb.

Apparently it started in the 1950s, when American workers called in sick on the day after Thanksgiving to treat themselves to a four-day weekend. Shops began offering day-after-Thanksgiving sales. People taking a day off started flocking to them. According to one website, untruly shopping crowds and traffic accidents got so bad that police started calling the day Black Friday.

The name has recently taken a positive spin meaning that because so much buying is going on, stores are making money and, accounting-wise, in the “black” instead of in the “red.”

Black Friday sales seep into the outdoors world for sure. My pal Jeff Gillilland called me the other day. Without saying hello he said “Humminbird Helix 10s. Cabela’s Black Friday sale, regularly 17 hundred dollars, on sale for a thousand dollars.”

That is a really good deal, and I’ve been shopping for a multi-featured sonar/GPS unit with a big screen that I can move between my boat and my kayak. After running a Helix 5 with its little 5-inch screen and really liking it for the past couple of years, a Helix 10 had been high on my list.

Gillilland added a dose of reality to his phone call.

“Of course you have to be there when the doors open because they might just have six of them. Might mean camping in line.”

Camping on a concrete sidewalk outside a big box retailer in late November is something I’ve never done. I see no reason to start now.

I’ve never gotten into the Black Friday spirit. Instead of battling strangers for a big screen TV (or fish-finding sonar), I do my best to spend the day fishing or visiting an area shooting preserve.

One of my most memorable day-after-Thanksgiving trips was with Dustin Murguia, a Chicago school teacher who has a truly remarkable talent for catching fish. Two years ago we met for breakfast in Decatur and headed to nearby Lake of the Woods. He of course caught a couple of photo-worthy largemouth while I caught a medium-sized pike and a few bluegills. The sun was out, the air was crisp and the wind wasn’t pushing our kayaks around. It was a wonderful day.

Recently I learned I was a part of an “opt outside” movement and didn’t even know it.

Recreation Equipment, Inc., the Kent, Washington-based retail and outdoor recreation services company known more commonly as REI, launched the #OptOutside campaign in 2015.

The outdoors-focused movement encourages people to spend more time outside, and highlights the benefits of immersing themselves in nature, on Black Friday and all year long. And here’s some news to me: For the fourth year in a row, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is participating alongside REI in encouraging others to join the #OptOutside movement.

For instance, this Friday the DNR will waive the regular Recreation Passport vehicle entry fee necessary to enter Michigan’s 103 state parks and recreation areas, 138 state forest campgrounds, and state trailheads and boat launches.

“For anyone who’s been itching to get outdoors or someone who might need a nudge, Black Friday is the perfect day for residents and visitors to explore Michigan’s natural resources,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, in a DNR press release. “From quiet trails to picturesque waterfalls, breathtaking vistas and more, state parks are full of opportunities for fun and reflection.”

While no Recreation Passport is needed, all camping, permit and license fees still apply.

But if you don’t get to a state park, why not wet a line off the St. Joe pier or toss a spawn bag or spinner for steelhead somewhere on the St. Joe River? Put your boat in a favorite lake one last time before winterization and fish for bass, pike, walleye or panfish. I’m planning on a crappie expedition to a nearby lake in my boat, or a return trip to Lake of the Woods in a kayak. One place I won’t be is in Grandville, Michigan, waiting for Cabela’s to open. Maybe Jeff can buy two of those Helix 10s if he’s gonna camp out anyway.

We should start a movement to call the day after Thanksgiving “Outdoor Friday.” Black Friday is a grim, terrible name for what can be a great day enjoyed outdoors.

Outdoors columnist Dave Mull lives in Paw Paw. Write to him at dave.sportfish.mull@gmail.com.