What a winter this has been. The road closures, power outages, record snowfall, snow days and frozen landscape have been something Elsa.

Though the frigid misery of this winter won’t soon be let go, we made it through, and we’re stronger for it. Plus, we’ll have some pretty crazy stories to tell.

Take a moment to envision Millennials crafting tales for their grandkids: “The winter of 2019 was crazy, fam. I thought we were finna die.”

I shudder, but not from the cold.

Oregon is starting to defrost, and it’s time for us to once again think about stretching our legs.

What better way to do so than with a little mini-vacation to clog your arteries? After all, Spring Breakers will start clogging Oregon’s arteries in just a few weeks as they push southward in pursuit of meningitis and other waterborne illnesses, so why not go wild now?

Festivals

Every small town and city in the great state of Oregon is home to one festival or another. Though many take place in the summer and go hand-in-hand with excellent fishing opportunities, a number of them take place during the month of March, when fishing is still limited to just the hardcores like myself.

But when I don’t feel like breaking the ice on a barely frozen high desert lake with my boat, driving to central Oregon only to find a road snowed in or sliding down the walls of a canyon made slick by snow and mud, I try to take time to appreciate the finer things in life. And once I stop looking in the mirror, I head to festivals.

Options abound this month, and I always make sure to bring some fishing gear in case the year-round fisheries are producing. If not, at least I can drown my sorrows with calories.

Oregon Chocolate Festival

When? March 8-10

Where? Ashland

Website? www.oregonchocolatefestival.com

The annual Oregon Chocolate Festival is this weekend. For just $20, you can gorge yourself with enough sugar to give a retired elementary teacher flashbacks.

Everything from chocolate bars to truffles to hot cocoa is on the menu, and for that reason, it’s an annual pilgrimage I make with my parents.

The event includes workshops, wine tastings, dinners and the expo. I’ve only experienced the expo, but with dozens of high-quality chocolate vendors already at my disposal, I don’t want to get greedy.

Through the chocolate haze last year, I was as content as I’ll ever be without a fishing rod in my hand.

You can bring a change of clothes in case you spill or drool on yourself, but I usually just wear my brown pants. I wish I were kidding.

In warmer years, smallmouth and crappie fishing can be just starting to pick up in Emigrant Lake, but that would be a long shot this year, in light of the “snowpocalypse” we lived through, so just double down on chocolate.

Oregon Cheese Festival

When? March 16-17

Where? Central Point

Website? www.oregoncheesefestival.com

Remember that the Rogue Valley never gets as cold as the high desert, and so people actually want to visit mid-winter.

We aren’t Wisconsin, but you’d never know by attending the Oregon Cheese Festival — considered one of the top 10 cheese festivals in the United States.

More than 100 smiling vendors line the farmers market-style event, begging to you say “cheese.” For just $15 ($20 at the door), you can disappoint your cardiologist.

If you make a weekend of it, the nearby Rogue and Applegate rivers have some above average steelhead fishing, and I’d like to cut my teeth this year, but I’ll settle for a cheesy pun.

Newport

Winter Farmers M

arket

When? March 30

Where? Newport

The theme of festivals is “fleeing west of the Cascades,” and this is no exception. Newport has one of my personal favorite farmers’ markets that includes an extensive selection of fresh produce along with the staples you expect from the Oregon coast like taffy and hand-blown glass drug paraphernalia. I prefer taffy, but that’s only because I’m not a smoker or vapist. I prefer my unhealthy vices to come in the form of high-calorie foods.

Speaking of, Newport has some phenomenal if underrated restaurants.

For breakfast, try La Maison, a French breakfast restaurant that makes the best Crab Benedict you’ll ever eat.

For dinner, hit up Local Ocean Seafood. I live for seafood, and I think this place offers the best seafood restaurant in the state, with a rotating seasonal menu of local fish and shellfish that is worth the drive alone.

While there, consider fishing for surfperch, crabbing off the jetty or taking a charter boat out for the tail-end of the lingcod spawn where you can hook into one of the best-tasting fish you’ll ever eat.

Fishing

Most fishing seasons open up in April, so don’t get too accustomed to the life of leisure. Eat your fill of chocolate, cheese and seafood, but March yourself forward to the 2019 fishing season.

With all of the rain and snow we fielded this winter, the entire state should experience some epic fishing this year, and there are even more festivals to experience when the weather warms.

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Read more at caughtovgard.com, follow on Instagram and Fishbrain@lukeovgard or email luke.ovgard@gmail.com.

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