Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Back from Lake of the Woods

Ben's nice northern
Our January 9 trip to Lake of the Woods finally arrived.  Originally the plan was to leave my wheel house at JR's a couple of weeks ago then pick it up on the way and use it.  Unfortunately the snow storm at Red Lake changed our plans but definitely not for the worse as Dave Johnson, our host had plan B.  Our destination was Springsteel Island Resort just north of Warroad, MN.  Dave knew the resort very well and got us a cabin almost next to his, and with his hard side portable fish houses we were all set.  Dave Johnson is a person I met at Dick's Bar in Osseo.  A great place to have our necessary fishing board meetings, I had the pleasure of being invited along for an ice fishing adventure last week.  Along with Dave, the others included Bruce Wiley, Pete Sipe, Dan Sadler, (all Lac Seul veterans), my friends from Eleva....Kevin Aiona and his son Ben, as well as myself.  Ben and Kevin are not afraid to try anything as Ben built his own wheel house, took the wheels off and made it a skid house.  Bought an toy hauler RV trailer and gutted it to haul his tracked Ranger UTV and his skid house.  He had some issues but finally got it to he could at least pull his skid house in it, as he met us at the resort.  Although the snow was not that deep, Dave had the resort pull his houses out along with a road leading to them as well as a turn around for Ben's skid house.  It worked out very well as we were able to get set up and fish that Thursday night.  Fishing wasn't exactly on fire that first night but it was good to get settled in and get a feel for the lay of the lake where we would spend the next 2 days.  The resort is very nice and a place that I have always been curious about.  Many years ago we had a sales rep in Minneapolis by the name of Bob Fieck.  Bob had a place on Springsteel Island and in the summers would hitch a ride to Warroad with Marvin Window's corporate plane.  It seems as though it was only $25 if they had an empty seat and Marvin's would simply donate any moneys to local charities as they had to fly anyway.   The Warroad Airport is about 1 mile from the resort so it was very convenient.  Bob passed away about 15 years ago, however I asked on of the owners if they remembered him.  Oh Bob, he had that light brown cabin just over there!!  It was interesting for sure as Bob had always invited me because of my love for fishing, but like a lot of things in life, never made it.  This trip was sort of a never to late trip, one that makes me think about what I have missed not taking up Bob on his offer.  Well, I now have another friend who is up there and will definitely have to not let this one slip by!  Ben and his dad were planning on going up the weekend after Christmas but Ben had trouble with his trailer and ended up at Devil's Lake, North Dakota, so it was good to get them up.  Being we were all from Eleva, Ben, Kevin, and I stayed in the rented cabin.

Kevin's nice 22 inch walleye
Our first full day of fishing was on Friday, it was definitely cold like it always is as Springsteel Island is on the west end of Lake of the Woods, 6 hours north of Minneapolis as we were within just a mile or so from the Canadian Border.  Getting our holes re-drilled, cleaned out, heaters turned on, we were fishing in a half hour.  Bruce and I took on shack, Pete and Dan in another, Kevin and Ben were in their larger skid house, while the ever so humble host, Dave moved around from his single house to make sure everything was going well.  Lot's of small fish as the action was pretty steady.  Our fish included smaller (< 13 inch) saugers, walleyes, a few real nice eelpout, an occasional northern pike, and some larger tulibees (Cisco's).  It seems like the fish would come in spurts, hammer the baits well for 15 minutes then go silent for 15 before another school came by.  Kevin and Ben did get some big fish including a couple of real nice eelpout that we kept as they are excellent boiled, served with melted butter...known as "Poor Man's Lobster".  The eelpout we got were at least 10 pounds each and ended up with 4 for the 2 days we fished.  The picture above was a 22 inch walleye that Kevin caught.  He released it as the regulations are 6 fish, no more than 4 can be walleyes and the walleyes between 19.5 and 28 need to be released.  We each ended up with plenty of fish, all smaller walleyes and saugers so it was a good trip.  Thursday night we ate down at the restaurant at the resort as we dropped off our fish and they cooked them up and served them along with coleslaw, beans, American Fries, an excellent shore lunch as we were quite full.

As stated it was great to spend a few days with a new friend, Dave Johnson.  He grew up on a pig farm in Iowa and his stories as a young teenager were fabulous.  Certainly a lot of things hit home for all of us as we also grew up having to work for what we had, often there was no choice!!!  Either way I have told my friends about Springsteel Island Resort as it's only about an hour further than Red Lake and I would not say the fishing is better, maybe the catching is as we had action all day.  I am hoping to get up their a few more times, maybe bring my house up as Lake of the Woods is open until April 14th, 2 1/2 months more than inland waters.  The resort is very wheelhouse friendly and very accommodating so we'll have to see.  Usually I spend the month of January at JR's on Red but they are still digging out from the end of December's storm as the amount of snow is limiting how far they get out, which is only about 3 miles now.  LOTW (Lake of the Woods) didn't have much snow at all and it looked like one could go almost anywhere reasonable, however that can change fast.  We will have to see what develops again in the next couple of weeks.  I know there are still big issues on Mille Lacs with the amount of snow and lack of good strong ice, and there is another 7 inches predicted for this week!  It should be interesting!

Friday, January 3, 2020

Stuck on Red

My largest walleye, about 22 inches
As stated before, with Christmas being in the middle of the week, it was difficult to coordinate family schedules.  We had one on the weekend before and there was another scheduled the 28th or the 29th which ruled out the weekend after Christmas but then a reprieve!  The last celebration was now scheduled for New Years Day, leaving the weekend to pull the wheel house to Red and fish Thursday through Sunday, plenty of time to get some ice fishing in!  Although a lot of people want to go, coordinating their schedules can be frustrating as often it's simply I am leaving, do you want to go?  My friend Jack and his son Ben we off till January 6th, brother Steve had some work priorities in January, my friend Greg wanted to go real bad but he was going to Pasadena to watch the Rose Bowl so when the opening came up I took the first people available.....Jack, Ben, and my brother Steve decided to drive up from LaCrosse.  It would be a little crowded but what the heck, we were all friends and more importantly Ben had some good deodorant with!  Meeting at the pole shed we were off by 9 AM as we had to drop some stuff off at Bill Lundeen's, that took about 30 minutes then we headed up through Garrison, took 6 to Deer River then 46 to Northome and on to Red.  It is always a pretty drive and there was snow on the ground the whole 4 1/2 hour drive.  Arriving at JR's at about 2:30 we said our greetings then Adam warned up about the ocming storm...........What Storm, we hadn't heard anything about a storm.  He put us out about 3 miles, just west of the 2 1/2 mile turn to the left.  We looked for a larger unoccupied area as we we expecting Russ Praught, his brother Randy and a couple of friends to join us.  There wasn't that much snow on the ice so we headed off the road then found an area where we got turned around so we would face the road, just in case.  It takes about an hour to set up as one forgets about rusty pins, the nuances of setting up but we finally got settled in, which included setting up our satellite TV antenna and getting the DirecTV working.  Russ showed up and his brother probably wouldn't be here till Saturday.  The fishing wasn't very good the first few hours leaving us to have Tator Tot hot dish for Thursday night's meal.  We started picking up a few fish with Russ, just a hundred feet away, doing quite well, enough to go into JR's and have fish for Friday night.  Although not jumping through the holes, we did get enough to go back in on Saturday for fish.  In the meantime we were able to get some weather reports on the television as well coordinate any of these reports with Adam at the resort.  The word was, it's a bad one coming, make sure you have plenty of food, water, and propane because when it does happen, we cannot guarantee when you will be able to get out.  The Salem has two 30# propane tanks with an automatic valve that switches tanks for you when one goes empty.  Knowing we were using the last of on tank, it switched over on Friday so we had JR fill it. We were ready for the storm as the snow started falling on Saturday night.

Sunday Morning on Red
Waking up on Sunday brought reality to the situation.  Although it didn't snow that much, probably less than 8 inches, the winds were howling at 30 mph with gusts over 40.  The snow had drifted everything shut, one could not see more than 100 yards and there was no way we were getting out of our situation.  Russ was trying to move his truck so we went over, here his house was starting to flood.  Although there was plenty of ice, it isn't like you have 3 feet below you.  The weight of his truck and house puts pressure on the area he parked and the ice tends to bow causing water to come up through the holes and spread out on the ice.  The drifting snow piles up around the house and truck adding additional weight to the situation.  Russ was flooding, the water almost over his floors, he had to move.  We suspect he might have been on a low spot to begin with. We finally got his house lifted off the ice and he moved about 70 feet, enough to stay out of trouble then parked his truck away from the house to minimize the weight.  In the meantime our house had started to slush up around it meaning we were also flooding.  Luckily my house is about 6 inches above the ice and we were fine, but it was a situation worth monitoring.  Snug in our house we sat back with the realization that we'd be stuck till at least Monday morning.  The picture above was taken Sunday showing the drifts around the house as well as the tracks in the snow which at this time was slush from all the water coming up through the holes.   A quick call into JR's confirmed that no plowing was going to happen until Monday morning when the wind stops.  It is sort if nice having the satellite TV in the house as we watched all the games on Sunday and Sunday night, stayed up on the latest forecasts and it certainly helps when the fish aren't cooperating very well.  There were some nice fish caught on Sunday, the first picture was the second I caught on my jigging pole, a nice 22 incher.  Meanwhile in Randy's shack one of the boys caught a 28 inch walleye.  We went to bed with 4 walleyes in the pail with another one coming on the rattle reel just before we left.

Just enough width for the wheel house!
Waking up Monday morning meant it was time to get our outside clothes on and start getting ready to leave.  Deciding at about 8:00 to start shutting it down, we packed up everything and lifted the house off the ice.  Getting the truck in position was going to be the challenge.  Even with crappy tire chains, it wasn't easy.  By 10:00 the plow truck had gone on the main road and began reaching out to everyone on the side an escape route.  More digging and we finally got the wheel house on a path to the main road.  Once on a stable path we went to help Russ and his group which finally were free. What plowed roads they did have were only meant for one way traffic but at least we were on a road.  About a half mile down from our starting location was a plow truck facing us and blocking the way.  To our left was a plowed road that came into the one we were on at a 45 degree angle.  The guy in the truck stated, turn left and "Follow the Yellow Brick Road".  I told him he was crazy which he replied, 'Don't you have 4 wheel drive".  Okay but your going to have to push to get me out and then I buried it.  Okay Mr. Intelligent, let's get to work.  Here he wasn't even a plow truck from JR's but the neighboring resort and had made a path connecting his people to JR's road.  Apparently he sheared a pin in his plow and was fixing it.  As we pushed my truck back onto the road, there were 4 trucks coming down where he wanted me to turn.  The guy was an idiot and as well, blocking the road.  Pretty soon there were about 20 vehicles waiting for him to clear so we could get by.  I think he got the hint..either move your truck or the forty guys standing around will do it for you.  We even offered to help fix the plow but he was stubborn.   Quickly he pulled off the road clearing our path as we made it around a number of big slush areas that were plowed before finally arriving at JR's by 11:30.  The original plan was to leave my house up there but was told there were no parking spots plowed, we quickly cleaned our fish and headed south.  Because there was more snow predicted for Monday, we headed more west going through Bemidji, Walker, Brainerd, and St. Cloud as these are connected by main highways that would definitely be cleared.

Not eating anything we finally stopped in Hackensack at the Birchwood Char House, a really nice place to eat.  As I was going back out to the truck some lady stopped by and started giving me crap that me and my friends were parked on a road leading to where she lives.  I explained that the road wasn't marked, the other trucks there were not my friends, then showed her on my phone that there were other roads she could take........and we will be out of here in 30 minutes.  Although she wasn't very happy, I had enough crap for the day! Finally arriving home at 5:30 we parked the wheel house and everyone left with a package of walleye and memories of a great adventure!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas

A Tree Full of Goodies
It just seems like a few days ago when we were in Naples fishing but I have been back to reality for 3 weeks now!  Christmas as well as this goofy weather has put a damper on ice fishing this start of the season.  With Christmas on Wednesday, it seems to break up the typical schedules as last Saturday I spent time with my family so that weekend was shot, and the weekend after Christmas was supposedly to be with my wife's family but now it's changed to New Years Day so there is some time to sneak up to Red on Thursday and try my luck.  This year I have been inundated with requests to join me as my usual first trip includes my brother Steve and friend Keith Holtan, however things are getting crunched and with little time to plan it looks like a full house this weekend.   My brother Steve lives in Onalaska, Wisconsin and the Gander Mountain store is closing there.  Like a good brother should he called me with some of the deals (up to 80% off) so I had him pick up a few rods, and he said there was a ton of the Northland Tackle Long Shanked Fireball Jigs there as few people use the Canadian style of baiting the jig with a minnow, and at $1.00 for 4, that is $3.00 cheaper than the usual $3.99 for 4.......pick up as many as you can!!!  Well, on Saturday he brought them with along with a few other nice lures hung nicely on a  small Christmas Tree, it was pretty nice.  There must be at least 20 packages of jigs, some traditional hair jigs and a few perfect sized crankbaits for trolling walleyes on Leech Lake this opener.  My plan is to take this to Lac Seul this year and sell the jig packs for $5.00 each and there are plenty of Gold plated ones which seem to be a favorite in Canada.  I am also now determined to try the white hair jig on the top and get a walleye as these were the preferred jig pattern 50 years ago, I know as I used to tie our own for the walleyes in Catfish Slough up from Alma on the Mississippi River.  Actually I caught a keeper grouper on a white haired jig in Naples so I am excited to try it.  The early Christmas was the first time my family got together since my mother died in 2017, it was nice to get together as none of us are getting any younger.

Jerry and 2 nice walleyes from Mille Lacs
So it's exciting to finally get the wheel house out on the ice as Red Lake is reporting a good 17 - 18 inches of ice extending out at least 10 miles from the landing.  Mille Lacs has been in quite a predicament this year regarding ice.  Yes, we did get a nice below zero cold snap right after deer hunting which normally puts a good layer of ice, which it did on Mille Lacs however we got 2 significant snowstorms right after the cold which dumped almost 16 inches in the area.  That much weight on the ice causes the water to seep up through the cracks and flooding the top of the ice, which combined with the snow makes slush.  Also the snow insulates the ice from the freezing temperatures and further delays the ice forming.  Along with the warm weather we have experience in the last week, there is a lot of variance in the thickness of the ice on Mille Lacs from 2 inches to 8 inches, but it's hard to tell how thick the ice is over the layer of snow so venture at your own risk.  On Monday night we had 2 great things happen, first it was Jerry Kiffmeyer's annual Christmas fish fry.  Jerry fished with me in my boat last September at Lac Seul.  He is a great guy and happened to be in Naples fishing the weekend before I was there.  His fish fry included most of the fish he brought back, snapper and grouper.  I am allergic to wheat and need a corned based fish coating but by the time I got there all the fish had been breaded already........but wait, here came Jerry with some grouper fillets, perfect as they coated them first with my stuff and fried them up.  Absolutely delicious.  Jerry showed me his catch on Mille Lacs a couple of days ago when they dragged out their light weight shack with the snowmobiles, pretty nice.  It looks like a couple of keepers which have to be between 21 and 23 inches.  Jerry says that he was using my method of posing with fish as they do look bigger!  Hopefully I can post next week with a good report and some nice fish.  I am already planning for our Lake of the Woods trip for January 9th.  And by the way, the Ranger is still in the shop!  I did volunteer to work for Frankie at the Northwest Sportshow this year and he was happy as it is in the first of April, probably one of the worst times as boats are coming in and it is really busy.  It will be a fun time for sure!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

From Paradise to the deep Freeze

Matt Davis and his 80 pound Cobia
I haven't posted in a while, I guess it's been busier than I like with little time in between.  Oh well, hopefully this post will get everything caught up.  First an update on my boat.  2 weeks ago it was finally finished at the axle shop, Kremer Services in Inver Grove Heights, MN.  They were absolutely the perfect place to fix the problem with my Rangertrail trailer that apparently has seen 1 too many potholes on Canadian Highway 502 from Ft. Francis to Dryden Ontario.  The last year there has been a lot of construction in the form of replacing culverts under the highway and these areas are not very friendly to trailer axles.  I am sure the hurry to get to Sioux Lookout doesn't help but the way the front tires were wearing, something had to be done.  Dropping it off on October 31st, they called to state the rear axle was well within spec but the front needed replacing.  4 weeks later the OEM axle came in and they had it installed and aligned for about 1/2 the price I had quoted from another shop that was closer.  In the meantime my dealer Frankie's Marine had done some work on getting my rims that were peeling the finish replaced, which they were successful at.  Because the tires were going to be 5 years old in March, the inside tread was wore off on the fronts, and a rough figure put the mileage at about 30,000 on them I had Frankie put new tires on my new rims.  As well I am having some broken plastic trim replaced, the battery charger looked at, my canvas top need some small repairs on the zipper, the boat is currently at Frankie's waiting for a few items including some additional touch up to the damage caused last May on Lac Seul.  She'll be just like new when it's done, which might be a few weeks yet.  So the fishing story this post is my trip to Florida to first speak at our annual conference of Transformer manufacturers and suppliers on December 5th and 6th, then afterwards drive to Naples, Florida with my great friends Matt Davis, Gary Hicks, and Glenn Collins, all associates that I have met before I retired.  The plan was to stay at Glenn's cousin's immaculate beach house in South Naples on Friday, fish on the Sea Legs, a charter we used before, then leave on Sunday.  It was quite a memorable trip, as they are all getting!

A Bunch of Snapper, Grouper, and a very nice Cobia
Our conference was in St. Petersburg, Florida starting on December 4th and ending on December 6th
at noon.  After dropping a friend off at the Tampa Airport we headed south to meet a retired industry friend, Bill Hardt, in Ft. Myers Beach for lunch. He has a beautiful place on a golf course and a great restaurant very close.  One of the things I really enjoy about Florida is there is never a shortage of interesting fish on the menus and this was no different as I had a Kingfish sandwich, absolutely amazing.  Lunch finished the caravan headed south another 30 miles to Naples, stopping to get a few supplies including lunch for the boat, some refreshments, and supplies like zip lock bags for our fish.  Arriving at the dock by 7:00 AM on Saturday we headed out for the 2 hour trip 36 miles offshore.  It was a beautiful day as the sea was calm.  we got to the first spot, maybe 45 feet deep and rigged up.  Basically the rig consisted of a 2 ounce weight, a 3/0 circle hook tied onto the line about 18 inches above the sinker, all associated with a 30 pound fluorocarbon leader tied to some 50 pound braid on a stiff 5 foot spinning rod.  Up north we would refer this to a drop shot rig.  On the hook was baited a chuck of squid, herring, or both.  You'd drop down the line till it hits and pull back just enough for the sinker to be sitting on the bottom and hang on.  It was interesting how the fish started biting immediately.  In fact if you didn't have a bit after 30 seconds it was probably because your bait had got stolen!  Circle hooks have an interesting hook set procedure, you basically reel in the line if you feel the fish has got your bait and the hook simply sets itself.  Although different than setting the hook on a walleye, it didn't take long to get the hang of it and we were reeling fish in one after another.  The predominate fish was the snapper, any where from 14 to 17 inches long they came in all sorts of varieties including Lane Snapper, Gray Snapper, Mangrove Snapper, Mutton Snapper and others.  Our main target were Red Groupers and we did catch quite a few of them but there is a 22 inch minimum size limit so most went back.  We fished in 4 different spots as one learns that because the larger groupers are territorial, you may only catch one or two on a specific piece of structure.  We did end up with 4 nice Red Grouper, one for each of us which was our limit anyway.  At the last spot of the day, the last fish of the day was a huge Cobia that Matt hooked.  We knew he had something big but never imagined what it was until it came to the surface.  The Captain was super excited as the Cobia is prized for it's good meat.  15 minutes later Matt had it to the surface and then the fun began as it tried to get tangled in the anchor rope.  This thing was huge and Matt had a somewhat smaller setup more suited for grouper.  the crew made several unsuccessful attempts to gaff it, it was making me nervous just watching!!  Finally the Captain got the gall in the back side and it took 2 guys to pull it in.  It was quite the celebration especially for the last fish of the day.  The top picture gives one a sense of how large it was.  The next picture was our total catch, the big Cobia, 4 nice Red Grouper, and a pail full of various snappers.  Of course we were the talk of the dock answering a ton of questions from the tourists just boarding an evening harbor cruise boat.  We got the fish cleaned with an audience of brown pelicans that figured out where to get an easy meal.  There is a restaurant at the city docks that will cook your fish so we dropped off about 4 pounds of fish with the plan to clean up a little then go back down to eat.  We had them blackened, simply grilled, and fried with every one tasting fabulous.

Sunset off of Tim's deck
Staying at our friend Tim's beach house in Naples is a rare treat indeed and definitely a paradise in itself.  The house sits up off the beach with the deck overlooking the Gulf of Mexico to the west, the sunsets are spectacular. Sitting on the deck enjoying a fine cigar and a glass of scotch, looking out at this, words are hard to describe for sure.  One definitely gets humbled as you pass Ferrari's, Lamborghini's, and other top of the line vehicles as you walk in downtown Old Naples.  We ate at a wonderful Italian place that Tim had recommended and I don't think I've ever had a better tasting sauce than I did there. Located close to both downtown Naples and the city dock it was a very convenient place to stay.  Having packaged the fish in zip lock bags and into the freezer the plan was to pack some into my checked suitcase which I had brought along a insulated shopping bag from Costco.  Carefully packaging it in a single layer and sandwiched between the clothes, I arrived home with the fish still firmly frozen, it worked out pretty well.  It was still fairly warm here, in the high 20's so it was a good opportunity to vacuum pack the fish as I had about 3 pounds of snapper fillets, 2 grouper fillets, and about 10 chunks of Cobia.  Arriving in Minneapolis about 3:00 in the afternoon a friend picked me up.  The forecast was snow and cold for the rest of the week and they were not kidding as I left 75 degrees for -11 this morning.  Maybe it's time to see a psychiatrist!  The good news is it's making ice and we'll be pulling our wheel houses on Red very soon! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Another Deer Hunting Season

$3800 of damage by a buck that must have had other things on its mind!
The 2019 Minnesota Deer Hunting season is pretty much over for me this year.  The ultimate irony occurred as driving to our hunting land on Saturday morning, a mile from our destination a buck ran smack into my GMC truck's front driver's side door before bouncing off and hitting the back quarter panel on the truck.  It sounded like the buck hit pretty hard so turning around and heading back to the scene of the collision, maybe I could tag a deer without even having to pull the trigger.  Approaching the scene,  the buck wasn't there however a quick look up and it was running on the shoulder ahead of me.  Originally thinking it might be injured, honestly I have never seen a deer run so fast.  After about 100 yards it veered off into the woods.  It didn't look like it suffered too much but I can't believe it wasn't pretty sore after that! Saturday was nice and warm yet it did start snowing mid afternoon.  Not willing to climb a tree stand anymore, I hunted out of a standard ground blind.  I saw deer and heard them behind me yet either it was too dark or I could not see them.  The pheasants were pretty active, and the Tundra Swans were really flying around as the lakes continued to freeze.  Although there was not a lack of deer in the area as the land we hunt is in an extensive harvest zone yet with so much corn standing in the fields, the shooting shut down pretty fast as those deer are pretty smart, except the one that ran into my car. 
Deer trail in front of my stand
Deer sign is all over as I set up my stand in a corner of a field/swamp/woods edge with a well used deer trail went by.  Unfortunately one never knows if these are trails used to move from one area to another at night.  Sunday morning there was a number of fresh tracks in the trail however as we used to say in Eleva, it's tough to make track soup.  Sunday was about the same, a few shots heard but it was pretty quiet from about 7:00 in the morning on.  Obviously the deer were deep in the corn as after talking to a number of hunters, the story was all the same, pretty slim pickings.  The snow had made the roads quite slippery as we passed a pickup truck that has spun out and rolled over in a ditch, just south of Richardson Corner.  The weather was headed for a significant drop in temperature in the next few days as throughout the day it was getting colder.  Even though all the lakes and swamps in the area were froze over, the predicted over night lows in the single digits, would definitey finish the job, and pretty early this year.  Staying at Jack's cabin on Platte Lake, one could walk on the lake without cracking the ice. 

Satellite view of Upper and Lower Red Lake
Speaking of cold weather and ice, Red Lake is progressing quite well for this early in the year. this is a satellite view of the lake from Modis Today.  It shows that Red Lake is completely froze over however it is very vulnerable to winds and changing temperatures.  This was a picture from Tuesday, November 12, it was reported today that a number of ice fisherman had to be rescued from unstable ice conditions on Upper Red Lake.  A few years back Mark Applen and I were able to drive out with our wheel houses on the day after Thanksgiving, and this year it is looking promising as the 10 day forecast has the daily temperature below freezing.  Although we are not in a particular hurry, as long as it is going to be cold, one might as well be fishing.  It will be great to see JR again but safety is always a priority.  That is of course if and when I get my Salem Ice Cabin back from the shop while my Ranger is still getting it's axle replaced, then it needs new tires and a few other things taken care of.  For now it's simply a waiting game, get the Salem, Get the Ranger put to bed for the winter, and wait for safe ice.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Edge of Winter

Autumn Blaze Maple
Well it looks like there will be no Indian Summer this fall.  Indian Summer is often referred to the time after the first killing frost where the temperatures climb into the mid 50's to as high a 70 before the real cold weather starts to settle in.  Well this fall our first killing frost was quite late so we have jumped right into our pre-winter climate with lows in the lower 20's and highs in the mid 30's.   The first of October was quite nice so we'll just call that our Indian Summer!  With all the rain this fall, the Mississippi River behind the house is flowing as though it is late April.  Every lake up north is full to the brim, it should bring an interesting spring for sure.  All the wet weather has resulted in what the meteorologist refer to as a perfect fall for colors.  I don't disagree however this year with the late first frost has delayed, the trees seem to be doing their own independent thing.  Pictured here is one of about 4 Autumn Blaze Maples that I have on the property.  True to their name, these trees definitely put on a show in the fall and this year was no exception.  Each of the trees exhibited an beautiful blend of red, orange and yellow to give the tree it's name like a tree on fire, a blaze of colors for sure.  Unfortunately it doesn't last long, maybe a week before the wind and cold weather forces the tree to drop it's leaves.........leaving me with more work! The ash trees have already shed their leaves a month ago and some of my Norway Maples still have green leaves on them, they will not turn but simply fall off.  Never the less it is a labor of love as my John Deere X734 with a 60 inch deck does a great job of chopping up the leave eventually one has to put the vacuum attachment on to finish the job right.  The waning warm weather has allowed the installation of some new shelving in the pole shed as the intent is to get my fishing stuff organized a little better.  We'll see about that!  With a tempurture of 23 last night, pretty much everything is done for the year, even the grass looks done as the lawn tractor marks from the other night are permanently etched into the lawn until next April!  Deer hunting season is going to be late this year and this cold weather might just freeze the swamp and make travel to the stands a lot less complicated!

A nice flock of wild turkey's
This week is turning out to be a whirlwind of activity.  I brought my Salem Ice Cabin in last Monday the 21st but a drive through the lot on Saturday showed that nothing had been done.  Yesterday was a  doctors appointment to make sure I can still drive, a factor concerning the seizure I experienced last year at this time.  Coming out of the office at around 5:30 meant the traffic going west on 94 was going to be stop and go for at least 40 minutes, I decided to drive over to a good friends house, Mike Shields to see how he was doing.  Mike lives just about 3 blocks south of I94 and about 3 blocks east of the Mississippi River, definitely a mature neighborhood but well within the city.  Driving down his street there was a flock of about 30 young wild turkeys crossing the street.  Although this is not necessarily in the heart of the city, certainly the last thing one would expect is a flock of wild turkeys, never the less they were there.  Mike confirmed that there is a local flock around, I suspect that they traveled up the river edge from the south.  I certainly made for an interesting site.  Tomorrow the boat trailer goes in for repair, then up to Frankie's to mount new tires.  Frankie got Ranger to replace my black chrome rims as they were peeling.  It is recommended that one replace trailer tires every 5 years and this is the 5th year of use so I decided to bite the bullet and make sure that the tires under the boat are not a source of problems as we drive to Lac Seul.  Looking back those tires have about 30,000 miles on them already.   Hopefully this will be all taken care of before Thanksgiving.  Although retired, this year will find me doing a presentation at our annual TTA meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida then we head to Naples to charter a grouper fishing trip on December 7th.  This is the same guy we fished with 2 years ago when I caught the 200# Goliath Grouper.  With this cold weather it would not be surprising if Red Lake is froze over and thick enough to drive just after Thanksgiving, like it was a few years ago.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Annual Trout Fishing trip

Dad's Gift, Panther Martin's Deadly Dozen
Well, we were able to get in our annual October trout fishing trip to an old mine pit that we have been going to for a number of years.  With Bill Lundeen as my guide we met at his house last Thursday and he was ready to go.  My father died in 2011 however he knew how much I loved fishing and a few years before he passed away he gave me a box of Panther Martin trout spinners called the Deadly Dozen.  Knowing my dad he probably ordered them from a Field and Stream or Outdoor Life magazine but wherever, he presented me with this kit of 12 spinners for trout fishing.  He had that look on his face when he gave them to me that I would never forget, that look of....Geez, I finally got something you don't have!  He was correct and I put them away for safe keeping.  Well last year I told Bill I am going to catch a trout with the spinners my Dad gave me but after 8 or so years, I simply didn't remember where they were.  I had a Mepps Spinner and decided to use that but it wasn't the same and I only caught one fish.  Sort of a stubborn streak in me but I was bound and determined.  Well 6 months went buy and one day I found the box of the Deadly Dozen, probably right where I left them earlier.  Not to be shut out again putting them in an obvious place where they would not be forgotten, when Bill set the date last week, it was the first thing I packed!  Our strategy was simple, launch the canoe, attach the trolling motor, fire up the electronics and troll down anywhere from 10 - 30 feet with a small spinner rig, or in my case a Panther Martin.  Although I was determined last year, this time I was serious!! We headed up the shore in 30 to 40 feet of water as the fish marks were numerous on the depthfinder.  With a small trailer of a nightcrawler,  I was getting bumped but Bill caught the first trout.  Trust me, sitting in the front of a canoe has it's limitations, luckily this year I had settled down somewhat and got my sea legs quite quickly.  Having the bucket
Beatiful Day, Beautiful Lake
up front, Bill threw the trout under my seat, not the greatest idea with my limited ability to bend over these days! Finally getting the nice trout in the bucket, Bill was  getting hit quite a bit and had a number of them get away, I was getting nice hit but not hooking any.  Finally deciding to switch to a spinner with a larger hook, it paid off as my first trout came to the surface.  In the meantime Bill and I worked out a better system for moving the caught fish from back to front, use the nets each of us had.  With that problem solved there was another one on the line. Admittedly Bill caught more fish however my goal had been accomplished and Dad's Deadly Dozen proved to be a winner.   I wish he was here to be able to brag about the fish we had caught, he would have liked that, never the less I guess in the grand scheme of things, he wanted me to enjoy these baits and we finally got a chance to prove they worked pretty well.  Next time the strategy will to go to the next larger size as one upping Bill is now the goal!

A Pan Full of Trout.
We cleaned the trout like we used to back home in Eleva, cut the heads off, slit the belly and pull out the entrails then finally removing the blood line under the backbone.  These fish are all about 10 - 12 inches after being cleaned.   They are excellent on the grill, smoked, or delicious pickled by my good friend Mark Applen.  I have plenty to try all these methods for sure.  We know these trout are planted into the lake, similar to what the trout back in the Eleva pond were.  Planted trout usually have a pale white color to their flesh but as they feed on more natural food their flesh becomes more pinkish orange in color, which these all exhibited. They taste a lot better as well this way.  This is one of my favorite trips of the year and of course as you see in the above picture, it is also one of the most beautiful times of the year.  Trout fishing ends on October 31st and although it would be nice to get out again, the weather appears to be heading for a cold and wet period so we'll have to see.

I have been working on my Ranger boat, dressing it up a bit seeings how it wasn't used much this year.  One of the first things was to put some disc brake caliper covers on to dress up the wheels.  In the process of doing this by taking the tires off, the front axle, inner tire was wore down to the point of having no tread left.  Last year the front tire exhibited some wear while the back tire was almost perfect, I discounted it to the fact that dual axle trailers create some drag and wear on the tires and rotated front to back.  Well the limited amount of mile since the rotation put almost double the wear in about a year verses the previous 4 seasons.  Well, maybe Ontario Hwy 502 finally got it's revenge as the axle may need replacing and using the recommendation that trailer tires should be replaced every 5 years as well as the wear, it will be getting a new set of tires as well.  My appointment with the alignment shop is on October 31st, here;s hoping we skip the Halloween Blizzard this year.  There are also a few minor issues to clean up so the plan is to get these taken care of before the boat is put away for the winter.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Long Lake In Wisconsin and Lac Seul, part 2 (that should be enough!)

George with a nice walleye
So while the boat was still wet from Lac Seul, I had the chance to fish with a couple of my favorite people, Andrew Rombalski, my wife's uncle, Jason Rombalski, her cousin, and George Wimmer, their in law and a friend of mine.  Jason's wife's parents have a cabin on the channel between Birch Lake and Lake Chetac, in Birchwood, Wisconsin, just Northeast of Rice Lake, Wisconsin.  We usually try and get a fall trip in each year looking for some nice crappies or a walleye or two.  Just west of them is Long Lake, a larger lake in the area known for it's walleyes.  Because of previous commitments the plan was to join them at the landing on Long Lake around 3 in the afternoon on Saturday, fish for the day, then stop and have supper at a Supper Club on the lake.  Wisconsin is famous for their rural or lakeside restaurants that are referred to as Supper Clubs.  Dinner in Wisconsin was always at noon!  We had fished that lake a few time however the forecast of the rain stopping by noon did not materialize and at 3 it was still drizzling.  We launched anyway and headed south to a few areas that we had been before.  While looking at the lake map on my preloaded maps on the Lowrance HDS, there was a spot marked:  Fall walleyes can be found along the drop off fishing with live bait rigs or jigs and minnows.  It wasn't that far away and with such an understanding audience in the boat we approached the region where I began marking fish immediately.  With the Motorguide in deployed and in anchor mode we started jogging around the area looking for fish.  Once on a pod of fish Jason pulled out a #7 Jigging Rap, a popular ice fishing bait however it is becoming popular using the lure as an open water jig and within 2 minutes he had a nice 16 inch walleye, however with the minimum length of 18 back in the water it went without even getting a picture!  All of a sudden we were on the fish as George catches a nice 17 incher.  I did get him to pose for this nice example of how our late afternoon was going.  In less than 2 hours we landed 10 walleyes and a nice 16 inch smallie that took my Jigging Rap. It was a significant improvement
Andy's nice 19 inch Smallie
over the last couple of times we fished Long Lake so it was decided that on Sunday we would hope to repeat the same as Saturday.  It really didn't stop raining till we left as we stopped by the Reel Em Inn Supper Club on the west side of the lake, just down from the boat landing.  There we enjoyed a few cocktails and ordered the Saturday night special, a 16 ounce prime rib with all the fixings.  It was very relaxing with the locals enjoying supper and us 4 patting ourselves on the back for having a quite successful couple of hours of fishing.  George went back to his cabin in Chetek, Wisconsin to attend to his dogs while the rest of us heading back to Jason's in laws house on the lake.  After a couple of glasses of fine whiskey, including a nice 21 year old scotch, we got up in the morning to have breakfast and head back out again.  Not knowing if George would rejoin us that question was answered the minute we pulled in the landing, yes he was there!  Of course we headed back to the scene of yesterdays success however the sky's turn a beautiful blue as the front went by a few hours earlier.  Not that we minded but you know what happens right after a cold front moves through.  Well it still wasn't that bad of fishing as we did get a couple of walleyes and Andy landed this very nice 19 inch smallmouth fishing a small sucker minnow.  We were marking a school of suspended crappies on the screen but wasn't very successful to see exactly what was stacked up in 25 feet of water (It was crappies, I know it!).  Never the less we did get a few more hits then decided to look for other identical looking area on the lake to expand our outlook on fish location.  We we should have just stayed were we were!  Never the less it was nice to fish with these guys and I hope that we may be able to get out ice fishing on that lake this year.

Jerry and his giant 16 inch walleye!
So finishing up the Lac Seul trip was pretty exciting.  Our favorite spot on the lake was Craig's Corner, named after a friend, Craig Biegert who fished with us a few years back. Sort of a nice place close to camp that always seems to have fish on it, it is now our go to spot if we need to fill out for the day, or for the trip if needed.  With 4 guys in the boat including Barry, Jerry, Ricky and myself, it was a good place to stay organized and catch fish.  Jerry had a 500 series spinning reel on a nice St. Croix Avid, sort of like walking around in a tuxedo with old dirty tennis shoes on!  At least it was something to give him some harmless ribbing.  Jerry did get some nice fish and I did get some pictures but not before correcting him on the proper way to display a fish for the camera.  Of course his response was...Do you think I am stupid?...Well here.  So this is a nice 16 inch walleye that is presented in the correct way for a photograph and he does deserve some credit.  The hand hidden to take away any reference for size, hide you arm holing the fish with the fish, and stick it out as far as you can.  Of course this fish looks a lot bigger than it is, in fact Jerry looks puny compared to this gigantic fish!  Never the less it is a great example of the fun we had in my boat with these 3 guys. Looking back we didn't kill them but our daily catch was acceptable with 60 - 70 walleyes a day in the boat.  My biggest mistake was to try and teach them how to tie a improved clinch knot ti tie the jigs onto the line.  Making it look super easy it resulted in me tying most of their jigs onto their lines, I guess it's nice to be thought of as useful.  All in all it was a great trip, having fun with my friends from Eleva including my brother Steve, and friends Kevin and Paul.  It was also nice to be able to show Jerry and Ricky a good time as this was their first time to Lac Seul.  We are already discussing next year!

With snow in the forecast it's probably time to put the boat away for the winter as my wheel house is scheduled to get the roof and door leak fixed as well as some electrical issues.  Hopefully next week will find myself with Bill Lundeen fishing our secret trout lake!  He sent me a picture of a dandy he got a couple of days ago.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Uffda, Time flies, Fishing with Jake and Lac Seul Part 1.

Little Jack and a Golden Redhorse
People are starting to wonder if I am still alive!  While working I always found some time at the end of the day to write my blog however now that I am retired it doesn't seem to come that scheduled.  Oh well, I am still here with a lot on the plate.  Since our last visit the boat got done, I made salsa, went fishing with Little Jake on the river, and just returned from a wonderful trip to Lac Seul Outposts with a gaggle of my friends.  So with that in mind, lets start with the boat.  After initially hitting a rock on Lac Seul at 32 MPH, the final damages have been taken care of.  The first look replaced the obvious, the lower unit and the motor bracket was cracked.  Immediately after the impact, the motor would not start.  Blaming it on a sensor in the lower unit to prevent operation if the lower unit is low, it was explained that the hit caused the motor mount to crack and pull off the crank sensor, and was a testament of how strong Ranger's transoms were.  At this point the damage was estimated at $14,000.  Well at the end of July while polishing the boat had noticed some cracking of the gel coat in the splashwell area.  After returning it to Frankie's the first story was they were stress cracks and covered under Ranger's warranty.  Further investigation however showed significant damage that was cause by the hit in May, to the tune of and additional $7800.  Luckily the insurance covered it and were very helpful. Having been without the boat for over 9 weeks this summer, it arrived just in time for our annual September trip to Lac Seul, more on that later.  Trying to catch up on things while out in the front yard Little Jake (Limo Joe's son as opposed to Big Jake who live a few houses down, easier that way) stopped at the mail box on his bike.  Sensing he had something on his mind...well football practice was done and it might be a nice time to fish the river.  Little Jake has turned into a fishing machine and just loves fishing the river with me.  Deciding there was time, he called his dad to get the ok and away we went after hooking the jon boat up to the Polaris Razor and headed to Blair's to launch the boat.  The first thing we noticed was the river had to be at least 18 inched higher due to the recent rains in the watershed.  The river was definitely high and fast.  Never the less we headed north and started to cast the shorelines but after an hour it became obvious that we didn't have the time to figure the bite out as casting crankbaits up against the shore only produced one hit in the two miles we floated down.  Time for a change in strategy as we decided to anchor just south of Cloquet Island where Jake caught a nice 20 inch walleye on a previous trip.  To my surprise the water flow was enough to prevent the anchor from holding us.  Knowing the water would be somewhat slower down stream we anchored in front of our neighbor's place where we had caught fish before.  This time the anchor held but again the high water wasn't ideal for fishing.  Never the less Jake was able to set the hook on a nice Golden Redhorse, another interesting and beautiful fish from the Mississippi River.  This was all we caught  however it was good enough for Jake as we headed back to the landing to load the boat.  Before loading, and with the water high enough, we did go around King's Island on the north side of the river.  It was interesting

Sunday Night Sunset at Lac Seul Outpost
Last Saturday we headed to our annual fall adventure at Lac Seul Outposts.  This year's agenda  included renting a second cabin and increasing our guest list by 7 guys, Paul Wenaas, Kevin Aiona, my brother Steve, Bruce Wiley and his neighbor Wayne, Dan Sadler, Barry and Jerry, Pete Sipe, Michael Wiley and his friend Brian, Our great friend Ricky Shermer and myself, a total of 11 guys.  Normally we top out at six guys but things went pretty smooth.  Our first night was to stay in Dryden at the Holiday Inn Express and leave for Sioux Lookout to meet Bruce at the airport as his plan was to fly in on Sunday Morning with Barry and Wayne.  It worked out quite well as we did not have to leave so early on Saturday and after a few delays they landed around 11"00 AM on Sunday, we were at camp by 1:30.   We all went out fishing as we had 4 boats.  Paul and Steve bought their 1775 Lund's and each took 2 extra guys.  Bruce had his boat with 3 guys in it and myself, with the biggest boat of the group I got stuck with Barry and Jerry, with Ricky Shermer as my copilot!  We did catch quite a few walleyes in the 3 hours we fished.  Having planned for burgers that night for supper, a contingency plan for timing of possible delays, Ricky insisted that we keep enough walleyes as he wanted to make Walleye Won-ton's.  I kept telling him we had plenty of time to keep fish but he insisted, OK Ricky, we kept a few nicer walleyes.  Well the other guys sort of went overboard on the walleyes as well and it appeared we were going to have fish for supper.  After cleaning the fish, Ricky made his Won-tons, a pretty simple recipe.  He brought won-ton premade dough squares, then added some cream cheese, a hunk of walleye, then sealed them and deep fried them.  I could not eat them as they contained flour but everyone raved about them.  It is good to learn new ideas as my friend Kevin cooks fish constantly and I could see the gears turning in his head!  With 3 days of fishing ahead, I'll save that for the next post!

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

On the River Finally!

Jake's First Smallie!
After many delays the 14 foot jon boat with a brand new 25 hp motor finally got a chance to get wet.  In the last 2 weeks I have had Little Jake and his dad Limo Joe out helping do the maiden run 2 times.  The first was on August 30th, we hooked up the boat and headed about 3 1/2 miles up rive next to Goodin Island, just south of where the Crow River empties into the Mississippi.  Our strategy was to drift the north side of the river where the water is better as the south side tends to be quite muddy from the Crow.  We would stay 30 feet from the shore and cast right to the edge, bringing our baits downstream and across the current breaks and eddy's. Jake had been practicing with his spinning rod however I was concerned it was a little light for this kind of fishing so he used a heavier rod with heavier test line, as well I rigged him up with a white buzz bait.  These baits come up to the surface and make quite a noise coming across the water, enough to drive the smallmouth bass crazy.  In addition to that Jake is 12 years old and has a lot to learn about casting, avoiding snags, the right finesse for retrieving a lure.  As well my friend Pete who guided on the river for smallies claim they are deadly, so much he stopped using them and gave me a few to try.  This was perfect for Jake, heavy enough to get it close to shore, a quick yank and it was on the surface and if and when the do strike it's quite a show as the fish hit with vengeance on the surface.  There was some skepticism on Jake's part but he started pretty good as on the sixth cast a nice 16 inch smallie slammed it and the fight was on.  It really put up a battle and decided to get the net out to make sure we landed the fish.   Jake was pretty happy with himself as he did end up having 2 more bass take a swipe at it as well he landed 2 small northerns.  In the meantime I was using a favorite Bomber Model A in a light crayfish pattern with good success.  The plan was to float down to where Cloquet Island, just upriver from us, forms a deep hole and is a great place to anchor and drown a few nightcrawlers.  Well, we got about a mile from where we started and a jet ski was drifting down the middle of the river where the current was
Jake's Beautiful 20" Walleye
faster, he yelled at us so we pulled up to see what the problem was.  His jet ski refused to start and asked if we would pull him back to his place, maybe 3 miles downstream.  Although Jake wasn't too happy, it was the right thing to do so we tied a rope and pulled him home at a whooping 9 miles an hour.  Jake was pouting all the way as he had just started getting into a rhythm and we stopped to help this guy.  As we approached his dock he insisted that we stay there and he was going to get us some money, $80.  Jake's eyes really lit up but we told Jake that someday he will need help and banking a few good deeds is always good, we left to bottom fish.   With the sun setting and little time we took off his buzz bait and I have circle hooks snells ready to clip onto the snaps on the line with a 1 once bell sinker clipped above the snap, a quick and easy way to get fishing fast.  threading 2 crawlers on the hook we pitched Jake's pole into the current break and put it in the rod holder.  While getting the other rigs set up he noticed the tip of his rod bouncing pretty good.  Slowly coaching him, Jake is very good at using circle hooks as he doesn't really have any bad habits of setting a standard type hook, telling him when he feels a steady pull just start reeling.  Although he claimed there was a fish on his line it didn't look like much until he got it to the side of the boat where it really took off.  Kind of in disbelief, he finally had a good battle going and when he got it back to the boat it was a beautiful walleye, 20 inches.  Having caught a few walleye on the river, I know they are in there however this was the largest one that had graced my boat.  We had a few more bites however the mark had been set quite high and with it getting dark fast we decided to leave.  After loading the boat up on the side by side, we just had to drive around the neighbor hood to show off this nice fish, first to our neighbor big Jake, then we had to show his mom, stopped a few more places before putting the boat away and cleaning the fish.  I filleted the fish, vacuum packed it and it was ready to give to Grandpa when he came over for a visit the next day.  Joe proclaimed.....Dave, you've created this fishing monster!  We did go out on Labor Day for a few hours but the buzz bait wasn't working as well as the crankbaits.  We ended up with 8 nice 16 - 18 inch bass, it was funny as Jake reeled in the first couple then after hooking another one I think he felt sorry for me and stated that I should have the honor.  Changing his buss bait to a fire tiger shallow running crank bait got him a few northerns yet I had the hot bait.  I finally switched with him but it seems at about 30 minutes before sunset the fish turn off somewhat.  Either way we had a great time and it's more fun for Joe and myself see the excitement in Jake when he reels in a fish than anything else.  All you have to do is check out that smile in the pictures!

Nice Smallie
On Wednesday night I had the privilege of fishing with Jarred, the son of a friend of my friend, Paul Wenaas.  We had been trying to get together of an evening trip so Wednesday it was.  Because it is starting to get dark around 7:30, we decided to just fish the shorelines and dispense with any anchoring.  Admittedly the fishing was slow although the weather was nice.  I told Jarred that it's like another wold on the river and he's never know we where 20 miles from Downtown Minneapolis.  Because casting cranks let's one cover a lot of water fast, he was the first to get a nice 16 incher.  Satisfied a few minutes later I hooked a nice bass as well. These were the only 2 we got for the night, nothing spectacular but I am sure he'll be back.  It was interesting as these were the first outings with the new 25 hp outboard engine on the back.  Originally the boat came with a 1976 15 hp Evinrude but that was a real dog on the river.  I think it was very tired so a couple of years ago there was a 25 hp short shaft Mercury on Craigslist so I put that on the boat and it really woke it up.  The 15 hp would get about 12 mph upstream and maybe 16 going down, while the newer 25 hp did about 20 upstream and 24 down.  Well to be honest I forgot the motor was new and never broke it in, just took off at full throttle!  Honestly the performance wasn't that good, maybe 17 going up and 21 going down.  Deciding to move the motor pin up once, with Jarred I hit 21 going up and 26 going down, pretty impressive.  Although worried about the break in period, the old saying break it in like you're gonna run it, looks like it held true.  I suspect it would be a good thing to change the oil this fall even though it will probably have less than 5 hours on it.  The other thing that got done this week

Wagon Load of Sweet Corn 
was getting around to freezing the sweetcorn from the garden.  Planting 6-48 foot rows, 3 in May and 3 more rows about 3 weeks later gives a little time to get it all done.  For some reason this years first crop was sparse as I usually plant 3 - 4 seeds next to each other 10 inches apart, but in the case of the first crop only one or two stalks came up.  The second crop was better, but not as prolific as last year.  Thinking about it there may have been some Preen pre-emergent carryover from last years onion crop.  Either way not counting what the raccoons ate, I vacuum packed 42 bags of corn, each bag holding the equivalent of between 5 - 6 ears of corn, it amounted to about 250 ears of my favorite variety, Honey and Pearl bi-color.  It's really quite simple, get a big pot of water boiling, shuck about 30 ears and put them in the boiling water.  As dad taught me, boil them for about 3 minutes or so, I take them out and put them in big aluminum foil pans so they cool off.  With an electric knife just cut off the kernels and fill the vacuum bags.  I have a chamber vacuum packer that works excellent for this as it goes in a 8" x 12" bag, the corn gets flattened and sealed.  It ends up pretty slick and the vacuum packing give the corn an incredible storage life as we have had 12 month old corn form last year and it tastes as fresh as what we just did,  Finally got the Ranger back today and it looks pretty good.  It needs a good cleaning before September 21st when we head back up to Lac Seul.  I'm anxious to how they say, bite the dog that bit you the last time!  I know the buoy is moved and the water is at least 2 feet higher so it should not be a problem..........hopefully as it's been in the shop for over 9 weeks already this year...Uffda!



Friday, August 30, 2019

Back to Alexandria

Wacky Worm Rig
With an invitation to spend the weekend on Lake Ida with my good friend Lory Brasel at his cabin, it would give us a chance to fish his lake for bass using wacky worm rigs, just like a month ago when I spent some time with my friend Charlie on Lake Miltona, Lake Carlos, and Lake Darling.  Lake Ida is basically in the same area as these other lakes as well is very similar in structure, and having threaten Lory a lesson in late summer bass fishing along the reeds, it was a pretty easy decision.  Wacky worming is a pretty simple technique for catching largemouth bass.  As stated in a previous post, it all began in Texas a few years ago.  In Texas bass is king however we do have a fantastic bass fishery here in Minnesota, both largemouth and smallmouth bass and what works in Texas works here as well.  This rig has evolved in many forms however my personal choice is the simple method of inserting a small O ring onto the middle of what is referred to a stick type plastic worm that is 4 - 6 inches, then using a wacky worm style wide gap hook (the picture shows a weedless style), hook the O ring and you are set.  These worms are usually impregnated with salt and scent and will sink on there own at a rate of 8 - 12 inches per second.  As stated earlier, there are many forms of this rig, some add weight to get down deeper into the weeds, we simply were casting the reed edges that were in the 4 - 6 feet depth so our strategy was to go with the simple presentation.  Lake Ida in Alexandria is the second largest lake in the area, it runs north to south with a couple of nice bays,  the water is extremely clear and on
Lory's First Wacky Worm Bass on His First Cast!
Saturday it was quite windy.  Wacky Worming is the most fun when you can actually watch your line as the worm sinks as often the bass will grab it and run, with the only indication is that your line is moving.  The wind plays havoc on the sight aspect of this yet one can still feel the hit as well as changes in the bow in your line.  As stated the worms are usually salt/scent impregnated and the bass will hang on to the worm for quite along time as it tastes good!  A quick set of the hook and the battle is on!  It is a very fun way to fish bass however this time of year the larger bass tend to be deeper so one usually catches bass in that 12 - 16 inch range.  One can target the deeper weed edges using the same Wacky Worm style using a drop shot presentation, something I haven't tried but is definitely on the list.  Our strategy was to find a reed/wild rice structure on a less windy part of the lake.  This was Lory's first attempt to use the Wacky Worm technique on his lake, and of course I tend to oversell things as well.  Giving him the basic instructions, cast right to the reed edges, points are good as well as pockets within the weed growth.  Let the worm settle to the bottom, give it a few lifts to impart some action and wait a few seconds.  If there is a bass, it will hit it within the first couple of seconds from the time the worm hit the water, and will actually pick it up from the bottom if in the vicinity of your worm.  With the clear water a bass can actually come a long ways to hit the bait as they are generally sight feeders.  Lory's first cast was on a reed point and although not exactly focused on the right methodology all of a sudden.....I got one!  We landed a nice 15 inch bass, actually the largest of the day, on his first cast.  I caught the next 3 - 4 bass while explaining the specific technique, after looking back at his first cast and understanding what went right with that situation, Lory began to catch more bass.  For the day we ended up with about 15 bass as conditions were difficult with the 15 mph south wind, it made boat control a challenge for sure. We fished for about 6 hours as it was fun to teach someone a new presentation that actually seemed to work.  I also tried a new type of rig called a Tokyo Rig, it looks deadly and should really work on the river for smallies, something that has eluded me this year.  Definitely plan on dealing with that in the next couple of weeks!

I did get some fish last weekend!
The saga of the Lac Seul May lower unit strike on the Ranger 620 continues.  After the trip fishing with my friend Charlie, I brought the boat back to Frankie's to fix the steering and a few stress cracks.  A more detailed inspection showed a number of stress cracks related to hitting the rock and after notifying the insurance company, $7200 arrived to cover the damage.  Giving an OK to start the work, they pulled off my motor and under the top cover of the transom found more damage that was not visible earlier.  Again another trip back to the insurance company however this time I expressed my frustration with them not getting this done all at once and 3 months later I am still dealing with damage.  Explaining that this was the final time to take care of everything and am expecting that this is the last of something that should have been dealt with in June.  the additional damage was $650 so I authorized them to get it finished, as the boat has been in the shop 8 weeks this summer.  As well I told them for now a $8,000 in repairs they can touch up a few spots of dock rash and a scratch where we hit the side with a metal shield while welding a gusset on the frame for a step.  That has been confirmed, so the Ranger should be just like new, just in time to take it back to Lac Seul in September.  Hopefully my luck has changed by then!  This week is Mississippi River week and the plan is to hit the smallies and try for some larger catfish in the hole behind the island.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Top Fuel Dragster on a Green Light!
Between the weather and the garden, it's been pretty difficult finding time to get the jon boat out, actually a even a little embarrassing.  Last Friday was interesting as my good friend that I met at work, Kevin Sonsalla had tickets again to attend the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.  It is always a fun event as Kevin has some connections with Don Schumacher Racing out of Illinois.  Schumacher is a famous name in both the welding and battery charger manufacturing in the US and Kevin used to represent certain products he would sell to them.  Eventually he would help out at their race events and today they still treat him pretty nice.  His tickets get us into the event, access to reserved seating, as well the hospitality tent where we can watch them rebuild the engine after each run, have a nice meal served, as well as free soft drinks.  It is a lot of fun as this was probably my 6th time going and it is quite amazing to see those cars go from a dead stop to 1000 feet in less than 3.8 seconds and over 330 mph.  That is moving! One of the things I found interesting was a display by a local General Motors dealer selling the latest in V8 motor configurations.  They had 6.2L (378 cu in) V8's that would turn out over 600 hp, and I often talk about the good old days of cars, those days are here!  Thanks Kevin for a great day again!

Fermentation Crock
So a couple of things, my fermented pickles are absolutely delicious.  They have cured into a great tasting deli style pickle and of course I think they are pretty good.  My neighbor Lynn Brasel took some of my cucumbers from the garden and made crock pickles as well, her's were pretty good, maybe more polished.  She used vinegar and I just used a salt brine so maybe in a contest she would have taken a blue ribbon, never the less, I reminded her that they were my cucumbers!  Both are still quite tasty although she did give me her recipe.  We are at the end of a nice month long harvesting season for the cucumbers and maybe I will have enough to make another batch soon as I expect to empty this fermentation crock within the next couple of days.  One has to daily skim off the white mold that forms on the top of the liquid, not the worst job and it gives one the opportunity to taste the brine, which is packed full of the new craze in dietary supplements called Probiotics,  a great boost to ones digestive health.  It's actually pretty good.  I bought some 1 gallon plastic square containers which work pretty well for the refrigerator however I have already ate a gallon.  With about 5 gallons of pickles fermenting in crocks now I should have enough to take me through ice fishing season, not even counting on trying Lynn's method.  Lynn's husband Lory stopped by last week and we picked 10 gallons of summer crisp pears which he will make into pear wine.  Our plan is to use our still and make pear brandy soon.  He
A Raccoon's Banquet!
has some chokecherry brandy that we tried and admittedly it's pretty good as well.  Cured in miniature charred oak barrels and blended with the right amount of flavorings and cut to a reasonable proof (80) I was very impressed and am looking forward to see how this will turn out.  It is also time to harvest the sweet corn however the raccoons have decided the same.  I wouldn't be so angry as not to share some of my corn with them however they tend to be real pigs about it and knock down the stalks, take a few bites out of a cob then move to the next one.  They took out an equivalent of a half a row of corn with most of the cobs having just a few bites out of then.  Frustrating for sure.  There is a live trap waiting for them with a nice can of tuna cat food, hardly something a nice raccoon cane pass up but no luck.  Maybe the corn wasn't quite ready and they have decided to come back in a week when it will be!  Either way I'll be waiting.  I did get a chance to fish on our neighbor John's dock on Sunday night with Limo Joe, his son Jake, his neighbor friend Aaron, Big Jake and his son Elijah.  Nobody was really set up very well so my job was to reconfigure each pole with the right hook and sinker, added some nightcrawlers to the hooks and in addition we tried a line with Doc's Catfish bait but it wasn't a good night for fishing.  The excuse might be that this was the first time fishing on John's dock so it might take a while to get to know the best place to cast.  Anyway it was fun hanging with the kids and teaching them not to stick one's finger in the Doc's Catfish goop, it is pretty gross!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

My New Fishing Partner

Jake the Red Horse King!!
It's been a odd summer with continued issues with my boat, which I will get into later.  In the meantime one of my tasks have been working on the jon boat to start fishing the Mississippi River behind the house.  A prerequisite was always to fish the neighbors dock and get a feel for the water flow, clarity, and what's biting.  A week ago or so the result was a nice golden red horse, a medium sized carp as well as a medium catfish.  In the neighbor hood is a guy by what we call him Limo Joe as his past life years ago was driving a limo.  After a number of years he finally settled down and now he has 2 wonderful kids, a boy named Jake and a girl, Kaylee.  The boy is 12 years old and is crazy about fishing so offering to take both of them to the dock we managed to catch a really nice standard red horse sucker and a small catfish.  It wasn't as good as the other day but for Jake it was a fabulous.  Well he had soccer on the next night but on Tuesday he was back at the pole shed ready for more.  We could not use the dock so at first we spent some time practicing casting, but the urge to fish was too great so we called mom and said we were heading down the road to fish the Champlin Mississippi River Point Park.  Our strategy was the same, fish the bottom with a glob of nightcrawlers to see what would bite.  Within 10 minutes Jake had this nice red horse sucker on, the second one he caught that week.  you can obviously tell that he's pretty happy with his catch.  Admittedly it's as much fun for me as it was for him.  In my younger days we often fished with my dad's friends Art Kelly, Danny Van Pelt, and Vic Wenaas, down at the Buffalo River fishing catfish in August. Getting to show him how to set the hook, hold the rod, use it for leverage, is fun and Jake actually listens!  Having no children of my own, Jake is like a grandson I will never have so it's quite the honor to be able to pass on some of my fishing knowledge to a younger person.  It's also makes me smile when I see his enthusiasm, like I had when I was that age.....let see, 52 years ago......uffda.  Jake can't wait to get out again but this time we will launch at the other neighbors landing and fish out of the boat, telling Jake we will get bigger fish from the boat! I am not sure who's more excited, Jake or me!

Nice carp!!
So the Ranger, well it looks like it will be in the shop for at least another 2 weeks as investigating the cracks, Frankie's guy found additional damage from my lower unit hit back in May on Lac Seul.  It has been assured it's repairable however I had to call the insurance company, they will need to remove both the main motor and kicker, not an easy task.  Hopefully it will be done by Labor day but who knows???  Not complaining and thankfully August is the time to fish on the River for smallies and rough fish, they are fun to catch.  With access to the river so close it just takes hooking the jon boat up to the ATV, opening (and making sure they are closed again!) the gates and launching, 10 minutes and we are on the water.  The smallmouth bass action using crankbaits is good so not having the Ranger isn't the end of the world however hopefully this is the end of the 2019 hitting a rock nightmare!  My goal is to teach Jake how to use a bait-caster before the season ends.  Admittedly this retirement is an interesting transition.  The biggest accomplishment so far has been the garden and making pickles.  One of my batches is fermentation pickles, similar to Clausen type pickles.  They are stacked in a fermentation crock, layers of dill, garlic, spices, cucumbers (the larger ones) then repeat with an added couple of grape leaves to add natural tanins to help keep them crisp.  In a 3.5 gallon fermentation crock it is filled about 3/4 of the way then a brine mixture of 1/3 cup of pickling salt to a gallon of water, fill the crock then put the weights in to keep the cucumbers under the brine, and let them naturally ferment.  it has a lid with a water lip to keep out any bad yeasts and stuff.  They are looking pretty good and hopefully will be done by the middle of next week.  Just in time for another batch.