Thursday, March 23, 2017

Inbetween

Lowrance HDS 9, Gen 3
We are in the "Inbetween" time that begs you to get some things done around the house before everything starts opening up in April.  The garden needs to be cleaned up, the apple trees need pruning, the accumulation of the winter junk around the yard needs to be picked up. it's a perfect time to start working on the boat as the temperatures are not that bad out.  As well, ice fishing season is done and it's time to put all of that stuff away in it's proper place and get my Salem wheel house cleaned up and ready for storage.  Mark Mayerich and I are tasked to get our Team Walleye hats on order so we have them in time for the May 13 Minnesota Fishing opener, I guess there is no end to the list.  One of the nice things is that we did not have much snow this year so the ground isn't so sloppy.  I hate to take the snowblower off the lawn tractor quite yet, I remember a few 12 inch April snowfalls but the long term forecast looks pretty good.  Having worked my deal with the electronics on my boat I successfully got my old Lowrance HDS9, Gen 3 installed in Bruce's boat, a nice upgrade from his older HDS7, Gen 2 that I fixed him up with a few years ago.  Bruce and I fish Lac Seul quite a bit and I enjoy helping him to upgrade his systems for a more enjoyable experience.  The map chips of Lac Seul and the integration of his trolling motor to the depth finder really makes for a safer trip as one has a better reference for the routes and hazards of the lake.  In addition, the Gen 3's latest upgrade allows one to make your own maps of the lake via the Navionics Chip and it's SonarChart Live feature. This will be really nice for making your own 1 foot contour maps of our favorite fishing areas on Lac Seul.

Panther Martin Electro-steer with Remote
Tonight I am heading to the Northwest Sportshow to get a number of things taken care of.  Frankie's Marine is my boat dealer and I need to see him about getting my rig in to fix the kicker motor starting issues and to schedule a Bimini top installation.   Also my 9.8 hp kicker motor is tied to my big motor for steering and it can be difficult to steer it without the big motor turned on.  The big motor has power steering to make it easier to turn the wheel, and if you simply turn the key on, it will engage the power steering however because the ECM (Electronic Control Module) is water cooled, if you don't have the motor running and pumping water, it can overheat the ECM and burn it out.  Instead I am going to do is have installed a Panther Martin Electro-Steering device on the boat with a remote control so I can steer my kicker a lot easier.  I really like to troll crankbaits and up to this time it's been difficult at best as my 250HP runs at 3mph and my kicker runs OK but it is awfully hard to steer.  Many guys on the forums state that one should steer with your front trolling motor but I've tried that with little success unless you have a big radius to turn, it's pretty slow to react.  As stated in previous posts I head to Naples to Grouper fish on Sunday, which should be fun.  Hopefully I bring some fish home and now that I've caught a 200 pounder in December, I don't really need to do that again!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Fishin' With Dave!!

Beautiful Saturday afternoon on the ice
Last Saturday I had the pleasure of fishing with the son of a dear friend of mine.  David is 151/2 years old, is really getting into fishing, and his dad Mike told him to e-mail me if he had any questions.  Well, to my pleasure he actually did and we have been solving all the latest fishing dilemmas of which reel to get, best line to use, bass fishing strategies and all sorts of things.  Dave is in high school and has just joined the school fishing team which sounds like fun.  We had planned to go ice fishing in March, as soon as his wrestling season was finished and March 11 was the designated day.  Well apparently Mike and his wife had also planned a trip to Florida that weekend so it would be just Dave and Dave, which suited me just fine.  Finalizing our plan the day would start out in the morning with a stop at Cabela's first the maybe Scheels in St. Cloud before heading to the northwest. Our destination was near Battle Lake, MN where I knew there would be safe ice for both of us.  I assured Dave's folks that I was much fatter than their son, if the ice was unsafe, I'd be the guy in peril as I will definitely take care of their son.  Picking Dave up at 8:30 on Saturday, we headed for Cabela's to check out the Spring Sale. After loading up on series 3700 tackle totes we stopped at McDonalds for breakfast then on to Scheels, one of my favorite stores.  Dave was looking for a fishing Rod and I gave some suggestions however it was time to head north as we had another hour and a half drive.  Buying some minnows and waxies, we headed to this "secret" lake where I had done well a few years before............yeah, I know....Fishing Memories!  The recent warm weather had me concerned about getting out on the lake.  I knew we were not going to drive however this lake had a road along the north side of the lake and it was an easy walk to where I wanted to go.  Generally the north shoreline is the first to soften and open up yet the near 0 temperatures of the last few days solidified the shore ice quite well and we were pretty safe.  The ice was not exactly as rough as I have experienced in the past however it showed the results from the previous warm spell, no snow and evidence of a lot of water that was on the ice.  I drilled a number of holes and by 1;30 we were fishing, by 4:30 we still were fishing.

Moon over Highway 210
Notice I said fishing.  Although I marked a few fish that had come through they were awfully finicky and did not seem to be interested in what we had to offer.  The last time I was at this lake it took watching my camera and actually seeing the crappies inhale the bait as it was almost impossible to tell otherwise.  Even though it was nice out, I set Dave up in my single place Clam and got the camera running.  Unfortunately neither one of us saw any more fish or experienced any bite.  By 5:00 I had decided to head out as it wasn't looking that good.  We packed up the equipment and walked back to the truck and headed back towards home.  Having never really traveled Minnesota Highway 210, we decided to take the scenic route home through Staples/Motley then on to St. Cloud then Hwy 10 to Elk River.  It was a beautiful drive as we watched the moon come up over the horizon into the deep blue sky.  Not to be totally skunked we stopped at Morey's Fish House in Motley and at least bought some fresh fish for supper!  My new found wheat allergy was attended to by Dave when he suggested we stop at Culver's and get a burger with a gluten free bun, as his parents do this.  A stop at Culver's in St. Cloud proved to be just the ticket as I ordered their butter burger with a Gluten Free bun, absolutely delicious as I have not had a real hamburger in about 3 months.  Finally getting to my place around 8:30 we unloaded all of our stuff before heading back to drop Dave off at home.  It was a wonderful experience for me.  It was like being with myself 47 years ago as my guest was a great conversationalist, very intelligent, and had a great sense of humor.  As we walked off the ice a big flock of geese flew by and a asked Dave if he knew why they fly in a V pattern.  Yes, he exclaimed, the flock can fly more efficiently that way.  Right on the money, this kid is smart.  Well then I asked him if he knew why one side of the V is usually longer than the other side, he exclaimed no he did not.  Well, I let him on to the real answer......that's because there are more geese on that side, We had a good laugh, now he has a story for life!  I'd post a picture but I'd hate to see all the girls begging me for his contact information.

Ice fishing is about finished and it's time to get the boat up and going.  I have all the replacement electronics taken care of and am waiting to get it to Frankies to have a Bimini Top added, to have a remote control steering added to the kicker motor, and hopefully get my kicker motor fixed so it's not so blessed hard to start, what a beast!  I have read about drilling out a jet to make it start easier, anything would be better than it is now.Hopefully I can get all of this done before opener.  Next week is the Sportsman Show and there is a number of people that want to go with on Thursday.  Our return Grouper fishing trip is set for March 26th again in Naples.  This weekend might just be a get caught up on things like putting the ice fishing stuff away!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Open Water is Just Around the Corner!

Collecting Maple sap
With some of the lakes around home already ice free, and the temperatures in the 60's last weekend, fishing was not in the cards.  I spent the weekend helping my friend John Matthews help rewire my sister -in-laws house as I figured he may have bit off more than he could chew! She lives in Hudson, WI so both Saturday and Sunday were spent pulling wires.  We must be at least 3 weeks ahead of what I would call a normal weather schedule as my neighbor Brandon Larsen is already been tapping the trees for maple syruping,  I have a couple of nice maples in my yard so I let him tap them and in return I get a nice bottle of homemade Maple Syrup which is exceptionally good!  The sap has been really flowing lately because of the warm days and nights below freezing, I have to believe that he has collected over 500 gallons to date from the neighbors and I.  Brandon also has an osmosis filter that essentially removes 1/2 the water when ran through the filter, making it so it does not take forever to boil off the water to get the syrup to the right stage.  Apparently he can run it through up to 4 times so 400 gallons of sap at 2% sugar content get reduced to  50 gallons at about 16%.  This saves boiling away 350 gallons of water in the original sap, a huge reduction in wood needed to fuel the boiler.  It still takes a fair amount of processing to get real Maple Syrup but the end product is definitely worth it!  Brandon has a large tray that is separated into a number of compartments.  By magic the finished syrup makes it's way to one end with a spigot and thermometer to monitor the whether it is ready.  For all practical purposes finished maple syrup boils at 219F give or take a few adjustments for altitude.  Once it hit that temperature it can be drawn off as syrup.  Brandon's neighbor Jake was over helping on Monday night as they were boiling and I stopped over.  We poured a little brandy into a cup then added some hot syrup from the spigot.....Uffda that was good, (not particularly good for my diabetes!)  One interesting thing the Brandon has been doing is finishing his syrup off in used bourbon barrels.  Het reheats the syrup then pours it in the barrel and let's it sit for 8 weeks.  the syrup picks up the bourbon flavor and it's pretty good.  The used barrels are expensive so he obviously gets more for it but it is definitely an interesting twist to his craft.

Wild Turkeys in the Garden
So this warm weather has me thinking about the garden this year.  I have quite a bit of work to do however I did order my onion sets from Dixondale Farms out of Texas again with my friend Andy.  They are great onions and much better than the ones one buys up north.  Onions are classified by Long Day, Moderate Day, and Short Day onions, a term that describes their bulbing properties.  Long day Onions need more than 15 hours of daylight to trigger them to start growing the onion.  It definitely makes a big difference as I get larger onions that last a lot longer.  One thing that has hung around my property this year has been wild Turkeys.  At some time there can be as many as 18 in a bunch and trust me, they can eat! If you look closely at the picture of them you will see a white bucket that I fill with corn. They can really clean it out and I am not sure who's worse.....the deer of the turkeys.  I compare them to a good vacuum cleaner as nothing in their path is safe.  If there is no more for them in the garden they will strut up to my deck and eat all the bird seed out of my ground feeder.  Never the less they are an impressive bird for sure and I am half tempted to enjoy a wild turkey dinner some day but that would not be the nicest thing to do and could end me up in trouble!

I have promised to take my friends the Grants out ice fishing this weekend, I am planning on heading up to the Battle Lake area and try for some crappies.  If there is any issue in walking out I have plan B, we will hit the outdoor stores of Scheels and Cabela's for David Grant, a new up and coming fisherman!  Hopefully I will have something to report next week.  I am definitely afraid this will probably be my last adventure on the ice for this year.  The next big trip is back to Naples for some great grouper fishing on March 26th.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Johnson's Perch Extravaganza

Button Drawing
Well, this year has certainly been a challenge when it comes to ice fishing.  Even northern Minnesota experienced a relatively late freeze as you can go back to my earlier Red Lake Posts, not much going on.  Usually the last "wheel house" event occurs during the last weekend in February, just before the Walleye season closes on Mille Lacs Lake, Johnson's Perch Extravaganza held at Nitti's Hunters Point Resort about halfway up the East side of Mille Lacs Lake.  A group of us including Mark, Russ, Randy, and Mike find an area out on the lake where we can park our houses on Friday night, we set up our Perch Camp. We have a lot of fun cooking, playing the the official game of us "Wheel Houser's"....Farkle, having a few cocktails and trying to catch a perch large enough to enter the contest.  This year the weather has been quite mild and although the ice on the lake is solid enough, the warm weather has caused a substantial heave near the shore as well, the shoreline ice has deteriorated significantly.  The week before saw rain fall on Mille Lacs and any hole through the ice acts as a drain with the water that's on top of the ice makes an effort to get below the ice.  These older holes from ice houses and or fisherman allows this to happen and there were reports of holes that had grown to 3 feet in diameter.  To further complicate things it got cold on Thursday night and it actually refroze the surface including lightly freezing over any of these drain holes creating a dangerous situation if a person happen to go over one.  Therefore for the most part all of the accesses on the East side were closed and not letting anyone on the ice.  Of course that didn't stop some people from showing off their stupid quotient as we stood there for the button drawing a guy in a Ford Pickup and pulling an ATV on a trailer tried to cross the crack and ended up dropping the front end down into the ice.  Luckily he only dropped to the frame and the ice held him up otherwise it would have been a lot more entertainment.  I have no idea what this guy was thinking but what ever it was he got a big surprise. The west side was letting people on but who the heck wanted to travel 12 miles over the ice with zero guarantee's one would get off in a couple of days.  Therefore we all decided to skip putting our whell houses on the ice and just attend the Button Drawing.  They sell buttons with numbers on them for $20 each,  then starting at 3:00PM the drawing begins, and of course if your number is drawn you win something.  They always have great prizes such as a couple of wheel houses, a 4 X 4 UTV side by side, as well as a bunch of new augers, tackle packages and quite a bit of pretty good stuff. Unfortunately even though I bought 2 buttons, those numbers failed to be announced.  Originally because of the ice conditions it was planned to have the drawing in the parking lot of Hunter's but boy, would that have been a mess.  Thursday and Friday saw temperatures drop into the mid teens and solidifying the shore ice so they moved the drawing onto the ice where it normally is held.   Mark found a spot up on the shore that was elevated above most people making it easy to hear the numbers called.  As well the shore tended to be warmer than standing on the ice which was a lot nicer.  After having a couple for the road I met Russ and Randy at Bayside for a burger then headed back to Dayton.  The forecast for this weekend is in the upper 50's so we are getting really close to the end of ice fishing.  Maybe 1 more time next week when I promised a friend I'd take him and his son out for crappies,  Hopefully the ice will be good!

Hand tied jigs
One of the employees at my work stopped by the office a few days ago to show me his latest hobby, tying jigs for walleye fishing.  I was impressed by his craftsmanship, attention to detail, and of course his interest in fishing.  It reminded me of 40 years ago I used to tie my own jigs using dyed fake fur as the main body.  Kevin Aiona and I used to really catch the walleyes down in Catfish Slough on the Mississippi River north of Alma (Pool 4) Wisconsin.  We would simply drift with the slow current in the channel of the slough and catch all the walleyes we wanted in a few hours.  Since then it's been told to me that the slough has filled in and is quite shallow as the walleyes are no longer in that area. It still brings back good memories as Catfish was one of our favorite places to fish.  One of these days  I will get Kevin to bring me back down on the river for a nice day of fishing, maybe we can catch some old memories!  With the early ice out maybe the river will be good this year.  At this time there isn't much of a snow pack here or  around the upper Mississippi to melt and the river level should stay reasonable for the next month or so.  I do remember taking my good friend Leon Lambert fishing below the Alma dam on April 5th of that year, it was warm and we did catch some fish.  He offered me my choice of jigs and I decided to take the middle one with the promise of a picture of me with the walleye I will catch on it in May when I head to Lac Seul.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

First Panfish Trip of the Season

Ice from the auger was chunky, not shaven
Temperatures have been crazy warm the last week or so which has really changed the landscape of ice fishing from essentially Leech Lake and south.  With various reports of trucks going through the ice and open water, I decided to head to a little lake west of town and try my luck for the afternoon crappie bite.  I have not been out at all this year for panfish and with the ice conditions I needed to go somewhere that it was easy to park and walk out, Little Pulaski Lake by Buffalo is a good spot for sure.  There is a nice parking area at the lakes edge and it's about a 100 yard walk to the "crappie" spot, at least that is where I have done ok in the past.  The problem is that it might be a little late for this specific spot as it's generally better around first ice.  With not too many options, and close enough to home, it was worth a try.  The Ace Hardware in St. Michael is a convenient place to stop for bait and get the low down on the local lakes.  Admittedly they confirmed that there was not much going on but considering the perceived and real ice conditions, it wasn't surprising.  Arriving at the parking area I was surprised by the few amount of people there were, I suppose at this time of year, if you can't drive out people get lazy.  The ice was darker than normal and the shoreline was somewhat deteriorated however it wasn't too hard to get onto the main ice.  A short walk and I was at where it was about 12 feet deep so I punched about 7 holes perpendicular to the shoreline as I like to hole hop. As I drilled the holes it became obvious that the ice was starting to "Candle" meaning that water had penetrated the ice and started to form small columns within it, definitely an advanced sign of deterioration.   See how the ice was chunked and not shaven, like an auger blade normally does. Although it was definitely strong enough to support myself and if you had an ATV, that would be OK however I another surprise was it's thickness.  Less than 14 inches, this ice was pretty thin and even
First Sunnie of the season!
with the warm weather was an indication that it never really got that thick this year as in a normal year it should be about 24 inches or so.  The temperature was 58 so fishing outside was very comfortable however not typical of the third week in February, that's for sure!  Although I was looking for crappies, my suspicions were that they probably would not show up until around sunset, which was at 5:47 PM.  I did catch my first sunfish of the season, nothing big but the way my fishing has been going this winter, a welcome change.  I unhooked the fish and let it back down the hole, then proceeded to catch about 10 more around the same size.  the fish quit biting for a while then a small northern pike slammed my waxie an sort of made a mess out of everything!  No wonder the fish disappeared.  Unhooking it and letting it back down the hole I continued to move to the consecutive holes that were drilled.  A few more fish hit the waxie before the sun finally went down without much fanfare.  No crappies showed up and to be honest, I wasn't too surprised.  I think I need to head further west and north to find any decent crappies this time of the year.

This weekend is normally the weekend for Johnson's Portside Perch Extravaganza out of Hunter's
Point on the east side of Mille Lacs.  This is a very large perch fishing contest where they also give away a ton of good door prizes including a couple of Ice Castle wheel houses.  In the past I usually go up with my friends that have wheel houses, we park in a general good spot to fish, forming our own little group of houses.  It's a good time, we set up a bar, an off the ice fire pit and cook up a meal for Saturday then hopefully catch something to enter yet we are not very good at that part.  At 3:00 they hold the main event and drawing which in order to be eligible you need to purchase a button with a number.  If they draw your number, voila, but you must be present to win.  3 hours later it's done, we may have a few beers in the resort but usually head back to the wheel houses for a couple games of Farkle, the official game of my group of guys before heading to bed.  3 years ago when I first bought my wheel house, there was so much snow that we could not get out on the ice on Friday and Saturday was not much better.  We simply backed into the snow off a main road and stayed there.  There was so much snow and with us parked in one area, the ice started to sag. Although we were in no danger of breaking through, the water came through our holes and started flooding our houses.  It provided for a nice fire drill at 6:00 in the morning on Sunday.  We did get off safely but certainly provided for some entertainment for a while.  This year because of the recent warm weather, we will not be able to get our houses out on the lake.  I may actually drive up Saturday afternoon for the drawing but it's really put a damper on our groups activities for this week.  Also, Sunday is the official day that walleye fishing season ends in Minnesota inland lakes so except for crappies or fishing walleyes in the Mississippi River south of Redwing, fishing season is done.

Mark's book.
Lowrance came out with an update to their HDS Gen 3 units last week which will allow a program called SonarCharts Live to operate on these units.   Essentially it creates a map of an area of the lake that you are slowly driving over.  This is pretty exciting as I am anxious to try this on Lac Seul, the ability to make my own maps of the bottom structure of the areas we fish.  As always there are some issues that go along with this such as having an updated Navionics chip in your unit.  I have loaded the upgrade, updated my current Navionics Chip, and am ready to learn about using this new technology.  To be honest, it seems like I can barely keep up with my cellphone but this seems like a great feature to learn to use.  Secondly I am a frequent visitor to Walleye Central and on their Canada Forum there was a gentlemen selling a book he wrote, Secrets of the Canadian Shield.  I e-mailed him as I am always interested in guys that do this, write about their experiences and ordered a book from him.  Received it last weekend and am pretty impressed as it is totally applicable for Lac Seul and the fishing we do.  If for nothing else it validates my own observations of fishing in these waters and found it quite useful.  I am definitely planning on bringing it up with me to Bruce's cabin this year, it will be a great addition to our knowledge base.  If anyone is interested in ordering a book he has a few left and they are $20, not bad for a nicely written book, drop me a line and I will send you the contact information.  Admittedly it also serves to get those juices flowing as open water is only about 6 weeks away!

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Week Off

Ardent Tournament APEX Reel
Last week's trip to Anaheim was long and really didn't do my weekend well for fishing.  I did get a few things done around the house however no fishing.  One of the things I have been dealing with is helping my friend Mike Grant's son David, on getting ready for the upcoming fishing season, one where he has joined the High School Fishing League and was looking for advice on rods and reels.  I have been talking to him a lot lately and been pushing his need to get a real man's casting rod and reel for pitching those worms and heavy plugs for bass.  Besides they also make a great walleye trolling rig that tends not to tire one out so fast.  He has already bought a spinning outfit yet I have been pushing him  hard to join the ranks of the professionals and be a real fisherman so I checked out my collection to see what I had extra.  Sure enough, I had one of these laying around that I picked up on a fabulous sale a few years back.  It's really a pretty good reel and matched up with a 6"6" medium heavy fast tipped graphite rod, this should last him a lifetime.  Now the only issue is me teaching him the nuances of setting the right tension for the lure, the right spool brake needed in combination with his ability to "thumb" the spool when casting.  This takes practice as lighter baits or lighter line can be problematic!  I know, as there have been many a reel that had to have the line cut off and replaced. Casting a reel like this can be easy with the right line, lure, rod, settings, and feel yet if one of those isn't exactly in the plan, here comes the bird's nest. These newer reels really help by adding sophisticated centrifugal brakes to help slow everything down in a logical matter yet about the minute you get cocky, away goes the spool and one starts over again.  Bottom line is once a guy get's the hang of it, it becomes second nature and under the right conditions, you can look like a pro! I use these for casting heavier rattling crankbaits on the river for Smallies and heavy plastics for largemouth.  As stated earlier, they work perfect for long line trolling walleyes with shad raps or fishing catfish on the bottom in the River.  I already have about 6 of these rigs so it will be good to see this reel get some real workout!

Sonar Chart Live Function for Lowrance HDS Units
There has been some interesting events that have happened this week.  One of the more exciting things was the much anticipated software release of the Lowrance operating system, version 4.5. These are applicable to my HDS Gen 3 units that are currently in my boat and really adds some great features.  The one I am looking forward to is the Navionic's SonarChart Live, which allows the ability to make real life depth maps of a specific areas under your boat.  Like the picture to the right, one can see the contour lines being drawn as the boat goes over a specific area. This function should be very useful when I go to Canada, especially some of the points that I like to fish, it will be interesting to look at the areas that we fish and try to look for other like areas.  It would also be nice for mapping the River for smallies.  There were some other interesting updates like a lot of them in the past, they enhance some of the features shown on the screen.  There is a lot of work to do before one get's proficient at running this new software however one has to start somewhere. Apparently Lowrance have improved their StructureScan 3D however I have not tried very hard to learn how to use it, time always seems too short to spend time on the water learning a systems verses time fishing.  It is probably a useful tool and this year I am going to try to understand it more.  Maybe this weekend I can get out and try to catch some panfish, something I haven't done yet this year.  Next Friday is the Perch extravaganza which should be the last wheel house event of the year.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Little Late But............

13", 1.5 pound Mille Lacs Perch
Last week I was in Anaheim Claifornia attending the MD and M West medical Device show. Admittedly I could have written the post from there but for some stupid reason my pictures on my phone did not transfer very well.....ugh!!  Anyway better late than never.  So my birthday was on February 4th and I decided to head up to Mille Lacs and try to catch some tullibees for my friend Mark Applen, who makes the best pickled fish ever, and tullibees are excellent to pickle.  Mark had gone up to Mille Lacs the night before and I knew he had gone out of Hunter's Point Resort. My plan was to head out of a resort that had a good bridge across the cracks that form near shore then once over, one can travel almost anywhere as long as you know where to return safely.  Midget Flat was my destination, a small flat south of 9 mile that tops out at around 30 feet, deeper than most which top out around 24 feet, yet I have done well with Tullibees out there so it seemed like the place to go.  Once on the ice I called Mark to see where he was, about 3 miles out towards the end of the line of houses, 15 minutes later I spotted him off to my right.  One thing nice about both Mark and I's ice houses, they are Salem's and you don't see very many of them.  Once you spot it, you can be pretty sure of your destination, especially when Mark's white pickup is parked next to it. Heading over, Mark was outside with his grandson Beckett, so I stopped to discuss my strategy.  "Well, no need to go out there, I have been seeing tullibees on the camera right here.  He was parked off a break in 32 feet of water so I decided to give it a try.  Tullibees are notorious for following your lure off the bottom and will travel quite high.  In fact, in the past I have almost pulled them to the surface, actually to where I could see them hit my lure.  At Lundeens I stopped to get some bait and I bought what I feel is the ideal tullibee lure, a spoon with about a 4 inch drop line off the bottom with a panfish type jig on it. The spoon attracts them and the lure below is tipped with a waxie and they hit that.  Well I went into Mark's house and immediately started marking fish.  I jigged on up about 5 feet off the bottom, definitely a tullibee when it hit the lure.   Tullibees fight really good and this one was no exception, however when it got close to the hole it was orange colored, not your typical silver.  Finally getting it to the top of the hole it was this huge perch, actually the biggest I have ever caught.  You can imagine my surprise when I brought it in, too bad it wasn't the Perch Extravaganza as I am sure I would have placed.

2 nice tullibees
After I got the perch in, I was still bound and determined to catch a tullibee.  It wasn't long before I hooked one and got it up, man they fight good, almost like those trout we got a couple weeks ago.  Tullibees are related to the whitefish, cisco, and herring family, a bony and oily fish that people usually smoke.  They have a texture when pickled like commercial pickled herring and are delicious.  I sat in Mark's house and managed to catch 6 of them, not a bad take for a couple hours of fishing.  I am sure that had I gone out to the Midget Flat there might have been more fish yet here I was fishing in a warm place sitting on a comfortable couch, not hard to take at all.  Beckett (Mark's 5 year old grandson) was watching me so the last 3 fish I gave him the rod to reel in the fish, he really got a kick out of that.  Not one to let a good opportunity slip by I made sure Beckett asked Grandpa why we were getting all the fish!  It's good to involve the kids in some light humor, and of course they really don't understand what your asking them but Grandpa Mark does!  You might as well get the little ones trained right and to make sure they know who is the master of the bite!  It was a good time as Mark cooked up some pork loins, fried up some sliced potatoes, it doesn't get any better than this for sure.  Getting home the job of cleaning the fish was done and because it's been fairly warm, I did this down by my pole shed.  Enough fillets for Mark to do his magic, I might have to go and get some more soon.  I did end up catching a 15 inch walleye as well, a nice bonus to a day's fishing.  With only 2 weekends left for the walleye season and the last being the Hunter's Point Perch Extravaganza, winter is ticking away.  I have yet to catch a sunfish or crappie this year, maybe in March, if there is even any ice left as we have no snow left with this weekend being in the upper 40's and next claims a 50 might show it's presence.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Fishing With Daris Rosebear

Mark, Ben, myself, and Jack with our 15 trout.
With the bite on Red Lake winding down (actually it never wound up for me!) and having left my fish house at JR's for a month, it was time to head up to Red Lake and drag it home.  My guests this week were Jack and his son, Ben Taylor.  My friend Mark Applen's January travels were done so we had planned on heading up to JR's to fish, attend Redfest, and we decided to book a trip with Daris Rosebear and his on Red Lake Reservation guide trip.  Mark had been fishing with him in the past and highly recommended it as a good time.  We agreed so he contacted Daris and we had a time, meet him at the Seven Clan's Casino at 6:00AM on Saturday morning and we'd go from there.  Ben had no idea what we were doing but was pretty excited about going.   Picking both Jack and Ben up at the their house, we got going a little later but we still managed to make it in 4.5 hours and had the house hooked up by 8:00 and on the ice by 9:00.  Because the casino is an hour away, we had to get up at 4:30  to leave by 5:00, damn early for a Saturday morning! The plan was to meet Daris at the casino, drive to the city of Red Lake and stop at the Sheriff's office to get our daily Reservation fishing permit ($10) then head to one of the small lakes (Smith Lake) south of the main highway to fish trout. He had 14 clients this morning, a larger bunch than usual however it worked out pretty well.  The lake was pretty small but just full of Rainbow and Brook trout.  Daris had the equipment, all we brought was our depthfinders and warm clothes.  He and the other guides he had with drilled a bunch of holes and we spread out on the lake quite well, we were never crowded.  Mark, Jack, Ben, and I pretty much took one end of the lake while the other guys stayed in the middle and off to one island.   I started in 40 feet of water and marked fish halfway up and I finally nailed one 20 feet off the bottom.  I have to admit, these fish fight like crazy and when it finally came out of the hole I could not believe it was only about 15 inches in length. In the meantime Ben was fishing more towards shore and finally caught one in about 22 feet of water.  He was just besides himself for sure as this was his first trout through the ice.  We all began moving a little shallower, 24 feet or less and started catching fish fairly consistently.   Although Mark claimed his last trip was much more productive, no one was complaining about the time we were having.  By 11:00 the bite was improving however by 12:00 we had to go.  Never the less both Ben and I had caught our 5 fish and were pretty satisfied!

2 of our Nicest Trout
It was quite interesting to go with Daris Rosebear. He is a Red Lake Guide who definitely knows the in's and out of fishing on the Reservation.  It was fun to talk to his helpers as they came over to check up on us.  The Red Lake Indian Reservation is a tough place to live and it was good to see Daris taking advantage of his knowledge to be successful.  It is the only reservation that never ceded it's lands to the Federal Government and has been totally in it's resident's control and is very unique in it's position.  Because of this, they are allowed to restrict outsiders and even have the ability to issue their own license plates.  Hench forth we had to first purchase our single day Reservation Fishing Permit. The permit allows a non-resident to fish for 1 day as long as one is on a number of lakes on the Reservation that do not include Lower and Upper Red Lake.  Another condition is that the permit holder is only allowed to fish if there is an Indian Guide (Daris Rosebear) during the fishing hours. The Red Lake Band uses the large Lower and half of Upper Red Lake as a source for their Fisheries business where they sell fish caught out of their tribal waters to the open market.  Most restaurants in Minneapolis/St. Paul that serve walleye get them from Red Lake.  They get about $2.50/pound with a daily limit of 50 fish under 22 inches or about 3 pounds.  I would admit that this is probably pretty hard work day in and day out but one can make a fairly relative living by fishing.  I would hate to tell you what I paid per pound for the walleyes I caught on the state side of Upper Red Lake this year but it would be embarrassing for sure!  Although it seems as though it would make sense to charge us "Non Resident" money to fish the tribal portion of Red Lake, it's pretty complicated and the answers are not that easy.  Either way it was a great time fishing with Daris and both Mark and I are looking into an open water trip sometime this year with him.  I'd definitely do this again as it definitely is a distraction from the slow fishing on Red this year.  The other thing is I would have brought my own fishing rig and smaller baits as he was still set up for larger fish.

The strategy for fishing from this point on will be Mille Lacs and or the local lakes for Crappies and Sunnies.  I sure miss Pelican Lake by St. Michael, MN as it was close to home, had some nice fish in it, and fairly productive so what you caught was above average.  There are some good lakes west of Mille Lacs I'd love to try as we did in the fall.  We really only have about 60 days left of ice fishing, boy time flies!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

First Trip to Mille Lacs

First Walleye on Mille Lacs this year
Being in between trips to Red, I decided to try my luck at Mille Lacs on Saturday.  I know the warm weather has caused some serious ice heaves so it would be interesting.  You see water is at it's greatest volume at 32 degrees, or just when it freezes.  Even though it still makes ice as the temperatures drop, the ice will shrink which causes cracks to open up as it shrinks and leaves dangerous situations until the water freezes and seals these cracks up.  However the opposite happens when the temperatures warm towards 32, the ice expands to it's greatest volume again and the ice pushes against the shore and will start piling up against each other causing some serious heaves. Saturday was no exception as the weather had been warming all week and these heave raise havoc with the bridges the resorts use to span cracks in the ice so people can drive across to safe ice. Actually on the east side of Mille Lacs I saw pictures of these ice heaves over 10 feet high, and of course they take out any bridge that is spanning the heave.  On the west side it wasn't so bad so after stopping by Bill's to get minnows, I went out of KJ's ice road, just about a mile up from Lundeen's. His road was in pretty good shape and he had been working on the bridge so it was pretty easy to get across the crack and head towards Spirit Island.  Bill had stated that Mike Schneppenhelm was just in and got minnows and he was out of KJ's, so as I crossed the bridge I asked KJ where Mike was, just west of Spirit Island.  The road was pretty good however it had a lot of water on it.  I found Mike as he with with his wife Judy exactly where KJ said he was, so I got a handle on what was underneath us and started drilling holes.  It was 38 degrees out so no need for a shelter, I drilled about 10 holes up and down the edge and started fishing.  I like a Jigging Rap so I started with that as I was fishing about 26 feet of water and it would go down fast.  Immediately a fish came on my Vexilar FLX28 but only came up about 6 inches off the bottom then quickly disappeared, usually a sign that they were finicky.  After a couple of these events I decided to go with a less aggressive bait, a Hawger Spoon but with the same result, they'd slowly come up and look at the bait then disappear.  At this point I changed up a lot of baits going less and less aggressive, ending up with a Swedish Pimple and a whole minnow.  About 5:00 the fish got a lot more aggressive.  I had been hole hopping and marked fish in each hole however I headed back to where I started and as my lure dropped down a mark came towards the bait very quickly, a sign to get ready.  As expected the fish hit my lure decisively and I hooked my first walleye on Mille Lacs this ice fishing season.  Mille Lacs has a limit of 1 fish between 19 and 21 inches, a difficult size to find yet it was still fun catching as this first one was about 16 inches.  I quickly re baited and dropped it again only to see the same thing happen.  This time the fish headed back down however came right back up and slammed the bait.  Not as big as the first one, say maybe 14 inches, never the less it felt pretty good as my walleye catching hasn't been that great this year.  With 2 fish caught it was getting pretty dark and difficult to fish in the open so being satisfied with getting something, I packed it up and walked over to Mike house.

Judy's 26.5 inch walleye
There in Mike's house we were sitting and discussing the latest and greatest about Mille Lacs when a rattle reel went off. Judy carefully grabbed the line, felt the fish, and set the hook.  The battle was on as she exclaimed......This is a nice fish!  We got it up to the hole and she was right, a beautiful 26.5 inch walleye. It had swallowed the hook completely so we cut the line and released it back down the hole.   Pretty nice as it was fun to see a bigger walleye caught.  Although we reset the lines, it was pretty dead after that fish and I haven't talked to them since I've been back to see how they did through the night however I hear that Mille Lac's night bite has been pretty good.  My plan for this weekend is to go back up to JR's and fish the weekend with my friend Mark Applen.  We plan on doing a guided trip for Trout on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, Mark did this a few years back and totally had a fantastic time.  The plan is to fish the weekend then pull our fish houses home and try to fish Mille Lacs on night before the season closes. Red hasn't been very good this year and it's at least 5 hour drive to get there so with the fishing so good on Mille Lacs, it only makes sense.

Lots of stuff going on with the Salem Ice cabin.  I have panelling that is coming loose so I got a battery operated brad nailer to bring with me to repair.  My access door to the upper bunk compartment broke so I had my neighbor Tim professionally glue it back together for me, he states it will not break again at the joint.  Last time I was up my electric Strikemaster Big Volt connector broke.  It was hard to figure out the problem however I did order a couple of replacement connectors and it was easy to see what the problem was once I got a good look at them.  It's like new now but I cannot figure out how it got like it did, it makes no sense.  On our first trip to Red my 12 cup stainless steel percolator got knocked off the stove and it fell top first into the hole.  We were able to get it before it sank however not fast enough to save the basket cover off the inside.  Well I searched hard on the internet for replacement parts and finally gave up.  In a desperate move I e-mailed a company called CSI outdoors that look like they sell the same coffee pot (many seem to) as the one I have and asked them if they had parts.  Didn't hear from them until last Thursday, a guy called and said yes, we have parts and after explaining my dilemma he said he has them for $6.95 each.  I exclaimed how impressed I was that he called me back, I'll take 2!  He said that he'd give me a deal on 2 for $10 plus shipping so I hope they are the same as I have made some assumptions based on the pictures I saw. Another issue is my stove top range in the house, there are silicon rubber grommets that keep the top burner grate in place.  Somehow I am missing a couple of them.  On my way to Mille Lacs on Saturday I called Andy Achman to see where he was and his answer was at Milaca Unclaimed Freight picking up his new Ice Castle.  I was only about 5 minutes away and stopped.  He has got a nice house and as long as I was there I thought I would check to see if they had any of the grommets. Nope but I did find them on E-Bay and ordered 8 of them.  By the time I get my house back she'll be just like new.  Amazing how these little things add up!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Quick trip to Red

Sunset on Red Lake
At the last minute on Friday I decided to head back to JR's on Red to spend the weekend.  It was a hectic week for sure and I needed some time to clear my head.  Trust me, there is no better place to clear one's head than a weekend in the Salem!  Of course I did get some good inspiration from my friend Russ who was heading up in the morning and picking up our friend Mike at Mille Lacs.  Also our good friend Scott Anderson and a few others were joining us, my addition to the trip would assure Mike would have a comfortable place to sleep rather than in Russ's house which would have been pretty crowded.  Russ had gotten there about 1:00 and was set up southwest of Center Bar, which is about 6 miles across the ice towards the reservation line that divides Upper Red Lake.  I got out of the cities at about 1:00 so my ETA was going to be around 6:00.  This meant stopping to get minnows, bacon at Osseo Meats, eggs, and water for coffee. I arrived right on time.  I got my house hooked up and the furnace going and waited for Scott to arrive.  He was running late and I was very uncomfortable trying to find Russ out in the middle of nowhere.  Deciding to wait for Scott, he finally arrived at 7:30 which gave me time to fill up one of my empty propane tanks and unwind. Scott was in contact with Russ and knew where he was going which made it better for me, I just followed him out.  At some point we had to turn off the main path and cut through the snow, making our own path.  About 100 yards into it my truck got stuck.  Luckily Scott had a strap and he was able to pull me to my final destination about 50 yards from Russ.  Russ had already taken Scott's house out and had it set up.  It takes about an hour to get set up and the reports were that the night bite was hot.  Finally getting the house set on the ice, the snow banked up to seal the bottom, my DirecTV working, I was set for the night.  Mike came over and we settled for the evening.  I was so tired I never heard any of the rattle reels go off however Mike was good about it and had 2 walleyes and a perch in the bucket when we got up.

Texas Goodies
Saturday turned out to be a nice day as the wind had died and the sun was shining.  Through the night we had accumulated about 13 walleyes and decided to go into JR's to have fish for lunch.  They are really good at the resort in accommodating my growing sensitivity to flour and the hives I get from it. Last time I had given the cook some corn based fish coating and this time I brought a new fish coating device and some Louisiana Style Zatarain's corn based coating mix again. They did our fish in that and it was excellent, I think a lot better than what they use but again, I have little choice!  I bought a bunch of this coating for Canada as well as Leech Lake opener as we definitely have fish while on those trips.  I did go to the allergist last week and confirmed my status, you would think not eating wheat would help me loose some weight but that doesn't seem to help!  We left the bar pretty full and headed back out to fish the rest of the afternoon and evening.  Russ's brother Randy drove down from Lake of the Woods to join us, he has a new Ice Castle that is pretty nice even though he has had some issues with it.  Randy is a pretty good guy and very innovative.  He has a small snow blower he brings with to help bank his house with snow and then he clears a path between our houses so it's easier to walk.  After a game of Farkle (the official game that these guys play) I retired back to the Salem to watch the football game.  Fishing was still slow for me however the other guys seemed to do pretty good.  Apparently the trick was using a plain hook rather than an ice jig, I am not sure I get it however the results spoke for themselves.  A couple of things happened this trip.  First I broke cupboard door and forgot to bring any glue to fix it so I brought it back with me and my neighbor Tim Kuntz glued it back like new. Secondly my Strikemaster Big Volt, 12 Volt ice auger  had an issue with the main cable connector. I installed a standard Ranger type trolling motor plug into compartment where my battery is as it is hidden under the couch, and also put a trolling motor plug on the main cable so it's pretty clean.  Well the connector from the main cable to the power head had broken, I knew enough to get it working but needed a better fix so I got that done this week as well.  I got back on Sunday to go over to Tim's and watch my Green Bay Packers beat Dallas in a nail biter! Early last week I sent my two friends in Dallas some fresh cheese curds, some colby and aged cheddar from Cady Cheese near Spring Valley, WI.  Along with the cheese was a note telling them that this was something they could enjoy while watching the game on Sunday.  I receive this nice box of Texas Goodies the other day, their answer to my badgering!  My friends Joe Stanfield and Matt Davis are really great guys and any excuse to give them some crap is definitely done!

Finally when up at Red during the end of our December trip  the top cover for my stove fell down and pushed my stainless steel stove top coffee percolator off the stove and into one of our holes.  My brother Steve caught it but not before the lid on the brew basket fell off and sank.  I have been trying to get another lid but it is almost impossible.  The coffee pot is made by Tops Manufacturing and there is no website for them.  I know that this percolator is private labeled by a number of companies including GSI outdoors.  Well I e-mailed them and believe it or not they called me back and stated, yes we have them!!  I ordered a couple incase it happens again, I am impressed!  So my door is fixed, my auger connection is fixed, my coffee pot should be back in service next week, just in time for RedFest.  I am hoping to get on Mille Lacs this weekend, we'll see.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Busy week

Leech Lake Opener with Jon
Well, we got my brother taken care of last weekend however it came with some family drama as often these things do.  It still did not take away from the celebration of his life and the fun we had together the last few years taking him to our annual Team Walleye Leech Lake Minnesota Fishing Opener.  At the funeral there were a lot of pictures of Jon holding up walleyes that he had caught on Leech including this one with his beloved mentor and guide!  Jon loved going up with the guys where he was simply accepted as one of the guys, which meant a lot to him. Jon was never much of a fisherman however I do remember taking him down to Alma on the Mississippi River backwaters and after a day of basically catching nothing we hit a weed bed that was loaded with northern pike and just hammered them.  Jon was looking forward to this year's trip but I sense some doubts that he was going to make it as his condition had turned terminal a couple of years back.  We all know what that mean but we never anticipate the end date.  Oh well, at least we have some great memories of him at Leech and it is very satisfying to know that he appreciated us taking him with.  Unfortunately this leaves a hole in our group for the 2017 opener but my friend Kevin will probably come with us, that would be a great replacement!  Either way I will miss my brother coming up, we are all getting too old and one has to really cherish the time spent together, one never knows when that that will be the last time.

Keith's perch checking him out!
Because of the funeral and the Green Bay Packer game on Sunday, it put a damper on ice fishing, probably for the next week or so.  My wheel house is parked at JR's yet and I do plan on getting up there soon as I can as all reports point to the fishing has been picking up.  I know that the fishing on Mille Lacs has been on fire with reports of 30 to 40 walleye days however the limit is tight, you can only keep one between 19 and 21 inches.   This is not the main reason I haven't fished Mille Lacs this year as I do enjoy fishing Red Lake in my wheel house and if you get a couple of fish under 17, JR will cook them up for you, something I really enjoy.  My friend Mark Applen is usually who I go with however he has been traveling lately and is in Nashville this weekend for work.  My friend Keith Holtan has been doing a lot of fishing on his lake in Brainerd, and the water is pretty clear.  He sent me this underwater camera shot of a perch looking straight into the lens, as he caught a number of nice ones over 12 inches.  Boy, it's been a long time since I've caught a nice perch and maybe I can get together with Keith sometime and hoist a few!
                       

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Tough Last Few Days


Nice walleye
I am not exactly sure how to start this but just start typing will probably do.  Last Monday my brother Steve picked up our good friend Kevin Aiona in Eleva and he headed up to my house to join me in our inaugural first ice fishing trip to Red Lake, Minnesota.  Our plan was simple, Mark Applen was already on his way, we would catch up to him and set up our Salem Ice Cabin's that night and spend the next 4 days on the ice.  Usually first ice is prime time however it's pretty late for first ice, the day after Christmas.  No matter, we had the will to make every effort to have our first trip on the ice successful.  The reality was somewhat different than our expectations however you know the old saying."a bad day fishing is still better than a good day at work!"  Monday was a day of predicted snow and the going was slow however we arrived at JR's just as Mark had hooked up his wheel house and him and his wife Jan were waiting for us.  It took about an hour however we finally got our driving plan and headed out on the lake.  We got 1/3 mile from the resort and it was blowing so bad, we decided to turn around.  Relegated to sleeping on land until the morning, one of JR's guides, Hazard, offered to  get us across the bridge and to an area.  Of course it was worth a nice tip as we got set up about 2 miles from JR's.  With 3 of us the house got setup pretty fast and we were fishing within and hour, by 9:00PM.  We had already ate something at the resort so fish was not in the plan for that night, it was getting late anyway.  The next morning we hit it pretty hard but we were at the end of a pretty good storm front and usually the day after is not very good.  Luckily we got enough walleyes for Tuesday night fish fry at JR's.  About a month ago I ended up in the hospital over night because my flour (wheat) allergy suddenly got worse.  I had gone to Scheel's Outdoors in St. Cloud and found a totally corn based fish coating and JR's cook graciously agreed to use it for our fish.  Absolutely amazing and super delicious, and I was very thankful that he was able to make the adjustments!

Brother Jon
On Wednesday about 11:00 in the morning my brother Jon called on the cell phone to tell me that he is being air lifted from Luther Hospital to Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis.  He has suffered from Wyburn-Mason Syndrome, a congenital condition that causes blood vessel malformations in one's eye, middle part of his head and brain.  Up till now the doctors have been able to extend his life through carefully cutting off the blood supplies to those deformed arteries however that was not without problems because the tissues cut off from the blood die and need to be dealt with.  In the end he lost his right eye, nose, upper mouth palate, and at one point had his whole right cheeks surgically replaced.  Once the blood vessels weaken they can rupture causing severe bleeding, Jon almost bled to death a few times.  The last time the doctors could do anything to stop the bleeding, the informed him that it would be the last time they could do it.  Last week, just as we headed up north, Jon started bleeding again.  This time there was little they could do but to carefully see if they could stop it however the masse of deformed blood vessels had infiltrated his brain and any of the past efforts would have resulted in a severe stroke so they had no choice but to let God decide his fate.  Jon knew he was not coming back home and said goodbye. Steve was with me and both him and I decided 6 years ago to take Jon as our guest to Leech Lake Opener, even though Jon wasn't much of a fisherman, he really enjoyed getting away with the guys and as well, they accepted him as part of the gang.  This was good because of all the surgeries he had, he looked pretty rough and was always self conscience of it.  Most of the time he didn't feel well enough to fish but that was OK, he loved being at the resort and being part of something.  In that phone called he took the time to Thank both Interesting that people look at this picture and state that.....yep, you guys look alike.  I'm pretty proud of him as he fought a courageous battle, he passed away on Saturday night about 6:30.  I was nice that Steve was still in Eleva and had the chance to bring our mother up one last time.  I know this was hard on him but I also know that saying goodbye was important to her.  His funeral is next weekend and I will be celebrating his life with the family in Eleva however I should have a few fish stories and pictures to tell about a better time next week.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Too Cold to Fish

Mark Threw back this walleye
Okay, I said it!  We have been patiently waiting for the ice to freeze thick enough to pull our wheel houses out on Red Lake and it sure isn't like 2 years ago when we had enough ice to drive on the lake the Friday after Thanksgiving.  With the below zero weather last week, it definitely made ice, enough for me to consider pulling up my house last Friday however a pending snow storm put a dent in that plan.  Plan B was to Ride up with Mark on Saturday as he already has his house up at JR's Corner Access, stay the night then hitch a ride home with Russ on Sunday morning to be back in time for a business meeting I had scheduled for Sunday night.  Unfortunately the predicted low for last Saturday night on Red was supposed to be close to -26F and both Mark decided to stay home until Sunday and Russ decided to drive home on Saturday instead of dealing with everything in the brutal cold. Therefore my plans for a quick trip to Red were dashed but that's OK.  Mark did head up on Sunday as JR was letting 1/2 ton pickups drive out for the first time this year.  Although fishing wasn't spectacular by any means he did manage to catch some nice fish before he headed home on Wednesday.  According to his text messages he was able to get 9 on tuesday, enough to keep one interested as well, have enough fish to take into JR's and eat supper.  Mark said that there was a good 15 inches of ice, which is enough however after the below zero weather of last week and now we are hitting the lower 30's it's likely that the ice is expanding and starting to heave so JR is probably putting out bridges today.  The weather report for next Sunday doesn't look the greatest with 8 - 12 inches of snow predicted.  I will be going there with my brother Steve on Monday as he has to drive his son to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, I suggested he just keep driving north and we will head to JR's so as of now, that's the plan!

Automatic Satellite Antenna
I have been experiencing difficulty with my DirectTV for the ice house.  My system includes what they call a carryout antenna which is can automatically lock in on the satellite and receive the signal, a receiver from my house, and the appropriate cables.  One of the cables connecting the antenna to the through wall connector was bad so I got another one.  Stupid me bought the same one again. Well these coaxial cable connectors are simply terrible to try and thread on to the matching end in the cold and this week I reached my wits end as my TV kept saying that I had a bad connection.  I finally thought through the issue and bought a new cable with a moulded shroud over the connector that allowed one to easily turn the connector onto the matching connector on the antenna and house feed through.  I also picked up an adaptor that I can screw the cable onto one side and simply insert the other side without any effort.  I tried them last night and Voila, works like a charm!!  this should allow us to pick up the Dallas/Detroit game on Monday night, hopefully Dallas will set the Packers up for a great game the following Sunday.  As stated, this was the second time I had issues with my cables, hopefully it is the last.  Either way I am anxious to get ice fishing, not that Florida was bad, but fresh walleye sounds pretty good.  I have a surprise for my brother, I am bringing a couple of grouper fillets to saute' in the house, he will enjoy that hopefully enough to want to schedule a trip back down and fish.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Naples, A Warm and Distant Memory

Matt's Huge Kingfish
Well, the cold weather finally arrived with the temperature dropping to -10F this morning.  That's 96 degrees colder than when I left Florida a week and a half ago.  A definite change, at least we are making significant ice for ice fishing.  My friends have been to Red Lake already however they really haven't done very well on the walleyes, I suspect after Christmas things will improve.  My friend Mark Applen was there last week and although he walked out, he said the water was pretty dingy, a result from the winds stirring up the water just before the lake froze over.  So last weeks post was part 1 and this week gives me an opportunity to show off the nice Kingfish that my friend Matt Davis landed.  While we were on the boat out fishing the first mate, Bob saw this big Kingfish swim by in the water.  I don't know, nobody else saw it and I suspect because we were all concentrating on fishing.  He grabbed on of the spinning outfit, grabbed a large greenback out of the baitwell and casted it in the general direction of where he seen the fish.  On his 3rd try the fish hit his bait and the fight was on.  As you see in the picture this fish is designed to be a fast swimmer and on the first run it almost spooled the line on the reel.  He was able to make up some ground then gave the rod to Matt for some fun.  A Kingfish is short for a King Mackerel, and normally they are usually caught near shore and are a lot smaller than this one.  I knew exactly what Matt was going through as I had just landed the 200# goliath grouper 15 minutes earlier and the battle was on!  It was pretty amazing to watch this fish take off on some pretty massive runs and Matt could do little but hang on.  While my battle was more of a bull fight, Matt had his hands full.  After about 20 minutes the first mate got a gaff in its side and we pulled it aboard. This was a huge kingfish, the largest ever caught in the boat at almost 56 inches and pushing 40 pounds.  They are OK to eat so we kept him however it would not fit in the cooler without cutting it's tail off.  That was 2 giant fish in one trip, that was pretty special as wewe considered these bigger fish simply a bonus to a pretty good charter.  I wish that I would have thought to take a video of his catch but too late for that!

One of the interesting thing was when we entered the inland channel to back to the docks a pelican landed on the stern of the boat, looking for a cheap and easy meal.  Apparently the first mate might have known this guy because he immediately opened the cooler to get some frozen bait fish to feed him.  He stayed for some time before he had enough free food and flew away.  These pelicans are all over the place and are very opportunistic.  There must have been 20 or so by the cleaning table on the dock waiting to scoop up the fish guts and whatever else was left over from the fillet table.  We even had 2 of them land on the dock and walk right up to us and tap our legs with their long beak. Obviously they didn't seem to mind  hanging with us as long as there was a free lunch involved.  We
Glen Collins, myself, Bill Hardt, and Matt Davis with our larger fish.
finally got all of our fish cleaned which included Gag Grouper, Red Grouper, Mangrove Snapper, Lane Snapper, and a big Kingfish.  I suspect we had at least 25 pounds of fillets so we dropped off about 15 of it to the restaurant by the docks to be cooked for our dinner that night.  I can tell you that fresh grouper is pretty good blackened and broiled.  We had some of the kingfish broiled and the smaller fillets of the Lane and Mangrove snapper we had them deep fry it.  All of the fish was delicious however I liked the grouper the best.  Luckily I had about 6 pounds of fillets to bring home, which I did quite successfully and will be enjoying my catch for a while anyway.  My friend Bill Hardt has a place north of Naples that we visited prior to flying home and at the club where he lives we had a fish called a tripletail.  We ordered the tripletail sandwich without the bun and they gave us a whole fillet broiled, it was excellent.  I would like to try and get a few of them next time, it was interesting as when the boat came in the first mate saw a few of his friends in a small skiff, and they held up 4 nice tripletails, I guess that was the first time I had ever heard of them.  Maybe when we head to Tampa in March for our annual APEC conference I can talk these guys into going back for another trip on the Sea Legs as we have done this before on past APEC conferences, both in Ft. Worth, Texas and a few years back, Charlotte, NC.  We'll see!

The latest reports have the ice at about 9 - 11 inches on Red Lake and I know they are pulling houses out with ATV's however my house is probably too heave for that.  The plan might be to go up with my friend Mark on Saturday however the high for Red Lake is only supposed to be -6F and the low that night is -23F, dang cold if you ask me.  I might go just to ride with Mark and come home on Sunday with Russ.  I really wanted to pull my house up there on Friday however we are forecasted to get up to 10 inches of snow at home before going into a deep freeze, so I may have to wait until after Christmas to get up there.  You know what they say, all good things come to those who wait!  At least after Christmas one should be able to pull out the house with the truck.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Fishing in Naples, David and Goliath! Part 1

Beautiful Red Grouper
Well our long awaited trip to Naples, Florida has come and gone, however the memories are here to stay!  Naples was the site of our annual Fall TTA meeting and it was held at the Grand Naples Beach Resort.  It was very nice but quite honestly about a half mile or so from the beach.  There was a beautiful elevated walkway through the mangroves but the days were filled with conferences and there was little time to enjoy the amenities.  As previously stated, a number of my transformer colleagues also love to fish and on a number of past trips we have arranged to arrive a few days early or stay a few days later and take advantage of our location and get a day of fishing in and this trip was no exception.  My friend Glen Collin's cousin Tim has a place in Naples as it became our headquarters for the offshore grouper fishing trip we had booked for Saturday, December 3rd.  Now Glen has fished grouper before however there was a bunch of use, including me, that had never fished grouper.  We had 2 boats chartered however the wind was up and the offshore seas were forecasted to be 4 - 5 feet, which in freshwater terms would be 8 - 10 foot swells total height from top to bottom. The captain we booked was ready to go out even though it would be rough however the other boat said no way was he going out.  Well, I've been to Alaska and know how the conditions would be so I quickly took my place on the offshore boat along with 3 others, Glen Collins, Matt Davis, and Bill Hardt.  The boat was called Sea Legs and reminded me of some of the boats I had been in before. First thing we needed to do was to catch some bait, in Minnesota they looked like shiner minnows however they were called Greenbacks.  The captain had a special place about 3 miles off shore where these bait fish congregate so he slowed the boat down and got into position while our first mate threw a cast net into the water.  I'm not sure what was there to hold fish as it was in the middle of nowhere but bait fish we got.  Back in 2009 when Lyle and I fished Key West, the guide did the same thing in shallow water however this time it only took one cast to have all the bait we needed.  These greenbacks ranged from 3" to 5 inches and I helped him get the bait into the baitwells located in the back floor of the boat.  The next stop was a 45 minute ride to the first spot.  These guides have special reefs or sunken ships they fish and more often than not, made made structures that have been place there to attract fish, and especially grouper.  Grouper are fish that tend to stick close to home so it becomes easy to fish out these structures so there is a strategy of not hanging too long on one structure as it may take months for them to repopulate with catchable fish.  Our quarry for the day was Gag Grouper, Red Grouper, and a number of snapper species that inhabit the same structures such as Mangrove Snapper and Lane Snapper.  Gag Grouper had a minimum size limit of 24 inches while Red Grouper was 20 inches.  The snappers were open to pretty much any size and actually kept some as bait for bigger fish.  Our equipment was medium heavy spinning rods with braid and a fluorocarbon leader with about a #1 or #1/0 circle hook with an egg sinker.  the spinner rigs had a light siner, maybe 1/2 ounce but I thought for fishing 30 -  45 feet of water, that wasn't enough.  They gave me a medium level wind with about a 1 ounce sinker, perfect as I'd rather feel the bottom and know where I was.  If I could have rigged my own bait I'd put the sinker above a swivel with about a 2 foot leader so the bait could move, as the rigs we were using had the sinker up against the hook, oh well!  The fish I am holding is a very nice Red grouper, very pretty.  All the targeted fish are delicious to eat.


The seas were pretty rough but not as bad as I had experienced in Alaska.  It was pretty warm out as the daytime temperatures were in the mid 80's so it was pretty comfortable that way.   We started out a a couple of spots before ending up anchored next to a sunken ship in 40 feet of water.  It was interesting, the Captain stated that the water depth changed about 2 feet per mile so we were out almost 20 miles from the shore. We already had a number of  fish in the box including a couple of legal gag and red groupers along with a few mangrove snappers and we had caught some lane snappers.  They were small but very colorful.  Because I was using the heavier level wind with a bigger sinker, the first mate rigged me up with a large frozen greenback with the tail cut off for extra scent.  Well, something hit the bait and with circle hooks you simply lift gently as the hooks will catch the side of the lip as it is being pulled and generally will hook the fish in the corner of the mouth.  Well, something really took my bait so I waited 10 seconds or so and while still feeling the fish I swept the rod and the tip basically stayed where it originally was.  Damn, I think I hooked bottom!  Well the line started moving away so it was a mad scramble to get it off the bottom so I wouldn't get caught up in a snag as we had previously experienced.  This fish though hardly moved so maybe I was already snagged up.  Well it moved to the other side of the boat and the battle was on.  The Captain right away suspected it was a Goliath Grouper, a very large fish that live along with the regular groupers.  He told me that it would be almost impossible to get that fish with the lighter tackle we were using however I had pretty good control of what I was doing.   My friend Matt Davis was smart enough to film my fight so here is the video of the fight and of the fish. Goliath grouper are a protected species and although not illegal to catch one must release them.  This fish was estimated by the captain to be over 200 pounds, not the largest but a substantial fish nevertheless. When I finally got it to the surface the first mate gaffed it through the mouth as to not hurt the fish and we all got to look at it's enormous size, definitely the largest weight fish I have ever caught.  Admittedly it was a tough battle and although I took pictures, the fish was too large to bring on board and stand alone pictures don't do it justice!  Enjoy the video as it is a great recorded memory of the occasion.  I get tired just watching it!

Next week I will finish the story as this was not the only big fish we got.  I will put in a plug for our charter, Tom' Deep Sea Fishing as this guy was great and I would definitely go out with him again.  There is a lot more to tell but certainly this was a fish of a lifetime.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Snow is gone and so am I!!

Carter Hayes and some beautiful ducks they shot
Tomorrow I leave for Naples, Florida to attend our annual TTA (The Transformer Association) meeting, an association for members of companies who make electrical transformers and coils as well as companies who supply that industry.  I was previously on the board of directors and eventually served as its President for 8 years.  It is a great organization and I have met many good people at the meetings, guys that have experienced the same issues I have for the last 40 years (On January 26th I will be celebrating my 41st year with my company).  Over the years this as well as our spring APEC conference has been a good excuse for us guys to go fishing as we have been to Key West, San Diego, Charleston, Cameron Louisiana, and now Naples.  It's not hard to find a few guys interested in going and especially now that there is no ice here in Minnesota, it's a double pleasure.  I will miss the St. Paul Ice Fishing Show on Sunday however what would one rather be doing, walking a show, dreaming about fishing, or fishing.........not a difficult question at all!  Unfortunately my fishing drought continues as it always does this year however my friend Eric sent me a picture of his son holding what he says are some Bull Canvasback ducks along with a drake Mallard.  Those are some really big ducks and Eric is certainly bringing his son Carter up correctly.  I am not sure how many Carter actually shot but either way he has a handful for sure!!  I have to thank Eric for sharing this and giving me at least a picture to open this weeks post with.  Great job boys!!!

Grouper
So the plan is to arrive in Naples on Wednesday afternoon then head to our conference hotel.  We will have a day and a half of business then on Saturday we have 8 guys and 2 boats rented to go out in the gulf and do some grouper fishing.  I have never caught a grouper however I have been told that they are fight like crazy and are excellent table fare.  We have a full 8 hour charter and with a little luck we will have enough to bring home so I am taking a soft sided cooler with me and be ready for anything.  I checked the weather for Naples and it is forecasted to be in the low 80's during the day and mid 60's at night, uffda, that will be hard to take!  It looks like next week it will start getting real cold up north and hopefully we will have enough ice to get out on Red Lake by December 17th.  Mille Lacs has opened up to a very limited harvest, 1 fish between 19" and 21", I guess it's something but I'm not holding my breath.  The lake is full of 14 - 15 inch walleyes, I remember when we used to call the lake the home of the quarter pounder, the more things change the more they stay the same!  Hopefully I will have a better report for next week.