Friday, March 27, 2020

Stuck Inside!

Effective Adapter Plate for my HDS 9 Live 
It is probably no surprise what the current crisis is going on today as of tonight we have a Stay in Place order from our governor.   Oh well, I have plenty to do at home.  The apple trees need pruning, the garden needs cleaning up, and with the current warmer temperatures and rain forecast, it's probably a good time to put away the ice fishing equipment for the year.  There has been a lot of interesting things going on especially as opener is coming upon us fast.  First situation is that my boat has been at the dealer since December 4th as it had some warranty issues taken care of as well some cosmetic stuff that has been bothering me.  One of those issues was the mounting of my depthfinders as I needed a new console to fit my "New to Me" HDS 12 Live that I traded my friend Bill for.  In the process of mounting it into the console I requested that they make sure to drill the through hole on the top in a different place than it was, as is it will interfere with the HDS 9 live bracket mounting.  Well, after bringing it home I was disappointed to find that the thru hole was in the same place as the old one.  Now I can either make a huge fuss or simply solve the problem myself, which I decided to do.  Having an idea and walking next door to my neighbor Todd, a self employed mechanical design engineer, we discussed the issue and maybe having him print an adapter plate to accommodate the misalignment problem.  Instead he stated drawing a 3D print of what I had envisioned, we finalized the requirements and loaded it to an online site that offers machining services. In 2 minutes we had a quote and immediately ordered an aluminum plate that was machined to print, had the holes drilled with one tapped, a quick credit card entry and 2 weeks later it shows up via Federal Express.  After mounting the adapter plate on the console it looks quite nice and functional, everything is solid and it certainly is a better and faster solution than waiting for another console, which is 8 weeks out, and with last years disaster, I am not much in the mood for having the boat out of my shed for most the summer!  Besides this was a bunch of stuff including all new trailer tires to go with my new rims that were replaced under warranty, any of the plastic interior trim that was cracked, was replaced.  Of course last November the front axle on the trailer was replaced.  The boat is like new again and ready for both the Team Walleye 47th Annual Leech Lake opener as well as the Ontario fishing opener at Lac Seul a week later.  That is of course if our current problem seems to be deemed as under control, don't hold your breath!
Smash Shad in Wonder Bread Pattern

A couple of other interesting things, Cabela's (Now Bass Pro Shop) annual Spring Sale is going on and they have some fabulous deals on some crankbaits.  One that looked interesting is their fabulous deal on a Storm product called a Smash Shad.  These crankbaits are in the same category as Berkley's Flickr Shad, or a number of shad type baits primarily used for walleyes.  Trolling at sunset on Leech is a favorite technique of mine and we have been having a lot of success with funky colors so this Wonder Bread pattern has got to be good as the light color should be a real winner this opener.  Also at $1.49 each it's a little easier handing out these for my friends to use instead of my $7 Shad Raps and they should be just as effective.  Picking up about 20 or so in 7 different color patterns  and 2 different sizes, #5 and #7, it was a pretty good deal.  My brother Steve loaded me up with some Northland long shanked jigs last Christmas when the Gander Mountain Store closed by him so I am returning the favor.  My friend Kevin Aiona laughed at me because he said they don't run true out of the box, that might be but they are easy to tune.  I also picked up some square bill bass crankbaits for the smallmouth fishing on the river as the action of these baits are quite effective as well.  The other thing that is going is I have purchased  my
Whiskey Aging Barrel Filled With TX
own personal whiskey aging oak barrel from Amazon.  Basically you can buy a small oak barrel that has been charred on the inside, the same as the big distillers use to age whiskey in.  In large barrels it takes a lot of time to age whiskey because of the barrel surface area vs the liquid volume.  In these smaller barrels that ratio of wood to liquid is much more favorable to age whiskey significantly more quickly.  At a neighbors a few weeks ago he gave me a sample of some Crown Royal that had been in his small barrel 6 months and it was quite good.  When you buy these on  Amazon the option is to be able to personalize them to your own custom details as you can see here.  This one is filled with TX from Texas sent to me by my friend Matt Davis.  The barrel needs to be soaked in water to make sure the wood expands and seals which took about a week.  You can see where the water initially leaked out with the black color of the charring leaching out.  Once sealed it was filled with whiskey and I am figuring out it will be ready for our September trip to Lac Seul.  Also it can be used a couple of times and I have some nice scotch that could benefit from a couple months in the barrel.  There will definitely be an update when the barrel is tapped! Hopefully my patience will pay off.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Last Trip With the Wheel House

Kevin's size of choice!
Not much has been going on these last few weeks other than trying to find a roll of toilet paper in any store, my Lord this country has absolutely gone crazy, least I say more but I won't.  So in an effort to escape this madness on Friday my friends Kevin Aiona, Paul Wenaas, and I hooked up the Salem for what will probably it's last trip for the 2019/2020 ice fishing season.  Kevin's son Ben had left his ice house up at Springsteel Island Resort, where we fished this year on the week of January 9th and his plan was to go on up and fish the weekend, bringing his house home.  Arriving at 8:00 as planned we headed north to meet Ben at the resort, a 6 hour drive from home.  Both Paul and Kevin are retired so we were in no hurry to get home and the plan was to stay until Monday.  Arriving at the resort around 2:30 we ordered something to eat in the bar while we waited for Ben.  As the resort had stated you could go about anywhere around the resort and for the most part that was correct, if you stayed on the roads.  The snow was pretty hard off the roads but it was easy to spin down to the ice and you were stuck.  Our first stop was just east and right off what they called the DNR reef which came up to 16 feet however the surrounding area was about 22 feet.  Drilling the holes, I was reminded of my forgetfulness these days as I forgot to bring my cordless drill to run my Slushcopter, a wonderful device to push the slush down the holes once drilled as well as my slush scooper to finish what's left of what little ice there is.  Ben came to the rescue and let me use one of his.  We finally got settled in and started catching fish right away.  Admittedly many of them were quite small as though we were fishing sunfish.  I can't tell you how many walleyes we caught under 8 inches but I would say for every "keeper" fish we caught, we released at least 10 dinky ones.  It was surprising how aggressive these little fish could be.  They would rush up from the bottom and smack your lure, often dressed with a minnow head on the hook for some scent.  Sometimes they would come up almost 5 feet before hitting the lure, which is a lot of fun seeing it and having the anticipation of the fish slamming
Largest Walleye of the Trip, 21"
it, only to feel in the first second that it's another small fish.  We did catch a number of keepers, enough to take into the resort for a walleye dinner on Saturday night.  Ben was a little frustrated with the smaller fish that we caught by DNR reef so he decided on Saturday morning to move to deeper water.  He has chains on the truck so it was easier to go off road.  He was having some luck in deeper water out a few miles more so on Sunday morning we decided to move out as well.   As we lifted the house one of my pivoting axle's stuck and the axle spring shackle that secures the wheel to be able to drive was not moving.  Calling Ben, who had a propane torch, he drove over and as I suspect the grease around the axle was either too stiff to move or there might have been water in it because a minute of heating and the wheel started to slowly move down to allow us to secure it and move.  It was a good reminder of the next thing for the tool box.  Finally free we were able to get back on the road and head east a couple of miles.  Finding an old road we decided to back in so we had a clear path when we decided to leave, it was nice and flat so we set up.  It takes about an hour to properly set up the house, even with 3 guys but we were fishing by 9:30 in 25 feet of water.  No much deeper but different.

Paul with a nice 38 inch northern pike
We encounter about the same fishing as the last place.  I think right off the reef was a good morning/evening spot but the deeper water offered what might be a better day bite.  I thought we did better at the second place we setup, including the 21 inch walleye you see above.  The northern pike bite was better as both Paul and I caught 2 nicer northern's with Paul's being a respectable fish.  The fish did not come without inflicting a little revenge on all of us as before we got him up to the hole it had managed to swim around everyone of our lines and tangle them up beyond repair.  I guess we should have known better, when someone gets a nice fish, pull up the lines.  Oh well, the excitement overrides common sense and we spent the next 30 minutes cutting out lures, lines, retying our lines and lures.  To add insult to injury, we released the fish in Kevin's hole and it got stuck in his line, causing another problem of tangling up everything even more. It definitely was a mess but it did a couple of things for the good.  It made us retie fresh line on our rattle reels,
Tangled Mess!!
pull off the well used line on our existing poles and it was a great excuse to change lures.  In addition it provided some good entertainment as well as stories for the future.  I suppose we ended up with 7 keeper walleyes and a sauger, 1 nice perch, and a ton of smaller fish that we let go.  The DirecTV in the house made it nice and time sure flies when you are having fun.  We did watch the movie, Stand By Me, the 4 boys who head up the railroad tracks to find a dead body, it reminds me of growing up back home in Eleva.  We used to walk the tracks all the time and the trestle scene was right out of our memories crossing the trestle across the Buffalo River, especially when the train came roaring down the tracks.  That was over 55 years ago but it seems like it was just yesterday, time flies way to fast.  Well it was fun to spend the weekend with my 2 friends from back home, we had a blast and it was good to compare notes as to what each of us remembered what it used to be.  The last line in the movie Stand By Me says it all: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”   I guess I am am very blessed that those friends are still in my life!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

2019 in Review

Cold day on the lake
Last Sunday the 2019 walleye fishing season is officially closed in Minnesota except for the border waters of the Mississippi River as well as Lake of the Woods.  A this time the Mississippi River stays open season all year however the Rainy River and Lake of the Woods will close in early April.  Minnesota's 2020 fishing opener is Saturday, May 9th and Ontario's walleye opener is the following Saturday, May 16th which starts the whole process again. 2019 certainly wasn't may most productive walleye season but who's complaining.  These days I seem to spend more time fishing Ontario than Minnesota as last summer included 3 days on opener fishing Leech Lake and 1 day fishing on Mille Lacs Lake.  It certainly didn't help that my boat was in the shop for over 9 weeks getting repaired from hitting the reef on Lac Seul, sounds like a good excuse huh!  It was also a pathetic year for ice fishing walleyes as there were 3 days at Red Lake, 3 days on Lake of the Woods and 1 day on Mille Lacs. Meanwhile I fished 10 days on Lac Seul this year, not a record however it can be looked at as fishing 1 day a week for 10 weeks on Mille Lacs, sounds reasonable doesn't it!  I did fish 4 days of largemouth bass in the Alexandria area as well about 4 trips on the Mississippi River behind the house in my jon boat, when you add it all up it comes to about a fishing trip every 12 days or so.  I guess that makes it sound better and I am not getting any younger.  Of course a day fishing in Naples l at the dealer getting a number of little things taken care of and hopefully it will be ready this week as it's been there since the first of December and I'm getting a little anxious about storage, the batteries, and other stuff.  I did go help my  friend Bill Lundeen this Monday as he had a large corporate group out ice fishing and we scouted some areas.  A large heave developed a few miles out from the landing and prevented us from getting to some of the better areas but according to Bill it went alright.  The first picture is one of my favorites from 2019.  We were on Red Lake last January 27th and a rattle reel went off early in the morning.  Getting up and catching the fish I wondered what time it was as it was still pretty dark.  The clock said 4:20 AM but it seemed cold and no wonder, it was -28.5 outside the ice house.  Certainly this winter has had it's days below zero but nothing like last winter.  I leave it at that!

Record crowd at the Perch Extravaganza
Last Saturday was the annual Johnson Portside Perch Extravaganza.  Usually a few of us get together and pull our wheel houses up to Mille Lacs, park them together and spend the weekend.  The Perch Extravaganza at Hunter's Point Resort is based on a perch fishing contest with the largest perch getting $500 however there are so few perch in the lake anymore, it has really morphed into a huge button drawing, you buy a button with a number and if they draw it you could win quite a number of good prizes including new ATV's, Generators's, coolers stuffed with fishing gear, and this year they had 3 new wheel houses.  The weather was fabulous and because of the cancellation of a few event's around the area, there were thousands of people attending.  Rumor has it they sold over 16,000 tickets so one's chances of winning were slim this year.  Never the less the anticipation is fun and as they say, you'll never win if you don't enter!  Also our group was worried about the ice conditions on Mille Lacs as the early snow and slush put a damper on things as the first year I attended we were flooded. Mark Applen has a small place just south of Hunter's and I met him there about 8:30.  We headed to Malmo to have breakfast then gathered our gear and headed out onto the lake.  I was surprised that one could dang near drive where ever you wanted, as well the ice was at least 30  inches thick.  We had never seen so many wheel houses on the lake, we estimated around 8000 houses.  It was a zoo as every piece of structure had a number of houses parked on top, literally there was few places to fish.  We did fish for a couple of hours, attended the drawing and headed back home.

One of the fishing shows I like is In Depth Outdoors as they have a new show every week.  A few weeks ago they were fishing in Pool 2 on the Mississippi River, just south of St. Paul. It is prompting me to get the jon boat ready as I remember fishing that area in the late winter with my friend Pete. It certainly might be worth a try. 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Big Walleyes But Not Mine!

Jared's 28 inch LOTW Walleye!
Last week we celebrated the fact that time does not stop, the problem is trying to make sure one is not left behind.  This year seems that there has been a little bit of this, especially for ice fishing.  Maybe it's just getting too difficult to trudge through the snow and slush, I don't know, it seems like I have a ton of excuses!  One problem is trying to figure out who to go with as I get older, it's always nice to have another person with to help in case one has any issues.  In the meantime it is fortunate that my friends share their fishing experiences and this week was no exception. The first picture is of my best friend, Kevin Aiona's grandson Jared.  His dad, Ben left his ice house at Springsteel Island Resort from our January 9th trip.  He has been back there 2 times since, once on Superbowl and last weekend.  Admittedly fishing has been slow on Lake of the Woods. They have been fortunate not to have the deep snow as well the ice thickness is approaching 30 inches.  Arriving last weekend, Friday was slow however on Saturday a big mark appeared above Jared's jig on his Vexilar.  Ben told him to lift it up and the fish, almost on script the walleye followed it up and smacked his lure.  Getting it up the fish was about 28 inches, a very nice walleye.  Of course Jarred struck a nice pose, I am glad he will be around when I get really old!  They really didn't get many fish this trip however Ben did head out to 16 Mile Reef, an area we fished years ago with Toby out of Arneson's resort.  Ben was able to get out there via his Polaris Ranger that has tracks instead of wheels.  I suppose he could have dragged his house out there, a good 10 miles, yet Kevin was with and they decided to stay closer to the known roads.  the story is that in another month the fish will move closer to the reefs and fishing will improve.  With Red Lake being a slush fest, Lake of the Woods has taken a lot of the pressure this year and maybe that pressure has had an effect on the slow fishing but it's hard to say.  There is talk about planning a trip after the first of March.  My friend Adam Mayerich is up with a bunch of guys fishing the Southwest side and am looking forward to talking to him when he gets back.

Kevin's nice Winnipeg Green Back Walleye
Another very interesting walleye picture is on from a fellow Team Walleyer, Kevin Jayson.  Kevin has fished a bucket list destination of mine, Lake Winnipeg, home of the giant "Green Back" walleyes.  Here is a giant that Kevin caught so I poached it from his Facebook post as this fish is quite amazing for sure.  Hopefully I will get to discuss with him the technique, location and details of heading to Canada to catch one of these beautiful fish as it certainly is impressive.  It would really be nice if one could haul a wheel house out and stay for a few days on the ice. Hopefully we'll have some interesting information by next week.  In the meantime one can only wish!  The bulk of my time is getting things cleaned up in the pole shed as getting the fishing equipment organized and waiting for my boat to finally get finished.  Also the weather continues on a roller coaster script.  In the 40's a couple of days, 4 inches of snow the next couple of days, -15 the next couple of days.  Thank the Lord we are not like Alaska where my friends report record cold (after a record hot summer) with temperatures dropping to -59... Uffda!!

FG Knot
So one of the things I am guilty of is once I get an idea in my head about a new technique for fishing, the tendency is to jump in with both feet.  I have never been much of a braided line user for jig fishing other than for ice fishing.  One of the advantages of braid while jigging is it doesn't exhibit the line twist like monofilament lines do. The negatives are it takes more finesse when setting the hook as braid has virtually no stretch and one can pull the jig right out of the fishes mouth very fast.  Also the braid is very visible and it can be difficult to tie new jigs to braid.  The standard way to overcome this is to tie a fluorocarbon leader to the braid.  This can be done with a simple swivel to make the braid/fluorocarbon connection or a more acceptable way is to tie the braid and fluorocarbon together as there are a couple of knots like the Alberto knot, or double Uni Knot however it is well acknowledged that the FG knot is the strongest knot as well as the smallest diameter knot to tie however after looking at the YouTube video's, it also looks like it's also the most difficult.  I am very focused on learning this knot and maybe heading down this path will make jigging for walleyes on Lac Seul a lot easier with less line twist.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Life's Milestones

My new 3 Insurance Cards!
Well this week I had the pleasure of celebrating my 65th birthday.  I remember when my grandpa Roy turned 65 then my dad, now me!  Certainly did not bring it in with a lot of fanfare as the last month, in between a couple of fishing trips, was filled with what seemed to be an endless task of applying for Medicare, cancelling my regular health insurance, signing up for Plan B so I can get an aftermarket Medicare Advantage policy as well as Part D, Drug coverage.  Now instead of 1 medical insurance card, I have 3 of for Medicare Part's A and B, one for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Advantage policy, and one for BCBS's Part D drug plan.  Just more stuff to lose!  Admittedly I was surprised that my current total Medicare cost is quite a bit higher than my standard Medical insurance but that's another story.  It's quite a feat just to make sure everything is paid for so there is no lapse in coverage.  Also the US Government is not very forgiving on the sign up dates.  I did it on line and although it was easy, I got a call to verify my information.  A little research shows that according to the records their are 6,500,000 social security numbers being used who's age is 112 or older.  Well documented organizations state that there are only 42 people in the world older than 112 so there is definitely some fraud happening here and it's certainly costing all of us our rightful monies that both ourselves and our employers have paid in over our lifetimes.  You wonder why they say Social Security is going broke!...Ok, enough of the soapbox however it is a good reminder that if you have yet to turn 65 do your research as it will pay off, or call me, I got a lot of experience!  Either way the worst thing is the need to switch pharmacy's as my current one does not have a contract with BCBS...ugh!!  Oh well, I have all this time right!  I'd rather be fishing.

Keeping it looking good!
Speaking of Fishing I got a call from Lake Area Canvas, the canvas place that originally made my Bimini top for my boat.  Back around December 3rd I dropped it off as it seemed like the zipper areas were coming undone and wanted them fixed.  It was ready so seeing it's on the way to my dealer Frankie's I decided to stop by, pay the bill a huge $21, and pick it up. Loading into the truck the next step was to head to Frankie's and drop it off but also to check the status of my boat.  Well, everything is done except to replace the bait well aerator switch control, and that should be done by early next week.  When I do get the boat back it will have a new front axle, all new 17 inch black chrome mag rims, all new tires, a new Minnkota 460 battery charger, all broken plastic trim pieces in the interior replaced, some outside cosmetic work done on some dock rash as well as cleaning up some previous repairs, a new console installed because the HDS 12 live would not fit into my existing console, The bait well switch fixed, she should be just like new.  Having paid for our annual 47th annual Leech Lake Opener, I am anxious to get things ready and going.  I am also anxious to try a few new techniques this year for walleyes, especially using the rattle type baits and swim baits like we did last October on Long Lake in Wisconsin.  It's sometimes difficult to give up something that is an almost guaranteed however catching walleyes with a new technique can be very fun and rewarding for sure and my goal is to give it an honest effort. these include Rapala's Rippin Rap ,  Jigging Rap, and Slab Rap, Salmo's Chubby Darter, and Lindy Glow Streak along with a few others.  We are only about 2 months away from open water and because of the early snows the ice thickness is minimal so Ice out could be early!

Friday, January 31, 2020

Mid Week Adventure

My First Mille Lacs Walleye, about 16 Inches
Being retired no longer requires that all fishing trips are either on days off or weekends.  With Red Lake being such a mess this year and the Salem has been parked by the pole shed, my friend Jack Taylor suggested we try Mille Lacs on a mid week, a lot less pressure on the lake might make for a good outing.  On Wednesday we headed up to Mille Lacs with my wheel house with the intent on staying the night and coming home on Thursday.  Another friend Pete Mlinar met us at Rocky Reef Resort where we decided it was a place to get on the ice.  Ice conditions on Mille Lacs this year have been sketchy, especially with the amount of snow that has fallen.  Last weekend the ice conditions changed for the good and there were many resorts getting out to some of the more popular fishing spots.  Mille Lacs Lake is full of walleyes however the current situation hasn't improved much therefore the limit is 1 walleye and it must be between 21 and 23 inches, what remains of the great 2013 year class.  There are plenty of fish in Mille Lacs but let's not get into that!  Anyway our first stop was at the resort to get a road pass for the 24 hours we were going to be out on the ice.  We had a chance to discuss the "good" spots with their road guy, Dewey.  After talking to him a while it dawned on me that he looked awfully familiar.  "Didn't you used to run a road out of Vineland a few years back?"  Yes was the response as I reminded him of the time a number of years back when I went on his road but the heave messed up his bridge and while he was trying to fix it the ice was moving too much so Dewey, his helper, and myself stood around drinking his home made Apple Pie.  Uffda and after 1 too many I decided to stay on the safe side of the heave and fish the sunset.  He remembered that day and it was enough to secure some good information like where his shack was, what the fishing has been, and how to get there.  Once on the ice we headed straight east
Jacks second walleye
for Spirit Island and came across the first road to the left (North) which looked like it went to Indian Point, our destination.  About a mile up it dead ended by Rocky Reef so back down to the main road then we found the right road headed north and got to our spot without much fanfare.  Locating Dewey's house we set up about 50 yards from him in 27 feet of water, and area of scattered rocks on
the bottom.  In about an hour we were set up and fishing.  I was surprised how well the ice was and it was about 22 inches thick.  Mille Lacs is very clear and when we started to mark fish I put my camera down and at 10 feet I could see the bottom already.  It was definitely scattered rock and everyone was covered with zebra mussels.  The fish we were marking were small perch, a good sign as where there are small perch there are walleyes!  It wasn't until the late afternoon before we hooked a walleye, Jack had a nice fish, got it up and it went about 20 inches, just an inch shy of the minimum length.  I gave it to Jack so I could get a picture but he let it slip out of his hands and back in the hole it went.  The picture on the right is his next walleye, about 13 inches.  It was funny as he was reminded which fish was going to be put on the blog!  I hooked a nice 16 incher on my flutter spoon and got that picture.  In the end we had 6 fish, the one 20 incher, a couple of 16's and another couple 12 - 13's with a small walleye under 10.  We certainly didn't light them on fire but it was a good shot trip, enough to get away for the night and enjoy my friends.  Actually it was a perfect spot, no heaves in the ice, the road had to be 80 feet wide, the ice was solid and one never knows what will swim by these days as a couple of friends were out there last weekend and caught a few over 27.  I'd take that any day as I have plenty of walleyes in the freezer.  I am sure that there is alot of good fishing left on Mille Lacs and I am not sure if this is good news or not but even though we have about 22 inches of Ice it should be almost 3 feet by now.  Maybe ice out will be early this year, I guess time will tell.

Last spring my friend from work, Mike Scheunke  bought a wheel house and we were talking about various things to have and I showed him my generator box I had bought at Red Lake.  The box really helps to keep what little noise there is down, and in sub zero weather prevents the carburetor freeze ups and come in very handy.  He asked if he could use the box as a pattern, I said of course but you need to buy enough materials for 2 as mine is made with chipboard and it's both heavy and not very good to hold the screws for the hinges, in fact I have replaced mine this year already.  Anyway he called on Tuesday stating my box is done and he'd like to drop it off.  It is a work of art, made with strong plywood, full hinges, self closing hinges, and painted up in the perfect colors, it is absolutely perfect!  I asked what I owed and instead of money he wanted some lures and maybe a good walleye rod.  Taking one of my better rod/reel combo's off my rack, I found a tackle box then I gave him some of my best lures, seemed like I got the better of the deal however.  It is definitely a work of art and certainly one can see the care he put into making this!  Thanks Mike.  Went to the boat show last week and didn't get a single answer to a few questions I have with my Minnkota Charger, Lowrance/Evinrude NEMA 2000 communications however the big Sportshow is coming in the first of April and I will definitely have time to get some real discussions going as I should be working Frankie's booth the entire show.  What does the future look like, well maybe another trip to Mille Lacs, maybe back to Lake of the Woods in March, chasing some crappies with Bill Lundeen.  Winter is far from over!

BTW tomorrow I officially join the old man group as on February 1st I begin Medicare.........damn where did the time go?

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Summer Sausage Time

Although deer hunting was not as productive as I would have liked, a couple of events gave me the needed venison that I was looking for to get a couple of homemade sausages made.  First was my neighbor Jake.  Jake found a freshly killed doe on the road in front of our neighborhood so he called the police, gutted it out and quartered it up.  Volunteering to help him we did the 2 front quarters and my reward was some trimmings.  Second, my friend Kevin and his son Ben did pretty well this year and had some leftover trimmings, about 25 pounds worth and gave them to me.  The first project was to try and make some venison summer sausage.  After ordering the seasonings from Psseasoning, a good source for sausage seasonings in Iron Ridge, Wisconsin the intent was to make 25 pounds of Summer Sausage using 1/2 venison and 1/2 70% lean pork trimmings.  One of my big complaints about Minnesota made summer sausage is it's pretty plain.  Locals like it but if you ever had Pat's Summer Sausage from Arcadia, Wisconsin you would know what I am referring to!  Most Wisconsin based summer sausage has a distinct tang to it cause by using bacterial starter cultures to change natural and added sugars in the meat to lactic acid which adds that tang to the flavor.  Because the curing takes a few days in a moist and warm environment, there is a product called Fermento, a dried whey/protein mix (essentially dried buttermilk) that can be mixed with your sausage meat prior to stuffing and smoking and it gives the same effect without having to cure the meat first.  So last Saturday my neighbor Lory and I tried our luck at our first batch of summer sausage.  I got 13 pounds of  70/30 (70% lean/30% fat) pork trimmings at the meat market in Rogers, MN.  Using a premixed Psseasoning's Blue Ribbon Summer Sausage seasoning, 12 pounds of venison trimmings and some sausage casings from Cabela's Lory had ground the meat before I arrived and we were ready to go.  Because I like mustard seed and garlic in the sausage, we split up the meat into 12.5 pound batches as I have a meet mixer that does a great job of mixing the pork, venison, seasonings, the fermento,
together.  The seasoning mix comes with maple cure which give the sausage the right amount of salt and sodium nitrite to assure the right flavor and food safety while smoking.  Although I have an old fashioned sausage stuffer, Lory had his grinder/stuffer set up in place so we decided to use that.  Mixing all the ingredients together we ended up with a nice tube of meat ready to be stuffed in the casings.  It took longer than we expected because the grinder/stuffer set up wasn't exactly the ideal situation as the meat being re pushed into the auger, then another auger to push the meat down the stuffing tube, it tended to mush up the meat somewhat.  Never the less we were able to get all 20 smaller casings stuffed and thanks to out neighbor Tim, it was easy to seal the ends with his hog ring pliers.   Because it was easier to track the progress of the smoke from his family room overlooking the patio, we brought my electric Cookshack insulated smoker over and set it up where we could easily see it.  As well, I had ordered a Bluetooth Smokehouse temperature probe that has 2 separate sensors, we could monitor the progress right on our cell phones.  The first part was to preheat the smoker to 100 degrees F then put the meat in the smoker for about an hour.  What this does is slowly heat up the meat so the outside stays moist and doesn't have a tendency to dry out.  The next 3 hours, we turned the temperature up to about 175 degrees and put some apple wood in the wood drawer and induced a heavy smoke for about 3 hours.  After the smoke had done it's job it was simply a waiting game until the meat got to 146 degrees F, about 4 total hours in the smoke house.  Once the correct temperature was obtained we removed the meat from the smoker and put them in the sink with ice water, for about 2 minutes.  The first sample tasted fabulous but the casings stuck to the meat and it needed to sit for a while to dry out somewhat.  As stated before the texture of the finished product was not very coarse and was quite fine, as stated a product of the stuffing method.  Both Lory and I agreed that we need to use the old fashioned stuffer the next time.  The flavor was pretty good however, just the right amount of smoke and the fermento did it's job.  As well some time in the refrigerator has helped to firm it up somewhat.  We have decided it is good enough to try again as both Lory and I have plenty of venison scraps.  We've ordered more seasoning, fermento, casings, and did get some high temperature cheese to see how that works.  Our goal is to make another batch sometime in late February depending on how long our current supply lasts.

Jared and Ben with a nice walleye on Lake of the Woods
The weather forecast for last weekend was snow on Friday and Saturday.  Although we did not get the predicted 8 - 12 inches, it still made for a wintery weekend, a good one for making Summer Sausage.  On the other hand my good friend Ben went with his wife and son Jared back to Springsteel Island Resort to fish the weekend.  We stayed in touch as he arrived on Thursday night as they planned on staying in the heated ice house for the weekend.  Our new friend Dave was going up as well.  Ben kept me updated throughout the weekend as they said Thursday was slow, Friday picked up quite a bit, proof is in this picture, while Saturday was slow again.  They were supposed to get a good dumping of snow up north but it sort of fizzled out before they had to leave.  Ben left his skid house up there which presents a great opportunity for me to drag my wheel house up there for a weekend of fishing on the ice.  Normally Mark Applen, Russ Praught and a few others would be on Red Lake this weekend however the significant amount of snow has really dampened the opportunities on Red as they are only getting out 2 - 3 miles.  As well they have a layer of slush under the snow and on top of the ice that makes getting out and back in a problem.  Red closes at the end of February but Lake of the Woods is open till April 15th, so there might be more opportunities to fish and Springsteel Island is only about an hour further north than JR's is.  I feel sorry for JR's but it's pretty hard to fight Mother Nature.  Anyway the winter is far from over!  The next few weeks may determine what is the next ice fishing strategy as Bill Lundeen and I have made some definite plans to fish closer lakes.


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.