Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Not Much to Report.

Jared with 2 of their walleyes
With the late spring and fishing 2 weekends in May, (trust me, not complaining) the things that need to get done around the house are never ending.  One of the biggest thing has been the garden, and I am not quite sure how important is it other than it's something to fill up that big brown area behind the house.  Dad was a good gardener yet even he cut back somewhat as he got older, something that should probably be taken to heart!  Never the less I got the onions in a couple of weeks ago however just got everything in by Sunday.  What really exciting happened is my good friend Kevin Aiona's son Ben and his grandson Jarred entered the Spirit Lake Walleye Classic tournament this weekend at the Spirit Lake Casino on Devil's Lake, North Dakota.  Ben and Jared are pretty good fishermen and with Ben's new Ranger boat with a fancy new to him Lowrance HDS 12, it is good to see them put all that equipment to good use!  Kevin, Ben, and their families usually go out to Devil's Lake this time of year and fish.  Knowing that the tournament is during the same time they decided to enter.  Tournament fishing is not as easy as it sounds.  You are fishing for money, recognition, and your own self pride.  It is fun but there is a lot of pressure on a number of areas, did you use the right bait, techniques, did we go to the wrong area, where is everyone else catching fish? Mark Applen and I definitely understand as we have fished the MTT walleye tournament on Mille Lacs a couple of times with our first rookie year capturing 3rd place for $1200.  Well Ben and Jared didn't do too bad at all coming in at 5th place with a $2000 prize.  That's pretty exciting, and to hear that they were just 0.04 pounds behind 4th place, Ben exclaimed that in the livewell one of the fish coughed out a 8 inch perch, that perch was probably worth a $1000 and 4th place.  Also he said that they had a nice 27 inch sized fish come off at the boat, uffda!! Oh well, I am sure it was a blast for Jared, something he'll remember for the rest of his life.  For what it's worth, Mark Applen had his Golf Tournament this weekend and his neighbor at the lake once again donated a spot on the Minnesota Tournament Trail for Mille Lacs next year.  Of course we bought it and will be back on the walleye circuit soon!
Jared and a nice Devil's Lake Walleye

Jared is quite the fisherman for his age.  Just like his dad Ben, who is was just a few months old when he was in the boat with his dad, sitting on the floor in a Infant carrier....wait, that was my boat below the dam in Alma!!! Ben sent me this picture from Monday of a nice walleye he just caught.  It's really nice to see a young man like Jared acquiring the skills needed to help guide me when I will be too old and feeble!! On a died note we are getting ready to leave for Lac Seul this Saturday.  Upon the return of my last trip, there was a steel leader and mono-filament line wrapped around the prop shaft, under the prop.  Removing the prop and getting it untangled went smoothly however it would probably a good idea to check the lower unit grease level, even though there appeared to be no leaks.  One checks the level in the engine compartment as the lower unit is vented to a small tank mounted in the compartment and serves as an expansion reservoir for the lower unit.  Basically when running the grease gets hot then expands.  by having a hose come to the compartment, any expansion fills the plastic cylinder and when it cools it get's put back in, similar to today's radiators.  Well, checking it there was absolutely no grease apparent so I am immediately thinking, OH OH, did it all leak out via the seal?  The Evinrude Etec G2 lower unit does not have any traditional lower unit drain/fill screws, rather you simply remove a screen for the water intake and the fill hole is under it.   Interesting as it is not on the bottom of the gear case like most are, rather in the front, therefore you need to tilt it up to drain out the remaining grease.  Luckily there was at least 1.5 quarts of grease that came out, so that was a relief!  I have used Amsoil lower gear lube in the past with excellent results however this time it was replace with Evinrude's own HPF PRO Gear Lube, as the motor is still under warranty, it was worth the few extra dollars to keep it to factory specs.  I have an old pump up sprayer device made specifically for dispensing lower unit grease, just pour into the sprayer, twist the top pump assembly on and pump it up to pressurize the tank.  The hose end has a rubber adapter that fits and seals into the fill hole and you just squeeze the valve as you hold it tight.  I watched it finally hit the reservoir and fill up to the proper level.  It was easy and convenient and we will be looking for any changes when we get back from Lac Seul next week to see if the prop shaft seal was damaged.  there are no leaks now and usually if they will leak, they leak!!  This trip will be an experiment by putting the original 22 pitch prop on the motor to see if it improves my gas mileage.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Lac Seul Opener, part 2.

30 inch Walleye
Admittedly it was hard having to wait a full week before the highlight of our trip to Lac Seul for the 2018 walleye fishing opener was written about but here goes!  On most walleye fisherman's bucket list is to accomplish the holy grail of fishing walleyes, a 30 incher!  Now admittedly if one lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Port Clinton, Ohio, or on the Columbia River in Washington State, this may not be such a revered goal, however for us guys stuck in the bowels of Minnesota, a 30 incher is a fish of a lifetime.  Walleye fishing for over 40 years now in Minnesota, the closest fish that I have ever come was a 28.5 inch walleye caught a in the late 1980's on Mille Lacs.  Two years ago in June, Bruce's father-in-law landed a 30 incher in my boat fishing Tuk Bay, that was a nice fish, but it wasn't on my line.  This year with Pete, RJ, and myself in the boat we were fishing on Monday, May 21st, our last day of fishing for this trip.  The fish were really on the bite and on that last day our total fish count for the day, not including northern pike, was 158 walleyes caught.  The total time fished was 7 hours and if you do the quick math it comes to a walleye caught every 2.65 minutes, all day including running time in the boat!  We were on the point just north of camp and the walleyes were stacked in the 10 - 11 foot range.  We typically use what I call the Canadian method of impaling our minnow on the jig, simply run the hood through the mouth and out the gills then rotate the hook around and stick the point through the top of the minnow, just behind the head.  The fish are so aggressive that if you simply hook the minnow through the lips, you will end up losing many fish and wasting minnows.  With the Canadian method, one can often catch 2 or 3 fish on one minnow before it needs to be replaces.  Well, I had caught a number  of fish on a minnow when it finally was about to separate into two parts, the head still on the hook, then the body.  Simply discarding the head, the remaining body was threaded on my jig, basically just a piece of meat on the hook.  Dropping it beside the boat, it hit the bottom, reeling in the slack and bam, a nice fish hit the jig.  Setting the hook revealed that there was something substantial at the end of the line.  A few head
Right on the 30 Inch Line!
shakes later Pete was summoned, get the net, this one is a dandy!  One often doesn't get a real idea until the fish is visible next to the boat, UFFDA, this was the largest walleye ever to grace the end of my line.  Carefully instructing Pete....Head first, Head first, he slipped the net under the fish and hauled her in.  She was hooked solid, so we removed the hook, took a few pictures and measured her.  Exactly on the 30 inch line with the tail squished together, that was good enough for me and we let her go.  She swam right away and I believe that she was in pretty good shape.  Her estimated weight was around 10 - 11 pounds and of course she was recently spawned out to a month from now she might have been a pound or two heavier, never the less a beautiful fish.  I don't know if I'll get a graphite reproduction of the fish or not but at over $15/inch it will take some thought.

Sunday's beautiful Sunset
So the 2108 Canadian Fishing Opener at Lac Seul Outposts is in the history books and according to Bruce it probably was the best he's ever witnessed in the 30 years they have been coming up to camp.  The fish totals for the Ranger and it's 3 occupants were 145 on Saturday, 101 on Sunday, and 158 on Monday, a total of 404 walleyes caught.  What was impressive was the total number of walleyes over 20 inches, I would say that over half of them we caught were over 20 and half of them were over 22 inches.  That is an impressive total of nice walleyes.  We did extremely well on plastics as the fish were quite aggressive.  The ride in on Friday was absolutely terrible as we got soaked however the next 4 days were beautiful, with an accompanying gorgeous sunset to finish each of the days.  One of the things I like to do is stop in at the bait shop and buy some large minnows.  It really paid off this year as the big fish loved the big minnows.  Unfortunately the bait well in the boat drained out and many of our big minnows had died on Saturday night.  It really didn't seem to matter much as the walleyes hit those as easily as if they were alive, so we cleaned them out nicely.

One of the issues was having to park my boat on the sand beach next to Bruce's boat.  One of the things that was installed on my boat from the factory was a keel guard, meant for just this.  Everything turned out OK as we were able to plug it in each night and as well, RJ was a master of tying knots and did an awesome job of securing everything in place.  It was a pain to get in the boat with getting sand in it and backing off the sand bar was challenging as there were scour holes from previous outboards trying to push their boats higher, and or trying to back off the sand.  The Ranger is pretty heavy and really doesn't move that much so it did take some addition persuasion from RJ and Pete.  So what do we do for an encore?  The fish are biting on Mille Lacs and the Smallies are just coming off their spawn so that will more than likely be the next adventure.  We are so far behind at home, the garden still needs to be planted, trees need to be moved, mowing needs to be done.  We were at my niece's daughter's graduation last weekend so not much got done this last weekend either.  Honestly it was too hot anyway as Memorial Day hit 100 degrees, almost too hot to fish!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

2018 Ontario Opener at Lac Seul, Absolutely Incredible! Part 1

Pete With a Nice Walleye
the 2018 Minnesota and Ontario Canada fishing openers are now in the history books and what a difference a week and 350 miles can make!  As the last few years, the week after Minnesota Fishing Opener is the Ontario Fishing Opener and once again I was fortunate enough to be the guest of my friend Bruce Wiley at Lac Seul Outpost located in the Chamberlain Narrows area of beautiful Lac Seul, northeast of Sioux Lookout, Ontario.  Our other guests included Pete, Wayne, Tom, Chip, and Bruce's son RJ.  The drive is 460 miles form home and by the time you stop for gas, breakfast, crossing the border and buying groceries in Dryden, getting the boat launch it's about 12 hours plus at least another hour or so to get into camp. The forecast for Sioux Lookout said rain between 6 and midnight and upon arriving at the bait shop to get our parking passes it had already started to sprinkle.  I figured we could get into camp by 6 but that didn't seem to work very well.  By the time we go to the Deception Bay boat landing it had started to rain pretty good.  Luckily last year I had a Bimini Top made for the boat and although it helped to keep us somewhat dry, with the wind and rain coming down pretty hard, it was difficult to keep anything dry during the 34 mile boat ride into camp.  Figuring it would be uncomfortable but a lot drier than what it really was, it would have been smart to put on my rain suit, lesson learned on that deal.  Taking over an hour and 45 minutes, we finally arrived at camp just as the rain lightened up somewhat.  Being  all quite soaked, and after hanging our clothes to dry, it was time for a well deserved cocktail while Chip made pork tenderloins.  A warm meal in our belly's, a relaxing couple hours reminiscing about the wet ride into camp it was time to snuggle into the warm sleeping bags, getting ready for the walleye fishing opener the next morning!

Saturday's Fish Total
The next morning proved to that in camp, if you don't like the weather just wait a day, the clouds were intertwined with blue skies with the promise of a better weekend in store.  After a great breakfast of scrambled eggs, blueberry sausage, and toast the first stop was directly across camp where Bruce, Tom, Wayne, and Chip were anchored.  With Pete and RJ in the Ranger we headed over only to see that Bruce was anchored.  Apparently there was a problem with his battery system for the trolling motor and his anchoring system and we could not fix fix it for this trip.  I'm sure he missed it yet Wayne did a fabulous job of being his anchor boy for the trip.  After catching a number of smaller walleyes in the channel we moved up to the corner and fished the 10 foot break area and the walleyes were on fire.  At the bait shop in town, we picked up 3 dozen Large Rainbow minnows and did the big walleyes love them.  Catching 3 and sometimes 4 walleyes on a single minnow, there were times when we all had a fish on at the same time.  What was really a bonus was the amount of walleyes over 22 inches, over 50% of our catch.  As you see in the first picture, each one of us caught a number of nice walleyes like this. Still had plenty of fish for dinner that night yet it was astounding the amount of nice walleyes that were landed.  Putting a counter on the dash of the boat, a simple click kept track of our total catch and as you can see by the picture above, Saturday's total landed in the boat was 145 walleyes!  That was a new record for the boat and quite an impressive one at that!  Our fishing time usually ends around 5:00 and although the day turned out pretty nice, it still was a little chilly.   With Day one under our hats, it would be exciting to see what the next few days would bring.

This year my boat was forced to be basically beached up on the sandy shore for the night.  Although not my preferred spot, never the less it would have to do.  RJ did a great job making sure it was tied up securely while Pete got the electrical extension cords ran so we would be fully charged up the next day.  Hating sand in the boat, admittedly it was a challenge to jump in off the beach, wash one's shoes off then struggle to free the boat from it's overnight resting place.   Luckily there was enough dock space by the time we departed in the morning for everyone to properly wash the sand off their shoes before entering.   My guest realize that I am pretty anal about my boat however it's pretty nice to fish out of when on the water.  As tempting as it is to make this post longer, you will have to wait until next week to hear about my biggest walleye I have ever caught, finally a 30 incher!!!                                                                             

Thursday, May 17, 2018

2018 Leech Lake Opener, In the Books

Biggest Fish Award!
Along with a lot of things going on in my life, the late spring has set back my schedule something fierce!  The ice finally went off of Leech Lake on Wednesday, May 9th, just in time for our 45th Annual Leech Lake Fishing Tournament.  This year was again a full house with 22 of us fishing the Minnesota Fishing Opener.  Without a doubt we struggled this year with almost bluebird conditions all 3 days and no wind, our group caught only 90 walleyes for the entire 3 days.  Last year we caught the same however we did manage to keep 42 fish that met the slot we impose, 12 inches to 20 inches.  This years keeper count was about half that, with only 22 fish kept.  Enough for a fish fry and only a few guys brought home fish.  Because of late ice out in most of the large lakes where shiner minnows are trapped for bait, essentially they were either not available and if they were, they became very expensive whereas one bait shop between Mille Lac Lake and Milaca, MN was selling them for $14.99/dozen.....uffda.  We loaded up on Fatheads this year yet most of our guys prefer shiners and bought them where they could. Saturday morning was our first session and it was pretty slow.  Only a few fish we caught between all of us, quite disappointing.  One group came into the resort with 3 limits of keepers, supposedly caught in Steamboat Bay, a shallow weedy bay, pitching jigs in 4 feet of water.  We knew that the fish would be shallow but pitching jigs in the weeds, it would have been better if one knew exactly where.  My boat actually tried Steamboat but with little luck.  There are channels where walleyes congregate, but apparently not this year. With evening quickly approaching, we went in and had supper before going out again.  The evening wasn't much better yet the thought of trolling number 5 shad raps in less than 6 feet of water seemed intriguing.  Some of our guys were catching a few walleyes on Ottertail Point,  yet this is a great area for evening trolling.  Setting up my crew we started trolling the east shoreline, long lining our Shad Raps till the bumped the bottom.  Just as it got dark something nice hit my lure and after reeling it in, the walleye measured 26.25 inches, a pretty nice fish.  We got another nice fish over 20 but they were the only 2 for the day.  Adam Mayerich was at Ottertail when the lunker was caught, while we headed back to the cabin he stopped at Pine Point on the way back and also caught a 26.25 inch walleye.  Because mine was caught first, my name was entered as in first place while he took second with the same sized fish.  Surprisingly that fish held till we were done on Monday night and I once again took the big fish honors for the trip! 

Beautiful Sunset on Ottertail Point.
 The weather was extremely nice for all three days of the Team Walleye event.  One has to love the Leech Lake sunsets and Saturday night was no exception.  With the sky on fire, you can see in the picture the tip of Ottertail Point on the right, the sunset is on fire with its reflection on the calm water.  There even appears to be a face looking down on us, maybe it's the Good Lord making sure all of us were safe!  Either way they are beautiful and definitely worth seeing.  Sunday was a bust as well as we tried everything, even Sucker Bay!  By Monday night and the only thing going for me was the largest fish prize, Jay and Henry, a couple of guys older than me asked to go with me.  It was great to have them in my boat as my strategy was changing.  For the last night we would fish Stoney Point and end the evening trolling Shad raps along the shoreline across from Brindley's Harbor, our host for the weekend.  We did get a few bites drifting Stoney Point but failed to capitalize on any of them.  When a boat with 4 guys chose to anchor right where we were drifting through, it was time to go to plan B, troll the shoreline.  Neither Jay or Henry had adequate trolling rods or Shad Raps, yet I was ready and rigged them up each with a good baitcaster with heavy pound line (15 lb test) so as not to lose my baits if we got snagged, that worked pretty good as no baits were lost!  We trolled at least a half mile before we hit Little Stoney Point, went around the corner and bang, a walleye hit!  After netting the walleye, it was under 20 inches and eligible for keeping.  5 minutes later we hit another walleye...25.5 inches, another  nice one.  We finally found our sweet spot trolling the west side of Little Stoney, ended up with 4 walleyes, 2 keepers, and had 3 additional fish on before they got off, which was quite good. at 10:30 we stopped to go back and enjoy our final night at camp.  It started slow but ended with quite a bang!

Ben's nice Smallie
Fishing was definitely tough.  With the water so clear and the walleyes "up shallow" we probably don't have the technique needed to look beyond what makes sense.  One good thing that came out of this was finally getting to use my 9.9 hp kicker motor effectively.  It really had been a pain during the past 3 years, didn't run right and steering was connected to the main motor which had to be running to take advantage of the power steering.  I finally had Frankie's install an I Troll Speed Controller for the Kicker as well as a Panther wireless steering unit.  They cleaned the carburetor  and did something to the jets, and this year it started right up and it took about 5 minutes to become proficient in operating the kicker motor such that it was very effective.  We had our moments but for the first time since I have had the boat that it felt as though the trolling function was in full control and worked beautifully.  Admittedly I am anxious to try this on Mille Lacs.  Sunday afternoon Ben Taylor was with me as it was decided to go out to Submarine Island to check it out.  While I threw a crankbait, Ben threw a plastic swim bait and did quite well on it.  Here he's holding an 18 inch smallie, a very nice fish, especially on Leech, which to be honest, I do not recall ever catching a smallmouth bass there.  Friday morning is our time to leave for Lac Seul and fishing opener there.  Apparently all the ice is out however the Rags, a shallow area that cuts off about 3 miles is still too shallow to get through so we'll have to go around.  It's quite easy to fish shallow on Lac Seul as the water is quite stained and about 18 inches is the max one can see down.  Here's hoping the Canadian Opener will be much more successful in the catching department, I remain optimistic!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Getting Ready for Fishing Opener

My New Weld Job on my Trailer Step
With the late spring and my previous trips to Texas, fishing opener is rushing upon us at lightening speed.  Add on top of this that the ice has not officially off of Leech Lake, things are moving fast and thankfully the weather is cooperating very well, I think things although will not be normal, will be just fine.  In fact looking back some of our best fishing it occurred when the ice went out later, in fact on of the best years in the history of Team Walleye was when there was ice on the lake until the Monday after the Saturday opener.  Never the less there is a lot of things to do before next Friday.  The boat needs to be cleaned up, all my electronics needs to be reinstalled, rods, tackle and needed equipment needs to be put away, and as you see to the picture on the left, my trailer step on the winch tower on my boat trailer actually broke the weld off after installing my Eazy Steps.  These steps are the real deal as getting older they become a real advantage and anything that makes it easier to function, I am all for it.  Unfortunately the setup was less than ideal so I asked my friend Bruce Wiley to help me fix the problem.  The other day we took my baby out of his storage and over to his shop where he fixed the broken weld on the step, and in addition welded in a triangular bracket to really shore up the mechanical strength of that step.  After mounting the step to the  post and in order to secure it, the plate needed a hole drilled through to accommodate the bolt which secures the step.  Thinking it would be easy,  the hole had to be drilled right through the weld material.........uffda! Confirming to Bruce my success in the challenge of drilling through his weld and his comment, well it was 7018 Rod, 70,000# tensile strength, You're not playing with kids here!!!  One thing about Bruce, you will never be given a half quality job, it's the best or nothing!  The drill did get through the weld but may need re-sharping, and I could gain another 70 pounds and still be good, at least for that step.   One is very lucky to have friends like Bruce to count on but as usual, there is a lot more work to now be done, the bare metal needs to be coated and cleaned up for sure.  At least that should never be a problem again!

Sky on Fire Last Night
The other disadvantage of the late spring is all the yard and garden work needs to get done.  The apple trees are trimmed but the raspberries still needs work.  Stopping at another friends house, Ricky,  we hooked up his tiller onto his Kubota tractor and is ready to till the garden this week. It really takes the grunt work out of getting the garden ready as my onions and seed potatoes are in and ready for planting.  A normal year would have seen this stuff already done yet it was only last week that the water got turned on down to the pole shed.  Even that was an issue as the water lines were still froze deep down, surprisingly how deep the frost really was.  Hopefully this weekend will get a serious hurt on all the things that need to be done.  On top of this we got a new "used" John Deere Lawn Tractor, Model 734, 27 hp All Wheel Steer last weekend and has added additional issues needing to get done before the serious fishing starts.  I guess the list goes on and on and on!  Still it's important to stop and appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature as seen here, the sky is on fire. 

May is turning to a busy month and hopefully everything will get done as needed.  As you may have read in previous posts, the bass fishing trips taken in the last few months have really set the stage for fishing bass in Minnesota this year.  Admittedly I am anxious to try wacky worming smallmouth bass on the Mississippi Rive behind the house with my new fishing buddy, David Grant or Jack's son Ben,  we'll see if he can keep up!  The last few weeks were dedicated to restocking my plastic worm selections as the Bass Pro Stik-O Worms have worked very well and the crayfish/orange colors should work well on those smallies. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

Wacky Wormin' Bass in Texas

Matt's nice bass on an orange wacky worm
Well, the time sure flies and this week was no different.  Monday morning I boarded a plane for Dallas, the main purpose was to attend the TTA meetings in Fort Worth, however one can never resist the opportunity to spend a few hours fishing, and that's exactly what we did Monday evening and Tuesday morning.  Time was tight as there were scheduled meetings on Tuesday afternoon yet we were successful in catching our share of fish in the short time that was available.  My good friend Matt agreed to pick me up at the airport and was gracious enough to make a quick stop at the Bass Pro Shop, just outside of the airport in Dallas.  Last time we were there I picked up some nice clothing and was interested in getting a few more items along with some baits to try for our fishing adventure.  Fishing with plastic worms, wacky style seemed like something we should have in our bag of tricks so in the plastic worm aisle, there was what looked like a local guy with a few packages in his hand.  Walking up to him I commented "You look like you know what the fish are hitting on...I just got into town from Minnesota and I would appreciate any advice!"  His response was what I figured after seeing what was in his hand.  Senko's is the bait right now, use them Wacky Style, my reply.........yes but that's not what's in your hand!  OK, we both knew what Gary Yamamoto Senko's cost, about $1.00 each.  Nope was his reply, the Bass Pro Stik-O Worm is just as good and quite a bit cheaper as we walked over to where they were on the rack.  Acknowledging that there are others knockoff's to Senko's how good were these.  Being assured they would work just fine the next question.....which colors are hot?  Reaching on the rack, he pulled off what he said was the best, Junebug, a dark blue with silver flecks mixed in.  That would not have been my first choice but when in Texas do what the Texan's do!  The next was a medium Green with gold flecks called Green Pumpkin Magic, then it was suggested that we get a bright Orange color.  Picking up a pack of Eagle Claw Trokar weedless Wacky Worm hooks in the 2/0 size, as well an O ring tool, we were pretty well set.  One thing I wanted to do was try for some catfish so we picked up some dip bait, dip worms, and sinkers as well.  The one thing we completely forgot was a good long nosed pliers. More to come on that topic!

Typical size bass we caught
Our fishing pond was about a 5 - 7 acre conservation Pond on our friend Joe Stanfield's farm.  He had a small plastic boat called a Pond Prowler from Bass Pro Shops.  Paired with a 12Volt 45# thrust Minnkota trolling motor, it actually worked pretty good.  Lacking any electronics, we simply followed the shorelines where the weed beds ended.  Last time we fished Joe's pond in March, the water was quite cloudy however this time it was surprising how clear it was.  Because of the weeds we started throwing spinner baits towards shore and had a few hits and a couple of fish.  As we moved down the shoreline the water was getting deeper and the deeper weed line became obvious so I decided to switch tactics.  Having another rod rigged up for wacky wormin', the green pumpkin color seemed like a great place to start based on the water clarity.  The sink rate is somewhat slow, sort of like a gentle drift downwards and being hooked in the middle created an enticing pulse when tugged on.  One could watch the baits slowly sink to about 4 feet, eventually disappearing in the depths.  A few casts later and all of a sudden one feels a tap on the line and it's moving away from you.  A sharp hook set and the battles were on!  These Trokar Hooks are amazing, strong and very sharp with an unusual point/edge that is really sticky.  One did not have to set the hook with a massive hook set and the first few bass that were caught were hooked quite deep.  Letting them take it too long resulted in the fish dang near swallowing the worm, something that surprised us.  It was these times that we wished there was a good needle nose in the boat as it took some doing to unhook the fish.  I wouldn't say we were killing the fish but catching them on somewhat of a consistent basis.  Deciding to try the Junebug color was nothing short of amazing.  It was like the fish turned on as though someone had flipped a switch.  Maybe it was the time of day, maybe there were more fish in that corner of the pond, regardless I was hooking a bass a cast.  In the end we probably caught 60 bass this weekend.  Matt had great luck on Tuesday morning with the orange color worm as well, maybe a different day.  Joe has 4 ponds on the lake with all of them in a row to conserve water and prevent erosion.  We caught fish in all 4 however the large pond at the end of his property was the best.  I can't wait to try this method for smallmouth on the river this summer.

As my plane was making it's way to the gate after landing in Dallas, it was a good time to check the e-mails and see what was missed whilst in the air and the phone shut off.  One of the first e-mails was this one: Hi Dave,  This is Bruce Buratto’s son Matt. I was just standing waiting to get on my plane to Dallas and I thought I saw you but wasn’t sure since I’ve never met you in person haha. I checked your blog and saw you’re headed to Dallas too so was like that’s definitely you. I’d love to say hi when we get to Dallas so I figured I’d send you this quick message in hopes you’ll see it so I can catch you when we get off.  Interesting as Matt is one of the followers of the blog and like he said, I know who he is but I have never met him.....I didn't even have any idea what he looked like!  Either way I stood in the concourse at the gate and sure enough, he recognized me.  I suppose my Ranger hat and Ranger/Evinrude shirt was a dead give away yet it was a very nice experience meeting Matt, especially under the circumstances.  Matt is in his early 30's and I give him a lot of credit for being on the ball like that.  One just feels like he is going to be super successful, if no other reason, he is very aware of what's going on around him.  I know he reads this as he is one of my follower's so here's a big thank you for taking your time to say hi, it really meant a lot to me, it made my day!!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Fishing for Polyps

Well seeings how the fishing hasn't been in the front of my activities I though it would be a good time to discuss a very critical procedure that was endured on Wednesday of this week, my scheduled 5 year colonoscopy.  This is my 5th one since I noticed blood in my stools in 2000.  Admittedly this is an uncomfortable subject however I feel very strong about this as in 2000 they removed a polyp from my colon, which the doctors stated is a definite warning sign/risk factor for colon cancer.  No Thanks!  I know people who have survived colon cancer and those who have died, and to be honest, this is quite an easy way to screen yourself.  Yes they have less intrusive ways to screen for cancer however this is the only way to discover polyps and remove them before they become a problem.  The best prevention is to catch it early!  Actually the procedure isn't that bad, drink a gallon of what they call Golytely, trust me, it's certainly a play on words!  The best results start with a good prep and after drinking a gallon of this, I guarantee, there is nothing left to be had!!  It was a very interesting procedure this time as the doctor had some notoriety for preforming the procedure without the usual sedation.  Rather than look forward to another 6 hour recovery time I agreed to try it.  Admittedly it was different as the physician was from the Netherlands and we pretty much discussed fishing during the entire procedure.  He coined the phase of the title, fishing for polyps!  He talked  about fishing when he was young, how they would catch pike then eat them.  He didn't like the Y bones very much so we discussed  the way you can remove them in the filleting process!  His assistant was also a fisherman so it was a great way to pass the time while looking at the screen as the scope kept moving up the colon.  It is kind of funny when you really think about it, fishing in Canada as we work up 6 feet to the end.  It is also kind of fascinating, looking at the display and discussing the procedure and diagnosis of each section.  I had to laugh, the doc said that I had good storage...........I won't go into what that means, but you can guess.  In the end he gave me an excellent report and based on the current standards switched me from every 5 years to repeating this in 10 years, based on the great shape my colon was in and also past reports.  I definitely encourage all of my friends over 50 to get this done, it's relatively easy and quite painless and very important!  Some people find it uncomfortable however the doc complimented me on the ability to do this without drugs.  They had an IV in me just in case I started to get uncomfortable, an emergency dose would settle things down yet I made it just fine.  He told me that you just have to have the right attitude and that not all people can endure this procedure without some sedation.  I walked out of there and could even drive home by myself!

Bass Spawning schedule
Monday is my scheduled trip to the Dallas/ Fort Worth area to spend some time with my friends Matt Davis and Joe Stanfield as our plans are to fish his tank for Bass and hopefully try for some catfish.  Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the spring TTA meetings in Fort Worth, then I fly home on Thursday afternoon.  The plan is to experiment with a number of typical bass baits, this time of the year should be well past the post spawn stage and into the pre summer period and feeding heavily.  I am betting on some action baits like spinner baits or rattle baits.  The Solunar tables for next Monday put the peak times at just when we arrive!  In addition my friends are anxious to try Steaks a la Kienitz, a recipe from my friend Troy Kienitz that is out of this world.  Admittedly it fun to prepare this in front of people who have never had the experience to have a great steak after it been marinated in Tabasco sauce, Frank's hot Buffalo Wing sauce, and Hot Picante sauce.  It's pretty amazing as I have discussed this before.  Along with a nice bottle of red wine, it doesn't get any better.  The other thing that we are going to try and do is catch some catfish that is supposedly in the tank.   Man that's hard to say...........it's a pond stupid!!!  Anyway with 3 weeks to opener there's a lot of ice to be melted but with 70 degree weather in the forecast, it might not take too long!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Repeat of 2013!?!?!?!

New Boat for 2018 Minnesota Fishing Opener
Well last week it was complaining about the weather however this week it's getting ridiculous!  With 12 inches of snow predicted for the weekend and next weeks forecast in the mid 40's, almost 15 degrees below normal, everyone is starting to discount fishing opener because it would appear there is little time and little warmth to effectively cause the ice to go out on Leech Lake by May 12, the date for Minnesota Opener.  Even more interesting is whether or not the ice will be off of Lac Seul in time for the Ontario Fishing Opener scheduled for May 19th, the very next weekend.  Well, a lot can happen in 4 weeks as one of the best Minnesota Walleye Fishing Opener was when the ice went off the Saturday of opener, there was quite a bit of floating ice, especially off of Pine Pine, down from Brindley's.  Actually one had to stay on the main part of the lake because of the ice.  Never the less, the walleye fishing was fabulous.  It really doesn't matter if there is some ice on the lake however in 2013 the harbor at Brindley's was froze completely shut, one could not even launch a boat.  Hopefully it will turn around but to be quite honest, it's looking more desperate with every day and weather forecast!

Jerry's 20 inch Sauger
So some people are getting out on open water!  I have had the pleasure of meeting a gentleman, Jerry via  Walleye Central  where there are a number of forums that walleye fishing topics are discussed.  Most are pretty good but like a lot of things, often you have to wade through the BS!  Never the less my discussions regarding Lac Seul lead to Jerry requesting my help with an issue regarding navigation on Lac Seul.  After a number of tries, I finally managed to successfully fill his needs.  At the same time he had sent me a beautiful collection of his own hand made jigs and admittedly they are very good.  Being a fan of the B Fish N series H2O Precision Jigs, they are great for plastics as they have a wire keeper that really does a fabulous job.  Admittedly it brought me back to a time when Kevin and I made our own jigs for fishing walleyes in the backwaters of the Mississippi between Wabasha, MN and Alma, WI.  The jigs received are perfect plus the colors are excellent, he told me that he does his own epoxy powder coat on them.  Pretty impressive as we simply painted our jig heads by hand.  After he confirmed that my strategy worked he sent a picture of this beautiful 20 inch sauger that was caught on the Illinois River a few days ago.  A sauger is almost identical to the walleye however it's coloring is somewhat different and freshly caught, I think they are a stunning fish.  They tend to inhabit rivers and will tend to be in the deeper water than walleyes.  One tends to find them a little more south than walleyes, yet we have caught them on Lac Seul in Canada.  A 20 inch sauger is a really nice fish as they tend to be smaller than walleyes.  Either way it's a very nice fish and it's great to see that someone is at least enjoying the soft water.

Ben's nice Mississippi Perch
My friend Ben Aiona was out on the Mississippi River with his new Ranger on Tuesday learning to use his Lowrance HDS 12, Gen 3.  Calling me on his cell phone, it was fortunate that I had a Lowrance HDS9, Gen 3 in my office and could easily power it on and look at the menu's with him.  There were two things that he needed help with, the temperature sensor was not displaying, and his structure scan was not working right.  Because of my experience with  Ranger boats and Lowrance, the first thing is to look at the NMEA 2000 network devices listed as the temperature sensor on Ranger's is connected through the network.  Walking through the screens we found the device so then I told him to configure the network and VOILA, the temperature display came up on the screen.  The next was the structure scan and my hunch was it was still set to Structure Scan 3D.  We reset the machine and VOILA, I look like a genius and Ben was now viewing a what he was looking for.  It's kind of nice to be able to help someone yet it can be difficult as one may only need to change the settings once or twice in the life of one dealing with these machines.  It becomes more about thinking like the Lowrance software engineers would think and getting use to how the menu's are configured and the logic of it all.  Before we hung up the phone "Send me some nice fish pictures" was the last thing said.  Well, here you go, a nice picture of Ben and what looks like a 1 1/2 pound perch.   In the last few weeks I've been reading about the resurgence of the perch in the Mississippi River south of Lake Pepin.  A number of theories abound such as the Zebra Mussels have increased the water quality, that may be true but it sure hasn't done much for the perch on Mille Lacs, that's a different story!  As stated, it's nice to see someone is catching fish!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Relentless Winter!

Snow depth at the pole barn!
Well the winter of 2017-2018 is really testing one's patience these days.  With a good 8 inches of snow on the ground and for the most part, it's still snowing.  We received about 9 inches the last few days and the temperatures have been almost 20 degrees colder than normal.  With the Minnesota Fishing opener about a 5 weeks away and with most lakes up north reporting up to 36 inches of ice, it's starting to look like a repeat of 2013 when we could not get out on Leech Lake as it was totally iced up.  Although we did stay at the resort, we did so to keep the tradition going as we all headed home on Sunday.  It would appear as though the Canadian Fishing Opener might be in jeopardy as well.  A lot can happen in 5 weeks however the cold looks like it will hang on till about Tax Day, April 15th before it starts to act more like normal.  It doesn't take long as the days are longer and the sun is more intense.  My experience with late ice on fishing opener has not been that bad, actually on of the best years we experienced on Leech was when the ice officially went out on the Saturday of opening fishing, I remember scooping up ice for the cooler from the edge of the ice and open water on the lake.  We did very well and caught a lot of those big female walleyes that were in the shallows and still in prespawn.  I guess we never know what Mother Nature will throw at us but I can assure you that it is getting quite old blowing heavy wet snow this time of the year!!  Oh well, there's little we can do and you can be assured that bitching about it hasn't really solved anything.  The good news is we got our Team Walleye hats and because it's our 45th Annual this year we did embroidered hooded hockey style sweatshirts, both look really good and if nothing else, we'd be styling this year!

1/4 oz Gapen Crawfish Ugly Bug
Last week was my experience meeting Dan Gapen at the Sportsman Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  It was a great experience which lead to the ordering of some of his signature baits like the pictured Ugly Bug, as well as a number of his old DVD, Classic series on fishing walleyes and smallmouth on rivers.  Well the order came in and it's pretty exciting.  After watching the DVD's it was quite interesting.  The main purpose of getting the DVD's is to better understand how to fish the Mississippi River that runs behind the house.  Although we do catch the occasional walleye, I am interested in learning more about reading the river and walleye locations within the system.  The walleye DVD was exclusively Canadian Shield area rivers, usually fast flowing, full of boulders, and fish.  Although interesting, it did not fulfill the original intent of purchasing them.  The second DVD was filmed on the Mississippi River about 20 miles north of me and was exactly what I was looking for!  Filmed with Dan in his small jon boat, similar to the one I own, the descriptions of areas to fish and the film demonstrated the exact areas that one encounters when on the river.  I am already excited to try my new found knowledge, if it ever warms up!!  Being interested in possibly more DVD's that feature the Mississippi, a quick phone call and a followup e-mail brought the appropriate response.   Ordering three more DVD's, they might simply be repeats of what I already have but they are pretty easy to watch and hopefully they will arrive soon.  The Ugly Bug jig has been around for a long time and it was never a standard in the boat however I did pick up a good number of them.  In the DVD's, Dan shows exactly the how and why's to this bait and it seems logical.  Hopefully it may help the catch rate at both the Minnesota Opener as well as the Canadian Opener. 

We spent Easter with my wife's relative's in Eau Claire, the same guys I fished with on Palm Sunday.  We got to remiss about what we should have done as fishing wasn't very good.  Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.  Hopefully the boat will start to take shape as the step on the winch tree needs to be re-welded. the depth finders need to be installed and the rest of my gear needs to be put away.  5 weeks will come in a hurry!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Sportshow Time

Dan Gapen and I
One of the things I cannot get enough of is the Minneapolis Northwest Sportsman's Show at the Convention Center in downtown Minneapolis.  It is the largest event of this type and pretty much features everything one experiences in the course of a summer of fishing and enjoying the great outdoors.  Most years I have the opportunity to attend twice and this year was no exception.  Last Thursday I had the pleasure of having Bruce Wiley accompany me.  Thursday is senior day and those 62 and older get a $3 discount, one might as well take advantage of this.  Most people know that I like to talk a lot and at these shows it's no exception.  With everything form my boat dealer, Frankie's to the electronics on my boat, to all of the things I use and like, they are usually represented at the show and increasing one's knowledge of these products and changes is always good.  New technologies are often presented at the show and it's a great place to get caught up with the industry.  Also it's a great place to meet all of the friends you've made over the years and see those that read this blog regularly.  Bruce commented that geez Anderson, I can't take you anywhere where you don't know someone!  Of special surprise was stopping by Showalters Flyin Service, I met Denny a few years back at JR's on Red Lake while waiting to get out on the lake,  he exclaimed that JR was at the show.  I quickly texted him and made sure that we would not leave without seeing each other, which towards the end, we met him in the very first row.  He was with his Airplane sales guy and Bruce and him hit it off very well.  It is always nice to see JR outside of the zoo he operates at Red Lake and Bruce and I promised we'd fly up sometime and have lunch.  JR even threatened to fly over to our camp on Lac Seul and fish with me for a day.  I am going to try and make that happen sometime.  Sunday found me heading back to the show to follow up on the things I did not get to do on Thursday, take advantage of the deals that are posted on the last day, as they'd rather sell it then pack it up.  One of the booths I ran across was Dan Gapen's booth, and he was it it!  Dan Gapen is probably the most famous river fisherman there ever was (OK, my friend Kevin is pretty good as well!) and has written books on River fishing as well has his own bait company and is the inventor of the Ugly Bug jig.  I stopped to shake his hand and to tell him I just bought his River Walleye Fishing book on Amazon and they were surprised.  We talked about his days fishing the Nipigon River, he knew exactly where my buddy Jim Tollefson and I fished when we were in our late teems, at the old loggers camp by what Dan called Victoria Falls, the outlet of Lake Nipigon.  I ended up buying a book from him and he personally endorsed it for me, signing a nice greeting and his name.  He was still pretty sharp and I am anxious to try some of the techniques we discussed when fishing the Mississippi River this summer.  On Thursday, a new RS landing net, the Green Bay model, found it's way into my hands.  I got the bright Lime Green model, it will be easier to see when I need it.  Sunday was a little more expensive, ending up with a new storage box fro under the back seat of my truck, Reeds had 25% off of their Simms clothing so a light hooded shirt found it's way into my bag.  Leaving fully satisfied with my visits and about $200 dollars poorer, I headed home.

Last fish through the ice, of the year?
Saturday was our almost annual fishing trip with my wife's uncles Bernie and Andy, and their sons Jason and Jake.  A couple of years ago we fished at Jason's in-laws place on Chetac Lake in Birchwood, Wisconsin.  This year we headed back to Wapogasset Lake, just east of St. Croix Falls.  Fishing on the north side we could not drive on by the resort access but a mile down the lake was another access not affected by the sun, it was good enough to get on.  We headed north to fish in about 12 feet of water yet the fishing wasn't very good.  Andrew and I got a nice 10 inch perch each, but that was about it.  It was a long time between fish so at at about 3:00 we headed north to Balsam Lake, one of Andy's hot spots.  Finally figuring out where to get on the lake we drove out only to drill holes in 5 feet of water.  My Navionics App with the lake map was not working because of poor cell service.  Heading to the center of the bay we eventually found 11 feet of water.  Later it was discovered that 11 feet was about it.  Being in the basin should have been a good place to fish however the only thing that bit was this small pound and a half largemouth bass.  It put up a great fight on the 3# test line but it certainly wasn't a crappie that we were looking for.  By the end of the day this was the only fish we got on Balsam Lake, the debate about leaving Wapogasset started but what's done is done!  Either way it was my first trip to Balsam Lake and although the fishing wasn't that great it was a beautiful lake, one worth coming back to sometime.  It was just like being 200 miles north of home, I was quite impressed.  We finished the day at a local bar and grill having a great hamburger before heading home. 

There is a lot of work to do before opener.  The boat is still in storage however the front step needs welding, the depth finders need to be reinstalled and updated.  All of my equipment is at home and have been working on changing line, cleaning the reels, getting the tackle boxes reorganized.  The trip last month to Texas has changed my attitude about bass fishing and I'm getting organized to do more of bass fishing this summer.  It's Easter Weekend and we have a while before the ice goes out as the ice was at least 32 inched thick last weekend.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Maple Syrup Time in the Neighborhood

Collecting Sap in my yard.
The weather has warmed up enough to start tapping the maple trees in the neighborhood and gather enough sap to make maple syrup.  The ideal time to tap trees is when the outside temperature drops to the mid 20's at night and in the 40's during the day.  This cycle gets the sap flowing from the roots to the upper branches and depending on the weather, moisture, and temperature cycles one can harvest gallons a day from a single large maple tree.  My neighbor Brandon does the sap collecting then has quite an operation to process the sap into syrup.  As you can see in the picture, he has 5 large plastic buckets to collect sap in as I have about 7 nice maple trees in the yard that are big enough to tap.  My guess is Brandon has over 120 trees tapped in the neighborhood as the last number he texted me was at about 1000 gallons collected so far.  With another 2 weeks or so of sap collecting weather, I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up with over 3000 gallons of sap.  He has a pretty slick way of collecting, a large 150 gallon plastic tank strapped to a trailer that he can pull around.  He can dump the sap in the tank quite easily then move on to the next house.  It's sort of like a milk run as he is getting around 140 gallons a day, not too bad.

Brandon's wood fired evaporator
There's a lot of work to making maple syrup however it is well worth the trouble.  Beside tapping the trees, one has to collect the sap daily.  Then it has to get unloaded into his storage containers, he has enough in his shed to collect 300 to 600 gallons of sap.  Maple sap has a normal sugar content of about 3% but it can vary from 1 - 5%.  The process is to boil the sap, which boils the water away and the sugar content becomes concentrated.  When the boiling liquid hita a temperature of 220 degree, it's pretty much syrup at that point.  Finished syrup is approximately 66 - 68% sugar.  Any less than 66% and it may spoil, as well about 68% the natural sugars tend to settle out on the bottom of the jar.  Brandon uses a reverse osmosis machine to help concentrate the sugar levels of the sap to make it faster to cook it down.  The osmosis machine basically removes pure water out of the sap which increases it's sugar content.  If he runs 300 gallons of sap through the machine it removes about 100 gallons of water and leaves the remaining sap at 5%.  He can run it through again, up to 4 times to get the concentration up to 8%, which is about half the volume that he started with and it is much easier than trying to boil off that much water. His evaporator is quite the system, he built the wood stove underneath the Stainless Steel evaporator pan.  As you see on the left side, a hose feeds the tray with his post processed sap and it is pretty amazing how fast it drips.  It keeps feeding the tray until the entire unit reaches the temperature, then he has a hydrometer to actually read the Specific Gravity which is a more accurate way of determining the syrup sugar content.  Once it is ready he empties the tray into 5 gallon buckets and starts all over again.  This year he is getting about 1 gallon of finished syrup for every 30 gallons of sap, which means the raw sap is pretty good this year.  In the past it's taken up to 40 gallons to make 1 gallon.  It's fun stopping by and helping him, usually you are rewarded with a special treat....a coffee cup with some brandy in it then filled with hot syrup from the evaporator.  Not good for the waistline but is is pretty good tasting.  Once the syrup is done he runs it through a special filter that clarifies it.  Most will get bottled however he takes some of it and fills a used oak bourbon barrel and lets it cure for about 8 weeks, simply amazing!  Also he will make a whipped maple spread that resembles soft butter but again, simply amazing!  In 3 weeks this will be all done with but it's sure fun being part of it.

The plan for the weekend is two fold, the Minneapolis Sports Show runs till Sunday and I look forward to attending this each year.  There is a lot to discuss and learn as things continue to change fast in the industry.  Second, this is the weekend I meet my wife's uncles and cousins to go ice fishing.  We have decided to go to Lake Wapogasset near Amery Wisconsin to try our hand and find some crappies.  I am sure we'll find a place to park ourselves at sunset to have a nice dinner together, it is always a good time.  This could be my last ice fishing adventure of the year as the weather is definitely getting warmer each day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bass Fishing, Texas Style, Part 2

Joe's Tank, on the farm!
Last week's post described our first day of bass fishing in Texas on beautiful Lake Fork, East of Dallas.  After our day of fishing we loaded into Matt's truck and headed to Joe Stanfield's farm (or ranch) closer into Dallas, in Farmersville, Texas.  There Joe with his wife Jeanette has about 100 acres of land that has a beautiful house on it, about 38 llama's roaming around, his own grass airstrip for his plane, and a couple of ponds, however I have been corrected, they are called tanks.  No matter, I call them ponds!  The largest on on their land is about 5 - 7 acres in surface acres and is stocked with largemouth bass, crappies, and channel catfish.  Because of the amount of rain they had, it was plump full of water and like the day before, the water was pretty cloudy.  Joe has a pretty nice setup including a quite innovative setup for a guest house up on the hill overlooking the pond.  He poured a slab of concrete then had two 8 x 45 foot steel shipping containers configured to make a nice relaxing place to get away.  The were overlapped at about 25 feet, welded together then had patio doors and window installed.  The inside was spray foamed complete with a bedroom on one end of one, the
One of the few pictures of me with a bass.
bathroom on the end of the other one, and the middle was 16 feet wide so it had a sitting room, kitchen, dining area, and all the things one needed to be comfortable.  We cooked steaks for the evening, and just enjoyed the birds singing and the sunset.  Both Matt and I slept in the "guest house" as I took the bedroom and he took the couch as he was going to leave early in the morning then come back for me as he offered a ride to the APEC conference that was in San Antonio, about 5 hours away.  I woke up about 8:30, Matt had already left so Joe was going to take me fishing.  His equipment was a lot to be desired and although he had some lures, I wasn't that impressed so I decided to use a spinner bait as the water was not clear and felt something that would make some noise in the water would be good.  That was a good decision as I did catch my first bass from Shore as Joe was getting the trolling motor and battery in his small 12 foot Jon boat he keep on the pond.  The rod and reel I had to use looked like it came from Goodwill but it casted good enough.  We worked the shoreline around the pond and I suspect I caught 5 bass on the spinner bait and crappy rod/reel setup. They were all in the one to three pound range, no much different that what we caught the previous day at Lake Fork.  In fact the picture of me on the right is one I got a Lake fork, apparently my friends either didn't take any good pictures of me, or if they did I haven't got them yet!  Never the less the picture is proof that I did get something!!  You can get a good idea of how cloudy the water was and it wasn't much different at Joe's place.  I know one thing, the guide on Saturday had much better equipment.  Matt had gone home to get some stuff done and finally got back about 12:30.  With Matt in front of the Jon boat and I running Joe's new Minnkota trolling motor and battery set up, it was my time to guide him around the tank!  Fortunately I was able to find some adequate fishing line in Joe's pile of stuff and filled his Abu Garcia casting reel with enough line to allow the spool to be thumbed properly and control the backlash.  this was a huge improvement from earlier in the day when my the spool was only about a quarter full.

Matt's nice bass from Joe's Tank
Retracing our route from earlier in the day and with basically the same spinner baits, we did catch a number of bass including this wonderful picture of Matt with probably the largest one of the day.  The bass from Joe's had much more color than the ones on Saturday, I suspect the fish in Lake Fork have spent more time in deeper water than at Joe's.   Joe doesn't fish this much so Lord knows how big they actually get in this Tank, but it was a lot of fun.  Sending this to my friend, the first thing he noticed was an automatic feeder in the background.  The speculation was that Joe was feeding deer however come to find out it's worse...he's feeding the Canadian Geese that live in his tank.  Now up north here we know how messy geese can be and in a small body of water they can be a big nuisance.  I suspect that Joe's wife Jeanette likes them so there ya go!   Me, I'd definitely take that feeder down but that's just me!  The fact that there is catfish and crappies in this tank is interesting and it would have been fun to try and catch some yet time was getting short and we had to leave.  Saying goodbye at around 3 in the afternoon, it would get us into San Antonio by 8:00 that evening.  It was hard to leave Joe's place but all good things eventually come to an end, besides it was a nice drive through Dallas, Waco, Austin and finally arriving at San Antonio.  As well, Joe and Jeannette were coming down for the show anyway as Joe reps for some of the companies that were on exhibit there, apparently those two weren't totally sick of either Matt or myself!

San Antonio is a very nice city and in the first of March the temperatures were perfect.  Downtown is the Riverwalk and it is a very nice place to visit and eat, and eat we did!  It was a good chance to meet all of my colleagues in the business and get reacquainted with all of them.  My flight took me through Atlanta then on to Minneapolis and although I got in late, it worked out pretty good considering all the delays from the East Coast storms.  On Sunday my good friend Mark Applen and I went out to do some ice fishing on some nearby lakes.  The ice is still thick enough to drive but finding the fish was more challenging.  After stopping a Little Jim's in Annandale  , MN we first tried Lake John, a small lake from my past.  We were the only ones on the lake, and after about an hour and a half we only caught 3 perch about 3 inches long each.  Deciding to try something different we went to Little Pulaski in Buffalo, MN and although there were more people, the bite was simply non-existent.  Our depthfinders did mark some fish but they were pretty closed mouth and we left just before dark with nothing to show.  What's next on the calendar, I have to run back to Eau Claire this weekend, and next weekend is both the Minneapolis Sportsman Show and probably the last ice fishing trip of the year with my wife's uncle Andrew and his crew fishing the Birchwood, Wisconsin area northeast of Rice Lake, WI.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Bass Fishing Texas Style, Part 1.

Our view at the Mustang Resort.
Arriving on Friday late morning, my friends Joe Stanfield and Matt Davis picked me up at Dallas/ Fort Worth Airport where we our destination was the Mustang Resort on beautiful Lake Fork Reservoir. Our first stop was at the Bass Pro Shop in Grapevine Texas to pick up a few supplies.  Actually I just like stopping and ended up getting some socks, pants, and some terminal tackle as we don't have one of these in Minnesota.  Unfortunately BPS did purchase Cabela's and I suspect that eventually that's what they'll all turn into as Cabela's only has Bass Pro branded boats, like Tracker and I suspect some Rangers as Johnny Morris owns them as well.  After getting checked out of BPS we began an hour's journey to the Lake Fork Area.  It was quite obvious that the area has had a lot of rain the last few weeks, Joe said around 11 inches.  There was water everywhere!  As we approached the Lake there was a Lake Fork Trophy Lures company on the corner, I got the guys to stop.  It was interesting as they made their own lures there at the factory as well, they had a nice showroom and store.  I always like to get the flavor of the area, this was the perfect place for sure!  Talking to the staff, we had learned that the water clarity wasn't very good although they had started catching fish.  Leaving LFTLures we headed down the road a few miles and checked into the Mustang Resort.  Apparently this time of year is the pre-spawn period and the fish were going to be shallows, and mostly males seeking to find their bedding areas.  Lake Fork was a great trophy bass lake for years however it get's pounded pretty hard these days.  In addition the drought of a few years ago put a big strain on the fish and had a negative effect on the bass population.  Apparently the lake is coming back, it didn't matter to me as I was going open water fishing. Everywhere we went it was pretty obvious that we were going fishing so I simply told them about last weeks trip ice fishing on Mille Lacs, we drive 5 miles out onto the lake, drill a hole through 40 inches of ice then sit there and jig for fish.   The response is almost always the same....You did What???  After we got checked in and settled, our next adventure was going to a local favorite, AJ's Fish House on Lake Fork for some fried catfish.  Luckily it was coated in corn meal and quite good.  It was a buffet, just perfect for my waist, but we left quite full and got back to the motel to see the view above.  Matt pulled out a bottle of Monkey Shoulder blended scotch and between the 3 of us, we put a good hurt on the bottle.  Perfect, sitting outside with your friends in a light jacket, looking at the lake and sipping some fine scotch, doesn't get an better than this!

Our guide, Joe in the middle and Matt up front.
6:30AM came pretty fast and with the wind blowing our guide decided to trailer over to a different
marina to launch, apparently we'd be closer to where we were going to fish.  Our guide for the day was Brian Spencer, he had a very nice Legend Black Diamond bass boat with a Mercury 250 HP ProXS, 2 power poles in the back, a Minn Kota 36 volt in the front and a Humminbird Helix 12 on both front and console.  It has been a long time since I was in a bonifide bass boat, the last time was about 27 years ago with Brian Erickson, a friend of my business partner.  I was worried that this boat was goint to be cramped with 4 of us in it but that wasn't the case and it handled us pretty well.  Apparently the guide commented on how dirty the water was from all the rain.  I agreed as the visibility was less than a foot.  Our lures of choice were black Senko's rigged Wacky style.  Basically this is a Gary Yamamoto brand 5 inch salt impregnated plastic worm and it is hooked in the middle of the worm.  In this case no significant weight is needed as the Senko's naturally sink at a acceptable rate.  I have fished Smallmouth bass on Mille Lacs using Senko's rigged wacky style and as goofy as it looks. it can be quite effective.  I never fish bass much so I don't keep up on the latest trends however I did learn something quite new for me, the trick now is to use a special tool to insert an O Ring in the middle of the Senko then use the O ring to simply secure a #1/0 VMC weedless octopus hook.  The final rig was a weight the guide inserted into one end of the Senko.  Apparently he cuts his own nails as I looked and you can buy these weights already done.  The black contrasted
Matt With an Average sized Large mouth bass
the off colored water very well.  We simply worked the shallow bays looking for active fish that were checking out the spawn areas.  This meant we were fishing in less than 4 feet and the fish were not very aggressive.  Our water temperature was close to 60 degrees however, which in my world is pretty warm but geez, everyone had a coat on but me! The fish were not very aggressive as one would simply cast the worm into the lake then sort of shake it with your wrist until you feel something pick it up.  Often the line would just start heading perpendicular to your position.  We had fairly good equipment which included a 7 foot MH, fast tip casting rod, equipped with a nice Shimano low profile casting reel loaded with 14 pound fluorocarbon line.  Admittedly did pretty well for not casting a level-wind for a few months, only 1 birds nest and that came out fairly easy.  My friend Matt caught the first fish and I suspect that between the 2 of us we got 10 bass for the day.  My buddy Joe didn't do so good, I think it was the Monkey Shoulder Scotch that had him relaxing while we fished.  Lake Fork is a reservoir that is primarily a water supply for the city of Dallas.  As stated earlier, this area of Texas has had a lot of rain and the lake was full.  The comparison was to the severe drought they had a few years ago that put a real hurt on the bass populations.  The guide stated that in the summer when the temperature hits 100 everyday, the lake loses about 2 inches a day via evaporation.  Of course if you add that to any draw downs to feed Dallas, it can get pretty low.  This ear should be a great spawning year as the prime areas have plenty of water over them.  As well the Texas Fish and Game stock Florida Strain Bass in the lake, which grow to enormous bass (as compare to her in Minnesota)  The US record for Large Mouth Bass is 22 pounds 4 ounces caught in Lake Murray, Georgia and is known as the Florida strain.  We were in a Marina and they had a 25 pound bass that was found floating dead in Lake Fork and had a replica made of it, Uffda is all I can say. We stopped fishing around 12:30 and headed to the Oakridge Marina for lunch, which was pretty good.   Because I cannot eat bread I had their broiled catfish, absolutely delicious!  It was not too far from where we were fishing so it didn't take that long.  Also it was filled with other fisherman so that was kind of fun.  We fished till about 4:00, paid the guide and headed out.  It was a great experience and it might just inspire me to spend a little more time bass fishing this year.

One thing that was interesting, Brian, our guide asked me about Mille Lacs Lake.  Apparently it's
reputation for smallmouth bass had made it all the way to Texas.  Promising him if he came up, I'd take him out.  As stated earlier, I did buy some lures at the Lake Fork Trophy Tackle, in particular a bladed bass jig often referred to as a chatter bait, something seen before but never paid much attention.  The ones in the store were fairly heavy, had a rubber skirt and a Lake Fork Live Magic Shad rigged into the jig.  My thought is that this lure could be hot for smallies on the river behind the house in August.  It is heavy enough to sink quite fast in the river and apparently one retrieves it like a spinner bait.  Because crayfish and minnows make up the majority of what they eat in the river, I bought the orange tinted ones, similar to the color crank baits I always have good luck with. the problem is that it will be 5 months before we get to try them...oh well.  Before leaving for Texas, we got all of our Team Walleye hats and hooded sweatshirts on order, so that's done.  Minnesota Fishing opener is 9 weeks away and the Canadian opener is the following weekend, 10 weeks away.  There is a lot to do before then as we still have quite a bit of snow on the ground.  Temperatures are going to be in the 50's next week so that should take care of that.  Next week I will write about our second day of fishing on my friend Joe's farm.  Up north we call them ponds, down there he calls them tanks.  Either way stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Lake Fork Here we Come!

Lake Fork Largemouth Bass
Time sure seems to fly these days!  This Friday is when I head to Dallas to be picked up by my friends Matt Davis and Joe Stanfield.  We are headed for the Mustang Resort (no, not the Mustang Ranch!) for a day of hopefully trophy largemouth bass fishing.  Here is an excerpt from their website: Lake Fork is the number one trophy bass lake in the United States. The spectacular fishery has produced bass up to and including the Texas State Record of 18lbs., 3oz.  I checked what Minnesota's State record largemouth bass weighed in at.....8 lbs 6 oz, wow that's almost a 10# difference.  My goal would be beating the Minnesota State Record, we'll see!  Lake Fork is a reservoir just northeast of Dallas.  It is stocked with the Florida Strain of Largemouth Bass which are famous for growing to large proportions, especially in Texas and California.  We are in the prespawn period, just before the fish spawn and the big females are especially heavy from the eggs developing inside them.  The research says that the water is still too cool for spawn but the fish are feeding nonetheless.  We have a guide for Saturday and I am looking forward to learning a few things about fishing down south.  Our original plans were to go further south and fish the Gulf area for saltwater fish but the hurricanes of this past summer has put a damper on fishing, fishing areas, and places to stay.  I suspect in a few years things will get back to normal in those areas however I am really looking to experience fishing Lake Fork Reservoir, it will be a new experience for sure, something that I love to do!

Winning perch, 2.05 pounds 
Last weekend was the Annual Johnson's Portside Perch Extravaganza held at Hunter's Point Resort on the east side of Mille Lacs.  This is one of the biggest events on the lake in the winter, it is not a fundraiser but rather a for profit event by one of the owners of Johnson's Portside in Isle, MN, Steve Johnson.  The event consists of  3 parts, the perch fishing contest, the hat competition, and the general drawing.  I suspect that over 8,000 tickets are sold each year and the prizes for the drawing are pretty substantial like 2 Ice Castle wheel houses and 2-4 wheel drive UTV's, powered ice augers, and many nice prize packages.  The drawing is of course the main event with the Biggest perch being next with the hat contest being 3rd.  Every year for the last few years one has to wonder about the perch contest.  This year's winner weighed 2.05 pounds, an awfully big perch for Mille Lacs.  Not being smart enough to say anything other than in the 35 years I have been ice fishing Mille Lacs, I have never caught a perch over 1.50 pounds, ever.  An observation, we used to head out to the Sliver Flat, drill a couple of holes just off the 25 foot edge and catch 15 nice 12" - 14" perch all the time. Today it's a lot different and you'd be lucky to find a couple.  We know the adult population of perch is down but just maybe the ones that are left are huge, like this one!  Oh well, one can make their own conclusions, and maybe I am missing it but what the heck, not much of the prizes are for the biggest fish anyway so in the grand scheme of things, it may not make anything difference either way.  Because of the pending storm that predicted for Saturday night, I chose to simply drive up, see my friend Bill, buy a couple of tickets and meet my friends out on the ice for the traditional BBQ Ribs.  It wasn't hard to find them and ribs we had.  Mark, Russ, and Randy had their houses together so I decided to fish Mark's house until we headed to the drawing at 2:00.  After all of this, there were no numbers called that had any meaning to me so I headed back to Bills around 5:00, and of course, just when the heavy snow started to fall.  After making it to Bills, dropping off some equipment, and picking up some Maple Syrup for this weekend, I was on the road at 8:30, what a mess.  It had snowed at least 6 inches in a broad band stretching my entire journey, got home in time to shovel and get the truck put away, the rest could wait until the morning

So the rest of the week is for packing and getting ready to go.  We have caught up with the snow totals for the year and by the end of the week much of it will be gone with temperatures climbing to the 50's next Sunday.  That's fine with me as I have much to do in the pole shed to get it cleaned up.  The electronics need to be reinstalled back in the boat as the boat is at Bruce's enjoying the warm winter storage.  He is heading south on his self piloted airplane vacation so it will be sometime in the next 3 weeks and she'll be ready to go!  Getting back from Texas late next Wednesday here's hoping to have a good report.  It's looking like my next trip will be an ice fishing one with my wife's uncle Andrew and his crew somewhere near Rice Lake, Wisconsin.