Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year and Other Stuff

Well, we are on the eve of another year, welcoming in 2009. Looking back it has been a good year of fishing. Starting with a successful trip to Lake of the Woods in April, we enjoyed a consistent bite. Our Team Walleye opener on Leech Lake this year turned out to be the best ever with the most fish as well as the biggest fish caught in 35 years. Mille Lacs started strong but the bait fish hatch of what Bill Lundeen terms "Of Biblical Proportions" basically shut down the fishing this summer on the big pond. August saw our trip to Alaska quite eventful with a load of pinks in the Kenai, being hassled by brown bears, and simply enjoying the company of my cousins. Fall fishing was a lot to be desired however my trip with Captain Dave in Jacksonville made up for it. The big crappies showed themselves last week (not so good on Sunday) and I am looking forward to finally challenging those walleyes on Mille Lacs. We still have a lot of hard water fishing left and I plan on taking advantage of it.

One of the nice things about the blog are the responses I get from people. As my header states, I invite you to share your pictures and stories. To my delight, I do get responses from the various readers. The young lady holding the walleye is Laura, the daughter of a good friend of mine John DeLestry. I met John through a mutual friend a number of years ago and we have been fishing friends ever since. He read my post of last week and it inspired him to take the family fishing on a local lake near his home. His daughter caught her very first walleye, a respectable 19.5 incher, through the ice and is proudly posing with it here! I am glad that John is teaching his daughter the ways of the outdoors as it is exciting to see the young people enjoying the challenge. I also see that John has taught her how to properly hold a fish when taking a portrait. The key is to get your hand out of the picture so the viewer does not have a reference point. Fish always look bigger that way (Check out some of my previous pictures!)

This next picture is one of Ken Blasor, a fellow fisherman I met during my meetings in Jacksonville. Ken is a manager for Ferroxcube, a well known supplier of ferrite cores for the transformer industry. Although most of you probably do not have a clue what ferrite is, I can assure you that it is a vital component of our fish finders, GPS units, and most other modern electronics. I have supplied a number of components to the depth finder industry using his parts. Ken joined me for our association dinner and we hit it off right away. I suggested that he check out my blog and when I returned home he had read it, offering his own proof of his own love for the sport. Ken is holding a very nice King Salmon he caught in Sitka, Alaska this year. Having been to Alaska this year we had plenty of things to talk about.

As always, I love seeing your pictures and hearing your stories. It also help fill in those slow weeks when my life seems pretty dull. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

2 Below Zero and Falling

After a busy weekend of making bologna, plowing snow, and attending the annual Bots Christmas Party, I decided to head out late Sunday afternoon to see if the big crappies were biting west of town. The weather was cold and windy, promising to get worse. My insulated Thermal X portable house is great for these situations. The lake is the same spot where I caught the crappies featured on the very first post of this blog. Although I did get a late start, the sunset bite is always the best part of this fishery. After loading the ATV on my trailer and inserting the house in my truck, off I went. Needing bait I had decided that the short detour to Cabela's might take 15 minutes so I kept going knowing the hardware store in St. Micheal sells bait. Arriving at 4:02 I walked up with my minnow bucket and the door was locked. Not wanting to drive back to Cabela's or search for a different bait shop my bait was going to be strictly artificial. In this case it would have to be one in my tackle box called a Purist. I used to fish this ice lure fishing the backwaters of Alma and had forgot about it until Kevin reported his luck a few weeks ago using a Purist. I have yet to see this lure in sport shops around home and ended up finding them at couple of bait shops along the Mississippi River as well as Gander Mountain in Lacrosse.

Arriving at the lake to my surprise people were driving their big trucks onto the ice. A quick check verified the thickness at 15 inches and of course knowing this would save me another 15 minutes I drove out to my spot. Not only did is save time, the truck provided an excellent wind break for my portable. The snow on the ice is a nice bonus as it provides a way to seal the bottom of the house from the wind. Having set up, I started the heater, lit the lantern, and got out my Vexilar sounder. The hardware store being closed should have been an omen as my battery on the sounder was completely dead. Now what??? Ice fishing without my Vexilar is like fishing with blinders on my eyes. My first thought was to leave, however since I was fishing in 12 feet, I could work the jig in the bottom 5 feet of the water and maybe hit a few. I caught 3 right away including the first, a beautiful 12 incher followed up with one at 11.5". Wanting desperately to use my "underwater eyes" I remembered a battery that Tom Emmons had given me Friday afternoon. While in his office I noticed a couple of batteries sitting on his file cabinet marked BAD. Asking what they were he exclaimed that they were good, I tested them, do you want one? Perfect, a spare battery if I needed one and it was still in the truck. Tearing out the dead battery I inserted the "BAD" battery only to find out it was completely dead as well. So much for that. After a dead spell of 1o minutes it dawned on me that I had a battery in my underwater camera and proceeded to tear that apart, extracting it's power source and plugging it into my torn apart sounder. LIGHTS!!!! It's like the blind seeing again. I began catching fish immediately as I could now pinpoint their location and wait them out. At 6:30 the bite ceased but not before I had 9 crappies and a nice sunny. The crappies exceeded my expectations with 7 over 10.5 inches. I even threw back a couple that on other lakes would have definitely gone in the bucket. Despite all the troubles it was satisfying to be able to catch a mess of fish using a tried and true lure that needed no addition of live bait to make it successful. I also credit my spring bobber set up as many of these fish would simply swim up and inhale the lure. Only the slight twitch or the limpness of the line would reveal what was really going on below. I had missed at least 8 fish because of this.

It is Christmas in a couple of days and I hope yours is a joyous one. Hopefully my present will be to spend a day on Mille Lacs chasing those crazy walleyes. Of course I still have the Ol'Crappie hole to fall back on. Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Busy Time of Year

This is always a busy time and it has been no exception this year. My brother Steve called me on Friday night telling me that he had shot a nice deer earlier that day and I was welcome to share it with him. My deer hunting luck was far from spectacular so I decided to drive down on Saturday to Onalaska and take him up on his offer. Leaving around noon we stopped at a couple of relatives before making our way to his house. The strategy worked perfect as by the time I arrive he already had the deer cleaned and quartered. My plan is to use the venison to make ring bologna on Friday night and smoke it on Saturday. My brother-in-law has a fabulous recipe and I am looking forward to making about 70 rings this weekend.

On Sunday I decided to go ice fishing on a nearby lake. Putting my portable shack in the truck I stopped by Cabela's for some crappie minnows. I had contemplated going to Mille Lacs however they were in the throngs of a full fledged winter storm warning and it just didn't seem very smart. I left the house at 3:00 with the temperature of 37 degrees and by the time I reached the lake a half hour later the temp had dropped to under 17. There were a number of fisherman scattered around and an interesting amount of frozen bullheads laying on the ice. By the time I got set up it had fallen to 10 degrees and the wind was at least a category 1 hurricane! Driving to the lake I had seen a small flock of Trumpeter Swans heading north towards Monticello. Although interesting, I knew that there was a resident population of this magnificent bird that over wintered in the warm water discharge of the Monticello Nuclear Power plant. What I didn't expect was once on the ice, a constant parade of swans in small flocks of 4 to 10 birds, cruising by for the next 1 1/2 hours. My estimates were close to 150 swans which flew by at a very low altitude and noisily announcing their presence. I did a google search and discovered that as of December 11 there were in excess of 500 swans on the river. It has been reported up to 1300 swans can be in the area during the peak migration time. Not bad for a bird that was believed to be on the brink of extinction just 70 years ago. As luck would have it the only thing I caught was the these beautiful birds flying by. The fish were as uncooperative as I have ever seen on this lake and I could not even add to the bullhead morgue that was pretty well established. I hope to get to Mille Lacs on Sunday as I hear the walleyes have the feedbag on.

The swans made me think of the positive changes in my lifetime. Growing up in Eleva one never saw swans, bald eagles, white pelicans, turkeys, and deer were not that plentiful. Kevin and I would occasionally see an Bald Eagle while fishing on the Mississippi River and would be in total awe of the rare sight we had witnessed. Today bald eagles are quite common and hardly garner a response. I understand there have been recent visits by pelicans in the Eleva Mill Pond. When I was a kid I probably would not even have recognized what a pelican was. I had heard that my brother Blake who lives just a mile north of town had a bear hibernating in a culvert last year. I don't know what I would have done if we would have seen a bear in the woods when I was 12! With all the talk about climate change, pollution, water quality, and human influence I think if one looks around and understands where we were 40 years ago, we can't be doing that bad.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Farewell to My Biggest Fishing Fan

If I had to name the one single biggest fan of my fishing it would be my cat Dusty. I swear that cat could smell my catch a mile before I got home. If ever a cat loved fish, it was Dusty. Whether summer fishing or ice fishing, he would run to greet me then sit patiently waiting for the cleaning board and knives to appear. Once the first fish was about to be filleted, he would let you know exactly what was expected, the first bite off that fillet, right from the fish. He could darn near eat a whole 10 inch perch if you let him. It was almost embarrassing to come home skunked!
We got Dusty from my friend from Eleva, Kevin. His daughter was somewhat allergic to him and were excited when Kevin suggested we take him with us. Dusty certainly was a people/lap cat, never shying away from making his presence when guests were around. I will never forget the first time I blow dried my hair he jumped into the vanity and laid right in the bathroom sink waiting to experience the warm breeze from the dryer. Noise was never an issue if the reward was greater. I could literally use the central vacuum hose to clean his fur if needed and he would just sit and enjoy the attention.
As you can see he was a beautiful seal point longhair with the personality second to none.
Tonight we had to humanly put him down as he had been suffering from a number of issues and finally simply stopped eating. Whether you have a cat, dog, or other pet this is always the most difficult aspect of having them in your life. Our pets tend to love us unconditionally and ask for little in return. Dusty made my fishing trips much more important as he had very high expectations of me. I will miss him dearly.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Morning With Capt Dave

I arrived in Jacksonville on Tuesday evening ready to meet Capt Dave at 7:00 Wednesday morning. Last Sepember my good friend Glen Collins from the Chicago area stopped by my office and we discuss our meetings here in Jacksonville. I asked him if he wanted to golf on Wednesday morning before our meeting and he stated that he would rather do something like fishing. Well that was music to my ears! I got on the Internet and found Capt Dave's charter. He sounded like a great guy so I booked a 5 hour trip with him. Joining Glen and I was Gary Hicks from Michigan. We got up early and headed for the landing where Capt Dave was ready for us at the docks at 7:00. I had called him earlier on Tuesday and her told me that it would be cold on Wednesday morning and to dress warm. When asked how cold he said in the 40's to which I responded "So are you saying we should wear shorts?". I reminded him that it was 10 degrees on Tuesday morning in Minneapolis and his perception of cold was quite different than mine.

Arriving at the dock it took about a minute to realize we where going to have a great time. There is a long jetty that extends about a mile out into the ocean at the mouth of the St. Johns River. The jetty is made of large blocks of granite stacked in a pyramid formation and provide great habitat for a number of fish including Speckled Sea Trout, Redfish, Sheepshead, Pinfish, and Flounder. Current is the key to catching fish here and we were just at the beginning of slack tide, meaning no current. We finally found a little current along one point and anchored about 50 feet from the edge of the rocks. Our fishing rods were rigged very similar to how we fish for walleyes on Mille Lacs, slip bobber style. Setting the floats at 8 feet we hooked a live shrimp through the head and and lobbed it towards shore. The float would drift along until a fish grabbed it and within 10 minutes I had my first Speckled trout(top picture). They are a beautiful fish and are excellent table fare. Here's another one real nice fish we caught, making a total of 5 specks we caught on this spot.

Sensing that the tide was about to change we headed for the outside edge of the jetty. The tide had reversed and was now coming in causing the current to wrap around and flow in the opposite direction. It was interesting as the current on the top kept our boat in one direction while the current underneath was flowing in the opposite direction. Once the tide got going that situation fixed itself. Again we anchored about 50 feet from the exposed rocks, in 10 feet of water, and drifted our float rigs. The fish immediately hit our baits and we ended up with a number of nice speckled trout, a number of sheepshead like the one Glenn is holding. In Minnesota a sheepshead is another name for a freshwater drum, which is related to the saltwater drum family. Although the two are not related in this case, this jetty sheepshead is similar as it feeds on mollusks and other hard shelled prey. I had failed to set the hook on a bite I had and upon bringing the rig in to rebait I noticed the hook was completely bend into itself as if someone took a pliers and crushed it. Capt Dave took one look and said "Yep, classic sheepshead damage!". These fish have front teeth that look like ours as well the back is full of traditional looking molars that can crush almost anything. It was pretty amazing so I took a picture from a dentist's vantage point. My uncle Jerry should will appreciate this one! The fish can literally grab a clam an crush it's shell to get at the meat inside. If you look at it long enough it sort of reminds me of my friend Mark Taylor's smile.

The jetty is the main port entry for ships docking their cargo as Jacksonville has a huge car offload terminal. At the end of the river is a large naval base where a number of ships are stationed. It was interesting to watch these large battleships head to sea passing by our fishing spots. It was a great time and I have fish in the resorts freezer to bring back to Minnesota. Capt Dave was a fantastic guide to fish with and I would recommend him to anyone wanting to try a little fishing while in Jacksonville. You can book a trip with Capt Dave by going to his website: and you can read his version of our day with him at his fishing report page on his site: . We had a fabulous time and it completes another fishing experience that I had on that proverbial Bucket List we all have. Well, back to my meetings and other less important things in my life!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Heading South!

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving weekend and enjoyed their time off. We are in that 3 - 4 weeks of the year where although it is not impossible to go fishing, one might risk too much by finding some thin ice. After driving to Wisconsin on Thursday I decided to take my tree stand down on Friday. The swamp was good and froze making that chore much more easier than it was setting it up. Most of our guys leave their stands up throughout the year however I like to keep my equipment in great condition so I take it down, clean it up and put it away. There was some snow in the woods and wouldn't you know it, there were plenty of tracks under my stand from the week before. Oh well, as Ed Enos once said, you can't make track soup!

The rest of the weekend was spent getting my ice fishing equipment ready. As usual, I just had to add to my collection of stuff needed to enjoy sitting on the ice all day. Cabela's had their customer appreciation night last week and I just happened to stroll by a underwater camera at a super deal. As well, traveling to Wisconsin this weekend allowed me to investigate a number of baitshops for the fabled Purist ice jig. I was able to get a number of different sizes and colors that if nothing else, makes my tackle box look pretty! (Never mind they are a pretty good on panfish). Last year I decided to sell my older Otter portable shelter and get the new insulated Thermal X from Fishtrap. Although somewhat heavy this shelter is fully insulated and really holds the heat. I switched to the Buddy Heaters as the older Mr. Heater type kept destroying my pants, coats, fishing line as well the Buddy Heater has a low oxygen sensor, which is something I always worried about. It could be -10F outside and the Thermal X keeps it nice and toasty inside. The St. Paul Ice Fishing Show is next weekend and affords one the opportunity to see the latest and greatest innovations in this sport.

Speaking of nice and toasty, I will be returning to Jacksonville Florida this week for our annual fall Transformer Association meeting. We have these meetings the week after Thanksgiving as this is one of the slowest times of the year for resorts and we get to stay at a 5 star place for less than half the normal rate. Our meetings are at the famous Ponte Verda Club and Inn, south of Jacksonville. The picture is one looking out of our room, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It is simply beautiful. While it will be 10 degrees in Minnesota, I will sleep with the windows open being serenaded to sleep by the sounds of the waves. We were there in 2006 and while touring Augustine, I wondered in a fishing shop to inquire about the local fishing scene and what was going on. I made it my goal if we ever got back, I would try to fish the area. My meetings actually start on Wednesday afternoon so I decided I would have a few hours in the morning to get out. After searching the internet, I ended up booking with Capt'n Dave, as he sounded like a great guy. I called him to discuss fishing and the plan is to fish the breakwaters of the Jacksonville harbor. They extend into the ocean about a mile and is a magnet for redfish, speckled trout, drum, and number of species I have never caught. Being the optimist, I checked with the resort to verify if I could put my fish in their freezers, which will not be a problem. With a little luck I will be enjoying blackened redfish next weekend. Either way I will post a report of my fishing in Florida, which I am really looking forward to, and certainly has to be better than the last couple weeks of Packer scores, uffda!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thanksgiving and Ma Donna

In Eleva Thanksgiving for the Anderson Family was quite an affair. My Grandpa and Grandma Anderson were the focal point for our family in the 60's and you could be assured of a fabulous meal that last Thursday of November. My Grandma Myrt was quite the lady as Grandpa Roy had a severe stroke years earlier and wasn't much help in the kitchen. The plan was always to meet at their house about 11:00 in the morning and feast away. All my uncles, aunts, and cousins would join in for the thanksgiving meal, and there were quite of few of us. It's these times when I was young that developed my close relationships with my Uncles Keith, Dewey, Loren; aunts Dorothy, Shirley, and LaVonne, as well as all my wonderful cousins and remain to this day. Thanksgiving at Grandma's was in the true Norwegian tradition. It marked the beginning of the Lefse and Lutefisk season. Lefse is one of my favorite things to eat and was always served at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is simply a soft potato based flat bread that is wonderful with butter and sugar, rolled up and eaten. Lutefisk is another story! It is generally baked or boiled and served with melted butter. Often it is added to the lefse for what we call a Norwegian Taco. Lutefisk is a strange preparation of dried or salted Atlantic Cod fish that is soaked in lye, who's origins can be traced back to the 1500's. Although it sounds horrible, many foods used lye in their preparation and presevation as it was difficult to make fresh protein last long enough to store for later or transport. Drying and salting Cod was a preferred why to preserve the fish and in order to eat, it must be soaked in water and sometimes lye! The lye gives it a jelly like texture as it cures the flesh. In my opinion it has a musty odor when cooked, one I never got use to. Of course we also had turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, cranberry relish, and pumkin pie with real whipped cream, all homemade. The joys of fresh cranberry relish and real whipped cream is a rare treat these days. The picture is a traditional Norwegian serving of Lutefisk, Lefse, cranberry relish, potatoes and of course the Norwegian flag.
One of the reasons dinner was serve early is so everyone can get to the other side of their families to do it all over again! I wasn't so lucky as my mother's side lived 250 miles away in Milwaukee. To compensate I would end up going over to Ma Donna's house Thanksgiving afternoon. Ma Donna is the name of my good friend Kevin Aiona's mother. She lived across from the church and always had time for us kids so we just called her Ma Donna. Kevin along with his older brother Brent were constantly hunting so Thanksgiving in the Aiona house was no ordinary affair. More often than not one could walk into her kitchen and see a roaster filled with a venison roast surrounded with a rabbit, couple of squirrels, a possible partridge, and maybe even a duck. Mashed potatoes were served with with a wonderful gravy from the wild feast. Dessert was usually a sweet potato pie. Donna could make that pie taste like the best pumpkin pie you ever had. She never had a lot of money so she used the next best thing, the bounty of her sons and her heart. Between the lefse, the smell of the lutefisk cooking, and Ma Donna's special menu, Thanksgiving was always a special time. My Grandpa and Grandma are gone, as well as my dear Uncle Dewey, however I am blessed with having both parents still alive, Ma Donna is still cooking, and Kevin remains the dearest of friends. I hope you have a lot to be as thankful for as I do. Have a great Thanksgiving and pick up some lefse for your guests, maybe they will have a story or two to tell someday.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hootie and the 10 Pointer

Well, after having nothing to report from this weeks deer hunting I decided to tell the story of Hootie's big buck. Hootie is a regular visitor to my blog, often e-mails me, and after seeing my last weeks post about my lack of luck, he decided to send me a picture of his first deer from last year. Talk about unfair, Hootie is 12 years old whereas I have hunted for almost 38 years and haven't even come close to a trophy like this!

Hootie is the son of a very good friend from Eleva, Big Dave (he is featured in one of my earlier post holding a walleye). He lives up on Mockingbird Hill, north of town and has one of the most spectacular views in Wisconsin. His family once lived in Colorado Springs but longing to get back to his roots in Eleva he bought some land that his late father dreamed of and built a Colorado mountain type home. Hootie and Big Dave hunt Dave's brother's farm just a few miles from their home. The country around Eleva is quite hilly and has ravines and valleys which are surrounded by wood lots of oak, maple, aspen, birch, ash, black walnut, and basswoods. Big Dave has a stand on a side ridge that they call Pikes Peak and overlooks a valley and the next ridge. This was Hootie's first year to deer hunt and Big Dave wanted him to get started right. As they sat in the stand overlooking the valley Big Dave reminded Hootie that he was not allowed to shoot across the valley which was about 200 yards away. A doe came out across the valley and Hootie wanted to take it right away but Big Dave reminded him of their agreement. Is wasn't long before this big buck came out across the valley as well. Hootie could see it was a big one so he asked dad again if he could take it. Big Dave realized that this was no ordinary buck and if they did not take a shot it might get away. He looked at Hootie and said, OK you can shoot however wait for me and I will back you up. This was just what he wanted to hear and before Big Dave could even get his scope on the deer Hootie pulled the trigger. Trying to get the deer in his scope he saw the deer drop in his tracks. Hootie had nailed the buck with his .243 rifle at better than 200 yards, a shot many veterans would have a hard time making. As you see he is pretty proud of that deer and deserves to have that big smile on his face. I wonder what he will do for an encore!

As stated my last weekend hunting was uneventful. I sat in a number of stands on Friday night and Saturday with the woods being pretty silent. The one thing that was making noise are the Tundra Swans migrating through. Also known as Whistling Swans they make a haunting whistle as they migrate to their wintering grounds on the Atlantic Ocean bays and estuaries such as Chesapeake Bay. Sitting in my tree stand I can hear them coming from a long distance as they fly in flocks of 10 to 50 swans and are usually quite high. Over the 2 weekends I must have counted at least 60 flocks going by. They are heading for the Mississippi river backwaters where they rest from their long journey from the Arctic Ocean area of Alaska. It is an interesting migration as they stay in areas resting until the freezing water forces them to their next major resting place. One of the more famous stopping places is close to my home town in the city of Alma Wisconsin as well as in the Weaver Bottoms, downriver from Alma. If you are interested in more information check out this site as the town has taken advantage of this wonder of nature.

This week we expect temperatures in the low teens. Ice fishing cannot be far behind. Thanks Hootie for providing a story for a rather uneventful deer hunting season. I am blessed to have so many friends both young and old.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Report From the Northwoods

This weekend was the beginning of the Minnesota deer hunting season. As in the last 25 years I hunted with my good friend Jack Taylor. Jack has a cabin on Platte Lake, west of Onamia and we use it as the hunting base. About 5 years ago he befriended a local land owner Rich, who was more than happy to have a couple more guys hunting his land. Rich has turned into a fabulous friend, and in turn we have met a number of his friends Eugene, Kevin, Austin, his brother Bobby and a new guy this year "Z". I started a Friday night tradition making Steak a la Kienitz for everyone. This is a special recipe from my good friend Troy who would take thick juicy steak, sprinkle Tabasco sauce, hot buffalo wing sauce, and hot salsa on it and let it sit for a few hours before putting it on the grill. It is quite a surprise to have one of the most flavorful steaks ever. Jack brings the potatoes and Steve does the Coleslaw for a royal feast.

Rich's land is somewhat low and in a wet year it can be quite an adventure getting back to the high ground. We can get back with our ATV's but after a few trips it can get pretty hairy. I hunt in the middle of a small peninsula which has an adjacent tamarack stand with a neck down area. When I learned to deer hunt in Wisconsin we never hunted out of a tree stand however in Minnesota, it was the preferred way. My first tree stand was a homemade contraption made of plywood, hand made tree spikes and a seat belt out of a junked car. We would use screw steps until one day I stepped on one half way up a tree and it broke. After visualizing a certain part of my anatomy hanging from one of the steps I moved up to larger, safer stands and ladders. Today I have a nice 18 foot ladder stand complete with a full body harness and arm rests strong enough to allow me to sleep in total safety for hours at a time. The picture is of me 22 feet up a tree waiting for the big buck. I am not much for self portraits and this was the best out of about 10. Yes, if I look bundled up it was because it was very windy and cold.

I sit in my stand almost all day, taking an hour break for lunch. I usually have a couple of MRE's for the weekend with this years menu being Sloppy Joe's on Saturday and pork ribs with clam chowder on Sunday. Sitting in the stand is very relaxing and gives one time to reflect on the past. The first time I went deer hunting was with my uncle Dewey. He had 4 girls and was probably as excited as I was. My dad deer hunted however like many guys, he went up north near Solon Springs, WI with his hunting buddies. I could never understand why my dad did not take us deer hunting, however today I realize that this was his only time he could get away with his friends. No doubt there was many a beer consumed on those trips, much like they were 15 years ago when I went up north. 35 years ago you could really hunt anywhere around Eleva. Few if any posted their land and the deer population was a fraction of what it is today. Most of the land was owned by farmers who had better things to do than chase around a deer for a week. Deer hunting in Wisconsin always included the Thanksgiving weekend with some schools shut down for the week and everyone had the bonus long weekend to hunt. Deer drives were very popular. After the first weekend guys would meet at the bar or restaurant and discuss the days strategy. Usually 8 to 10 guys would group and head to a number of predetermined wood lots, posting half the guys around the woods and the other half would "drive" the deer towards them. This was a very successful way of bagging deer however it's surprising no one got shot. Any deer shot was destined to hang in one of your trees long enough to make sure everyone knew you were successful. Unfortunately there is no deer hanging in my tree at the moment. I will probably go back this weekend as you see in the picture, the deer are there, just need to get somewhat closer.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Victory at Last............Well Sort of

Well 2 weeks ago I had discovered the mother lode of perch on Mille Lacs. I came home with 20 nice perch and a very satisfying afternoon knowing my hard work paid off and I knew where they were. On Friday I decided to take the afternoon off and try what may be my last open water fishing trip of the year. It was a beautiful day, little wind, sun shining, you could almost hear the perch screaming "come and get me!". My neighbor Tom has quite a few days left of vacation and volunteered to go with me one more time. Arriving at Lundeen's I figured at least 2 1/2 scoops of minnows, based on my last experience, and if we run out, they always hit plastic. 2 1/2 scoops is a lot of bait.

We were greeted at the landing in Cove with the docks pulled out. Although it was deep enough for the boat, getting close enough for Tom to jump in was a challenge. Having successfully secured my passenger we headed to the main lake. Coming out of Cove bay and into the main lake there is a very narrow channel that is safe to motor through. Fortunately I have this route clearly marked on my GPS as the Sheriff's office has removed the navigation buoys by this time of year. Fifty feet either way can spell a $2500 bill for a bent shaft (I know, I did this a few years back). Once safely through the imaginary channel we headed to Wakon and what was to be a fun couple of hours fishing perch. Well, I am sure that you can imagine what happened the next 3 hours. Apparently someone forgot to tell the perch to stay there. We worked the entire bay and all I had to show for it was this nice 11 1/2 inch perch. I suspect that the water temperature of 42 had something to do with the bite.

Having struck out on the perch I decided to go for broke. Although about 10 miles way, we were going to end the year trolling the same area we did on Memorial Day which was so productive. That night was fabulous with a nice 29 incher in the boat. When we arrivie there was only one other boat trolling, which should have allowed for plenty of room or at least I thought. Indian Point is a very narrow and long reef that extends straight out into the main lake. In normal years it tops out at about 5 feet, is not much more than 25 to 50 feet wide, and drops off pretty well on both sides but especially on the south edge. It is pretty easy to set up a trolling pattern, up one side and down the other. One can work the edge, top and deeper depths all along the route. Well, someone forgot to tell the other boat of this marvelous logical order of things. I ended up trolling parallel with him almost all the way to the end. Apparently he did not know the reef has 2 sides! On the return path I felt the something hit the lure and just as abruptly disappeared. I am pretty sure it was a fish yet sometimes when you catch a fishing line stuck under water, it can feel the same way. I am pretty certain it was a fish though. By the time we got back to where we started 2 other boats showed up with the same attitude about trolling a pretty simple pattern, go where you want. Oh well, on the third pass I finally got this nice 21 inch walleye. Bill has used the term describing the amount of baitfish in Mille Lacs as occurring in Biblical Proportions! Well this fish was proof. I have never caught a walleye in this lake as fat as the one pictured here. I thought I caught a football at first. The fish hit my old standby, a suspended Rattlin Rouge. Although we did not catch another walleye I felt somewhat of a small victory as I had not caught a walleye trolling all through the fall including 2 separate full moon periods. It was a nice way to end up the open water season on Mille Lacs.

As a final note to my week, please notice the blue pouch on my right hand side along my waist. This is actually an inflatable life vest. On October 30th a boat drifted into shore on the north side without a driver, the trolling motor down, and a life vest sitting on the deck. To date the fisherman is still missing and with the water temps under 42 degrees he may not show up till spring. I used to be the guy that would wear a life jacket half the time then forget to put it on the minute I start the motor. Today I put on my belt before I get in the boat and most of the time I forget it's even there. It may not be the most effective floatation device however at minimum it will give me that extra advantage over wearing nothing. I am off looking for the big buck next week.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bragging From the Other Side of the World

Not to be outdone my good friend William Wu just had to send me these latest pictures of his recent fishing adventure in China. William Wu is not his real name, his Chinese name is Wu Haidong (Woo Hi-dong). In China your family name (same as our last name) is first followed by your given name. The correct way to display my name in China would be Anderson Dave. Most of the Chinese that speak English take on traditional English names to better relate to their English speaking customers. They also put their family name last as we do. It is really interesting to travel and see the variety of names that are used in China that seem very out of place. Names like Samuel, Lily, Tina, Jeffrey, Jasmine, Serena, Derek, Jane, Amy, Jack, and of course David.

William is holding a common Asian Black Carp which the Chinese call Qing Yu (Ching You). This fish comes from the same family of carp that have been introduced into our waters over the last 100 years or so. The common carp (shown in a previous post) is the oldest and most widespread of this species in the US. For some reason we did not learn our lesson and imported grass carp, silver carp, and the black carp to help the catfish farming areas of Mississippi and Arkansas keep the commercial catfish farming ponds clean. Unfortunately floods have released these fish into the wild and we continue to fight their trek northward. The silver carp are the ones that have been making the news lately in the Illinois River as they have a tendency to jump out of the water as a boat approaches. There are many documented cases of people getting injured by these flying carp, hitting them as they motor along the river. Black carp are not as common and apparently haven't established themselves yet, but it will be only a matter of time. These fish are considered a trash fish in the US however in China they are a delicacy and are sought after. William went with his friends on Sunday and reports that they caught quite a few fish and had a great time. Here William is holding a basket of small catfish.

As you see William is battling the fish with a pretty long fishing pole. The equipment is pretty much the same as we would use. As discussed earlier, carp in China are referred to as river fish as opposed to sea fish. William is actually fishing a private pond, instead of a river, where people go to recreational fish and to catch supper. The fishing is done with prepared bait, fished near the bottom. He reports that the charge for fishing is based on the weight of the fish that you catch and you pay approximately $0.005/gram. There is 454 grams to the pound therefore the charge is about $2.27/pound. I thought that this was pretty high until I remembered trout fishing at the Star Prairie Trout Farm in Star Prairie, Wisconsin. We caught a bunch of trout for dinner and had to pay the live weight. I looked up their current prices and it is $5.50/pound live weight for trout. Admittedly I would probably prefer trout to carp. He claims it took about 5 minutes to land the fish and it weighed close to 15 pounds, a real trophy anywhere. That carp cost William almost $35.00 USD which is really a lot of money for China and definitely a lot of money for a stinky old carp! On the other hand this fish fed William and his friends for almost 5 days. I am also including a picture of William and his daughter Wu Yiwen (We call her Rose) who like any child we know, is awfully proud of her dad and his trophy catch. You got to love that smile!

I was surprised to learn that this type of fishing in China is quite popular and after going there for over 8 years, I am definitely going to have them take me fishing during my next trip. It also shows that no matter where your are in the world, we are more alike than different. All I can say is, Nice Fish William!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Front Edge of Winter

Saturday was a great day to go fishing however looking at the forecast for Sunday and the rest of the week, I decided to finish up a number of chores that I had been putting off. Lyle had brought over his pontoon and Wellcraft for their annual hibernation so I was relegated to cleaning the pole barn on Saturday. With lows predicted in the low 20's it was probably time to blow out the sprinkler system before it freezes. Using my own air compressor to do the job it takes about 3 hours, a great excuse to be outside. Outside was not necessarily the nicest place today as you can see from the picture of my garden. Those white streaks are snow. Ice fishing must be just around the corner. The time working on the sprinklers gave thought to what I would have been doing back home 35 years ago.

Growing up in Eleva, local fishing consisted of either fishing the Buffalo River for suckers, carp, catfish and the occasional northern pike or fishing the local mill pond and the surrounding streams for trout. Carp and suckers provided plenty of entertainment from the time the snow melted until the first weekend of May which for Eleva was trout fishing opener. Along with the Wisconsin DNR the local Rod and Gun Club would stock the ponds and streams with trout. By the closing in September, most of the trout had been harvested and the thoughts were focused on hunting. My best friend Kevin and I would trade our fishing poles for our shotguns or 22's and head back to the river. Squirrel, ducks, and partridge (they call them grouse in Minnesota) were the most popular game. The river had a bridge crossing it every 2 miles, so we would head to the railroad tracks which paralleled the river, walk up to the first woods then head to the river. We would walk up to the bridge, cross and head down the other side. Squirrels were very abundant and partridge were a bonus. If you look on Google Earth, you can see the river actually meanders quite a bit. Over the years the river would created a number of oxbow sloughs which provided great habitat for teal and wood ducks. The problem with shooting ducks was often they would land on the other side of the river. This meant one of us would have to strip down and go get it. Today's weather reminded me how cold that was!

Back then Canadian Geese were very rare and when a migrating flock was spotted you could guarantee someone was following it to see where they might land. Today they are known in Minnesota as sky carp. I have a group of 5 to 10 geese come in every day to feast upon the spoils of my orchard. I have 11 apple trees and 3 pear trees and it is hard to keep up with all the fruit. The deer amazingly leave the apples alone until they drop however they have competition. These geese have enormous appetites and literally keep the area very clean while leaving a nice layer of fertilizer for next years crop. They are quite amazing to watch how efficiently they rip an apple to shreds. Geese also have a distinct social order, especially if another flock decides to share in the abundance of food. It can take up to and hour before a flock will let another into their mists to enjoy the bounty.
It's suppose to warm up later this week and I am going to try and get out one last time for some perch and walleye. I also have to set up my deer stand for the following week as I look forward to hunting with my friends Jack and Rich. Hopefully the ice will be on the lakes by Thanksgiving.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pitchin' for Perch

On Saturday I decided to head up to Mille Lacs to try my hand at perch. A week ago Tom and I had caught a total of 10 before we headed out to the reef for some walleye trolling. This is the time of year perch come into the shallow water areas to hang out. Isle, Walkon, Cove, and Vineland bays are prime areas. In years past we would head to our favorite spot in Walkon with a small crappie jig 2 1/2 feet below a slip bobber, tipped with a minnow. One would not have to wait long before a 7 to 12 inch perch would pull the bobber under water with authority. Not unlike my fortunes with walleyes, this year the perch have been somewhat elusive as well. As the water cools, the perch bite seems to get better and a week had cooled the water another 5 degrees. I headed right to the "honeyhole" which has produced well in previous years, fishing over an hour with nothing to show. I had noticed a guy at the end of some bulrushes pulling in a fish every so often. Walkon has many scattered bulrushes and I decided to try that pattern. Picking an obscure patch of rushes in the middle of nowhere I pitched my bobber rig up next to the rushes. Within seconds the bobber was down and I had a 9 1/2" fish in the livewell. I rebaited and repeated the scene at least 40 times in the next 20 minutes. By the time 40 minutes had passed there were 20 nice perch in the well including a nice 11 1/2 incher, respectable by any measure. Paying attention to the other boats and adapting to what appeared was a pattern was the key. Having success on the perch I decided to head to Anderson's reef and see if the walleyes were in any better mood. After an hour of dragging raps, I resigned to heading home as I had a bunch of fish to clean.

Althought this picture really doesn't do much for the size of the perch, it was very nice one. I am also getting reports of nice fish catches trolling well after midnight. 10 years ago I would do this, fish to 2:00AM then drive home. Although I might be missing some fish, the old body can't handle that schedule anymore. Oh well!

Monday, October 13, 2008


According to the dictionary, stubborn is defined as:

adj. stub·born·er, stub·born·est
a. Unreasonably, often perversely unyielding; bullheaded.
b. Firmly resolved or determined; resolute. See Synonyms at obstinate.
2. Characterized by perseverance; persistent.
3. Difficult to treat or deal with; resistant to treatment or effort: stubborn soil; stubborn stains.

I guess in this case the second definition is appropriate, characterized by perseverance; persistent, which certainly sounds better than bullheaded. Fall is one of my favorite times to fish Mille Lacs. The second weekend in October is prime time starting off with the drive to the lake. The forests are alive with colors from the fiery reds of the maples to the mahogany colored oaks, along with the beautiful shoreline, it's 50% of the trip. Traditionally fall is the time for the shallow water reef bite. Typically the fall sees baitfish numbers gradually diminishing as the walleyes hang on structure to take advantage of the remaining easy prey. This occurs in the spring as well as evidence by my previous post about Memorial Day. Shad Raps, Rouges, and Husky Jerks are on the menu and they seldom let one down. Add in the proverbial "Full Moon" and you have the winning combination for a successful evening of fishing. I did fish the September full moon with disappointing results. The water temperature was too high, the water level down, too many baitfish, lots of great legitimate excuses for a rather poor performance. The October full moon is different; the water is cooler, another month of baitfish reductions, and it's just suppose to be better. Well remember the old saying, the best laid plans........................

There is nothing I love better than casting Rattlin Rouges. I have a favorite color that is almost impossible to get anymore, a floating 4 1/2" shallow diving( 0-2 feet), tiger perch pattern. It is perfect for that top of the reef casting pattern as some of these reefs are only 3 feet deep so the lure does not get hung up on the bottom and walleyes will come up quite a distance to hit it. I have caught a ton of fish on that particular Rouge as well as a simple #5 crawfish Shad Rap. A few years back I won a rod kit at a charity. With the help of Thorne Brothers in Minneapolis, I built what I believe is the ultimate crankbait casting rod. Matched with a Shimano Stella reel it is unbelievably light which makes casting these baits effortless. When a big walleye slams the bait, there is nothing that compares. It certainly makes the effort well worth it.

So, what does this have to do with stubborn? Well, for two years now the fall walleye crankbait bite on Mille Lacs has been less than stellar, yet I insist that the effort should eventually pay off. As I trolled by a boat that was bobber fishing the same reef, and had just reeled in their 4th walleye, I simply trolled by with my stubbornness to relive the glory times. I guess one will never experience it unless you continue to try. Although I have struck out this year (so far anyway), there are still a couple of weekends left to give it the old college try. I suppose catching fish is certainly the goal however being on the lake when the shoreline is alive with colors, the smell of a campfire permeating the air, being with friends, sometimes can make that goal seem alittle less important.

For your reference I have included the following pictures of 2 nice walleyes I have gotten in the past on my Rouge. It really does work sometimes! Notice the full moon on the right.

Monday, October 6, 2008

What's a Mahi Mahi?

Last Sunday was a complete washout on Mille Lacs as they received a much needed dose of rain. I decided to stay home and plant a number of nice trees we bought on sale including 2 apple, 2 Autumn Blaze Maple, and a Northern Red Oak. On Saturday we drove to Eau Claire to meet with my wife's aunt's and uncle's to celebrate Sister Rosemary's birthday at the Red Lobster. Being severely allergic to lobster, crab, and shrimp I was relegated to the fresh fish menu. Having plenty of fresh salmon and halibut in the freezer, the cod did not sound appealing, and the fresh whitefish can be somewhat fishy if the waiter cannot answer that question, so I settled on the mahi mahi. What's a mahi mahi? I have eaten out a number of times when it was on the menu and those with me never heard of it and weren't going to risk a bad meal. Those that have taken the time to be more daring were rewarded with one of the best tasting fish served today.

Mahi Mahi is the Hawaiian name for a colorful fish that inhabits the warm waters of both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. In Florida the fish is called a Dolphin Fish and in Mexico it's noted as a Dorado. A fish by any other can not catch a fish that is more colorful, puts up an insane fight, and taste absolutely delicious.

In 1997 I was making a small part for a local company. They wanted a very special size and only one company was willing to work with us. At it's peak we were buying over $100,000 per year of this special part. The president of the supplier, Walt Benecki was an avid fisherman and I had taken him as well as his local rep and my dear friend Pat Holmes to Mille Lacs fishing one day. He told me of a fishing contest that he hosted in Cabo San Lucas and would like me to come one year. Walt was a big roller and although he was a great guy, I sort of blew it off as a pipe dream. Well in March of the next year he called and asked if I would join him at the Palmas de Cortez for a friendly fishing tournament towards the end of April. My only requirement was to get to Los Angeles and he would take care of the rest. A great friend Paul Wenaas had a frequent flyer ticket that was ready to expire so he sold it to me for $100 and I was on my way. I was due meet Walt and 2 other guys Shuk his sales manager, and Fred, a customer from San Diego at LAX no later than 6:00 in the morning. Flying in the night before my flight was due in at 11:00PM. Luck would have it we arrived 45 minutes early figuring I would get a nice night of sleep only to sit on the tarmac almost 2 hours waiting for the gate to clear. By the time I got my luggage and to the hotel it was 1:00. Once at the hotel I had learned my office manager had made my reasonable reservation for a different day and they had no room. They finally coughed one up for double my previous cost. It was the most expensive 3 hours of sleep I ever paid for.

Meeting at LAX we headed for Cobo. Walt had rented a van for the hour drive to Palmas De Cortez stopping for a cold cerveza for good measure. I had never been to Mexico and arriving at our destination was that pipe dream come true. It was fabulous from the turquoise water to the tropical atmosphere at the resort. There were 4 of us and we fished 2 days, switching boats each day. Fishing dorado was very interesting. Prior to heading out we would stop at a boat about a quarter mile out to buy bait, 6 - 8 inch sardines. The locals netted them and charged us $20 for a net full. We would drive up to any flotsam and throw a couple of sardines in. If there was a dorado hanging around he would make short work of those sardines prompting us to toss in a baited line. The other way was to troll chugger type lures directly in the prop wash within 30 feet of the boat. These lure chug, dive just below the surface, grabbing air and bubbling and gurgling before returning to the surface repeating the action. This drives marlin as well as dorado crazy. They put up an incredible fight, however the show really begins as the near the boat. Like many saltwater fish, they literally light up with brilliant neon colors when agitated. The picture above does little justice as they turn yellow, green, teal, blue that looks surreal. Once in the boat the almost immediately turn a dull gray. The males are called bulls and have a very pronounced square head. This is a picture of a days work with the largest being a respectable 45 pounds. They are excellent table fare and fresh dorado was served in the dining room each night. Along with dorado we enjoyed the company of many fellow fisherman enjoying one of the most beautiful places in the world to fish. I did catch a big marlin and will save that story for later. You can get more information about fishing the East Cape by visiting As for Walt, he has gone on to write a fabulous book about his own personal fishing adventures, True Fish Stories. If you are interested in a very nice written book that any fisherman can relate to check out his site, Walt has included a incident that I reported on our first day of the trip that was pretty funny (to me anyway!). His book has been one of my main inspirations to start putting down in words my own fishing adventures in the form of this blog. He is truely a world fisherman and one I will always admire. Thanks Walt and I plan on not making our trip the once in a lifetime event.

So if you see Mahi Mahi on the menu, be daring and try one of the most tastiest fish served today.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fishing With the Boss

The boss. It sort of makes one think of Bruce Springsteen when you first read it! Sorry, in this case I am referring to my weekend boss, Bill Lundeen of Lundeens Tackle Castle on Mille Lacs Lake. I help Bill out a number of times a year guiding his clients on weekends or evenings when he might have a larger corporate outing needing a extra boat. I meet Bill over 10 years ago when I moved to my current house. Previously my trips to Mille Lacs would bring me up to the east side of the lake, however when we moved closer to 169 I started going up on the west side. Being the person that supports the "little guy" I began to stop at his shop to buy my bait. I was impressed how Bill, his wife Kathy, and their daughter Amanda worked the shop with uncanny precision. Running a bait shop is a complicated business. Having the right amount of bait at the right time, counting on your water treatment system to keep it all alive, and tending to the leeches that toward the middle of September want to start dying at a rate quicker than sub prime mortgage default is a definite challenge. Bill has figured it out. He may very well be the only shop on the lake that has nice leeches coming into October. Bill's year starts out in January, at the peak of the ice fishing season lasting about 6 weeks. March brings Maple Syrup time with April about the only time they can take a vacation. May is fishing opener and through September is guide time. Fall brings the full moon crowd and deer hunting. The remaining time is spent getting ready for the lake to freeze over. Sort of like farming, the business falls on the whims of the weather and how well the fish are biting. This year has certainly been a challenge in that department. It is also a political job! Imagine 100 people coming to your shop and wanting to know where the fish are biting. If you told everyone to go to 7 mile flat, it would be pretty funny and crowded. One has to have the ability to help your customers yet be able to contribute to a pleasant experience. We have become very good friends as we share the same values, sense of humor, and the love of fishing. I remember asking Bill one time if he liked tea. "I love it" pointing to a couple of boxes of Lipton on the self. I laughed and gave him some real green tea from one of my China trips. Now half my cargo returning from China is various tea varieties for him. It's something I love to do as well.

This Sunday Bill got away and we went fishing together. This was going to be a special trip as we were going to fish out of his boat, a 25 foot Proline with a 250 hp Merc. Although not as versatile as my Ranger for on the spot fishing, it is considerably more comfortable. The boat is a walk around type and is perfect for the 4 man guide trips, whereas more than 3 in the Ranger poses problems. We started fishing a shallow bay for perch drifting the area and picking up a couple in the 8 - 9" range. I decided to cast a small plastic jig and just as I was about to lift it out of the water this nice northern came out of nowhere and slashed at the jig. I had my ultralight and the battle was on. Unknown to me the fish was actually hooked right behind the head. After 10 minutes we finally landed this beautiful fish. We snapped the picture and I let it go, hoping it would help put a dent in the bait fish problem. Bill got a nice 12 inch perch before the bite stopped. We headed to an east side reef and casted a bit before we went to a offshore reef for some bobber/leech fishing. 5 minutes later I caught the first keeper walleye in over 10 weeks and it felt pretty good. Wanting to try for some crappies after sunset we headed to the proverbial secret spot, and they were biting. Within an hour we had 9 beautiful 11 - 12" crappies, the first I had ever caught on purpose at Mille Lacs. Having caught a respectable mess of fish we headed to the dock and called it a night. A couple of bowls of Kathy's homemade chicken wild rice (real wild rice BTW) and I headed south. I am truly blessed to have friends like the Lundeens. Stop in next time you head to the lake.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

An Evening With the Redtails

Growing up in the dairy country of Wisconsin, when someone said redtail it generally meant a type of common hawk found in the area. After moving to Minnesota the term became synonymous with Northwest Airlines who's planes were know as "Redtails" because of the red paint scheme on the tails of those planes. Today redtails mean only one thing, smallies! Saturday my good friend and neighbor Tom decided we should hit the Mississippi River north of Monticello. He as a nice 16 foot Lund Pro Angler with the old style 50 hp Mercury 4 cylinder 2 stroke and would be much more practical than my Ranger. Back in 1987 I bought a boat just like his. At the time is was state of the art in aluminum. The 5o hp Merc was a smooth running machine and it would idle for hours without as much as a hickup. It was also a gas hog, but in those days it didn't really matter. That boat really caught the fish, from the 8.5 pound walleye I have in my office to downrigger salmon fishing on Lake Michigan. Using Tom's boat brings back many good memories.

We headed to the bait shop in Anoka to see if they had any of the fabled Redtailed Chubs and as luck would have it they had a few left. At $9.95/dozen ( a bargain these days) we bought 18. The baitshop owner was kind enough to sort the largest ones for us ranging from 4 to 6 inches and gave us exactly 18. We headed northwest to a landing about 40 miles upriver which after arriving found the water level very low and extremely clear. One could see 4 feet down and sitting on the bow as we headed down river was amazed at all the fish I could see scattering in front of us. We managed to get the boat hung up only once on the way down, which of course did not bode well for our return trip. Once through the shallows we found our first run, a stretch of water near shore that rund 4 - 6 feet deep and extends for at least a quarter of a mile. Not wanting to use up all of our bait right away I started casting a tube. I immediately lost 3 fish. I was fishing with a ML spinning rod with 8# test and I soon felt I did not have enough umpf. Because I was in with Tom's boat, I did not have the luxury of rigging 4 or 5 poles for various presentation. I decided to rig my power rod with a short plain hook and bell sinker combo after Tom landed 2 with his bobber rig. One technique is to suspend a redtail about 3 feet under a bobber and let him do all the work. It was amazing to see the fish actually hit the bait as the water was that clear. Determined to make our bait last we tried a number of artificials and did catch a few fish but the clear ticket was the redtails. We ended the night at 7:00 PM knowing we had to get across the one large shallow area. The fish tally was well over 20 smallies for the 3 hours we spent fishing. The largest were around 18 inches and I would not even want to guess how many grabbed the big minnows but spit them out after a short but intense battle. It was a beautiful day on the river despite Tom having to get out and pull the boat and me through about 200 yards of shallow water. The cooperative fish, eagles soaring above us, and great company made for a wonderful evening on the river. Fall fishing with redtails can mean only one thing, ice fishing is not far behind!

Thanks again Tom.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wet in Wisconsin

Jason called me this morning with a sense of concern. We were to meet his father in Amery Wisconsin and spend the afternoon fishing Wapagasset Lake. According to him there was a 60% chance of rain and wanted to know if I was still interested. My weather guy claimed the big area of rain to the west was going to drift south and we would be lucky to get a sprinkle or two. Seeings I never trust any of them, it was a 50/50 chance we would have great weather so we stayed on course with our original plan. I loaded the boat, picked up Jason and his wife Abby and headed for Amery. Now this trip was actually 2 years in the planning as Andy (Jason's dad and my wife's uncle) had been trying to get me to fish one of his favorite lakes. Andy lives in Eau Claire and it was a perfect meeting point for all of us. I subordinated myself to Andy letting him be the lead guy on this trip. After getting some night crawlers, I suggested that we launch at the marina on the SE side of the lake. After 20 minutes of driving it became obvious that I did not know where the Marina was. I decided to follow Andy as he had been here before and we would go to his landing. He seemed to know where to go, so all was good. Some 20 minutes later we still driving around and not in the water. We had wasted about the same amount of time as it did for me to drive to Amery. Now 10 years ago this aimless lack of planning would have drove me crazy. I generally had little patience and often let my feelings be known. Today I just look at it as a minor inconvenience as there are many things a lot worse than being lost for 40 minutes(Bill, pay attention!). Having finally found the landing we proceeded to load the boat. I backed the trailer into the water as always and shoved the boat off yet this time it just swung to one side.
Figuring the landing was super shallow I backed up to the point where the exhaust was gurgling under the water with no avail. Apparently someone forgot to take off the left boat tie down.................. namely me. I have had these situations before however with a lady present, I decided against stripping down and wading in. The boat would not go back on the trailer straight so we carefully pulled it up and with enough slack unhooked it, another 15 minutes! Finally getting to our first fishing spot, 3 casts and I nailed the biggest bluegill I have caught in 20 years, pushing 10 inches. Boy I thought we were in for a super day. How many times have you been in that situation? More than I would like to admit. We ended up with a northern, 3 more small sunnies, a number of small bass, a totally unexpected white bass, and a crappie. The big sunnies never materialized however the rain certainly did. It started about 3:00 and was still raining when we left. Although wet, the rain did not dampen the wonderful time with Jason, Abby and the most important, Andy.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Dead Sea Lives!

It's 2 days before the full moon and it should be prime time for the big mama's on Mille Lacs. In years past one could count on a 10 to 12 fish night with a number of them being over 25 inches. The pattern is pretty elementary, find a reef next to deep water, troll or cast the 3 - 5 foot tops and hang on. The witching hour begins about 1/2 hour before sunset and usually last for about 2 to 3 hours. Having missed the full moon period in August (pre-occupied with salmon and bears) I was really looking forward to this weekend. My strategy was to leave work early on Friday, hit my milk run, and if successful possibly head up again on Saturday. My neighbor Tom shares my enthusiasm about the fall bite with the possibility of a bonus Muskie showing up on his line. It was a perfect night. A soft southeast wind allowed a comfortable ride yet strong enough to allow us to drift the reefs with minimal adjustments from the trolling motors. The water was surprisingly murky which tends to bode well for the shallow bite. Everything was perfect however someone forgot to tell the fish! There is no picture associated with this post as there was no opportunity to take one of our catch. Sure, the sunset was beautiful but if you must see one again, just look at one of my previous posts as they are pretty much all the same. I pulled shads, rouges, and a number of other lures however all we could muster up was a foul hooked perch about 4 inches long.

So what's wrong? Well the total post summer crank bait bite has been way off. I am always optimistic and just figured no one is using "my pattern" yet and I would be the first to be successful. So much for that theory! I have my own hypothesis dealing with the huge amount of bait fish in the lake (young of the year perch(YOY)) and the water level. The YOY perch are all over the place and the fish are simply not interested in chasing baits when dinner is so plentiful. I also believe that the water levels hurt the "typical" shallow fall bite as the lake is down over a foot from its historical average changing the entire environment of these reefs. Oh well. I am off to fish a lake near Amery Wisconsin on Sunday with my friend Jason and his dad Andy. Hopefully the events of a few hours ago will not be repeated on Sunday.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

An Incredible Journey

Salmon fishing in Alaska is an education in one of nature's most amazing events. Each species of salmon utilizes the various rivers and streams in completely different ways. The 5 different types of salmon one meets in Alaska are the Chinook (King), Coho (Silver), Pink (Humpback), Sockeye (Red) and Chum (Dog). The Kenai river has all five however the Chum are quite rare. Each species utilizes different calendar times and sections of the river that are quite unique. When the salmon enter the river to spawn, it is referred to a run. Reds, Kings, and Silvers have 2 distinct runs with the early run fish utilizing the upper stretches of the rivers and tributaries and the later runs utilize the lower part of the rivers. Kings come in with the first run in early June. By the end of June the run is done however the second an larger run is right behind starting about the end of the first week in July. Red's first run occurs right around the middle of June with their second run starting the 3rd week of July. Silvers start showing up around the first week in August peaking around the 15th with the second run starting the first of September. The Pinks only make one huge run and this occurs only on the even years, like this year 2008. And what a run it is! It is estimated that 3 - 4 million salmon enter the Kenai every year in a 6 week period from mid July to the end of August. The run timing is important for planning your trip as the first time we went we arrived the last week in June and about the only thing going in our area was the Red's on the Russian River and this sure wasn't the Alaskan experience. You can go to the Alaskan Fish and Game site and get quite a bit of information including run timing charts like this:
There is basically 2 types of salmon fishing, open ocean fishing and freshwater fishing. The picture to the left are of the 12 salmon were caught in the ocean. They include silvers (bigger fish) and pinks (smaller ones) which were caught in a bay which a glacier feed river emptied into. Notice the fish are very bright and silver colored. This is referred to as chromed. All salmon basically look the same in the ocean, and except for size may be difficult to identify. When salmon enter fresh water however, they begin to change almost immediately. The below picture is a Pink that Greg caught and it is one of the best examples of this change. This fish enter the river looking like the fish on the far right of the 12 and within a number of days they completely change to this prehistoric looking thing.
The picture on the right are Red's in Quartz Creek, which one crosses on the way to Soldotna. Again the fish enter the river chrome and quickly change to a deep crimson color with an olive colored head. Usually once the fish have turned to their full spawning colors, the meat is no longer desirable as table fare. When these fish have finished spawning they die and become part of the ecosystem of the river nurishing the next hatching of all the salmon.
Salmon enter the rivers on the high tide so understanding this relationship is important. On our flyover trip with the bears at Polly Creek, low tide occurred about 11:00 in the morning. The next high tide that day was scheduled at 5:20 and be 25 feet higher than at low tide. At low tide the river ran crystal clear, which made it easy to see the resident Dolly Vardon trout that come into the rivers to feed on salmon eggs and spawn themselves. There were few salmon in this section of the river although we did catch a few pinks and had a nice Chum on the line. At our location the tide would eventually raise the river about 4 feet higher than it was at 11:00. As the tide came in the river current slowed considerably. The water was still clear as the fresh water was essentially dammed up by the incoming salt water. While I was standing on the bank watching the water come up a school of about 15 silvers swam by as if on cue. A quick cast of my spinner and the race was on to see which salmon was going to get at it first. I landed that fish only to have my cousins hollar "bear!" We had seen the bears earlier and decided to move downstream to group together. With fish in hand I was wading toward the guys when one shouts "Dave, it's coming towards you" I was at the edge of the river and could not see very far beyond the bank. Being somewhat nervous and with a fish in my grip I figured it was probably not a good idea to play waiter to a brown bear located somewhere above me. Bear's have a great sense of smell and I decided to let the fish go rather than draw attention to myself. It probably was a dumb move but I guess you would have had to been there! We went on to end the day with 6 beautiful chrome silvers along with having caught and released about 50 Dolly's. The magic time for the salmon occurred for about 1 hour before the high tide muddied the water considerably. The plane was somewhat late however the pilot was concerned about having enough beach to land on as the high tide was reversing. We loaded up having experienced the effect of the high tides first hand.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I'm Back!

Well, I finally returned from the great state of Alaska no worse for the wear! For me Alaska is a place were fishing is the priority and sleep is an option. As stated in an earlier post, I had the pleasure of traveling with my brother Steve, and first cousins (all on my dad's side) Paul, Greg, and Mark. Besides being family, these guys are the greatest in the world, putting up with me for 8 days was punishment enough. We landed in Anchorage about noon on Thursday August 14th. Greg flew Suncountry and arrived 2 hours ahead of us so he met up with my cousin Mark, who lives in Anchorage. Their job was to get a hitch for the rental car which we were not suppose to do as well get a landing net. We arrived and began the adventure. Mark is a retired Army guy and he was able to rent us a boat from the base to use on the Kenai for $350/week. This was incredible so we picked it up and headed for Soldotna. There we dropped the boat off at a friends until we returned on Sunday. One of the things we bring to Alaska is fresh sweet corn. This is like gold to our friends and we know they appreciate it. After dropping off about 5 dozen ears we headed to Seward, our destination for the next 3 nights. Seward is located at the south end of the Kenai Pennisula and is an important place for tourism, fishing, and cargo port with a major coal transfer facility there. Our plan was to do 2 full days with Neil Marlow aboard the Shearwater searching for halibut, lingcod, rockfish, and silver salmon. Friday proved to be the best silver day and we did real well including this 15 pounder that you see me holding. In the ocean the salmon are schooled up chasing bait fish, getting ready to head up the local rivers to spawn. Our strategy was to fish the bays that had rivers flowing into them. We fished with 5 oz chain bead sinkers with a 2 foot leader attached to a hook and a squid attractor. A chunk of herring was all it took. We fished the rockfish the same way. Rockfish have swim bladders so when you pull them out of 100 feet they are pretty well done. Besides our 3 salmon and 4 rockfish per day, we were hoping to get at least 2 25# halibut per day. This would give each of us 50# of meat to take home. Unfortunately we were only able to catch about 30 pounds each for the 2 days. Well, that's fishing! On Sunday we returned to the Kenai for the peak of the early silver salmon run. Because it is an even year, the pinks were in and this is a tremendous understatment. In future posts I will elaborate on this incredible event in nature.

My previous post mentioned bears. On Tuesday we flew out of the Funny River Airport in Soldotna to the north side of Cook Inlet and a landed on the beach at the Polly Creek outlet. Here was our "Alaskan Wilderness" experience. The pilot dropped us off at 9:00AM and vowed to return about 8:30 that evening. Upon leaving he gave us each a hand held flare and told us if we run into a bear that was aggresive, wait till it's about 10 feet from you them pull the flare cord. Yeah, right! At about 4:00 the bears showed up, a sow and her 3 cubs of which 2 were second year cubs and pretty big. It was exciting to see as the appeared across the river which initially gave us a physical barrier, which we soon saw it made no difference. While watching momma, one of the older cubs suddenly appeared on our side, barreling full bore towards us. The last thing we wanted was to be in the middle of the sow and her cub. A little noise and the cub headed across the river to mom. Although relieved, it was a tense but exciting moment.

I have many pictures to sort out and many stories to tell, too much for one setting. I will post a number of our more interesting adventures in the coming weeks as I hope my sharing of this experience will encourage you to at least make the same trip. You will never be the same.