Monday, December 28, 2009

Oh The Weather Outsides Delightful.......

This Christmas was interesting for us in Minnesota. It started on December 20th with all the local weather broadcasters forecasting the next "Storm of the Century" starting on Wednesday night through Saturday. Two low pressure systems were set up to meet, dumping up to 24 inches of snow by the time it's done, or so they say. All this brew-ha-ha forced mom to cancel our traditional Christmas Eve in Eleva, moving it to Sunday. Well, the snow turned to rain and although the storm lasted almost 4 days, the totals were somewhat less than predicted. About12 inches here in Dayton, it only accumulated back home to the tune of around 4 inches. Either way my snow blower and ATV got a pretty good workout, as well the weather forecasters lived their fantasies. Traveling to Galesville on Saturday, it was Christmas Day with my sister-in-law. My present to Sue was to fix her gas fireplace that would not stay lit, then loading Microsoft Office 2007 on the computer. Christmas on Sunday turned out to be pretty good as everyone was not stressed to get everything accomplished in a short time. As a bonus I did get to visit my classmate and good friend Rick Semingson and his parents, Dunk and Mary. Rick is retiring this year, boy how time flies. We also visited my friend Kevin and Janet Aiona. Come to think of it Kevin is a year younger than I and is also retired! He had a nice bucket of sunfish caught in Alma a few hours earlier. The above picture is looking east from my driveway. We have a good 14 inches on the ground and it's time to get the snowmobile out and put a few miles on.

One of the things I like to bring my folks for Christmas is my now famous apple wood smoked turkey. Having a variety of smokers over the years I finally have a professional style smoke oven made by Cookshack. After trying a number of methods have settled into brining the turkey with Maple Cure from PS Seasoning, a Wisconsin meat supply company. Making a brine using 1 pound of cure to 2 gallons of water, I reserve about a pint of cure and inject it into the turkey before soaking for 24 hours. One of the best turkeys for smoking are Archer Farms Brand, butter injected frozen turkey's from Target. They produce the most moist finished product of any brand I've tried, butter just flows out as you make that first slice into the breast meat. Taking up to 1 hour a pound, apple wood smoke at 250 degrees, the picture is the finished product. I guarantee it tastes as good as it looks. The brine has cure in it and gives the turkey a ham like flavor that is second to none.

With the snow messing up my weekend schedule, my neighbor Lory and I got out on Saturday afternoon to see if those big crappies would show up west of town. Although we did not get the big snows as predicted, what did snow was heavy, wet, mixed with rain. These conditions make ice fishing interesting. The snow on the ice causes 2 major issues, first being that it insulates the ice slowing the freezing process. Without this latest storm, we would be driving on the lakes by now. The other issue is the weight of the snow will cause water to be forced up on the ice flooding the surface under the snow. Forming a layer of slush, it makes travel and setting up on the ice very sloppy. Any ice houses that were on the lakes prior to the storm need to be jacked up higher than this slush layer or they will freeze in solid. Driving to the lake we found the conditions as described. Pulling our gear, it seemed like we walked a mile up hill! 6 inches of snow, 2 of it was slush, 150 yards later we set up. Immediately the sunfish appeared and they were hungry. With about an 90 minutes before the sun went down the action was steady catching about 30 fish. Most were small but I managed to keep 4 nice ones while waiting for the crappies to show. As the sun set those 12 inch crappies where non-existent in my holes. Lory had slightly better luck catching one. Another mile back to the truck, we called it a day. Mille Lacs is in my sight this weekend and maybe another trip to to check out the crappies. This cold weather predicted for the rest of the week will certainly help the situation.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Smack Down Time!

Knowing I was going to fish on Saturday the real question was where? As the last 2 Decembers have proved, this time of year the big crappies can be caught west of town. Early ice on Mille Lacs is also tempting as the fish have not been pressure for a couple of months now. A few calls along with a couple of Internet searches and Mille Lacs it was. My neighbor Lory Brasel and a friend Russ Clos agreed that it would be fun to try so we loaded up our gear, ATV's and headed north. Reports of minimal snow and 12 inches of ice gave us the opportunity to hit an offshore mud area about 5 miles out. As always we stopped at Lundeens to get our bait and to get an initial read on the lake. The day looked promising with the sun peeking out , trying to keep temperature reasonable. The other thing the sun does is stimulate the perch bite and we were hoping for these bonus fish.

Arriving at the desired destination we quickly set up about 100 feet apart. The area we fished was fairly large and spreading out would give us a chance to locate active fish. In addition to setting up my house I drilled about 20 holes perpendicular to the line we set up with the houses. If it's nice out and slow in the house I like to hole hop from one to another looking for active fish. It's a great technique if you can put up with the cold. The first rig I set up is a simple bobber rig with a rainbow shiner decorating my jig at the end of my line. This is usually good for a fish or two, and is deadly on the eelpout! My main hole is where I jig various lures such as Hawger Spoons, Jigging Raps, Swedish Pimples, Chubby Darters, and Rattlin' Flyers. I also have a 4.5 inch hand auger used to drill a hole for my Vexilar transducer which keeps it away from fish tangling when bringing them up. Starting out with a Jigging Rap it gives an idea if the fish are aggressive or passive. They will slam the lure if in an aggressive mood or simply ignore it when they are more passive. Half an hour of the Rap showed fish however they were not interested in the quick swimming minnow imitation. My next go to lure lately is the Rattlin' Flyer, a winged lure with a rattle chamber. Lures with rattles can really draw the fish in as the are curious to see what all the commotion is about. For an attractant I snap off the head of a nice fathead minnow and hook it to the lure. Often this simple addition makes a huge difference. This proved to be the right move as fish immediately appeared on both my depth finder as well as the video camera which was positioned to watch the action around the lure. A number of walleyes swam by until one just smacked the lure with vengeance. Unfortunately it was only 10 inches but it was a start. The next 2 hours were filled with 8 - 12 inch fish attacking or simple sucking in the minnow head. In the meantime Lory and Russ had each nailed a nice keeper walleye. It was my turn as I had caught a number of smaller fish. About 4:00 somebody turned the switch on. It was like a WWF Smack Down! Fish were coming in and very aggressively hitting the lure. Within the next hour we had caught 9 walleyes, 14 - 15 inch keepers along with a nice 23 inch walleye I released. The top picture are the 6 fish I cleaned at the house and the bottom picture is the largest I released. Unfortunately I forgot the first rule of a good blogger, to always take your camera! I usually get so excited about going that I always forget something. Improvising Russ took this picture with my phone. Far from the best, it at least shows the nice fish I released (I am positive I will hear about this one). It was a great day of fishing for sure. I was surprised that not one perch was caught or seen by Lory, Russ, or I yet I did end up with over 20 walleyes caught for the afternoon.

A couple of side notes. About a mile the lake ice transformed into a maze of ice chunks scattered as though Ol' Paul Bunyan himself stirred the lake just before it froze. I can't remember a year it was so rough. This week the forecast for Mille Lacs and the surrounding area including the Twin Cities are looking at up to 19 inches of snow, maybe more. This will put a severe burden on the lake as the weight of the snow will make maintaining Ice Houses on the lake as well as travel very difficult. Although the resorts will plow roads, it would have been nice if the snow would have waited about another week. Oh well, I am pretty sure we will survive. The storm will make our already white Christmas even whiter. Have a great Christmas where ever you are. With a little luck we will get dug out and ready to take advantage of the holiday season drilling lots of holes. I know those crappies are still there!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rude Awaking

After getting use to the weather in both Key West and San Jose, I woke up this morning with the realization it's not going to get any warmer in Minnesota for a while. With a crisp -10 degrees this morning it is a full 95 degree temperature swing from what I experienced 10 days ago. Oh well, life up north! With that in mind a last reminder and parting shot from Key West. Although it is hard to see, on the left side of the brown pelican is a ripple and another one just below, are the back fins of those large tarpon living in the harbor. As we were cleaning the fish both the tarpon and the pelicans would compete for the scraps. It was a pretty interesting sight as the fish were exceptionally quick to dispose of anything thrown over, including the carcasses we cut up and the skins. Tarpon have huge gaping mouths and made quick work in a single gulp. I asked if anyone tries to hook these monsters and was assured that the marina would not look kindly on the person who would attempt this. It was an interesting surprise to see these beautiful fish.

After being gone for 8 out of the last 10 days, I came home to the snow and cold. Although my neighbors help out in clearing the snow there is still much to do. I have a Polaris 800EFI with a plow which makes short work of my pole shed driveway and the back road to my trailer storage area. It took most of the day to clean up everything, just in time for another 3 inches Sunday night. Saturday night was the neighborhood Christmas party at the Botner's and it never disappoints. Unfortunately I tend to stay to the very end which was 3:00 Sunday morning. Of course this had a direct affect on my plans for ice fishing on Sunday. Like a good trooper I did make it out to Pelican Lake for the evening bite.

Assuming the ice would be about 4 - 6 inches thick and I would need to walk a bit, I decided to take my old Swedish Mora 7" hand auger. It's not been used in years and figured it was probably a little dull, the thin ice would make it tolerable. I have a Nils Master 4 1/2 inch auger that slices like butter however I wanted to use my Vexilar in the hole and 4 1/2 inches is pretty small. For these early excursions I have a small portable 1 man shelter that my friend Bill gave me. It fits perfectly in the back of my Suburban and is easy to pull around. Arriving at the lake and walking out about 1/4 mile, I picked a likely looking spot, quickly discovered that my auger was significantly duller than I had imagined and the ice was at least 10 inches thick. Rocking the auger back and forth, 15 minutes later I had a hole through the ice. Normally I drill 2 holes, one for my jigging rod and one as a set line however that wasn't going to happen this time. Luckily I brought a heater with and soon had a warm and cozy place to fish, and fish I did. Usually one can nail a few sunnies as well the crappie bite always gets going at dark. I guess someone forgot to tell the fish and I did not rule out the mental game as getting home at 3:00 takes it's toll! I did take a picture of the lake with a few guys scattered around me. A quick census showed I was not alone. Oh well, it was good to get out seeing the swans flying back to the river and listening to the owls hoot their chorus of sounds was worth it. Next week I will get more serious.
One thing nice about fishing on the northwest side of the Twin Cities is that Cabela's stands in the way of my journey home. They had a sale on an item my Cousin Greg introduced me to, Fleece Lined Jeans. At $24 a pair, they are one of the best investments for the winter. It sure beats having to wear long johns! So to Greg I say Thanks.....Thanks A lot. I'll be looking for the big crappies next week. Also, take the time to check out this weeks post by MT Bucket (see the link on my left sidebar). All I can say is I am jealous!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Key West Fishing Paradise

I am finally getting time to report on last weeks adventure. After spending 5 days in warm Florida this post is being written from San Jose, California. It is not as warm as the Keys but certainly more comfortable than the -5 degree blizzard they are having in Minnesota right now! The conference went well and as the host I made my mark by arranging a presentation by my friend Fred Lehman. Fred is probably one of the most interesting persons you could ever meet and although his hour long presentation on the Structure of the Milky Way was somewhat unrelated to the transformer business, for most part our attendees were spellbound. You can see Fred's work at

After being stuck for 3 days indoors hosting the conference in West Palm Beach, my business partner Lyle and I headed to Key West a couple days of leisure. The highlight of our time included a 6 hour fishing adventure with with Captain Steve Rodger of Spear One Charters. This would be my first time in the Keys and I was not disappointed. The trip began at a local marina convenient from our hotel, meeting Captain Steve at 7:20. The first thing I noticed were the twin 300hp Mercury Verado's hanging off the back of the boat. The boat was a 28 foot Conch, open bow with a center console, 2 very large livewells, insulated storage, it was set up beautifully. I could only imagine what this boat could do. After stowing our gear it was off to catch our bait. Our strategy was to catch at least 500 or so pilchards and fill the baitwell. We cruised the shallow areas along the shorelines looking for pelicans diving into the water, as this would indicate the presence of baitfish below. With my boating experience, I was directed to run the boat while Captain Steve threw the cast net into the school. The water was less than 2 feet deep and because it was rather windy, the water was less than ideal for locating these schools. My job entailed watching the Captain and as soon as he threw the net, stop the motors and trim them all the way down, driving the skags into the bottom, anchoring the boat. I was surprised how well the cast net worked with up to 100 fish with each throw. We did get the boat stuck a few times before we had our compliment of lively 4 - 6 inch pilchards, similar to the shiners we use in Minnesota. The water in shore was this beautiful turquoise color caused by the white coral sand on the bottom. My first picture was taken on our way back but it really shows this amazing effect.

Our first location was an underwater reef rising to 60 feet surrounded by 160 foot water. Did I mention it was windy? The waves were at least 8 feet from bottom to top (we in Minnesota would call them 8 footers but on the ocean they are officially 4 foot seas). The tide was running almost opposite the wind, which made conditions difficult. We would anchor on the edge of the reef and start chumming for fish. This meant putting a block of frozen ground up fish into our chum bag as well throwing live pilchards into the water to attract fish. It didn't take long for the fish to show up. You could see them gathering behind the chum line in flashes of brilliant blue, yellow and silver. The key was to fish those out of sight as they were pretty finicky. Our equipment included a heavy spinning rod and reel with mono or braided line and a fluorocarbon leader. We used a plain Mustad live bait hook with no weights, letting the bait drift with the current, creating it's own action. It took some getting use to as the wind worked against the current causing a substantial bow in the line. It didn't take long to get the first fish, a bar jack. These fish fight like crazy! Being a good fish to eat we had one in the box. The next fish to come on board was a yellow tail snapper, what we were really after. These are some of the best tasting fish caught and are plentiful. Unfortunately sharks love them as well. My first yellow tail was greeted by a 6 foot shark that decided it wanted the fish more than I did. Grabbing the fish
and diving, there was little to do but break the line. This played itself out many times and one soon learned that you cannot give the sharks the opportunity for an easy feast. According to our Captain, these sharks have learned where the easy meals are and show up frequently. The good news is we managed to get 7 nice yellow tails. The second picture is me holding the bar jack and a yellow tail.

Being a seasoned fisherman it did not take me long to figure out the system. These fish hit hard and once hooked they take off. On the other hand for Lyle this was his first trip fishing on the ocean and with a guide. It was important that to make sure he was having a great time. It took him some time to get comfortable with the waves, managing your presentation, and landing the fish. Although the fish practically hooked themselves, the real challenge was to get them to the
boat before the sharks. Lyle became the sharks best friend! It took a while but Lyle did pretty well. The first nice fish was this cobia he is holding with Captain Steve. These fish fight like crazy and the sharks would rather dine on yellow tail so he had a better chance of landing it. Although cobia are a great eating fish, there is a minimum length and this one was just a tad too short. Notice the spines just before the dorsal fin. These can inflict a very painful sting, which might explain the shark avoidance.

One of our issues was a pending storm approaching the Keys. A line of thunderstorms had stalled for a few days and on Saturday morning it had let loose. With only a few hours before it would be on us, we decided to try for larger fish like Mahi Mahi, tuna, wahoo, and sailfish. Because reefs tend to draw all species of fish this time of year we headed out about a mile and drifted back in. The strategy was the same, throw a ton of bait into the water to attract the fish and hope they would take the ones with hooks in them. It didn't take long for the tuna to arrive. The first on was a small skip jack tuna, not as good as yellow fin but acceptable. The next fish I caught was a bonita, a very dark fleshed member of the tuna family good for cat food or cut bait. The Captain saved it for future clients. Finally Lyle hooked into a nice fish. To Lyle's credit he works out at the gym frequently and this fish provided him with his daily routine! After a grueling 15 minute fight we gaffed this nice black fin tuna, the prize for the day. With the storm front clearly in view there was time for another short drift. Although we emptied our bait well in an attempt to entice our quarry, this drift produced nothing.

It was time to leave with 10 miles between us and the dock. I was amazed at how well the boat handled in the waves as we struck the storm head on. Just like on Mille Lacs, the wind shifted from the north at 40 mph as we hit the wall of rain. Once into the turquoise waters again, the shallows dissipated the waves and we were able to let those Verado's breath. Once at the dock the rain stopped and hints of blue sky had already shown itself. We gathered our fish and Captain Steve began to fillet. The table was mounted right at the end of the dock edge with a compliment of pelicans waiting for a free lunch. Wanting to learn how to clean these fish I assisted in skinning and removing rib cages and bones. Tossing the scraps out into the water produced a huge swirl before the pelicans could get to the morsel. I looked into the water and there were 6 huge tarpon cruising around too, looking for handouts. A couple of them were over 6 feet long. Apparently like the pelicans they have made this their permanent home living on the scraps of each days fishing adventures. It was pretty interesting to say the least.

Although we did not catch a lot of fish or any large ones, it truly was a fabulous experience. I would recommend Captain Steve to anyone as he was knowledgeable, patient, had first class equipment and provided what you should get from a guide, a great time. After learning my lesson when I brought fish back from Cabo, we cut them up into dinner sized portions, the hotel allowed us to use their freezer, and on the way back we purchased a cooler and some dry ice for the airplane ride home. The fish were good an froze and I look forward to having some yellow tail snapper next week. Although I have spent the last 8 out of 10 days in balmy weather, it is supposed to be below zero this week and I might just be able to get out on first ice this weekend. Lets hope!

Monday, November 30, 2009

That Time of Year Again!

On Tuesday I am heading south to beat the cold weather coming in and will be attending the Fall Meeting of the TTA (The Transformer Association) at the PGA National Golf Resort, West Palm Beach, Florida. The TTA is a Trade Organization of North American Transformer Manufacturers and Suppliers, and my company Precision Inc, makes transformers. So what the heck is a transformer? Well, it is a very important electrical device that is in every aspect of your life. A transformer essentially transforms one voltage to a different voltage through the magic of magnetic theory. The obvious use for transformers are those that take high line voltages and step them down to 230 VAC for your house, those round things on the power poles, or like in my neighborhood the big green boxes sitting on the ground. Every battery charger has one, televisions, cell phone chargers, almost anything run by electricity in your house has a transformer. This industry, like many electronic products have seen many changes in the last 15 years. It was estimated that in 1995 there were over 3000 transformer manufactures in the United States. Today there are less than 700 as China continues to be the preferred place for electronic manufacturing world wide. Luckily there still is a need for good old American engineering!

Having been in the industry for 34 years now (I started when I was 10!) I have seen a number of interesting transformer designs related to fishing. My 2 more famous ones included a call I received from a design house doing work for a new depth finder model here in Minnesota. In most depth finder applications there is a transformer that steps up the voltage, in order to allow the transducer to generate a signal. The company had been working with a competitor of mine, however they were late in getting a sample. Time was running out as they needed to finalize the design for the upcoming Christmas season and Cabela's had ordered a bunch of them. Having the equipment, I made a sample while they waited and the rest was history. We eventually made about 20,000 units before it went to China. The transformer was for the new Clearwater Classic by Zercom. Today that transformer design is still being used. My second interesting fish project was a guy that had a unique idea for a new lure. It had a movable lip that could be controlled by a circuit inside the lure body. By programing the circuit, the lip would change causing the lure to either move deeper or shallower. I thought it was a great idea however at the time (probably 1988) I wondered how many people were willing to spend $30 on a lure! Notice any in the stores lately?

One reason we have our meetings the week after Thanksgiving is that few people or business conferences happen. This is usually super off peak time and can often book rooms and meeting places at 1/3rd the going rate. Lucky I don't golf because I hear the rates are $200 a round at the PGA. I will be going with my business partner Lyle Shaw and this year I am the Chairman of the meeting. At each fall meeting we have an economist give use his annual report and the guy is incredibly accurate, predicting this downturn over 5 years ago! Once the meeting is done Lyle wants to spend some time in Key West. Having never been there and taking advantage of some super over Saturday air fares, we are booked at The Inn in Key West, pictured here. Last year we were just south of Jacksonville Fl, and it was far from a tropical paradise. That Wednesday morning greeted us with an unFlorida like 32 degree temperature. I have been assured that Key West is the only city in the United States that has never had a frost, snow, nothing! The forecast looks like the mid 70's for a high and high 60's for a low. Either way I love palm trees and it looks great.

Of course Key West means just one thing to me.............Fishing! Lyle is not much of a fisherman however I talked him into joining me on a six hour charter with Spear One Charters. This should be a totally different experience than with Captain Dave, our guide from last year. (Here is the post if you are interested: Having checked out a number of sites I quickly learned that Key West fishing is either reef fishing, wreck fishing, or deep water fishing. E-mailing Captain Steve I asked him which would offer the best opportunities this time of year. To my surprise his response was, they are all very close to each other and if wanted we could do all three. That was enough for me! We are booked at 7:00AM on Saturday with the program to go out and catch our bait first, then fish. The different areas should provide me with a totally new fishing experience, with a number of species I have never caught before. I would really like to get a nice Mahi Mahi (also known as Dorado or Dolphin Fish) as they are simply beautiful as well as fabulous to eat. My biggest challenge is to figure out what to do with the fish once we catch them. Unlike Alaska where they have businesses designed to clean, pack, freeze, and ship your catch, Key West has no such establishments. I have some ground work to do, hopefully the hotel can freeze them for us and I have located a dry ice source just in case. It seems odd that such a well established fishing location has no facilities to assist the traveler. Maybe if I like it down there, well you never know. I may need a few days to recuperate but certainly stay tuned for what I hope will be a fabulous report from Key West! I added a couple new songs that better portray the up and coming events. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

3rd Week of Deer Camp?!?!?!

With my Minnesota deer hunting experience being somewhat lackluster, I decided to reward myself with a trip to hunt in Wisconsin. My late brother-in-law still has 40 acres north of LaCrosse as well a ready made stand waiting for someone like me to occupy. I can only remember a warmer hunting experience about 25 years ago in Roseau Mn when the temperature was near 60. The weather this year has sure been unusual. October was one of the coldest on records and November is looking to be one of the warmest on record. I guess everything tends to even out in the end. With warm November weather comes fog and Saturday morning was no exception. As thick as pea soup, visibility was about 20 feet. Usually fog means that the deer are simply bedded down for the day. With early morning temperatures at around 30, the condensation on the trees made it appear as though it was raining out. Luckily my my stand was fully insulated with a roof! Don't let that fool you however, there were holes created by squirrels as well as other animal gifts scattered on the floor. I don't think the stand had been used in a few years, however it was comfortable. The picture is the view out of the main window. Overlooking a small valley, the foreground includes about 7 acres of black walnut trees planted about 8 years ago. These trees are about 5 inches in diameter and will be worth a fortune 30 years from now. Beyond the walnuts is an erosion control pond, half full of water and the edges trampled down like a cattle pasture. Heading in my general direction are deer trails wore into the ground like cattle paths. About every 20 yards there is a tree with one side tore to shreds by a buck polishing his antlers. Right below my stand was a walnut tree literally destroyed. It takes a pretty nice buck to inflict that kind of damage to a tree that size. Unfortunately none of tree wreckers decided to show up on either Saturday or Sunday. The good news has to be they are there and it is just a matter of time.

Hunting in Wisconsin is much different than in Minnesota. Half of Minnesota is north of Wisconsin so the deer hunting season starts 2 weeks earlier. Minnesota divides the state into 4 zones, with different regulations for each. Within the zones are management areas dictating harvest levels. Zone 1 allows hunting for 2 full weeks, 3 weekends, where as some zones only allow 2 days of hunting. Unless you want to pay for an all state license, you are stuck hunting a specific zone. Wisconsin on the other hand opens it's season the weekend before Thanksgiving and runs 9 days. You are allowed to hunt the entire state however like Minnesota, there are management areas for identifiy special regulations. One advantage of hunting in Minnesota is it occurs during the peak of the rut. Bucks can be easier to harvest during this time as they have other things on their mind besides survival! Although the bucks can be in rut by the time Wisconsin season begins, the majority have finished. Unfortunately many big bucks, like last weeks post are killed by cars as the deer are really running in early November. Certainly both states brag of massive bucks taken each year during their respective season. I will certainly get back and try to find that buck making the insane rub.

My friend Dewey of What's Dewey Doin'? made a comment about deer hunting when he was a teenager. It reminded me of my first day's deer hunting. As stated in last years post, my dad would usually go up north with the boys for deer hunting leaving me to wait till he gets back. My first deer hunting adventure was with my late uncle Dewey Anderson. Eleva is in the picturesque bluff area of what is called the Driftless Region of Wisconsin. This is an area extending either side of the Mississippi River which was untouched by the glaciers during the last ice age. I was 15 at the time and Dewey invited me to go with him. His family included his wife Shirley, daughters Debbie, Susan, Anita, and Laura. No boys! Up until his unfortunate passing, I became the son he never had. We hunted on his in-laws land, a large bluff south of town. Back then there was little in warm clothing relying on cotton long john union suits, wool shirts, and a ton of socks. Of course even if you were cold it was wise to keep your mouth shut if you wanted to go back out again the following day. They might have been the good ol'days but they certainly were colder. That area was part of a small section of the state that allowed buck or doe the first 2 days with buck only after the first Sunday. Other areas were allowed to harvest a doe via a "party permit". You needed 4 hunters to sign up and if you were drawn, you could shot an extra deer via your party permit. This was an old hold over from the days when a group of hunters would harvest a deer for camp meat however there was a need to control the harvest more effectively. Few shot does back then but for a young man it offered a better chance to bag a deer. As a contrast to today, many areas of the state require you to shoot a doe before you could harvest a buck, coined "Earn a buck" program. Also back then the first 2 days were shotgun only, making it more difficult as well. I did not shoot anything that first year but am thankful to my uncle Dewey for his kindness taking his nephew out on his first real deer hunting experience.
And with that I leave my friend Dewey with a picture just for him, as he loved the last one like this! For the rest of you, you will have to check out the posts of my favorite blogs to understand. Have a fabulous Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

2nd Week of Deer Camp

Jack and I finally got to our deer hunting destination last weekend up by his cabin near Hilman MN. Usually we have our stands up the week before opener but this year was kind of messed up for us. This weekend was special as the group was tasked with spreading a portion of Rich's ashes around his stand, which was his request. I decided that the Friday night steak supper tradition had to continue. Cosco is the place to buy steaks and I picked up 4 New York Strips at least an inch and a half thick. Using the same recipe, marinate the steaks in Tabasco sauce, hot buffalo wing sauce, and hot salsa, they turned out marvelous as always. Along with a nice large baked potato and sauteed mushrooms with onions, we were all stuffed by the end of the meal.

Because my stand was not officially up, I hunted out of Jack's stand for most the weekend. The trails through the swamp have gotten pretty wet and mucky. Borrowing an old trick from my cousin Greg I donned hip waiters, carrying my bibs in my backpack, pack boots in a garbage bag, and gun in tow, I would finish dressing at the stand. I could leave my boots and bibs in a garbage bag over night so the load back would be easier. Half way across the swamp my right boot stuck in the mud and the momentum of my load kept going forward. So much for staying dry! Lucky the day was in the low 50's and I stayed pretty warm. I am a guy that likes to stay out in the field all day, breaking for lunch around noon. My meal of choice are military MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) and they are not bad. Saturday's menu was meat loaf and gravy, mashed potato's, crackers with grape jelly, chocolate chip cookies, cocoa drink, and a couple of Tootsie Rolls. They come with a meal heater that when water is added gets hot enough to heat both the meatloaf and potatoes to a comfortable temperature. Although I ate well, the deer did not cooperate very well. There is a lot of standing corn in the area and I am sure the deer are well aware of this. Reports of an eleven pointer shot just across the road confirmed the big buck sightings earlier in the week. The weekend ended as Rich's brother Bobby, Jack, Brett and his son Trent, and myself trudged to the center stand to say a final tribute to our friend. Spreading Rich's ashes to the four corners of his life, we said our final goodbyes.

The albino buck that Brett shot last Monday still is pretty amazing. He brought it to a taxidermist, who is going to make a nice shoulder mount out of the deer. Brett gave me some more pictures and I decided to post another one of this beautiful animal. Notice how light the hoofs are. Although they are very pretty, albino deer seldom live more than 2 years as the lack of pigment makes them easy targets for predators and the sun's ultraviolet rays take a toll on their eyesight and many eventually go blind.

The most unusual story sent to me this week was the nice buck my friend Scott Semingson bagged. This massive 12 pointer was taken by Scott in Buffalo County, Wisconsin. I am sure Scott would have preferred to have this next week during the real hunting season as he nailed this trophy with his car. According to his brother Rick, this is compensation for about $6000 worth of damage to his vehicle. I guess its a dandy any way you look at it.

This week I may try my luck hunting in Wisconsin. It is suppose to be quite warm this weekend again and might prove more successful than my Minnesota hunt. I was in Denver this week and caught a dandy cold so we will have to see. On a side note my good friend Jeff King, of Alaska fame has finally joined the blog world. I have been suggesting he try it as his life is very interesting living and working on the Kenai River. His blog, references his location on the Kenai at Mile 14, measured from where the river meets the Cook Inlet. Jeff is quite the philosopher and writer. He is a legendary guide on the river with his business King's Budget Salmon Charters, and I look forward to keeping up with his adventures. Written today, Jeff's second post gives the real sense of being there with him. His e-mail invite stated it was already -15 below zero yesterday! It's interesting as when it's cold in Alaska, Minnesota is warm and visa versa. We could use alittle of the cold here to get that hard water fishing going. I invite you to check in with Jeff often, you will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Friend's Successes

The unfortunate passing of my friend Earl as well our dear friend Rich Allen has changed our deer hunting plans for this year. My friend Jack has a cabin 10 miles west of Onamia, MN. We have spent the last 6 years hunting Rich's land while staying at his cabin. Earl's funeral was last Thursday and that became our priority for the week. Jack and I have decided to make our deer opener this weekend, hoping the big buck is still walking around. In the meantime I have received a number stories proclaiming successful hunts from my friends and members of our hunting party.

This first picture is of Jack's brother-in-law and my friend as well Chris (Boris) Swanson. Boris actually works about a block from me and is an accomplished tool and die maker. Boris bagged this nice buck on opening day in northern Minnesota. It was a pretty warm day as you can by the way Boris is dressed. His e-mail confirmed the buck weighed 220 pounds dressed out. Nice trophy Boris, that's a beautiful deer.

The next picture is another beautiful buck shot by my good friend Leon Lambert of Pueblo Colorado. I met Leon while he was an employee of The Trane Company, at the Pueblo factory. I had been talking to Leon over the phone for approximately 6 months when he informed me he was visiting headquarters in La Crosse, WI. Having some time available on his last day, we decided to meet in Red Wing and continue to Alma for an afternoon on the river. It was a beautiful day that April 5th and it started our close friendship that continues today. We have shared trophy fishing on Mille Lacs, ice fishing on DeWeese Reservoir for trout, and river fishing on the famous Arkansas River Canyon, west of Canyon City, CO. Leon's house is like walking into a natural history museum. A huge bull elk anchors his family room, at the time the second largest elk ever taken in Colorado with a bow. He has the proof of the first mountain goat taken in Colorado with a bow. Several pronghorn trophies adorn his walls intermixed with a mounts of mule deer racks, a 8+ pound walleye from the Pueblo Reservoir, and a stunning rainbow trout mount. Leon has since retired and has purchased a place in his home state of Oklahoma which should provide him with hunting paradise for years. I would have to say that Leon is the best whitetail hunter I know. Sometime I swear when looking at him I see antlers growing out of his head! This nice buck was shot this weekend in Kansas with his bow. Not bad for a retired guy. I hope to meet up with Leon some time in the future for a nice reunion. Maybe pig hunting or fishing stripers on Lake Texahoma, how about it Leon! Congratulations on another hunting success, although I have come to expect nothing less from Leon.

This last picture comes from my own hunting party. Joining us again this year is Bobby Allen, Rich's little brother from Seattle Washington. Talking on the phone, he sounds exactly like Rich and it's kind of nice to hear that voice again. Along with Bobby there is Eugene, Kevin, Austin, Rich's son Scott, Freight Train (Jack's brother-in-law) and Brett. Brett and Bobby are staying at Rich's all week. Well I get a call from Mary to give Bobby a call immediately. Brett had shot an albino deer. Doing as Mary asked, I called Bobby and sure enough, Brett had bagged a spike albino buck at around 140 pounds. Mille Lacs area has a good number of both albino deer as well as "piebald" deer, which are not true albinos but have white coats. Albino deer are legal game in Minnesota during the deer hunting season so it was perfectly legal. Although it does upset some people, biologist claim it is better for the herd to remove this defective gene from the pool. Admittedly I may have not taken this deer, however I am happy for Brett who now has a different kind of trophy. Of course the proverbial "Call Cabela's and see what they will offer" came up. Busy with the excitement, I told Brett I would call and find out if this was an option to sell the hide to them. A quick phone call confirmed, "Yes we buy unusual specimens however we only buy items that have already been mounted". I guess they don't want to deal with the mess! According to Bobby their immediate plan was to register the deer then stick it into the freezer and decide later. Whether you agree or not, you have to admit that it is a once in a lifetime trophy. I hope my friends luck rubs off on me this weekend.

PS. Make sure you listen to my theme song!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Friend Earl

The problem with getting older is that everyone around you is doing the same. Along with with the aches and pains come the realities that your friends will not last forever. My friend Earl (Mick) Taylor passed away Sunday morning at the age of 83. As I have mentioned in past posts, the Taylor's were the first and remain the best friends I have met since moving out of Eleva almost 34 years ago. Earl and Ellie, their children Linda, Mark, and Jack have been my family away from home for all that time. In fact I would venture to guess that over the years, because of location, I have spent more time with Earl than my own father. I guess when you find something good you stick with it. Through the years Earl called me his 3rd son. We were always invited to every family affair, weddings, funerals, graduations, retirements, anniversary's, you name it we were there. Earl and I had much in common however it was our love for fishing that was a special bond. We would often go out, like a couple of old friends, and he particularly liked ice fishing. Earl lived on South Center Lake in Lindstrom Mn, a perfect place to perfect our skills. He was a key member of Team Walleye and continued to fish with us at 79 years old. You do not have a friendship for this long without a few good stories!

Earl and ice fishing were synonymous. Early in our friendship he would often ask me to tag along as I shared his enthusiasm and more than likely being young, I could drill his hole through the ice easier! (Back then we drilled all the holes by hand) One day Earl called and asked if I would take him and his friend Harry Peters up to Mille Lacs. Never one to miss a chance to get out I gladly accepted and told them to pick me up by 9:00. Well in those days I had little patience for tardiness, especially when we were going fishing. Outside by my garage I had everything organized including poles, auger, tackle, and coffee. 9:00 came and went. 9:30 passed by, 10:00 no Earl, and by 10:30 I am about ready to have a heart attack! Well around 11:00 Earl shows up driving Ol'Blue (his panel van) with Harry riding shotgun. I was pretty upset but decided to go anyway. Mark had warned me about his dad's friend Harry. He was a great guy, just liked to start the day with a cocktail somewhat earlier than most of us. That day was no exception. We fished Sunset Bay on the east side of Mille Lacs as it had ice thick enough to drive on. Not the best spot however it was convenient. It was mid December and you could still see open water a few miles out. We were sitting there fishing when Harry decided he wanted to fish somewhere else, started Ol'Blue and headed for the open water. Now Earl was the calmest man I have ever known. Never one to panic over anything he simply looked at me and said "David, will you go get Harry?" Thank God Harry wasn't in a hurry. Chasing down the van, yelling at the top of my lungs, he decided to stop and see what I wanted. Harry had gone about 100 yards but it seemed like a mile. As I approached the window he asked if I wanted to go with him. "Move over Harry, don't you see the open water?" Harry moved over and we headed back to Earl. As I gave him the key in his snickering laugh he simply said "Thanks Dave"

Another time Earl picked me up in his Buick as we headed for South Lindstom Lake, right by the Dinner Bell. This was a great early ice spot, plenty of parking, and an easy walk out. We had a pretty successful day and it was getting cold so Earl went to start the car while I packed up. He came back out to help and upon returning he discovered that the car was running and the doors were locked. It was a Sunday, we were the last ones off the ice with no one around to help. Well Earl started laughing, however I didn't see much humor in our situation. Back then you could open a car using a coat hanger or similar device. Simply make a hook with the wire, fish it between the window and the weather strip, hook the lock pull and lift. I started walking around and to my surprise ran across some 14 ga solid electrical wire. What it was doing there I'll never know, but it was there! Earl was an electrician, not a locksmith, as he wondered what good that wire would do. We stripped the insulation off and in 3 minutes I had the door open. Earl looked a little surprised it was that easy but relieved, we loaded our stuff and headed home.

Earl was a Medic towards the end of World War II. He married his sweetheart Ellie, who has remained an absolute doll all these years. Mark and Jack are truly my brothers, Linda my sister, their families very special. He will be missed, like the other 3 friends that passed away this year. There are too many stories to tell about Earl and I could go on but like many things, we all have to stop sometime. As stated earlier, he was the calmest man I have ever met. No matter what the situation he always approached things in a positive light. I think our lives would be better if we were all a little bit more like Earl.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Two Gloved Day

I have traded the cold weather for a little reprive and am writing from Los Angeles, California. It has been interesting as it is a balmy 65 degrees and everyone here is complaining about the cold. These people have no idea what cold our trip to Mille Lacs on Saturday afternoon. The weather was predicted to be 48 for a high, perfect for that last fling before the ice freezes. This last time outing also gives me a chance to make sure everything works before I put the boat away, dump a can of Seafoam into the gas for storage, and maybe catch a few fish as a bonus.

Arriving on the lake I was surprised to see the surface temperature at the Cove Landing at a blustery 39.3 degrees, burrrrrrrrr. Water is an interesting substance. It is at its greatest density at this temperature, meaning that is sinks to the bottom. This causes the phenomenon called turnover as the denser water displaces the warmer water on the bottom, stirring the lake up. At around 39 degrees the water is pretty even from top to bottom. As water cools below 39 it starts getting less dense and stays on the surface. When water reaches 32 degrees it freezes, expands and floats. Ice is a very good insulator, protecting the water on the bottom which will essentially stay at 39 degrees all winter long. This allows life in the lake to enjoy an environment that is quite a bit warmer than freezing.

One nice thing that occurs in the fall when the water temperature in higher than the air temperature, the time on the lake can be warmer than that on the water. When it is colder than the air temp, it will feel much colder on the lake. Well Saturday my partner Tom proclaimed it a Two Gloved Day and offered the above pose. Our plan was to start in Wakon Bay for perch before heading to Anderson's Reef to pull some cranks for walleye. There were a few guys fishing perch and actually catching a few. They were all pretty small. Tom had the most unique method of catching these perch. We were in 4 feet of water, he had his bobber stop at 5 feet allowing his jig to sit on the bottom. Pulling it gently off the bottom he could actually sit and hold a fish on his minnow for minutes at a time as they played tug of war with Tom watching his bobber sit suspended 2 feet under the surface. This technique rewarded him with 3 nice perch including this nice 12 incher. Although we didn't kill them, tom was able to go home with a nice meal. About 15 minutes before sunset we headed to Anderson's. The water on the lake was a little warmer, 41 degrees. At this temperature the tullibees should be spawning on the reef. When tullibees spawn they essentially chase all the fish off the reef. It must have been the case as we did not get a single walleye. Based on the current water temp this did not surprise me. It was a so so year but I have a feeling that ice fishing could be excellent this year. At 39 degrees in cove my prediction of ice by mid November may be right on.

Finally I decided to model a favorite hat of mine, the Stormy Kromer. I sort of collect hats and this is my favorite cold weather hat. Previous post of me ice fishing will almost always feature this hat. So what is a Stormy Kromer? Well Stormy was a ball player in the early 1900's before he became a railroad engineer. Apparently he would wear his baseball hat while running the locomotive and it would often blow off his head by wind gusts through the cab. He became frustrated with this so he asked his wife, a pretty good seamstress, to modify his hat so it would stay on. The idea worked so good that it became a legend. You can tell a Stormy Kromer by the string tie in the front. Although most people think that the pull down flaps are for your ears, the real reason is to give extra grip to your head. It really works well and for a hat, it's pretty warm. They are still made in the good old USA in Ironwood Michigan. You can check out their website at . And of course, my friends state that I look good in a it covers up more of my face! Off to make more cider this weekend (we made over 17 gallons last Sunday) and I really do need to get my deer stand up.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Apples, Apples Everywhere!

Well my cider press and grinder finally arrived last Friday. The plan was to try it out that evening with maybe another batch Saturday morning. The lawn needed mowing and I had planned on hitting Mille Lacs in the afternoon. Best laid plans! Getting carried away with the lawn mowing and before I knew it the time had sped away. It was good to get the a few things done around the house as I had committed to helping my sister-in-law Sue on Sunday to get a few things done around her house before winter. Another issue is the current water temperature on the lake. It is hovering around 44 degrees and with the wind predicted to increase I always worry about being on the lake myself. At this time last year a lone fisherman's boat was found drifting on the north side without the occupant. It wasn't until May of this year that he was found. No thanks! Unfortunately the soft water opportunities are slipping away. Deer hunting is just around the corner and the way the weather is going, we might be ice fishing by Thanksgiving. Looking back the latest open water fishing I have ever done on Mille Lacs was December 6th and we still caught fish that day. The earliest I started ice fishing was November 17 when a good friend Earl Taylor and I found 5 inches of ice on North Center Lake. Both those dates are pretty incredible.

So it's apple cider time. Unpacking the new cider press the first thing I noted was the ratchet assembly did not work. Typical Chinese forged metal. It was a great idea, just had to open the holes more. Getting the equipment home I ground up about 4 gallons of apple pulp, mixed in the peptic enzyme that John Felix suggested and waited till the morning to press the "pommel". Pressing is best done if you put the ground apples in a fine mess nylon straining bag. This prevents the pulp from getting into the cider producing a cleaner product. Morning came and I immediately loaded the press and promptly squeezed out a gallon. The straining bags also let you handle the squeezed pulp easier as I rearranged the bag and squeezed it a second time. This produced another 1/2 gallon, not bad. Grinding another batch of apples filled up a 5 gallon pail for the evening press event. The evening pressing yeilded about the same amount, 1 1/2 gallons of juice. Looking at the pulp it still felt wet. I decided to get out my meat grinder and run the freshly pressed pommel through it. Once ground I loaded it into the press and to my surprised squeezed another 1/2 gallon. The third batch was done using the meat grinder alone and yielded over 2 gallons immediately. I think this will be the preferred way. One thing is sure, fresh cider is like honey from heaven! It is certainly better than any store bought, at least I think so.

Next on the agenda, apple pie filling. Searching the internet for recipes proved helpful yet difficult. There are so many variations on the same product however one caught my eye. There is a product out ther called Clear Jel. It is a modified cornstarch product that is used to thicken sauces in canned foods such as soup, pie fillings, salsa, and anything else needing a thicker texture. One can use cornstarch to do the same thing however Clear Jel will not break down during the canning process and is more stable during storage. I started looking at ingredients in many store bought products and its interesting how many carry Modified Cornstarch in them. One cannot buy it locally, or at least I have not found it, and had to order it on-line. It works very good and it will be interesting how they taste in 6 months.

Finally the highlight of my week was attending the CSI tackle wholesalers show with my friends Bill and Kathy Lundeen. This is the place where the new tackle is presented for the area bait shops and I like to attend to see what's being pushed for the next year. One thing that caught my eye was Lindy Little Joe's new Splash Brite Lighted Bobber. The bobber has a built in LED and battery. There are hidden terminals that when water shorts them out, the LED lights. When you pull it out of the water, the LED turns off. No more forgetting to turn off you bobber when you are done fishing. The battery is said to last up to 30 hours and when it finally runs out of juice, the bobber can be used as a standard slip float. The suggested retail is around $8.00 and I think it's a pretty slick product. Well hopefully I can make that last walleye run before deer hunting starts.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Oh The Weather Outside's Delightful.......................

Hoping to repeat my success of last Sunday night, I could not wait for this weekend to show itself. Unfortunately it showed itself as the first and earliest significant snow in many years. With lows predicted in the mid 20's I had no choice but to shift gears and take care of a few things at home. Little issues like blowing out the sprinkler system before it freezes or picking my apples before the cold renders them useless. Picking my apples was the first priority. With 7 loaded trees, it would be quite an endeavor. Finally finishing up on Sunday afternoon the day ended with 22 bushels more than I started with. My hopes are to make both soft and hard cider with most of them. A few weeks ago I ordered a cider press and apple grinder, which hasn't arrived yet. My friend Kevin has a friend near Ashland Wi that makes a wicked hard cider. I asked him if he could give me John's number and instead he had John call me. We had a fascinating discussion on pressing cider and gave me some fabulous tips like using peptic enzyme for better yields. Hopefully my press arrives by the weekend so I can start the process. One thing John says is that cider is better if blended with a number of different varieties. Sunday I bought a 1/2 gallon of Honeycrisp only cider and it was rather bland, proving his theory. Another fate for my apples have been drying large batches in the dehydrator. Using one of those fancy apple peeler/slicers I simply run them threw leaving the skins on, spread them on the drying racks adding a sprinkling of sugar/cinnamon before putting them in the dehydrator. They turn out simply delicious. I will probably try to make a few quarts of apple pie filling as long as I'm at it.

My friends Eric Hayes and John Delestry were more active in the outdoors this weekend. Eric and John have joined me on Mille Lacs on a number of occasions including the night we had a wild ride from 3 mile to Cedar Creek Landing. Determined to fish the evening bite we launched at the landing around 4:00 one afternoon. The wind was out of the southeast, perfect for drifting the reef. We had caught a few really nice fish going into dusk when all of the sudden the wind switched to the northwest and grew to over 30 mph. The landing is was exactly down wind from our location and we decided we had better head in as the waves had built up to an honest 4 feet. Eric's boat is a 17.5 foot Lund Angler with a 70 hp Johnson(Suzuki) tiller. Definitely a marginal boat in these waves, the adventure began. This was about as crazy a ride as I have been on. Eric was at the helm, John in the middle and I had the front manning the spotlight. Eric was doing a great job even though he was not aware of the raging seas around him. I kept encouraging him to stay on the throttle as we pushed through the waves. Going with the waves can be a dangerous proposition. The motor wants to push the back end of the boat down when heading up the next swell and you literally have to beat the one behind you from catching up and filling your boat. I seen a particularly large wave we just crested and I yelled to Eric to check it out, shining the light on the water next to him. The crest of that wave was about 3 feet behind and 3 feet above him! I probably shouldn't have done that. Arriving at the landing it was obvious this was not going to work. As we approached there was a Pro V on a trailer and the waves were crashing over the stern, filling the entire back end of the boat. John had agreed to jump out into the water close to shore as we headed to Mac's protected harbor. He would get the trailer and meet us there. John is a brave man. Before leaving there was a 16 foot lund hanging around the landing waiting their turn. We approached them screaming to follow us to Mac's, we'll go get your car later. They wisely obeyed our request and were glad they did. It was a very difficult to get to Macs but we made it. Those guys were immensely grateful for our insight, we were just glad they were ok. In the meantime John had made it to shore to find the guys loading the Pro V only had a S10 Blazer and could not budge the boat from the water. John ended up towing their entire rig out enough to drain the water completely. Arriving at the landing we first went back for our new found friends car. Loading them both we called it a night!
The first picture is of Eric's dog Lambeau (you got it Packers fans) with their opening day bag of ducks including green wing teal, gadwalls, and 3 mallards, a hen and 2 drakes. This is a pretty impressive bag if I must say. Lambeau is getting up in the years but he still has it in him. Eric hunts around the La Crosse area and his luck was much better than around Minnesota. The second picture is of John's son bagging his first deer during Wisconsin's Youth Deer Hunt last weekend, an nice tender nubbin buck fawn. Limited to does, he did a fine job of showing dad who's going to be the future deer hunter in his family. That deer will sure taste good this fall. Thanks guys for sending in your pictures as my weekend was pretty uneventful. It looks like the weather will be more favorable for getting up this weekend.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Harvest Moon Harvesting

Last Sunday's full moon is known as the Harvest Moon. This bright moon is defined as the full moon closest to the autumn equinox which occurs around September 22th each year. It's name derives from the fact that the bright full moon would help farmers continue to harvest their crops well into the evening with the additional light it provides. Harvest Moons occur in October once every four years with the latest being October 13th. Well, the 2009 Harvest Moon did not let me down. My neighbor Tom loves the full moon bite and asked weeks in advance to reserve a seat in the boat. He is as crazy as I and with the ability to put up with my nuances, makes a fine fishing partner.

Our strategy was to launch out of the east side and fish our favorite perch hole first, checking to see if they have moved in shallow before heading out to our evening destination. Checking the wind forecast showed a predicted 5 - 7 mph blow from the NW. Not enough to change our plans we first stopped at Cedar Creek Public Landing. Well, the forecast lied. As one suggested, you are suppose to add the 5 and the 7 to get the real number. It was a strong 15 mph wind out of the NW and the rollers were a pushing 3 feet plus as they had the whole lake to work themselves up. Deciding that it would be too much work to land the boat at the access we headed to Mac's Twin Bay. They have a nice deep protected harbor and the $10 to launch is cheap insurance. Heading east to the perch hole wasn't too bad and we arrived fighting the wind for position. Not wanting to anchor, we drifted around a few boats and caught a number of small 6 - 7 inch perch. Not enough to keep our interest and understanding the pounding ride ahead of us, we decided to head straight to the reef. From our position it was straight into the wind for 7 miles. Nasty ride!! Arriving at our final destination 35 minutes later, the waves were literally breaking over the shallow rocks as if an angry ocean. Of course the good news was the wind guaranteed a perfect drift over the reef. The other interesting thing was the water temperature. Last Sunday it was a balmy 65 degrees as opposed to this Sunday's reading of 52. It had dropped a whooping 13 degrees in 7 days. Looking at the forecast for the next week, it could be in the low 40's soon. At 52 degrees the walleyes should be literally jumping in the boat!

Well, 2 hours of casting shad raps and rouges produced 1 - 13 inch walleye and a 14" smallie. Pretty paltry if you ask me. Standing on the bow, running the trolling motor in the big swells takes it's toll on an old man. At 7:30 I decided to start trolling, a less stressful endeavor. The wind had started to relent for the evening which set us up for what was to come. In the next 90 minutes we caught 14 walleye or 1 about every 6 minutes. They ranged from 12 inches on the short side to the fattest 27.50 incher I have ever seen. What ever it was the old favorite bait, the Rattlin' Rouge proved deadly. Tom's fished the fire tiger pattern and I stuck with my all time favorite, the tiger minnow. My 115 Suzuki trolls down like a dream and with a subtle pumping action, really triggered these fish. The fish were all caught in the 5 to 10 foot range with a surprisingly good number at 7 feet and deeper. We put 8 in the box, the first time I have completed a full boat limit this year. The keepers were very nice ranging from 14 to 17.75 inches, perfect eating size.

What I found very interesting was the amount of minnows that were present in the stomachs of the fish as we cleaned them. Each fish had at least 1 large minnow and most had 2 with some as high as 4. These fish were stuffed like a Norwegian at Thanksgiving! It is no wonder the bite has been tough of late. Certainly the cooler weather has triggered the fish to put on the feedbag. I am not sure where they could have fit anymore fish in their already stuffed stomachs but what the heck, they were biting. My last picture is one of the minnows we extracted from a fish. It was at least 5 inches long and looks like a young tullibee, which is reported in the lake at record numbers. They are predicting a high of 39 with occasional snow showers this weekend. I had better bring the winter gear as I sure could have used it on Sunday. At least we are catching fish!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trolling Away the Evening

After traveling for the week I could not wait to get back up to the lake and see how the bite has progressed from the week before. Tom Emmons is doing some high level engineering work for us and I figured if he went fishing with me we could get caught up on some things we had little time to do during the week. Agreeing to meet at 1:00, he called in the morning and asked if our good friend Tom McAtee could go with. I had planned to troll all day and the additional line would up the odds 50%. My strategy was to continue pursuing the lead line technique I started last week. After a brief stop at our normal pig out place, Hardee's in Milaca, as well as a quick stop at Lundeens for ice, refreshments, and a rouge, we launched out of the west side. My original thought was to head to the east side but the wind was just enough that it would have been uncomfortable.

Our first stop was a portion of Shermans Flat called The Cut. I brought out the two lead lines from last week and a standard mono trolling rod with a #11 Tail Dancer. We trolled just outside of the flat on the 34 foot depth but only marked 1 fish. Time to move. Heading to a what will remain a secret hump, my Genetron came alive with fish. Of course unless you catch one, it is pretty much a foregone conclusion is they could be anything from eelpout to tullibees to perch. We never found out. What ever was swimming below, there were a lot of them and they were not hungry. My opportunities to catch a walleye on a lead line are shrinking fast.

Our next stop would be spend the last 2 hours trolling Indian Point. It features a long and shallow submerged rock reef straight east of Rainbow Island. The last time I fished this reef with the Tom's it was quite windy as well the lake level was at least 1 1/2 feet lower than it is today. Trying to avoid the big waves I cut too close to the inshore side and hit the bottom rocks as the motor was powering through the swells. That little incident resulted in a mangled prop and a bent prop shaft to the tune of $1200 damage. I am more careful these days. With the water back to a more normal level, trolling is much easier. My pattern is to troll the 5 - 7 foot level with #5 shads or rouges. With 3 lines it was a chance to mix it up a bit and try some new lures. On Mr. Emmons line was a #11 Husky Jerk, on mine was a #5 crawfish shad rap, and on Tom McAtee's line was a Berkley Flicker Shad.

The Flicker shads are an interesting bait. A couple years ago Berkley was doing some promotional deal where stores were selling these baits at $1.99 each. They are a great looking bait and at that price were a bargain. Cabela's had the deal at $1.99 sale so I headed over one morning. Sorting through the bin of various sizes and colors my tote had at least 10 lures while I was still looking. A guy looked at me exclaiming, "Boy they Must be a great bait based on your tote!". Responding, that they looked great, I really was picking up these as "Buddy baits". He looked and said "Buddy Baits?". Yeah, at $1.99 verse $6.50 for a shad rap, they work perfect for giving your buddies who fish with you something to troll with other than your expensive shads as it doesn't hurt so bad when they lose them. He laughed and thought it was a great idea. Well Mac had the last laugh. That flicker shad out produced both Tom and I combined. His total was 5 smallies and 3 walleyes. The top picture is Tom with his largest smallie for the night on the Flicker Shad. Meanwhile I caught 2 walleyes and a gigantic Rock Bass pictured here. That was easily the biggest Rock Bass I had ever caught. The Husky Jerk is a nice shallow water bait which stays fairly snag free. Because it is longer than the shads we were using, I wasn't surprised surprised that Mr. Emmons nailed the nicest fish of the night, about an 18 inch smallie.

The full moon is on Sunday and I plan on taking full advantage of the situation. Sunday marked a significant change in the weather and the water temps should be falling now. Hopefully the big hogs will start to show up.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hello From Boston

I have been in Boston this week, calling on customers old and new. I was traveling with my Sales Manager Chuck Wild as well met our new Representatives from Tiger Electronics, Karl, Evan, and Rick. Karl and I hit it off very well as he grew up similar to myself. One look in his office explains it all. When traveling it's fun to get the flair of the area and Boston really offers an opportunity to see our history close and up front. Karl graciously took the time to show us some of the sites in downtown Boston. One of my favorite stops is the Union Oyster House. As stated it is America's Oldest Restaurant,with much being the same as it was in 1826. The oyster bar is classic. A semi circle bar with the original soapstone working area, the oysters are shucked in front of you and served super fresh with horseradish, their special sauce, and Tabasco. They are huge and delicious. Washed down with a ice cold glass of Harpoon IPA, it the perfect way to start the night. Most of the area around the area was built in the early 1700's. Not far from there is North Boston which is the Italian district. Originally the slums of Boston, the Italians were the last to inhabit this section of town and they stayed. It is alive with small Italian restaurants and bakery's. After the oysters Karl took us to his favorite Italian place, a small but delicious eating place then ended the night at Mike's Pastries, the most famous bakery in Boston. At 10:30 PM the place was packed. Know for their conoli's, the bakers are working all night. Pretty amazing when you consider most of Minnesota shuts down by 10:00!

Next on my list was to go to Gloucester, one of the most important fishing ports in the world. Here Gordon's of Gloucester made fish a household staple. If you have had cod, haddock, or swordfish it likely was processed here. Today the decline of the fish stocks (although haddock are reportedly at record highs) and the ever popular Government regulations have impacted this area severely. To survive the town is slowly converting to tourism. It is certainly a beautiful part of the country. Gloucester is also the basis for the book and popular movie called The Perfect Storm, the story of the Andrea Gail and it's fate during one of the worst storms ever witnessed. When I was looking at buying our current home in 1991, Minneapolis was hit with one of the craziest snowstorms ever. Known as the Halloween Storm of 1991, it dumped over 30 inches of snow in 24 hours. Well this storm met up with another low pressure area then a hurricane in the North Atlantic to create the "Perfect Storm". I loved reading about how they commercially fish swordfish with the lights and the long lines. The book also had a chapter on what is it like to drown. This is why I wear my life vest all the time. We entered the Crow's Nest, the location for much of the movie scenes shot for the Perfect Storm with George Clonney. It was a typical working man's bar, nothing special however the looks we got were expected ones of locals checking out the tourists. I admitted to the bartender why we were there and she offered a photo album of the actors and filming. It was interesting, we had a beer, I bought a hat, that's off my bucket list.

Next stop was the Cape Ann Brewery. One of my hobbies when traveling is to visit local brew pubs and sample their wares. I have been to about 60 of them around the country from Homer Alaska, Manhattan Beach California, The Strand Brewery in Galveston Texas and now one on the far east coast of New England. The beer was excellent as I had a pint of their Fisherman's Ale (go figure). My free time is usually casual and I wear my Green Bay Packer Hat as there seems to be a Cheesehead always close by. It is amazing the people you meet around the world who are Packer Fans, including some in the Shanghai Airport in China. Well half way through my beer a guy look right at me and asked where I was from. Sconnie of course! He was with his wife and son from southeast of Milwaukee. We cheese heads are a friendly bunch and invited ourselves to join them for another pint, discussing the problems with the last Packer game. It was a lot of fun for sure and Chuck learned the power of the Green Bay mystic, something that he will never realize in Buffalo, New York. Here are a couple of pictures of my new found friends as well as me, the Gordon's from Gloucester fisherman! I did check out the fishing opportunities and yellowfin tuna are in the area as well as stripers and cod. I have put that on my list for potential fishing adventures.

I did get out fishing on Mille Lacs last Saturday. I had heard that using lead core line was in so I bought 200 yards at Fleet Farm before heading up. Lead core line is exactly what it sounds like, a lead strand with braid around it for strength. The line is also colored in 10 yard sections going from purple to white to black to green and a rainbow of colors for each section. The theory is that 18# lead core sinks at a rate of 5 feet for each 10 yards (or color) let out. To fish 25 feet deep simply let out 5 sections. At the end of the lead core is tied a mono leader around 10 feet long. The objective is that you can fish standard baits like floating Rapala's or Shad Raps at depths significantly deeper than what they would run. My plan was to have Tom drive while I take an existing line counter reel, strip the line and replace it with the lead core. After doing all that work the line prove too large of a diameter and could only get 4 sections on, not enough to fish the depth we planned. Plan B was to see if Bill had any larger capacity reels. He did not but reminded me of the large salmon rods I had let him use a number of years ago and they would work. After a half hour of rerigging we were set. Tom and I headed out to some of the deep gravel areas that had fish stacked on them. The fish were there but not very cooperative. Although we caught nothing on the lead core it was a great experience for next years strategy. We did end up on Anderson Reef for the evening bite, which never materialize either. Tom finally got a 16 incher with a Rouge before we left. Certainly one issue remains the warm water temperatures. It is still in the high 60's which needs to get into the mid 50"s before that shallow bite really gets going. Oh well, fun trying!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sporting Clays Last Week

Last weekend instead of fishing I shot sporting clays at the annual Kramer Open, a charity event held at the Wild Marsh Gun Club, Santiago, MN. Our organizer Dave Kramer does this every year on the Saturday after Labor Day. Sporting clays is sort of like golf with guns. We shoot 100 birds (clay targets) in two groups of 50 on a 9 station course winding through the woods. Hitting all of the targets can be extremely difficult. The targets and shooting positions vary with each location with targets flying high, low, fast, slow, coming, going, and the occasional rabbit target where the clay is rolled on the ground. The intent is to try and duplicate actual shooting situations one would occur while hunting. I normally shoot with my good friend Tom Emmons however this year I assembled a team from work consisting of 2 engineers Welly and Al along with our manufacturing engineer Andy. It had been a while since Al and Andy had shot with Welly never having fired a shotgun before. Lucky this wasn't a team event!

My introduction to sporting clays was through Dave Kramer a number of years ago. Many of my customers were participating in this event and I thought it would be fun. I have been hooked ever since. My original shotgun is the Browning A5 Belgium model 12 ga (Top picture). I traded a snowmobile, recurve bow, and a bolt action 22 for it. Beautiful gun but I never could hit anything with it. I still have it as a collectors piece. When I decided to shoot the Kramer I also decided to get a new shotgun. Any excuse is good right! Having always wanted an over/under I picked up a Browning Citori 12 ga, O/U with a 26 inch barrel (middle picture). I figured that I could also use the gun for upland game such as pheasants and grouse, so I opted for the shorter barrel. Browning makes a very nice gun and I especially liked this. Prior to the meet Tom and I went out to practice with the new firearm. He shot skeet at the time and we decided to try it first. I shot a remarkable 23 birds the first time, which was pretty incredible, especially for me. Unfortunately the good shooting did not carry over to the sporting clays event. No problem, I was hooked. Eventually I joined a league with my Team Walleye friends and we have shot for many years. With my Citori I settled at about 35/50 (70/100) and stayed there. My best score with the Citori is about 40.
I was determined to look for other way to improve my score and what would any red blooded American do but blame the gun! I ran across a great deal on a Browning 525 Sporting Clays O/U with a 30 inch barrel, loaded with all those extras to improve your score. Maybe it is just in my head but it really worked. Tom claims all the improvement is because I am 4 inches closer to the target with a 30 inch barrel vs the 26 inch. The next year at league I improved by over 5 birds/50, consistently scoring 40 - 42. My first year shooting the Kramer Open with the gun saw me win the most improved shooter award. In a war of nerves with Mr. Emmons, whom I have never beaten, I lead the score all the way to the very last station. With 94 birds shot, I lead by 1 with 6 left. I shot first and hit the 4 in a row, with 2 left. These were easy targets however I think Tom was kicking his voodoo doll likeness of me and I missed the last 2. He was up next and hit the same 4, demolished number 5 to tie and nailed the 6th one to beat. He still thinks I lost intentionally to make him feel good as I had him sweating all day. I guess he will never know.
As far as Saturday results, it was pretty interesting. I shot an 88/100, good enough for 3rd place, right behind Tom's 92. Welly had never shot a gun before and his score was an amazing 48. Al had brought his new side by side 12 ga and shot over 55, which was fabulous for having not shot for over 20 years. Andy did well with a 57. I tried to spend a lot of time coaching these guys as it is pretty easy to see why they were missing them. Keep the gun moving, get out in front of it, your shooting way below it. They took it in stride and I felt did really well. One thing I did forget is to pay more attention to how they were holding their guns. Both Al and Welly were pretty bruised up for the next week as there was a price for their fun. Oh well, next year. Off to Mille Lacs this weekend, I can't wait!
Here is an on-line shooting game you might enjoy: /