Monday, January 26, 2009

Good Bye Jerry

Today we said goodbye to a fellow fisherman, Jerry McDonough. Jerry was the next door neighbor of a dear friend of mine, Mark Applen. Mark organizes a charity golf tournament every year in honor of his son Eric Applen, and uses the proceeds to assist families with children stricken with cancer. ( One of the great rewards of working with the Applens are the new friends that you meet and Jerry was definitely one of them. Besides being a great fisherman he was a master at the art of carpentry and wood working. He had used those talents to help raise thousands of dollars in memory of Eric. On Sunday night I went to say goodbye to Jerry never knowing quite how I would feel. The moment my eyes saw on him I knew everything was going to be OK. Jerry was wearing his Columbia fishing short sleeve shirt with a number of Rapala's hung in his flowers. I guess everyone has their own definition of Heaven and Jerry was certainly well prepared for his. We will miss him and his kindness, even if he outfished me on Mille Lacs! Jerry, make sure to save a spot in the boat for me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Repeat???

After our success of last week on Mille Lacs, I just had to head back to the same spot to try my luck again. I had planned on meeting a few friends on the lake but after arriving it became obvious my adventure would be solo. My first task was to stop at Lundeen's and hitch my ice house to the snowmobile. Trying to start the snowmobile, I immediately pulled the choke lever off. After getting a rivet from Bill, I had it working as good as new. The 7 mile journey took a while as the blowing snow made it difficult to determine what was in front of you. Finding the exact spot I drilled 3 holes inside the shack and 4 outside. Setting up my rattle reel in one hole, my jig pole in another, the third hole was reserved for my camera. This would be the first time I used the camera for fishing walleyes. It was fascinating. About every 15 to 20 minutes a walleye would casually swim to within 6 inches of the lure, stare for about 3 seconds, then swim away as it was no big deal. Through out the day I saw a number of lunker walleyes that were simply not interested. I tried taking a picture but by the time I got ready the fish was gone. Eventually the sun was too low in the sky to provide enough light to see much of anything. Pulling up the camera my Vexilar became my underwater eyes. The low light triggered a couple of fish including one 15 inch keeper before total darkness set in. I headed back to Bill's with 2 caught for the day. After loading my gear I enjoyed a hot bowl of Bill's homemade onion soup complete with bread and melted cheese. Although not as successful as last weeks outing, it is still nice to get out.

This week was the doposit deadline for our
annual Leech Lake Fishing Opener, May 9th, 2009. We have a pretty good crew this year (assuming everyone remembers to send in their deposit). Last year was simply fabulous with both the number as well as the size at record highs. The guy holding this beautiful 27.5 inch winner of last years Big Fish Trophy is Matt Taylor, the son of my good friend Mark Taylor (see my Captain Dave's post). He has been going with our group, Team Walleye, since he was 10 years old and is now a seasoned veteran. This is the largest fish ever caught by our group in 35 years of fishing Leech Lake. I guess we have come to expect big things from Matt. He has grown up to be quite a stud. For his age, he had got things pretty figured out as evidence by the beautiful black Lincoln Mark VII he drives. His friends love hanging around with him as where ever Matt is, there are attractive women hanging around him! Apparently he even dated a Viking's Cheerleader but dumped her feeling he was being played on the rebound. Certainly Matt has set the bar very high for Team Walleye. It's a tough combination to compete with, good looking and a good fisherman. Uffda!!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Day On The Pond

Every year my friend Tom Emmons (on left) rents an ice house on Mille Lacs for a day and this year was no different. After checking a few references, he decided renting from Wilderness Warm on the southwest side of the lake. Joining us is my other friend Tom McAtee (on right) and a late entry, Jason, my wife's cousin. The Tom's picked me up at the house at 6:30 on Saturday morning and we headed north. Although the trip has become a tradition, I still can't sit inside a house all day and as usual made secondary arrangements. We arrived at Bill's (Lundeen's Tackle Castle) around 8:00 to pick up bait and for me, his snowmobile. My agenda was to meet Tom at the rental house, fish until Jason shows up, then head out to a remote location and fish till dark. It was -15 when we arrived at the shop and I was glad I brought my snowmobile gear. Taking off with the snowmobile I figured I would easily get to the road before them, however they arrive well before me and it took at least 15 extra minutes to locate them on the lake.

The rental house was very nice. It was an 8 holer with a bunk bed on each end, a great furnace, lights, kitchen table with chairs, and a cook stove. They were already fishing by the time I arrived so I quickly set up. My vexilar was alive with marks so I decided to put down my camera to see what was there. PERCH!!! Hundreds of them. I put it down the hole by Tom and he took over as the director. We could see each bait from that point and it was pretty amazing to watch all the fish.

Jason finally arrived around 12:30 which was my cue to leave for more active waters. We hitched up the portable to the 2 up sled and headed out. I have a handheld GPS that has a 1 foot contour map of Mille Lacs as the base map and I punched in our destination, 4 miles to the north. 15 minutes later we arrived at the spot only to see about 12 portables scattered around the area. I really didn't feel like adding to the crowd so we headed to a like structure that presented itself on the GPS and there was not a soul around. Drilling 3 holes for the portable and about 6 more scattered outside Jason and I settle in to warm up. It took about 30 seconds to realize we had forgot the minnows so I headed back to our rental for bait. 15 minutes later I was back fishing. The lake has a lot of snow on it forcing about 2 inches of water on top of the ice around the holes. This made for limited maneuverability within the house. The walleyes started hitting immediately with my first keeper getting off testing Jason's reaction time, not quick enough! In the next 3 hours we had constant action with at least 30 fish hooked including this beautiful 27 inch walleye that Jason nailed in one of the outside holes. Jason had outfished me 2:1, using a bait Bill had listed on his weekend update during the week. I guess it will teach me to read a little more carefully. Although we only ended up with 2 keepers, we had many nice fish up to the hole which got off as well as at least 20 fish under 12" which we threw back. At 5:00 the action abruptly stopped so we headed back to the rental. As expected the other guys were packed up ready to go, and had as many fish as they did when we left, zero. We put the equipment away, loaded up the truck, took a group picture and I headed out with the snowmobile, meeting the guys at the shop. On the way home we stopped at Chico's to have a beer and supper. The full moon guided us home from one of the best trips I have had on Mille Lacs in a while.

Monday, January 5, 2009

All The Comforts of Home

Well I finally made it ice fishing on Mille Lacs last Friday. My fishing partner was Tom from down the street and I presented a couple of options before we left. One was to take the snowmobiles with us and drag our shacks out to the fishing spots. The other was to simple hitch up the smaller trailer and drive the vehicle out onto the ice to fish. Being at zero degrees, the "drive to our spot" seemed more practical, even with the nervousness Tom expressed about the total ice thickness. Having stopped at the Milaca Hardies for lunch and Lundeens Tackle Castle for bait and a replacement battery for my underwater camera (I suspect this was the reason the camera was so cheap at Cabela's bargain cave), we headed to Dewey's. A number of resorts have closed on the west side limiting the traditional access points, however they have been replaced by private access points operating on the lake by a few innovative local entrepreneurs. After depositing $10.00 in the locked mail box we headed out on a well plowed road, driving about 3.5 miles to the 28 foot depth just off of Indian Point. Meeting Dewey at the end of the road, we introduced ourselves, confirmed our deposit and he was kind enough to plow a parking spot for us. I set Tom up in one of my older portable all black fish house. Although the air was chilly, the sun quickly heated the house and along with a Coleman lantern, it stayed nice and warm. Drilling those first holes confirmed the ice thickness at around 20", more than enough to support my truck. Being one to spread out somewhat, I dragged my Thermal X about 100 feet from him and set it up. My heater is a Big Buddy propane heater that really works nice for this house. Being well insulated, I can get real comfortable inside, as you can see, it is at least 60F inside. This year I made a plywood base for the heater as it would tend to melt a significant amount of ice causing a very slippery situation. I generally drill 2 holes inside the shack, one for my dead stick and one for my jigging rod. My depth finder (Vexilar FL-20) will reside in the jigging hole to watch the action. As stated earlier, fishing without my depth finder is like driving blind and it can make all the difference in the world on your success. Because of the flash some parts of the display is not showing however if you look at the green line at approximately the 8:00 position, this is my bait (It is at about 25 feet) and the thicker green line just below it is a fish checking out my offering (at about 26 feet). The transducer has a white styrofoam float which suspends it in the hole while keeping it pointed straight down. Sometime if you get a large fish, you need to pull the transducer out of the hole to avoid tangles and losing the fish. I also tend to drill about 10 - 15 holes in a 100 feet radius outside of the shack to provide an opportunity to move around, looking for active fish. For a dead stick presentation I bought a rattle reel that clamps on to the interior pole supports. A rattle wheel is a simple large spool with a number of little rattle type bells inside that make noise when a fish takes line and runs with it turning the spool. Normally my dead stick is a standard ice rod but decided it would be better if when outside fishing, I could hear if a walleye decided to take the bait inside the shack. It works pretty good. Although the shack is somewhat heavy, it can be pulled around very easily with my ATV or snowmobile, going anywhere the fish are biting. We concluded the day with 3 so so perch, 3 very small walleyes that went back, and I had a very nice fish on that never showed it's face. (Thanks John!)

One of my favorite blogs is "What's Dewey Doin' ", which is written by a good friend and past customer of mine, Duane (Dewey) Ness. He retired up north and besides doing all those things I look forward to in retirement, he also writes his blog. It was a definite inspiration for "Fishin" With Dave". His latest post was discussing the difficulty in getting his permanent shack off the ice. One issue we have in Minnesota is the amount of snow on the ice tends to force water up causing a lot of slush. Once the slush has been exposed near a house it freezes solid, leaving a huge problem getting the a house unstuck and then moving it. He had quite an adventure eventually getting the house back on shore assuring future struggles would be limited. It reminded me of the days when my friends and I had a permanent house. Minnesota State Law requires the shacks to be removed off of public waters no later than February 28th. We had the house for a couple of years, a simple 8 x 8 (derivatives of standard plywood sizes) built on a modest frame with 2 x 6 skids. The walls and ceiling were bolted together for easy assembly and tear down. We had extreme snow that year and a week before the 28th a warm spell had melted the snow and then refroze causing at least 4" of ice covering our floor. We ran into town and bought 50#'s of water softener salt and spread it across the ice covering the floor. Returning the next day to remove the house we were pleasantly surprised to see all the ice on the top had disappeared. Unfortunately the ice was solidly holding our floor in from the bottom. After 4 hours of chipping it was obvious we were running out of time. A guy came by noticing our plight and offered to take care of our problem in 5 minutes. He had 30-06 rifle and after securing a box of shells he proceeded to shoot the bullets through the floor with the theory the bullets would strike the ice and shatter it. After a box of shells we had a house who's floor was riddled with holes and still as stuck as before. Eventually were able to pry the floor up breaking it into a few hundred pieces. Dewey claims that this would be the last year of the permanent house. It made me think of that last year we had our house, learning our lesson some 25 years ago!