Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Lighter Side of Ice Fishing

Although many people view ice fishing as a rather dull sport, in Minnesota we see things alittle bit different. Among many smaller local and very large regional ice fishing contests is the International Eelpout Festival in Walker Minnesota(http://www.eelpoutfestival.com/). It is quite a unique event which celebrates our winter traditions as well the lowly eelpout. Also know as a burbot or lawyer, the eelpout is actually a freshwater member of the cod family. Minnesota is on the southern edge of their range and Leech Lake is a perfect place for them to thrive. These fish love the cold water and are extremely active in the winter, spawning in February under the ice. Mille Lacs contains eelpout as well and are only caught during the ice fishing period. They are far from the most handsome fish in the lake and tend to curl around your arm when you pull them out of the hole. Being a member of the cod family they are excellent table fare however it takes a bit to clean one as they have a rather unique smell to them. They have a liver that takes up about 1/3 their body weight and the only really good meat is along the back above the ribs. Boiled up and served with melted butter they are known as "poor man's lobster". The Eelpout Festival can get pretty crazy. Here's a couple of guys "bobbing for eelpout". There are a couple of these slimy fish in the container and the guys take turns trying to catch them with their teeth. There are many interesting activities and events, all that involve beer at some point. From scantily clad humans jumping into a hole cut through the ice to eelpout races, this event attracts people from around the world.

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders may have a lock as America's sweethearts however here in Minnesota we have the Ice Fishing Bikini Team. I am not sure where they found these brave ladies however they have been making ice fishing much more interesting these days. Originally designed for a St. Paul Winter Carnival event in 2007 by Exoctica Swim Wear, a number of ice fishing manufactures such as Strike Master Ice Augers and Wilcraft Motorized Ice Shelters have taken the opportunity to associate with the team.

If your computer has sound, undoubtedly you have heard the music that plays while you cruise my posts. These are linked to http://www.playlist.com/ which one sets up your own playlist of songs available on their site. My playlist is based on a search of fishing songs as well as the final song being a tribute to my cousin Greg's appreciation for those great old country ballads. A couple of weeks ago I searched to see if there was any new music and I found a fabulous rap song done by the great group, Da Yoopers(http://www.dayoopers.com/). Just go to the left side of my blog and scroll down to the section titled Music To Read By. There is a list of songs and just click on the second song titled Ice Fish Baby. I am sure you will find it unique, entertaining, and very well done.

I did go fishing this weekend. Thinking Mille Lacs would be a great place to enjoy the last day of inland walleye fishing, Bill suggested the bite was slow and one might want to entertain Plan B. Russ and I headed to a friends lake north of Mille Lacs and fished the evening bite picking up 2 walleyes each. Although not huge, they were keepers and Russ enjoyed a nice meal of walleye fillets. Certainly the Bikini Ice Fishing Team provides a better picture than me! Panfish are still fair game and I will be spending the next month trying my luck. April 1st is our annual Lake of the Woods trip that I am really looking forward to.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Posting From Washington DC

Greetings from Washington DC. I am here at the Applied Power Electronics Conference (APEC) which is held every year near the end of February. It is an important trade show where we get a chance to show our products to a world wide customer gathering. It is also a time to renew old friendships such as Olaf Niemann of Kaschke Components located in Germany. Olaf and I have much in common such as we both like beer. We talked about current events in Germany and why he has a Scandinavian first name!

Saturday I finally made my rounds in Wisconsin to see all the relatives and my dad. It was a good time but I got back somewhat late. Sunday I decided to go out for a few hours, back to Pelican Lake to try for some more crappies. On the way I called my friend Russ to let him know where I would be in case he decided to join me. Stopping for bait I was out on the ice by 3:00. I had not even finished setting up when Russ pulled up. I had drilled a number of holes and stuck the camera down looking for weeds. After locating some potential fish holding areas I set my shack over the best looking spot. As last week the crappies did not show there presence until about 5:30. They seemed to go in streaks with a couple of fish showing up at a time with about a 10 minute delay between catching. Although temped to stay, I knew I had to finish packing as my flight departure meant that I had to get up at 3:00 AM to arrive on time. Although Russ only nailed one, I got a total of 5 and I am sure that staying another hour would have rewarded me with a limit of fish. I am going to have to get Russ one of my spring bobber poles to change his success rate. My pictures include one of Russ in his Eskimo Ice house. Russ has come a long way in the last couple of years towards being an excellent fishermen and I really enjoy teaching him new techniques and strategies. The other picture is sunset on Pelican. The rain of a few weeks ago has totally cleared the ice of snow and provides a stunning reflection of the sun going down. Walleye season closes next Sunday for all inland waters so I am planning on hitting Mille Lacs one last time for these elusive fish.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sticking Close to Home

Mille Lacs reports have been less than stellar so I figured if I was going out this week, it would be close to home again. My original plans were to spend the weekend in Wisconsin, first checking on my brother-in-law John and his wife Sue, then head to Eleva to see my dad for a few hours. My dad celebrated his 79th birthday last Monday and I usually try to get down to see him during this first week in February as mine was on Wednesday. Neither him or I get too excited about these birthday's............I guess as we get older there are better things to celebrate! I have discussed Eleva in the past as it's truly small town America. Every morning Dad drives downtown (4 blocks) to the Full House Bar and Grill, owned by his neighbor Kim. There he along with some of the best people in the world sit down and solve the world's problems over coffee and cookies. My dad is well known in the area as being pretty tight. One can be certain there is plenty of good natured discussions poking fun at each others unique political stance or values and my dad's friends like to make sure I know their progress. Eleva is full of men that have provided me with a wealth of influence that kids today rarely experience. Guys like my old boss, Vic Wenass, who's patience and kindness set me up for the life I enjoy today. Ronnie Semingson who poured concrete on my new boots to make sure I didn't get too proud of them. Dunk Semingson, who's son Rick is a wonderful friend of mine, provides me with a reason to keep my dad's "mojo" going. These guys have a great tradition that provides for an interesting birthday celebration. You see, on your birthday it is your responsibility to treat everyone at the bar. Last Monday it was expected that Dad show up with money for coffee and a birthday cake to share with whom ever was there. It cost him about $40 and you can be assured that if Dinny (my dad's nickname) was buying there was a big crowd to watch him part with his money. This tradition assures that no birthday will be forgot as it is the only way to possibly get your money back.

Deciding not to drive down this weekend, Jason called me with a question regarding some fishing issue. Asking what he was doing later, we decided to head out to Pelican Lake, west of Albertville, MN. I had fished this lake earlier this year only to see the dead bullheads scattered on the ice, however this lake puts out some nice sunfish and crappies. Meeting my friend Russ again, it was almost a repeat of last weeks outing. Pelican Lake was once a large swamp and had been designated as a wildlife lake by the DNR. Over the last 8 years the water level has risen by 3 - 4 feet which has significantly increased the size of the lake. Along with this high water came the sunfish, crappies, bass, and northerns. Unfortunately the DNR wants to restore this great fishery back to a duck swamp. The lake is very fertile and the fish are more than respectable. It is also extremely popular. I would bet that on Saturday there were no less than 2000 cars scattered in clumps of little cities around the lake. It was pretty incredible. Never a guy to follow the crowds, we found an area about 1/4 mile away from the nearest cluster of houses. Like most of the lake it was about 11 feet deep where we set up. I try to scatter the guys, trying to look for active fish from someones hole. Lately I have been using my camera and when I lowered it there was a big bullhead about 4 inches from the camera lens. It stayed for a couple of minutes before lumbering off into the weeds. None of us caught any fish while the sun was out and the only thing I saw besides the bullhead was a crappie cruising by. As soon as the sun disappeared over the horizon a decent mark showed up on the vexilar. Dropping my waxie, I waited for a hit only to see the spring bobber slightly move. Setting the hook rewarded me with a nice 10" crappie. I told Jason to come on over and fish in my shack as it was warmer and the marks were still visible on the depth finder. After missing 2 more fish, I finally nailed a couple more crappies before Jason nailed this nice 8.5" sunnie. I found it interesting that he caught the sunfish when it was completely dark as these fish usually shut down with the sun. We agreed that it was possible to stay a little longer and picked up a few more but figured a stop at Cabela's on the way home might be nice. One interesting thing about the bite was the crappies simply inhaled the bait and didn't move. It took a lot of concentration to see what was happening below in order to be successful. Too many people fish with bobbers and do not possess the fine art of line watching. A bobber is too stationary and will never detect the subtle inhaling of a crappie that a person working the bait will. I particularly like the Schooley's type spring bobber as it is super sensitive and helps in detecting the slightest hit. Next time your out crappie fishing throw away your bobbin and try line watching. You might be surprised how much your success will improve!

PS. For Greg K, it's not always about me as I make one heck of a guide!

Monday, February 2, 2009

January Thaw

Well, it had to happen. Saturday's predicted temperatures were to hit 36 and as always, the weatherman was wrong. We topped off at a whopping 46 degrees. I decided to head back to Buffalo to see if the crappies and sunnies would cooperate with the nice weather. This time I met Russ and his dad Ed for an afternoon of what turned out to be a beautiful day. I had also unexpectedly met Jason (from the last walleye post) and his wife Abby at a get together the night before and had arranged them to meet me on the ice as well. We scattered the houses in hopes to find some active fish but as usual lately, the fish thought differently. Usually a nice bright sunny day will bring out the best in sunnies with a potential for a fabulous evening bite. With Mille Lacs being slow it looks like I will need to find another lake try my luck.

Sunday was the traditional Superbowl Party at the Men's Crisis Center, my neighbor Tim's place. He has a fabulous detached garage which is heated and has enough room for a large projection TV on a screen at least 7' x 5'. Tim usually provides a number of smoked pork butts as well the beer while the rest of us bring pot luck. While Tim is providing the essentials, another neighbor Kevin Rimbey provides the reason to keep track of the score, if you get the drift. Kevin and his boys love to fish, especially Chris. Last year we had gone to the same lake as I was at on Saturday, and I invited Chris fish with me in my shack. My Wisconsin upbringing has given me some additional tricks up my sleeve and what better opportunity to pass them on to a young icefisherman. Using my spring bobber rod and a vexilar we caught a number of fish to the point where Chris did considerably better than his dad, who was in the wheel shack next to us. Kevin sent me a picture of Chris holding this nice 26" walleye he caught a few weeks on a buckshot lure. I got the picture, I got the lure, but do you think that he would add which lake he was fishing? I guess Chris and I need to have a little discussion later this week!

Prior to the game my wife Lyn and I decided to drive to Monticello to see if we could find the Trumpeter Swans that hang around the open river. According to the recent news reports over 1000 swans spend the winter on the river. Taking the backroads along the river we spotted a number of swans but private property limited our view. Not knowing where to view the swans we headed to Montissippi Park, on the west side of the city to see if they were there. Stopping to ask a resident, he only stated the swans were on the other side of the city, where we just came from. After wondering around, we finally went down a dead end road and voila', the swan viewing area was right there. Walking to the rivers edge the noise was deafening. These swans get their names from the trumpet like sounds they make, and make they do! There was at least 500 swans in this area with flocks of 2 to 6 birds landing constantly as they return for feeding treks into the countryside. To get an idea of how large these birds are, just compare them to the large Canadian Geese standing next to them. They are the largest North American waterfowl with the males weighing up to 35 pounds, have a wingspan of over 7 feet and can stand 4 feet tall. Next to the viewing area is the Swan Lady. She feeds the swans up to 1200 lbs of corn a day. It's quite the set up with a gravity box full of corn sitting in the driveway feeding an auger system which takes the corn to the rivers edge. These swans have come to rely on this food source, however the MN Department of Natural Resources is trying to encourage the swans to fly further south in a more normal migration pattern. It's an odd dilemia with these manificant birds coming back from near extinction and yet the very concentration of them has the DNR worried about a potential disease that could wipe the entire flock. If you have time it is well worth the trip to Monticello and view these beautiful birds.