Sunday, March 29, 2009

Paper Graph Records From a Day on Mille Lacs

Back in the late 1980's early 1990's the state of the art fish finders were the Lowrance X15 and X16 paper graph recorders. Today they have been replaced by sophisticated LCD, high definition, color depth finders that come pretty close to matching the resolution of this older technology however these machines were superior in the ability to accurately tell the user what was below his boat. The graphs were an electro-mechanical marvel that included a gear driven device for pulling the thermal paper across a belt driven stylus. The stylus was a small wire that contacted the paper on one side of the belt and a metal strip on the other. The circuitry would "electrify" the stylus at varying degrees causing the wire that was traveling across thermal paper to burn an image on the paper. The paper usually came in a pack of 2 for $8.00, was 50 feet long, and you could get about a full day and a half if you set the paper speed to a reasonable level. The image was a very high resolution representation of the water column below the boat. It also provided a permanent record of your fishing adventure.

Going through my office this week produced a couple of my old graph recordings of a trip we took on Mille Lacs Lake on July 4th, 1993. This holiday was traditional with Tom Emmons and Tom McAtee (see my post fishing out in my brand new Skeeter 135T. This boat was a 17'3" fishing machine. Along with a 75Hp tiller, it was definitely the premier walleye boat on the lake. As with all new boats it took a while to get use to the specific handling characteristics of the Skeeter. One thing I soon found out was putting both trolling motor batteries in the front compartment really made the front end heavy. My first time out experienced a number of front end wave altercations in which I lost. Moving the batteries to the back made all the difference in the world. The day started out perfect with the water having a mirror like manner to it. We headed out to the flats and nailed a number of fish until the bite slowed. This first stretch of paper was recorded just off a flat in 36 feet of water. The left side is showing my jig falling to the bottom and being lifted up and down. We were marking fish and decided to drop the jig to see if they could be enticed to bite. As my jig is bouncing one can see the fish coming up to investigate it 4 feet off the bottom. My best guess is that they were tullibees (cisco's) hanging in the deep water. They are notorious for following baits, especially in the winter.

The second paper recording is what happened later that day. Our smooth water abruptly disappear with a north wind quickly turning the lake into a churning, angry, frothing mess. When the wind is blowing this hard and 3 guys in the boat, we decided to drift across the top of the flat. We were on 7 Mile and although continued to mark fish, the conditions were almost impossible. Looking at this paper you see that the bottom representation is quite jagged. The view is actually the result of the transducer mounted to the boat moving up and down the wave crests and troughs. What is significant about this recording was one wave encountered that measures 19.5 feet at the trough and 24.5 feet at the height of the crest. This is a true 5 foot wave, probably the largest I have seen on Mille Lacs. Note the arc just to the left of the circle, this is a fish taking on the same shape as the bottom. We decided enough was enough and we started our 5 mile trek back to the landing. Going with the waves can prove to be extremely dangerous. I remember carefully maneuvering the boat only to look back during one of those "heading up the next wave" and staring at a wall of water quite higher than my eye level waiting for a slight mistake. Recovering from the near disaster I stopped the boat and donned my life jacket. Mr. Emmons to this day reminds me of the time I finally found religion on the lake. It was quite an adventure and to my surprised the whole day was recorded forever. Memories come in many forms!

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