Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Boating With Dave, Superdave That Is

We have been blessed with a colder than usual July as seen by the surface temperatures of Mille Lacs Lake. It has basically been one cold front after another so the fishing has been up and down like a yo-yo. Saturday was the official breaking in of my neighbors new outdoor kitchen so I decided that Sunday would probably be the best day to head to the pond. My friend and neighbor Lory Brasel shared my boat as we pointed the truck north once again. We got a fairly late start and in addition to fishing I had promised my good friend Bill to help him with his new Apple Ipod touch. I am an Ipod addict and carry one with almost everywhere. They are especially useful for airline travel as a movie can take you to your destination in an instant. I have a 160 gig Ipod classic with over 13,000 songs and 96 movies loaded into it. One never runs out of things to watch or listen to that's for sure. Paired with my Bose Quiet Plus headphones one can disappear into your own world. A few pointers and some Coca Cola, we decided to launch out of Cove Bay. The gravel has been giving up a number of fish this year and I though I would try a new tactic. With really only a few hours left to fish it was worth a try and who knows what success we would experience. Well, not that great! We trolled around the 4 Mile and 5 Mile Gravel with nothing more than a relaxing boat ride to show for our efforts. The wind had almost died and it was a perfect day to be on the lake. As trolling proved to be fruitless we found a couple of deeper rock humps and tried bobber fishing. My good friend John Bathke had just called of their success on the flats earlier that day. One little bite was all we could muster. Our final effort was spent on Anderson Reef looking for some shallow water smallies. The water level is up nicely this year however the recent heavy rains have clouded the water. Sight fishing was out of the question and with zero hits after a tour of the reef we headed back. A quick stop at the Conoco Station for gas and a 2 scoop ice cream cone we called it a day. No fish but relaxing none the less. This is what fishing is supposed to be all about anyway, right?

Attached is a picture of a cauliflower I picked out of the garden on Saturday. It's a dandy and is the perfect prop to show the neighbors. See in our neighbor hood there is a nickname for almost everyone. There is Tim the Toolman, Botz, Przymus ( pronounced scha-moose), Petey, Limo Joe, Snap On Gary, and mine is SuperDave. Although a derivative of SuperDave Osborne, the crazy stuntman, it has more to do with my overall knowledge of everything good. I have a huge garden and the cauliflower just enhances my reputation in the hood. Besides this, the garden contains such delights as asparagus, potatoes, sweet corn, tons of raspberries, onions, blueberries, cucumbers, squash, peas, peppers (3 kinds), kale, tomatoes ( 3 kinds), dill, cilantro, cantaloupe, carrots, radishes, and if one looked hard a rouge horseradish plant or two. Mixed in with a few flowers, it looks pretty good. Along with this I have a small orchard with 10 mature apple trees of various varieties and 3 pear trees that surprisingly offers up delicious pears come the first of September. I also have an uncanny ability to trap pocket gophers. As a young man in the summer I would often ride my bike 3 - 4 miles in the country to trap these unwanted pests. They make large mounds of dirt from their tunneling activity and if in an alfalfa field, can be real hard on equipment that can hit these mounds while cutting. A good friend Jim Anderson (no relation) would give me $0.50 for each gopher and the county had another $0.50 bounty for each pair of front feet brought in. I used to make a lot of money for a 12 year old back then! All these things add up to the nickname Superdave and I try to live up to the expectation. I have more stories but will save them for the future.

Speaking of neighbors, a good friend of everyone passed away on Friday. Like the rest of us we had a name for Jim Olson, it was Pepsi Jim as he worked for Pepsi Cola. He was a great guy, never in a bad mood, and was often seen driving his restored Allis Chambers utility tractor around the neighborhood. Jim fought a tough fight against his cancer but lost the battle. We will miss him and his positive attitude. It is a reminder that everyday is precious and like fishing Sunday, it really doesn't matter if you catch any fish, what matters is that you are able to enjoy the moment. Jim passed away way too early in life, take advantage of what you have.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Finally In The Groove

Well after a tenuous June I finally made it back to the pond for the third weekend in a row! Sometimes beggars can't be choosers and this trip saw Mr. Emmons accompany me for the second time in as many weeks. Tom is a great friend to fish with, seldom shows his displeasure and lets me basically run the show with little complaints. He is the only guy that dares to smoke in my boat however he is keenly aware of what would happen should his lighted end get away from him. The day was as perfect as one could ask for with calm winds lasting right up to the time we left. I had my educated night crawlers with but still stopped at Lundeens and picked up ice plus an extra dozen leeches. My boat has 2 live wells and a baitwell which doubles as a great cooler. Generally Bill gives me bulk ice and I just dump it in the baitwell where it lasts all day long as long as I set the plumbing to recirculate. Arriving at the landing we unloaded and headed for Shermans. I generally start fishing the area on Shermans called the cut. It's edge runs southwest to northeast and is a great place to start. Within 15 minutes I caught the first fish, a 15" keeper, one in the box! About 10 minutes later we received a call from a my dear friend Mark Applen, who was on the 7 mile. We decided to head over and tag team the flat. Although it was nice to see Mark the only thing we caught was a 4 inch perch. After a short run to 9 mile we bid Mark ado and headed to the Sliver Flat, the site of Russ's nice fish last week. Almost immediately I hit this nice 25" fish on a crawler. This fish was the second on my educated crawlers, verifying my theory from last week! This fish hit like a freight train leading me to believe that the epic battle by my brave homegrown bait paid wonderful dividends! A couple more passes along this small flat produced little so we decided to switch strategies and don the planar boards. The calm weather proved excellent for trolling and it became a welcome change of pace. Heading between the Boot and Fishers flat Tom noticed his board dancing. Once he reeled the board in and I disconnected the battle was on. I was really surprised how active this fish was since often these fish are effected negatively by the boards. Landing this 24 incher, Tom was finally on the board. It took about another hour before I hit my first walleye on the planers. I have strike indicator flags mounted on the boards which fold back when a fish is on. These work great and makes identification of "fish on" considerably easier. Resetting our spread produced another nice walleye 15 minutes after this fish. We circled back through the productive area which proved to be less productive the second time around. We decided to see if our crawlers were still up to the task and tried a new spot, the southwest tip of the 8 mile flat. We nailed a couple of smaller walleyes but nothing worth bragging about. Although it was beautiful out, it was still hot and we both started smelling like ripe catfish bait. Having caught a few nice fish, one in the box, we decided to head to the Dairy Queen for a malt, some onion rings, and reflect on a great day on the water.
Some parting thoughts about Mille Lacs. The surface temperature is a cool 66 degrees. This is almost unheard of for the middle of July and should be at least 8 degrees warmer. Two years ago the temperature was in the mid 70's causing a massive tulibee die off which scattered several thousand of these dead fish on the surface. Mille Lacs is on the southern end of their range and "global warming" is suppose to be their ultimate demise. Last year was a record tulibee hatch and this cool weather will bod well for restoring the lake's population. It is offical, Mille Lacs has zebra mussels, probably riding on a boat that either came from the St. Louis River near Duluth or more likely a boat that just came from the Mississippi River. Zebramussels are a foreign invader and the jury is still out as to the effect that it will have on the lake. Time will obviously tell. The Minnesota DNR has stepped up exotic species laws meaning you must assure your trailer is clean of any weeds, your live wells and baitwells are empty, and your boat plug pulled at the landing. The fine for failure is about $150 and are strictly enforced. Make sure you pick up the latest boating guide in your area to note the regulations. At Mille Lacs each landing has information posted to your responsibilities. I am sure I will be heading back up this weekend to continue my nightcrawler theory validation. My great friend Chuck Teasley will be joining me the following week and I am really looking forward to fishing with him.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Catching With Clos...........and Nightcrawlers

After 2 years of promises, I finally had the opportunity to take my good friend Russ Clos to Mille Lacs for some soft water fishing. Russ and I have ice fished a number of times last winter on Pelican Lake, successfully catching crappies and sunfish each time. It was his first time to Mille Lacs during the regular open water season and I always find it exciting to share a good experience with a friend. The weather forecast stated a southeasterly wind 5 - 10 mph, which is more than a fishable forecast. Weather forecasting is the only job where you get paid being wrong 80% of the time and Saturday was no exception. Arriving at Lundeens to pick up crawlers the flag on the VFW told a completely different story, out of the Northwest and around 20 mph. As the lake came into view our fears were confirmed. Although the waves were not terribly large, each one was being blown over causing the lake to look like a determined washing machine. My strategy was basically the same as last week due to the amount of fish I marked, it seemed like a pretty good idea. The first two stops produced a small perch. The wind forced us to fish along flat edges that coincided with the wind direction. Arriving at 7 mile, the west side was positioned perfect for the drift. About halfway down the flat I nailed this nice 25 inch fish. We repeated the same drift 4 more times with only a little more sunburn to show for it. Russ was feeling the motion somewhat so I decided to troll to 9 mile flat with #11 Tail Dancers and give both of us a break. Nothing was hitting our Rapala's. At 9 mile we took out the crawlers and drifted the west edge looking for any takers. Although we marked quite a few fish, none were in the mood to hit our baits. The next move was to the Sliver Flat, is a small and very narrow flat north on 9 mile. Drifting over the top and down the edge produced Russ's first large walleye. This fish was over 24 inches and represented the largest walleye he had ever caught. Releasing it we fished a couple more passes before heading back to Shermans. Fishing in these conditions can be very exhausting and by 5:00 we were done for the day. Wind burnt, sun burnt, and 3 walleyes made for a tough day however seeing Russ catch his largest walleye made it all worth it.

My last three outings have been less than spectacular, especially hearing from my friends and their successes. First of all, I am not that bad of a fisherman! Opener at Leech Lake was fantastic yet my Mille Lacs outings have been less than stellar. Well, it rained enough last night to entice the night crawlers to expose themselves in my garden. Having bought crawlers the last 2 times, I figured it would be a good time to stock up on some home grown worms when it suddenly dawned on me, the night crawlers I have been buying are Canadian crawlers (no offense Bill). For crying out loud, what do Canadian crawlers know about catching Minnesota fish? Well, the answer certainly seems obvious to me, they don't. Looking back at my successful trips over the years, crawlers out of my garden have been the standard in my boat and I presume they are a lot smarter at catching walleyes in Mille Lacs than those imported Canadian beasts! This conclusion came to me as I was adding my own harvested crawlers to the ones left over from the weekend. For a moment there was some apprehension as adding good crawlers would make it difficult to distinguish between the two. Although I caught and added 86 worms to an already 2 dozen, what would the possibility of grabbing one of the Canadian bred for the hook and not catching anything again? I finally concluded that if my own crawlers were smart enough to catch walleyes they were smart enough to train their Canadian counterparts the fine art as well. With that problem solved I look forward to getting back up to the pond this weekend and really nailing them!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My 4th of July Tradition

Sticking with a tradition that has lasted over 15 years I had the pleasure of taking the Tom's back out on Mille Lacs on Saturday the 4th of July. As usual they met me at the pole shed with Caribou Coffee in hand. A quick transfer of gear and food, we headed north. Our first stop was at the Milaca Hardies for lunch. This restaurant has all but disappeared from Minnesota. It is too bad as they make an excellent burger. Our next stop was Lundeens for some bait, ice, and advice. After obtaining all three it was off to the landing. It could not have been a more beautiful day. The wind was none existent as the surface of the lake was like glass. This certainly was a turn around from the last 2 weekends, and a welcome one at that. Launching the boat we headed to the first rock hump which produced a single fish. Next stop was The Cut, a long stretch of an edge on Sherman's Flat. Dragging a combo of crawlers and leeches produced nothing. The weather was really getting hot and I recognized my guests could use a break. Pulling out the planer boards and line counter rigs, I threw on some #11 Tail Dancers and had Mr. Emmons let out 150 feet of line. After putting the board on his line we set up Mr. McAtee. Both boards were running great so it was my turn. I had not let out more than 20 feet and the port board started to dance. After a 5 minute battle the lunker showed itself, a 24 incher. A quick picture and back in the lake it went. Alright, that was quick! Resetting the lines we trolled for the next hour with nothing more to show. Oh well, it was 3:00 and I figured we would head to a favorite mid lake reef to check out the shallow rocks. In years past it has been common to see hundreds of walleyes with a muskie or two mixed in, leisurely swimming on top of the reef in 3 feet of water. The walleyes where not there so we spent 20 minutes fishing for smallies. I have become very proficient with a tube jig and immediately hooked into this nice fish. Catching 3 more smaller fish we moved south to a small gravel hump for some bobber fishing. The wind had picked up some what and it would be perfect to anchor and try our luck. I tend to look the area over first with my depth finder to verify if there are any fish in the area. Having registered quite a few marks we threw anchor and started fishing. The bobbers went down almost immediately. McAtee lost 2 real nice fish right away before Mr. Emmons hit this beautiful 23 incher. We caught 6 walleyes before moving back towards the landing to be closer to the Garrison Fire Works show. Settling back at Sherman's Flat, we anchored on the top side and decided to keep bobber fishing. As we were anchored I noticed a number of fish directly under the boat. Almost like ice fishing, I dropped a jig/leech combo over the side until my sounder displayed it on the screen. You could literally see the fish chase the jig up and down until finally one hit it, the only keeper we got for the day. As darkness descended on us, the fireworks had not started yet, we decided to move in closer. Bad move. Once anchored it was like the 3 stooges trying to figure out the best way to reset our bobbers. Tom dropped his depth finder weight overboard to set his depth and it immediately wedged into the rocks below. A quick response resulted in leaving most of his rig on the bottom. In the meantime I was trying to move my bobber stop and it just tore my line to shreds. In 10 seconds my line had snapped without putting it in the water. Looking at each other we decided it was too dark to retie, the fireworks were still not happening, and if we were going to eat supper, it might be smart to head in. Once the boat was loaded we headed south for our meal at Chico's. I was looking forward to having a cold beer with a taco however it was closed. Back to Hardies! Over all it was a fair day. The weather was great plus we ended up with 8 walleyes, 4 smallies, and a nice perch. We are all getting alittle older and I hope we can continue this tradition for years to come.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wind, Wind, Wind

After working at the in-laws again on Saturday I was ready to get out fishing on Mille Lacs. the plan was to head up just after lunch on Sunday with my friend Tom Emmons. About 9:00 I got a call from my friend Bill Lundeen informing me that the wind had turned the lake into a frothy mess with the forecast claiming even stronger winds in the afternoon. If Bill calls with a warning, you had better listen. A quick check of some local lakes and wind gusts to 50 mph, I decided to fight another day. July 4th is my tradition trip with the "Toms" and let's hope mother nature cooperates at least once this year!

So what the big deal with wind and Mille Lacs Lake anyway? Mille Lacs Lake is located about 80 miles due north of Minneapolis. It is a relatively a shallow lake with it's maximum depth at 38 feet. Mille Lacs measures about 25 miles long and 13 miles wide. With very little to stop the wind and it's shallow nature, respectable waves can develop quickly. This time of year the walleyes have moved to offshore structures and regardless of which way the wind is blowing, once it hits a certain point, there is few places to hide that hold fish. One of my favorite places to fish in late June early July are the mud flats. These are mid lake structures that resemble underwater plateaus, rising 10 to 12 feet from the bottom. They can cover a few hundred square feet to over a square mile. There are well over 2 dozen identified flats as well as numerous unnamed flats. One of the more popular mudflats is 7 mile Flat. It's 7 miles from something however I am not sure the reference point as 9 mile is directly east and 8 mile is directly north. This flat has a U type shape and like many flats drops from 24 feet on the top to 36 feet at the base in less than 20 feet. 7 mile can hold some big fish. One of my favorite ways to fish is rig a crawler harness with a spinner and back troll along the edge, moving from 36 feet to 24 feet, hang the edge, then move back down. Depending on the mood of the fish, you may find them either on the deep side or the shallow side. Once you locate the fish, it is wise to continue the pattern until they quite biting. I tie my own crawler rigs. My friend Leon Lambert taught me the fine art of tying a snell and after a quick refresher course I got pretty good at it. I like to use Tru-Turn bait holder hooks for my crawler rigs as they really work well. When guiding I count on these hooks as they practically set themselves. Trying to teach a person the nuances of live bait fishing can be frustrating however the Tru-Turn hooks help my clients be more successful. Another popular method of fishing the flats has been the slip bobber technique. Usually one anchors on the top side or the deep side, right on the edge so one can cover both depths. This type of fishing is often extended well into the dark by the use of lighted bobbers. They have a small LED and battery which keeps the bobber lighted. It is very exciting to see the bobber go down and watch where the fish goes. This technique can be deadly. I once did a lot of bobber fishing and have got away from it. I certainly caught a lot of fish under a bobber over the years however today I prefer to keep moving. The fish I am holding came off of 7 mile flat. Hopefully I will have something more substantial to report next week.