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: /

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Bounty of the Harvest

Stuck in Cleveland waiting for a flight I thought I would do a short post which continues to show off my reputation in the neighborhood as Superdave! I am celebrating a bountiful harvest of luscious Raspberries, Apples, and Pears. When I moved into Dayton, having acreage allowed me to expand my options so the first order was raspberries. I love raspberries! These plants came from Ted Konkel, my sister-in-laws mother. They are ever bearing raspberries meaning they have 2 crops per year. The first crop begins to ripen during the last week in June. These berries are produced on 2nd year canes which have over wintered from the previous year. Along with these canes, new canes begin to grow in the spring. This new growth produces berries around the first to second week in September. Often people simply mow down the canes early in the season, making it easier to care for them however it means you do not get that first crop. I take the time to trim out the dead canes each spring setting myself up for both crops. This years second crop reacted marvelously to the August rains we had and are simply huge, juicy, and extremely flavorful. As well they seem to be about 2 weeks early. This time of year the berry patch is full of bee's, both large wild bumble bees and honey bees from my hives in the back. Picking can be somewhat nerve racking however the bees are really more interested in the flowers than you. A bonus are the hummingbirds that are visiting the raspberries. They are constantly flying around and will actually hover as close as 2 feet from your face, checking out the stranger in their mist. It is pretty cool for sure and I might post pictures later. In the past about half my late crop would freeze out. Hopefully our first frost holds off a little longer.

The next picture shows the wonderful pears that I have in my orchard. Sadly I cannot even remember what kind they are as 2 varieties were planted for proper pollination. My thinking is this one must be the Summer Crisp as my second tree is prolific but the pears are rather bland. I have a third pear tree however they are rather small and soft. The pears pictured are what I call supermarket size. They are a crisp pear variety, very sweet, and are at the peak of ripeness right now. Pear trees have bionic sucker growth especially where they had been previously trimmed. This new growth can sometimes exceed 8 feet per year. This creates a mess in the spring when one needs to clean up the trees for the coming growing season. They have an unusual growth pattern as well with the main branches hugging close to the main trunk. I swear that when pruning in the spring I cut off all the potential pear bearing limbs yet the amount of pears are mind boggling. The branches are so heavy with pears they hang to the ground. Earlier I lost a fairly large limb which could not hold the weight of the fruit.

The last picture is one of my Haralson Apple tree. Haralson's apples are a Minnesota original introduced in 1922 by the Minnesota Horticultural Research Center at the University of Minnesota. Minnesota is the home of many well known including the now popular Honeycrisp. This tree is also very prolific and produces a bumper crop of apples every year. They are fantastic by themselves, great in pie, as well make excellent cider and dried apples. These apples tend to ripen later allowing a more civilized harvest. Along with the Haralson I have Firesides, Honeygolds, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, and an unknown rouge tree that produces the largest apples I have ever seen! I prefer the Firesides and Honeygolds for eating as they are excellent. The Honeycrisp's are good but very hard to grow. I understand why they get $2.99 a pound in the store. If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, I should be good for a long time!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Back to Normal

Well, what has seemed to be the longest 3 weeks of my life is finally over. Having spoke at both funerals, I was more than ready to hit the water, and that is exactly what I did. The full moon of this past week provided a couple of great opportunities to hit the pond. One of my favorite times to fish on Mille Lacs is during September and October full moon periods. Although sometimes I feel it's more hype than reality, it definitely provides the incentive to head up and fish what I call the "Witchin' Hour". This is the time between 1/2 hour before sunset to when it is completely dark and can last up to 2 hours. When I was younger I could stay out till one or two in the morning then drive home. It finally became apparent that I caught few fish after the sunlight disappeared and although stories of guys hitting the mother lode at 3:00 in the morning, I luckily outgrew that desire.

I remember one time I was out with a friend on Mille Lacs, it was new moon dark and we were fishing near Hennepin Island. It was October and at 10:00 the sky was about as dark as it gets. I wanted to head to 3 mile reef which was north of our position by at least 4 miles. The night was crystal clear and the shoreline lights around the lake created an illusion of closeness to the shore. At that time GPS units were unheard of so heading north, the reef is usually easy to find by looking for any lights from boats that might be fishing the area. As clear as the night was, I did not see lights. Finally stopping to get my bearings my guest suggested that I was lost. "Are you kidding" not wanting to let on that I was clueless. Abruptly turning to the left I headed out towards my hopeful destination. Running about 5 minutes I stopped again, as I remembered I had a spot light. 3 mile has buoys on it and with my light I could easily see the reflections a mile away. Again my guest prompted the question.........Dave, are you sure you know where you are? "Of course, you worry to much!" I hit the light, scanned the water and voila, the reef buoy was 50 feet in front of us. As amazed as Greg was, I never told him how lucky I was!! We trolled for about an hour before deciding to give it a rest. I threw out the anchor and we decided to take a nap before hitting the shad raps again. We woke up 2 hours later with about 5 boats trolling around us. We never did catch any fish.

Last Sunday was time to try this the fall pattern. Picking up my neighbor Tom we headed north launching at the new public access at Liberty Beach. The lake levels are back to normal and the launch is perfect for fishing those east side reefs. Settling in, we fish a few reefs before heading to our honeyhole. 3 mile has not been very good in the last 3 years however I always feel compelled to try it one more time. Arriving I decided to stay with the Chartreuse #5 shad rap that Bill suggested I use. Tom was bent on catching a muskie which left me alone to figure the pattern. After catching 5 smallies and losing a nice walleye he switched to the same color in a countdown. Withing minutes Tom landed this 20 inch walleye. I proceeded to catch a few more smallies including this one that I had Tom take my picture with. Not huge but a simple memory of a good time.

On Friday I headed back up to fish with my good friend Mark Applen. He has a boat slipped at the Fisherman's Wharf and hitching a ride with him would make my evening care free. Asking me to provide the strategy he would take care of the boat ride. Heading back out to the offshore reef, I started where we ended last Sunday. This time the chartruese rap fell short. Switching to a crawfish colored shad proved deadly. I ended the night with over 12 smallies, a keeper walleye, and a nice perch. Mark had never fished shad raps like this and was quite impressed.

The weekend will see me shooting the Kramer Open, a charity sporting clays shoot where I almost beat Tom Emmons last year, but that's another story. It is definitely good to be alive. I will leave you with one of those spectacular Mille Lacs sunsets.