Sunday, January 3, 2010

Second Time Around

Sometimes tempting fate the second time guarantees little or nothing. On the other hand it is often said it's sweeter the second time around. New Years Eve Day was a decision point, work till 5:00 when 90% of your customers are off or return to see if the mad bite of 2 weeks earlier was still going on. My neighbor Tom mentioned earlier in the week that if I had an empty seat, he'd like to be in it. A simple phone call and we were set, Mille Lacs here we come! The Christmas snowstorm dumped 12 inches on the lake and getting to my spot was going to take more than my ATV. My friend Bill has a nice older two up sled with a hitch and in a pinch it makes great transportation to those far away spots. Arriving at Lundeens my first job was to get the sled started. Being idle for about 9 months only guaranteed it was there. These Polaris 3 cylinder engines can be interesting to get started and this one was no different. After draining the battery the next step was to pull the plugs and dump gas into the cylinders. After reinstalling the plugs, a quick pull of the recoil and she fired right up. Getting our bait, we hooked up my portable and began the 7 mile journey.

I was surprised how much the snow had settled and how hard it had become. Expecting a sea of deep powdered snow, I think if you could trust the ice thickness below, you could drive anywhere with a 4 x 4 truck. Of course this unknown keeps most anglers away form offshore structures. It was definitely cold and I was happy to arrive at our destination no worse for the wear. Having decided to both fish out of one house, we drilled 3 holes and set up. I drilled an additional 10 holes outside the house to provide an outlet when the fishing slowed. The fish started biting immediately. Although not fast and furious the bite was steady. What was different than 2 weeks ago was the absence of the hordes of 8 - 10 inch fish and replaced with ones 13 - 17 inches. We never caught a fish over 17 inches. Tom and I ended up with 7 walleyes however a couple where nice enough to keep yet we got greedy thinking we could get a larger one. Because I had the Vexilar and Tom didn't, the advantage went to me for fish caught. After catching my limit I gave Tom my depth finder and it made the difference. He ended up with the largest fish of the day, and it was the classic fish that you see on the Vexilar that shoots up from the bottom to slam the lure. It certainly confirms the need to have those eyes keeping track of your lure and the fish below.

Fishing walleyes under the ice requires figuring out where they are and then determining if they are aggressive, neutral, or negative mood. In Mille Lacs there are many different areas that walleyes hang out. As in the summer, during the winter walleyes can be found throughout the various structures whether it is deep gravel, the mud flats, or reef areas. It can be a guessing game as to where you think they will be. Personally I enjoy off shore areas that are 4 to 10 feet shallower than the surrounding deeper water. The edge of flats can be particularly interesting as you can fish 25 feet of water and 10 yards away it will be 35 feet. Once set up I like to determine the mood of the fish. My first go to bait is the jigging Rapala with a minnow head attached to the bottom hook. This bait along with others like it are a favorite for aggressive fish. I define aggressive fish as those that literally slam the bait as though it was their last meal. You can easily see this on your depth finder as the fish will come up 2 - 5 feet to hit the bait. A number of years back I was fishing a deep area on Lake of the Woods called 16 mile reef. At the edge in 30 feet of water the fish went crazy. On my line was a 1/4 oz flat jigging spoon with a minnow. It fell rather slowly to the bottom, such is the desire when the fish are in a neutral mode. At 20 feet you could see the fish come up from the bottom and met the lure at 23 feet, slamming it hard. One problem with the depth finder is as you see this happening it can become easy to pull the lure away from the fish. Hooking only 1 of 3 strikes, it was obvious the fish were extremely aggressive and for me, it took to long for my bait to sink so I put on a heavier jigging Rap. It fell twice a fast and with more hooks, I caught almost every fish for the next half hour. It was a good move. Other good aggressive baits are the new Chubby Darters, Puppet Minnows and any other swim type baits.

The fish we caught this trip were in a fairly neutral mood. This means that they are present, curious, but hesitant to hit the lure hard. Often on the depth finder you can get them to follow a bait slowly up and in a flash they are gone. When the fish are in this mood I like to use either the new Rattlin' Flyer, either a rattle or plain Hawger Spoon, or something flashy but less action. The rattles provide enough noise to bring them in, giving you time to work the fish. Tipped with just a minnow head these fish will decide to bite the hook after looking at it for some time. Often this bite is a simple inhale and if one sees a nice red mark overshadowing the lure a gentle 1/4 inch movement of the rod tip will let you know if there is any resistance.........set the hook! Negative fish are another story. Usually it means a live minnow on a plain hook or smaller bait. These fish may simply grab the minnow and pull down the bobber and hold it for minutes before deciding to finish it off. I always like to have a minnow down the hole in case something swims buy. The great news is that at some point if the fish are there, they will turn on and become aggressive. When this happens hang on as it really doesn't matter what you have on the end of your line, walleyes will hit about anything then.

With -25 below both Friday and Saturday nights and highs around zero, I decided that football was in the cards for the rest of the week. The cold weather takes a toll on the equipment as demonstrated by the propane hose which froze to the tank then kindly snapped off. The weather gave me the opportunity to get everything back to working condition for the coming weekend. Maybe a threepeat is in the works.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice fish again Captain Anderson, I do agree that it is a must to have a screen to see what the fish are doing. I will have to shoot a email to Mr Turkey Tom and insist that he break the bank and buy one. Wish I could be part of the fishing group???

later

pkellin said...

Hello Captain Dave,

I had the privilage to meet you last week, and we talked about fishing and your blog. I had to check it out and now i am hooked on your stories. Sorry to hear of all the loss, hopefully this new year will bring happiness and trophies. Keep up the great stories, and maybe we will see you on Mille Lacs. That is if i can trade away from Winnie.

Take care,
Pat

Dave Anderson said...

Pat,

You are the guy from the U! Nice to see you remembered me. I get to have an angiogram this week and hope that it doesn't interfere with my fishing next week. I was on Mille Lacs overnight and on the way home we heard they killed the walleyes on Winnie this weekend. Come back often and maybe we can get to Mille Lacs this year.

pkellin said...

Hey, you remembered. Hope all goes well with your angiogram, just go tired cause you have to lay flat for 4 hours after. I hope it all turns out and your are fishing by saturday. I also heard they are snapping on Winnie. I am going up in 2 weeks, so hopefully they keep at it. Take care and we will see you quite often for sure on this site. Keep the stories rolling.