Sunday, February 28, 2010

One Last Day on the Ice

After a whirlwind month of February, I thought I would give my favorite panfish lake a try before I head to the hospital on Monday morning.  Seeing my neighbor Tom Olson working on his car, I stopped to see if he would be interested in riding shotgun.  It was a gorgeous day, in the mid 30's, the sun shining, an offer he could not refuse.  Agreeing to pick him up at 3:00, it would give us a nice 3 hours of fishing.  Deciding to fish outside kept the non value activities to a minimum.  First stop was the hardware store in St. Michael as along with the desired bait they serve free popcorn.  The nice day had the lake pretty crowded, as I expected.  I think people tend to naturally bunch up on lakes, assuming where there are people, there are fish.  Although this might true some of the time, I find it much more successful being away from the crowd, looking for my own unique special area.   It is especially true on this lake.  Arriving at my destination I drilled about 8 holes around the truck.  The bite started slow with Tom nailing the first 2 keeper sunnies including this nice 8 1/2 incher.  For me it took somewhat longer to get in the swing of things but I finally found the groove. 

Waxies were the hot bait for the day.  I did try a few purists and suspect if I had stayed with them would have done well however the hook sets were not as good a standard teardrop with the waxie.  About 4:30 the action really picked up.  Going through a box of bait in a half hour I was glad Tom picked up that third box.  The bite was soft but consistent.  Plenty of small fish were caught however about every fourth one felt like a hog.  I missed many fish that felt they could have easily been a new world record, however that was wishful thinking.  I did get this dandy 9 1/2 incher, a excellent fish anywhere.  When you bring a nice sunfish like this through the hole, it looks enormous.  Measuring it at home makes one realize just how big those 11 inch sunfish pictured on MT Bucket's blog really are.   Tom had a couple of crappies early but they really didn't start hitting until about 6:00.   After getting a couple on the teardrop it was time to try a new bait that my friend Kevin Aiona had given me for my birthday, a Lil' Cecil.  Not sold in the Minneapolis area, he picked them up in Eau Claire.  They are a very small metal spoon with a split ring attaching a very small treble hook dressed with a bead, with a thin metal flapper on the split ring.  The flash factor is incredible.  It didn't take long for a crappie to inhale the bait.  With the treble hooks there was no missing these fish.  I like watching crappies on my depth finder as they often act like aggressive walleyes, appearing out of nowhere or coming up from the bottom in a dead run to the bait.  Originally sceptical that a crappie would hit a plain metal bait, Kevin proved his value as a friend again.  I think the Lil" Cecil has a new priority in my extensive arsenal! 

Together we ended up with over 20 sunnies and about 12 crappies.  It was a great day on the ice for sure.  Actually the entire day was great.  Being outdoors is one of my favorite things in life.  As I was inviting Tom fishing this morning a Bald Eagle flew very low directly over us.  Heading to the Mississippi River I pointed out a nest high in the trees rising from the shore,easily seen from his house.  The eagle made a beeline for the nest before landing, assuring it will be a frequent sight this summer.  While on the ice a familiar high pitched honk signaled a large swan was near.  Sure enough a single Trumpeter Swan flew directly overhead, gracefully heading to some unknown destination.  The day ended with this stunning full moon rising over the trees, introducing the evening.  The day turned into a constant reminder of how beautiful the natural world is.  Monday morning is my scheduled surgery, however I look forward to a speedy recovery and the opportunity to get back out and enjoy the great outdoors.  My surgeon claims that I will be confined to the hospital for 5 - 7 days.  With a little luck I could be home by Sunday, March 7th and will post a complete update or it could take a couple of weeks, time will tell. Having lot's of good stories about past fishing trips, I should have enough material to keep it interesting till I can get back out on the water (or hopefully ice!).  

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fishin' For Dollars

Last week my good friend Bill Lundeen had a rather large corporate ice fishing event he was guiding for and needed some extra equipment.  Dropping it off on Tuesday I needed an excuse to get back to Mille Lacs and pick it up.   Since fishing has not been stellar on the big lake these days, Plan B was to simply head up, grab it and go back to the big sunnie lake.  On Thursday Mark Applen called inviting me to fish in the big Ducks Unlimited Ice Derby in Garrison at Saturday noon.  Now I had a real excuse and it sounded like fun. 

These ice fishing Derby's have been around for a while with the 2 most notable ones in Forest Lake and on Gull Lake in Brainerd MN.  Entry fees average around $35 for each contestant, meaning one hole, and this DU event gave out $75,000 in prizes including items like a new Ford pickup truck, ATV's, a brand new Wheel house, ice augers, shelters, an amazing collection of what every sportsman would want.  The truck is the Grand Prize which goes to the largest fish caught however the other large prizes are scattered within the line up such that last place may actually be worth considerably more than 5th place.  This keeps it interesting and gives a guy a good chance to win with a relatively small fish.  The derby itself is held about a half mile offshore just south of Garrison, MN.  The event itself is held in a contained area, probably 80 to 100 acres in size.  A large tent is set up on the ice and becomes Derby Headquarters.  Because of the prizes and past issues with people bringing previously caught fish in, everything was subjected to a search before entering the contest area.  All cars were parked on the ice and arriving at 11:00 for a noon start time, I was relegated to a pretty long walk to the tent to register before attempting to find Mark and his friends, who had promised me a hole reservation.  Although I knew about were he was, we had a different interpretation of what the back of the tent really meant!  Finally hooking up, I was introduced to his deer hunting buddies, then set up.  One of Mark's friends was involved with helping to pre drill the holes for the contest.  It was interesting as I suspect they had to have drilled 3500 - 4000 8 inch holes through about 25 - 30 inches of ice, no small task. 

The contest ran from Noon to 3:00.  We had a nice strategic area toward the edge of the deeper water however the area was pretty much the same depth everywhere.  My plan was simple, forgo the walleyes and concentrate on getting a perch.  In these contests it doesn't take a large fish to win so I used my ultra sensitive Shooley's spring bobber rod equipped with a pretty small teardrop lure and a waxie.  In addition, Bill set me up with some fresh water shrimp, a sure bet for the smallest of fish.  Did I say fishing on Mille Lacs had not been stellar?  Although I marked what were certainly small fish, not a one fell for my presentation.  Any other day, any other time, I should have been in the money!  Although I left totally skunked, paying $10 an hour to fish with Mark and his friends made up for the disappointment.  The announced crowd was over 3000 people and I suspect they netted over $30,000 for DU.  I have become less of a DU fan these days but that's a story for another day.  A quick check of the winners prove that my strategy was correct.  The winning walleye was 1.32 pounds with the bottom 60 places won with fish less than 3.2 ounces!  Heck, 50% of the winners had perch under 2 ounces.  These are some pretty small fish, I suspect guys had shiner minnows for bait bigger than that.  This goes to show you what it didn't take to win.  It was interesting to see the ice surface change during the 3 hours of fishing.  With so many holes and people, the weight eventually pushed about 2 inches of water on the ice.  First arriving the snow on the ice was pretty solid.  By the end of the contest it was a slushy mess.  I am writing this in beautiful Palm Springs, California attending a major electronics conference.  It is a great change from the snow in Minnesota but I am anxious to get back out and hit the ice one last time before my surgery. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Like Father Like Son

After five days surrounded by palm trees and 70 degrees in Anaheim, I returned to Minnesota's snowdrifts and 10 degree temperatures.  Exhibiting at a Medical Design and Manufacturing show takes a lot of work and effort.  I was looking forward to getting back home to help celebrate my dad's 80 surprise birthday party on Saturday.  It meant skipping fishing for the weekend however some things just take precedence.   My Dad, Donald (Dinnie) Anderson is an interesting guy.  Born in 1930, he was a Depression child spending his younger years during some of the most difficult times for young families.  His Dad, my grandfather, was quite industrious and he succeeded in raising my father and his brothers and sisters quite successfully.  This special upbringing has left him quite frugal, almost to perfection.  Having retired at the young age of 55, he has spent almost half his adult life enjoying the freedom from work.  Living on Social Security and a pension, he is far from poverty however he is not one to hold back on the comparison of his financial situation to others.  This has developed into a finely tuned crescendo to the point where Dad's nickname around Eleva is POD, Poor Ol' Dinnie!   It fun to talk to his friends as they put it on pretty thick however I suspect most of it is deserved.

The party was set at his morning hangout, the Full House Tavern, in downtown Eleva.  Owned by his neighbor Kim, who is the daughter of his good friend Dunk Semingson, the village elders gather each morning to drink coffee, have a few cookies, and proceed to needle each other for the next 2 - 3 hours until they disperse.  Our role was to get there an hour before to help set up.  My brothers and sister had done a nice job prior to my arrival as I help unload critical items.  The first thing I noticed on the bar was a large jar with a label stating "Dinnie's Engine Fund".  Dad's 1996 Lincoln engine blew up a few weeks ago leaving him car less for a week or so.  Fix it or buy a newer car.......a tough decision.  I can imagine those conversations during morning coffee, they must have been interesting.  Dad ended up getting a 2003 Buick and my brother Jon had agreed to help fix the Lincoln as not to be forced to sell it as junk.  For a 1996 it was almost spotless.  Apparently the boys downtown decided to "help" Dad with is dilemma.  Looking in the jar were a number of coins, mostly dimes and pennies as well as some substantial IOU's from a number of anonymous donors.  All in good fun, it goes with living in a small town where everyone is a star!  When Dad turned 70 my brother Steve and I took him to Alaska for the trip of a lifetime.  We had a great time, it was the first and last time we shared a big adventure together.  Here he is on the left after the first halibut trip which was pretty stressful on him. Although he toughed it out, the rest of the trip for him was spent relaxing while Steve, his son Kevin, and I took in the excitement of fishing.  I am glad we took him as it was good for all of us.

As I said earlier, my Dad is an interesting guy.  I would have to say that I respected my father as he provided leadership in a way that I did not recognize till later in life.  I don't think this is an isolated situation, as I reflect on our relationship growing up.  He was not my friend rather my Dad, friendship would come later.  His job was not to make me happy rather to provide me with the basics such as food, clothing, shelter, and guidance.  More often that guidance was implied rather than clearly defined.  Success for my father can be measured in my case based on the fact that when I turned 18, I wasn't in jail and of course my long term success as an adult.  I think Dad would agree that he did a pretty good job.  As I grow older, I am reminded of a song by Paul Overstreet that hits home called I'm Seein' My Father In Me.  The chorus goes like this:

I'm seein' my father in me
I guess that's how it's meant to be
And I find I'm more and more like him each day
I notice I walk the way he walks
I notice I talk the way he talks
I'm startin' to see my father in me

You see I have turned into a younger him.  I walk like him, I talk like him, my sense of humor is like his, I think like him.  As I have stated before, imitation is often the greatest compliment.
At the party I noticed a sign, Happy Birthday: Dinnie 80, Dave 55.  I thought that was nice, Dad and I celebrate our birthday 2 days apart, someone added me to the sign, nice!  As I unloaded the car my good friend Paul Wenaas came walking by wishing me a Happy Birthday.  He had a bag with a card, some Cheese Curd Batter Mix, and a special Leinenkugel's hat autographed by none other than Jake Leinenkugel himself.  That was awful nice of Weiner, come down to the bar for Dad and bring me something.  Settling in at the bar I noticed that my wife's aunt and uncle were in the back........that was strange, what were they doing there?  Not until a few more special friend showed up that I figured it out, it was really a party for both of us.  The friends are too numerous to mention however they included the whole family of my late Uncle Keith, Paul, Julie, Cindy, Linda, and Dorothy.   Cousin Greg and his folks Loren and Lavonne, and a special greeting from my uncle Jerry and aunt Marilyn in Boise.  Mark and Cindy Taylor, Lory and Lyn Brasel who both had driven down from the cities, no small feat to see a guy less than 10 minutes away when at home.  My great aunt Florence  (shes 97) with her family Jean, Kristy, and Jim.  Cousin Doug Hillestad and his wife along with a greeting from his mom, my great aunt Sylvia.  A special treat was seeing Terry and Diane Baier, a great friend from La Crosse, is an excellent brewmeister as he gave me a nice variety of his latest concoctions.   John Felix from Ashland; Roger Olson made a detour on his trip from Iowa to Ohio (some detour!) and my aunt Pat from Antigo with my cousin Donny Schmidt and his wife Connie.  The entire Rombalski clan showed up, Andrew, Jane, Bernie, Nellie, Sister Rosemary, Anna, Art and Florence, and Jake.  They grew up over the hill from my Dad's Grandmother, south of town.  Kevin, Janet; a host of Eleva people and I am sure I forgot many others however both Dad and I are blessed with so many good friends.  Dad got mostly cash and lottery tickets, keeping with his POD designation while I was overwhelmed with substantial Gander Mountain and Cabela's gift certificates, keeping with mine.   I just want to thank everyone.  Plans for this weekend, hopefully there will be one of my last fishing trips for the year before I take off for Palm Springs on Monday. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Riding the Trails

Departing from my usual weekend ice fishing event I had the opportunity to put a few miles on my sled, a 2006 Polaris 900 Switchback.   Together with my local sales rep, Dwight Bialowas and his friend Mike, we headed to a small town in north central Minnesota called Emily.  Emily is in the heart of cabin county, 40 minutes north of Mille Lacs lake, has an excellent system of well groomed trails.  Picking up the guys at 7:30, by 10:00 we were at Mike's cabin and ready to hit the trails.  We decided to head northeast to Hill City, MN, about 40 miles as the crow flies.   The trails were fabulous.   A recent snowstorm left most of it's snow to the northeast and although some of the corners were icy, with the exception of needing a tad more snow, they were very smooth.  Our first stop was Swatara, an old railroad town that is a mire shadow of it's previous existence.  Like many small towns in the Midwest (not unlike Eleva), it thrived by being on a major railroad line that was eventually abandoned.   Now just a stop on the main snowmobile trail that replaced the railroad, it was a welcome rest.   Our next stop was Hill City for a visit to the Polaris dealer, Hilltop Sports.  Dwight's sled was leaking gas and running rough so for $20, the dealership pulled his carburetors, cleaned them and reinstalled.  This was just what the sled needed and it ran perfect for the rest of the day.  Our next stop was at Palisade, MN,  another old railroad town that has survived better than Swatara.   A quick picture of me standing next to my sled, we headed back to the cabin for grilled swordfish and New York Strips made with my famous steak marinade. Sleeping well we woke up, started the sleds and did a 25 mile ride to Cross Lake for a corned beef hash breakfast.  Well fed and 170 miles behind us, we headed home to get ready for Super Bowl Sunday.  It turned out to be a wonderful game as my predicted winner, the Saints came through with a convincing win!  

 In the past 10 years I had the pleasure to snowmobile in the mountains of Wyoming and Idaho.  I thought I would share a couple of my favorite pictures from these past trips.  2008 was the last year I went however I am really looking forward to getting back out next winter.  Our favorite place to go was the Snowy Range, 30 miles west of Laramie Wyoming.  Staying at the Vee Bar Ranch, we enjoyed first class accommodations as well as some of the best snowmobiling in the world.  The Snowies as we call them gets over 250 inches of snow every year.  Although the conditions varied from year to year, we always managed to find fresh powder to play in.  The area is marked with large open meadows on high plateaus to steep mountain peaks with areas like the "Widow Maker".   Averaging over 10,000 feet above sea level,  The Snowies have a great trail system with excellent grooming.  The real fun however is the off trail riding.  Whether boon-docking through the trees or finding your own special hill to play on, there are tons of play areas to explore.  My first picture on the right is one of Ronnie Clarkson, a good friend of mine from Zimmerman, MN.  Ronnie has a Polaris RMK with a 159 inch track extension.  This machine really makes use of that track with extraordinary climbing ability.  Here Ronnie had decided to head up a little area formed by a drift that made the climb somewhat steeper than he anticipated.  At the top of the corness, his skis left the ground as the sled continued in a forward direction over 60 feet.  At that the point he felt his sled was it was coming over backwards.  Ronnie simply let go as he pushed off the sled.  The sled stopped and stuck at about this 80 degree angle and stayed there.  It was pretty amazing as we worked carefully to make sure the sled landed right side up as we pulled it down. I think Ronnie needed to go clean out his bibs before getting back on that sled!

The next picture is of another friend, Gary Larsen who is a friend of my cousin Donny Schmidt, from Pickerel Wisconsin.   Photography is one of my hobbies and this is one I took as Gary was getting some air off a drift in a meadow.  Snapping the picture just at the moment he left the snow, it froze this incredible image of how much fun we have.  Although it looks like he is flying and trust me, it's an exhilarating feeling to get airborne, our skill levels are tempered by the deep powder snow we have to land on.  It is easier to try stunts when you have a soft landing to look forward to!  Gary drives a modified Ski Doo Summit with a 2" paddle track and an unmistakeable custom paint job.  He is a great rider which is why we have him lead most of the time.  He has gotten us into trouble a few times but we still like him!  Double click on any of the pictures to get a better look at these interesting 2 images.   I have lots of stories and pictures over the years.  Count on more as I will need some fill as I take the first 3 weeks in March off from fishing. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Pile of Panfish

Omens of positive change can appear out of nowhere.  Last Wednesday night I flew to Denver on the 7:15PM flight out of Minneapolis.  Averaging over 30,000 miles per year, one hits the paltry Silver Elite Status at 25,000 miles per year which for the most part gives you a few extra benefits over least traveled passengers such as preferred seat selection, free baggage check in, bonus miles for each flown, and the occasional upgrade to first class.  The upgrades to first class are the grand prize however with so many people having Gold or Platinum status giving them priority,  us Silver guys generally do not stand a chance.  Well taking my seat in coach, I had an acceptable location, aisle-exit row when an announcement for David Anderson to please push the attendant button.  Quickly locating me, I was told to get my stuff, you are going to the east side!  First Class flying is a pure joy.  Free drinks, tons of room, unlimited snacks, first off, the only way to fly.   Generally speaking, online check in 24 hours before your flight increases your odds of getting that magical upgrade.  This has been an issue for me for the last 13 months as I was put on a Terrorist Watch List by the TSA and had to check in at the airport.  After about 6 months of dealing with the TSA and the airlines, I think that I have been vindicated!   The merger of Northwest and Delta had not helped the matter either.  Off the watch list, I am able to check in on line again, hopefully increasing the odds of being reassigned to the front.  Well, coming home late Friday, I checked in online earlier in the day and was lucky enough to get upgraded to First Class again for the return flight.  I knew fishing just had to be good this weekend!

I decided to meet my good friend Russ Clos on Saturday, who was fishing in a wheel house with his friend on a nearby local lake.  Russ and I experienced great fishing last year and had remembered where the "hot spot" was located.  Russ had sent a text message..........Bring beer and bait!  Obliging, I stopped to fulfill both requests before hitting the ice.  Arriving about 3:00, I found the boys exactly where I suspected and delivered the goods.  After about 5 hours they had around 7 fish with a couple dandy sunnies.  I like to spread out and proceeded to set up my portable about 60 feet away as we were on a pretty expansive flat.  My secret weapon for panfish is a simple pole with a spring bobber set up made by Schooley's.  Once one understands what the spring bobber is telling you, your success increases by a huge factor.  In addition I have made a custom rod with a Schooley's spring bobber attached to the end of the pole and a spinning reel for faster cycling of the bite.  Starting with a Purist lure, it fooled a few fish however they were pretty finicky.  Switching to a waxie proved more productive, enough to use up one container causing me to retrieve the frozen ones still in the truck from last week.  Didn't seem to make a difference, they loved them.   The first hour produced only a couple of fish with the largest being about an 8 inch sunfish.   With about 6 fish on the ice and another 20 released, they finally put the feedbag on around 4:30.  The day with a limit of sunnies (20) averaging close to 8 inches and the largest a tad over 8 1/2 inches, as well 5 nice crappies with the largest at 11 inches.  I would have to admit this was the best ice fishing for sunfish I have experienced in the 34 years I have lived in Minnesota.  I have caught as many but the average size has been less than desirable.  The crappies did not show up until after the sun went down and a total of 5 were all that expressed an interest.  As with the sunnies,  I was impressed with the size considering local lakes can be challenging.   The other interesting observation was the number of large sunfish that bit after dusk.  Generally speaking this is the realm of the crappie yet my last 4 sunnies were caught in the dark.  Go figure.  

This weekend is a make up snowmobile day with a few business friends, we will ride on Friday, returning on Saturday.  I am really looking forward to this as I do not get a chance to ride much these days.  Past years would see us going to The Snowy Range in Wyoming romping around the mountains at 10,000 feet.   My travel schedule has prevented a return for the last 2 years.  I have some great stories and pictures of those trips which would make a few great posts in the future.  Sunday is my neighbor Tim's annual Super Bowl get together, one of the larger neighborhood events of the year.  With a little luck maybe I can sneak out in the afternoon to see if the bite is still going before heading over to the game.  Speaking of luck, I also picked the Saints to be victorious for Sunday's big game.  Liking the underdog, I believe they will carry through the tough defense of their last playoff game with the Vikings.  First Class both ways, a great day of fishing on Saturday.............yeah California and Colorado, I might be unstoppable!