Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Biding My Time

In preparation for possibly participating in Wisconsin's fishing opener next weekend, I decided to take my boat out on Sunday afternoon, the better of the two days.  We got a nice rain on Friday/Saturday and although Sunday was somewhat windy, I found a small lake west of town that had a nice landing, making it easier for me to test my strength.  My Ranger has a 115 hp Suzuki Four Stroke outboard.  I am constantly amazed by these motors and their unbelievable ability to sit all winter with nothing more than Sea foam added to the gas, and start within one or two revolutions of the engine.  My previous 115 Susy did this and my new one came through the winter storage as though I had just shut the motor off 5 minutes ago.  One thing about the new boat is it doesn't idle as slow as the old boat, which consistently trolled down to 1.9 mph.  The new one is about 1/2 mph faster, which is not a big deal and may be related to the fact that the motor is still tight and needs a few more hours to loosen up more.  This also gave me a chance to test my new Lowrance HDS5 sonar/GPS for use with my front trolling motor with the built in transducer.   The GPS worked very well however the sonar took too long to lock onto the bottom and in a 3 foot weedy bottom, it did not even acquire. This was pretty frustrating and reading the manual did not offer much help.   Later that evening I posted the problem on Walleye Central's Electronics Forum and on Monday I had some great replies, including one from Lowrance's customer tech service.  Apparently there are setup selections you have to make in the main system's menu for your specific installation.  Changing to the suggested settings, I attempted to get a reading off my concrete floor and it worked great.  My 2010 maiden voyage was a success as I solved some issues that required some outside help.  I am ready to hit the big water.   Although casting for crappies yielded nothing admittedly I did not try too hard.

 The weather in Minneapolis continues to be about 2 1/2 weeks ahead of schedule.  The lilacs are coming into full bloom and my fruit trees have exploded with blossoms.  Luckily my good friend Bruce got his 4 honeybee hives in place on the back part of my land just at the perfect time.   With 5 acres of land, a large garden and a small orchard, the bees are a welcome addition.  I remember a few years back a neighbor (and not the most congenial) challenged me with a sense of displeasure "Dave, I understand you have bee hives on your property, I have to say that we have noticed a considerable increase in bees around our house".  Responding, I asked her if they were about 3/4 of an inch long, big and fat.  "Yes, that describes them perfectly, they are all over my flowers."  Without even flinching I stated that she really has a problem with bumble bees as my honeybees look almost like flies and she was obviously mistaken and misinformed .  Having just been outmaneuvered, she left without saying another word.  Most of the other neighbors find it fascinating and a side bonus is Bruce brings me enough honey to last for a whole year.  It tastes especially good knowing it came from my property and surrounding area.

The bees perform a very important function of pollinating all the fruits and vegetables throughout the growing season.  My yields on raspberries, apples, pears, cucumbers, and blueberries are second to none and I always have a bumper crop.  The middle picture is of a honey gold apple tree and the white blossoms are of a pear tree.   Feeling better I planted my potatoes and onions in the garden today.  This year I went with an interesting variety of potatos including Yukon Golds, Kennebec, Norland Red, All Blue (a blueish purple fleshed type), and Cal White.  Could make and interesting looking potato salad!  Along with the potatoes I put in onions.  Using plants instead of bulbs gets me larger and better keeping onions.  I know last year most of my onions averaged over 4 inched in diameter.   My garden center had some 8-10-42 ferilizer, which is a great for starter and root crops.  Time will tell. 

Hopefully I will have a great report from Wisconsin next week.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mom's Turn

Sunday was my Mother's (Betty) turn to celebrate her birthday.  She has always looked young and just turning 76 she's in pretty good shape.  Besides a few chromosomes, we share the experience of open heart surgery, however hers was over 20 years ago.  We both agreed it that time did not make any difference in the pain factor.  After serving his time in the new Air Force, my dad did what many young men did at that time, head to the big city for a job.  In this case it was Milwaukee Wisconsin to work at the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company.  This was the early 1950's and Schlitz was the 2nd largest selling beer in the United States, after Budweiser.  At the brewery my dad met my Uncle Lee Ystad who's wife had a sister........The rest is history.  Moving back to Eleva dad took a job at US Rubber (now Uniroyal) tire factory in Eau Claire.  Mom became a stay at home housewife raising us 5 kids.  Being from Milwaukee I suspect Eleva was quite a culture shock for her.  She was never one to put up with too much and maybe that was her "big city" way of dealing with us screaming kids.  Her favorite weapon of choice was a flyswatter, and knew how to use it.  She also made each one of us participate in the daily chores like dishes or laundry.  Looking back it was probably the best thing she taught us, hard work and responsibility to help around the house.  I can assure you we didn't look at it this way at 10 years of age!  It is always great to see her and I hope we celebrate many more birthdays together.

Mom's step dad and mother would always come and visit for a week each summer.   Because her step dad was not our real grandpa, we always called him by his name, Howard.  Howard was an interesting guy, the likes we only seen a couple times a year.  I remember as a kid we would pick them up at the Eau Claire rail depot.  Eau Claire was the last stop for the Chicago Northwestern 400 train that ran from Chicago to Minneapolis ( the 400 claimed to make the 400 mile journey in 400 minutes).  Usually with a Harvester Cigar in his mouth he never showed much emotion, but loved to fish when he visited.  His favorite thing was to take grandma, their son (my uncle) Dennis, my brother Steve and I fishing in Alma Wisconsin.  This would generally involve shore fishing at the wayside on Beef Sough with 10 foot cane poles and worms we would dig in the garden.  Fishing with cane poles is about the simplest and cheapest way to catch fish.   They generally have about an 8 foot fishing line tied to the end of a 10 - 12 foot bamboo pole, with a hook and a bobber set at around 2 feet.  You would use the length of the pole to get the line our from the shore.  Once the bobber when down you would simply lift the pole up to set the hook and haul them in.  We would always catch a few real nice sunfish this way, enough for Howard to take some back to Milwaukee.  After fishing Howard would drive over to Wabasha, 10 miles up river and on the Minnesota side to have a beer.  At that time the Wabasha Bridge over the Mississippi was quite interesting with a unique turn near the end.  That bridge has been long since replace but was both fun and scary crossing it.  While grandma and Howard would have a beer, we would play shuffleboard or bar bowling for a couple of hours before heading back to Eleva.  Now my dad never, ever would have brought Steve and I into the bar and even as kids, we knew better than to tell dad where we were at.  It was sort of like going to the forbidden city and we were smart enough to assure that the following years trip would include the same side trip!  Certainly one meets a number of characters in their life and Howard was one of them. 

As a final note, I would like to share with you the typical way people back home invite everyone to a party and thank all the guest, through the Ad Delite, a local advertising weekly.  To let every one know how much we appreciated their celebrating Dad and my birthday, he ran a notice in this paper.   As I described in an earlier post, dad's nickname was P.O.D and in true fashion this is how he signed his name.  Eleva is truly a great place to live!  My boat is ready and I am feeling good enough to try and take it out this weekend.  Because of the late Minnesota fishing opener, I am planning on picking up my cousin Paul and fishing with my cousin Greg at his cabin near Bloomer  for the Wisconsin opener, May 1st.  Hopefully I can sneak out next weekend to test out my new HDS5 and livewell timer.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rainy River Report or I wish I was There!

Monday marks my 6th week since my surgery.  The last week has proven to be the best I have felt.  Coughs and sneezes are still an issue however my strength is coming back allowing me to get some stuff done around the house.  This has been especially difficult because of the fabulous weather we have been experiencing.  Still watching myself I am committed to being at least 80% by opener, which is 4 weeks away.   This weekend would have been the traditional week I would have gone to Lake of the Woods (LOTW)for our annual last ice fishing trip of the year.  My good friend Mark Mayerich usually organizes this trip out of the Morris Point area, just northwest of Baudette.  Usually we would go on one of the two  weekends before April 15 ( walleye fishing closes on the lake) depending on if Easter interferes.  Looking at my past posts in April will give you an idea of the conditions we encounter.  This year our trip was interrupted by 3 big events: 1. My surgery; 2. Mark's new job needed his attention; 3. The early ice out force Lake of the Woods to close all access to the lake around March 31.  A quick look at the Motis website shows the ice has left almost 40% of the lake, an unbelievable situation.  Well, there is always next year.

The lack of ice on LOTW has been a bonanza for those who fish the Rainy River for the large spawning female walleyes heading up river from the lake as well as a sizable population of sturgeon.  Knowing I am laid up I have 2 friends that went up this weekend and sent me some incredible pictures of their trophy catches.   The first picture is my good friend and fellow Team Walleyer Ryan Sterle.  Ryan is Mark's cousin from Eveleth Minnesota and seems to have plenty of time to fish.  Here he is pictured with a 30+ inch walleye caught this weekend.  Ryan fished both Easter weekend and last weekend.  His reports include a couple of fish over 30 and a number of fish in the 26 - 28 inch range.   The picture on the right is that of my friend Keith Holtan, Alaskan guide and Minnesota winter residence.  Keith is holding a nice 30 inch class fish that he caught this weekend as well.  His reports include catching over 60 walleyes with 12 being between 28 and 30 inch fish.  These are trophy fish in anyone's book.

In addition to the nice walleyes, Keith sent me a picture of his first sturgeon he caught.  Although this ancient fish can get significantly larger than the one he is holding, this fish is no slouch.   As a guide on the Kenai River, Keith has caught his share of trophy King (Chinook) salmon.  He reports that this fish was as close to battling a trophy King as it gets.  Both Ryan and Keith were using a simple jig and minnow combination to catch all of their fish including the sturgeon.  The conditions on the Rainy River would have to be described as excellent.  With the ice off the river 2 - 3 weeks earlier, I'll bet it was a zoo this weekend.  As much as I would like to be there, it's just as exciting to have my friends share their experiences with me as this is what my blog is all about.  Congratulations guys on a great successful outing. 

In the meantime I continue to get my boat ready with a successful installation of my front live well timer.  If the weather is nice, I might just be able to sneak out next Saturday, time will tell.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cruising the Northwest Sportsman Show

A couple of weeks ago the Northwest Sportsman Show was held at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  This is the area's largest outdoor sports show featuring fishing, hunting, camping, and vacationing.  I like to make 2 trips to the show, usually on the first day to get a jump on the crowds and again on the weekend with my brother.  This years show was probably the smallest I have seen in 20 years.  The economy has really taken a toll on the recreational business, especially the marine and RV industries.  As well consolidations and bankruptcies have changed the landscape of what choices consumers have today.  Case in point has been the changes in ownership of Lund and Crestliner boats.  Brunswick Corporation controls both companies and owns Mercury Marine.  Today if you buy one of these boats it is almost guaranteed to come with a Mercury outboard and if you want something else, it is going to cost you.  Skeeter Boats have been owned by Yamaha Corporation for a while now and it is the same thing.  They come pre rigged with a Yamaha or if you want something else the price just changed.   Of course this is the strategy for companies to garner greater market share for their products.  Unfortunately it leaves companies like Honda, Evinrude, and Suzuki a more limited market for their motors.  I do think that the consumers suffer however in this down market, it might be the only way to survive.  The bankruptcy of Genmar (owned Ranger, Stratus, and a number of high end glass boats) and the fact of Warrior Boats vanishing off the face of the earth makes one wonder how bad it really is.

The good news is that I have high hopes my brother Steve is about ready to part with some of his money (word has it he still has the first nickel he made!) and contribute to a recovering economy by purchasing a new boat that he so deserves.  We were looking at a new Lund Pro Guide 1825 with a 90 hp Mercury 4 stroke, dual trolling motors, wave whackers, a custom cover, a Lowrance HDS7 sonar/GPS unit, and a very nice trailer with spare.  I was taken back by the price however it is comparable to competitive boats out there today.  I really hope he does something for himself being just 18 months younger, it's about time Steve fishes in luxury.  Because I am picking on him, he is my featured picture at the start of this post holding a rather large Pink Salmon caught in the Kenai River.

The Sportshow is also time to renew our friendship with Ken and Judy Marlow of Marlow's on the Kenai (see my Alaska links on my sidebar).  We have stayed them many times during our trips to Alaska and have fished often with their son Neil out of Seward.  Judy always has a jar or two of smoked canned salmon to give us at the show, an absolutely wonderful treat.  The  picture is of their resort which sits on the Kenai River just east of Soldotna.  We always get the cabin in the middle and we are always treated like royality by these two wonderful people.   Of course I forgot once again to bring my Leech Lake Knife with me to the show.  They will sharpen it like new for a ridiculous fee of $2.oo.  It still is pretty sharp and I will just have to try and remember to bring it next year.  The Sportshow is a great time to get updated on the latest technologies.  Companies like Lowrance, Hummingbird, LakeMaster, and Garmin have their latest in depth finder/GPS/mapping technologies on display.  One reason I like to go on the first night is the crowds are smaller and one has more time to discuss these new products with the factory reps.  It's also good to see my boat dealer, Frankie's Marine of Chisago City, displaying the latest boats.  Being the largest Ranger Dealer in the United States, Frankie and his wife Deb run a first class dealership.  I am already looking forward to next years show as there is something magical for me when I attend.