Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Rest of the Story

One of the more interesting things we do for our Leech Lake Opener event is to try and take data on the walleyes we catch.  Ron Edberg puts this together as it provides a wealth of information on the numbers, size, and location of the fish. The graph above is derived by everyone recording the length of each fish caught over 12 inches. Because they count towards the individual points and team awards, it is pretty easy to get the guys to participate. The two horizontal red lines on the graph represent the slot limit on Leech Lake, meaning any fish 18 inches up to 26 inches must be released. Under 18 and over 26 can be harvested. The total number of fish caught was 314. Of that 235 were under 18 inches and were legal.  About 80 fish were over 18 with a nice number of them over 22 inches.  Certainly not as good as last year Catch Chart for 2009 Leech Lake Opener, we were surprised at the numbers of fish under the 15 inch size.  Last year fish slightly over the 15 inch size were quite numerous and we expected seeing that population shift upwards to the 17 - 19 inch range dominating our catch.  This years catch represents the all of those 10 - 12 inch fish that we caught a ton during the 2009 opener, but did not record them.  Note that the last fish on the right was my winning 26.5 inch walleye.

As I stated last week, the fish were quite scattered.  Many of the guys scored very well in the evening fishing the shallower 6 - 10 foot water next to Pine Point.  Although the larger females were found in the deeper water off the reef, schools of 13 - 15 inch males were still hanging around the shallow spawning areas looking for a quick meal.  Some of the guys did real well including Troy, who won the team award this year.  Troy's boat had Saturday nights catch totalling 19 fish with Monday night's hitting 22.  Most of the fish were those shallow males still thinking the spawn is on!  This year I concentrated on trying to catch larger fish.  A few years ago my partner Eric Hayes and I discovered a rock hump about a mile up the shoreline from Otter Tail point.  In the subsequent years we seldom saw a boat fishing this hump which topped out at about 12 feet, dropping to 20 at the outer edges.  I decided to try it this year and to my surprise there were about 30 boats on my "secret" spot.  Although I had caught fish on this spot in the past, with all the boats you could see that the action was steady, not fast, but they were getting some nice fish.  When we arrived, Ryan quick called me and told me to get out of his spot!  I had given him this way point a few years ago and he had the same idea as I did.  Before hanging up he confessed that my brother Steve, who was in the boat with him, had just lost a dandy fish appearing to be well over 27 inches.  All I can say is I have caught many 28 inch fish that measured just under 26!  It did confirm the bigger fish were there, however. 

On Sunday morning we did a draft (like an NFL draft) where the lowest point guy got to pick the boat he wanted to go in for the session.  It was an interesting way to mix up the competition and have the guys get to know each other better.  This carried over to Sunday evening where I had the pleasure of having Henry and his nephew James in my boat.  Now James and I are like oil and water.  We are about as opposite as you can get politically.  I will admit however that he did check out some of the facts I threw at him and admitted that I was right!  That's a great start.  We decided to head back to the where the bigger fish were being caught.  Stopping short of the were I wanted to fish, we got everyone ready to go and would use the electric to get us the rest of the way.  In 20 feet of water it took James about 3 minutes to hook into this beautiful 26.25 inch walleye.  This was the largest walleye he had ever caught and I could see dollar signs in his eyes, thinking he just it pay dirt as it would be the largest fish caught as of Sunday night.  Excited as he was, my experience said not to count your chickens before they hatch.  At the end of the tourney James was in second place.  Although I gave James a hard time, he took it standing up.  It was fun to watch him catch this fish as well having both the first and second place fish coming from my boat.  Nice job James!  Henry really enjoyed the night as I fired up the stereo as we rocked to the sounds of 1965, the year he graduated.

This week I caught up on some yard work then went to the Twins/Brewers game at the new stadium on Sunday.  I had a great time as the new Target Field is very nice.  Memorial weekend is coming up and that means only one thing, my maiden voyage to Mille Lacs.  Reports are the fishing has been phenomenal so I cannot wait.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Successful Leech Lake Opener

This year was the 37th annual Leech Lake Minnesota Fishing Opener for our group, Team Walleye.  The tradition was started by my friends Mark Mayerich, Ron Edberg, Mark Taylor, and Gary Ullom, in 1973, while I was still in high school.  Having started out camping it only took a few years to wise up and get a cabin at a resort.  Settling on Brindley's Harbor on the north side of Traders Bay on Leech, the group has been there ever since.  I started going up with these guys in 1990, 21 years ago.  Back then we had 13 guys with Ron doing the major planning, Mark Mayerich taking care of the food, while Mark Taylor and I were in charge of the beer.  Looking for the cheapest brands, we would buy a 12 pack a day for each guy, 3 days of fishing X 13 guys = 20 cases of beer.  I was never much of a beer drinker so at least 2/3rds of my allotment was available, and we still ran out by Sunday night.  Those were the days.  Today we have dispensed with the group providing the beer and concentrate on the essentials, food, lodging, bait, covered slips, and peripherals like hats.  It is much easier as our groups have varied over the last few years with 24 guys on this opener, a record.  My first picture is of my Brother Steve with a huge perch, the first fish we kept on Saturday morning.

Besides fun the main event of the trip is the Big Fish Contest.  When I first began to fish with the group, we could catch and keep any fish so it was easy to bring them in and have these fish weighed at the resort.  Today the size restrictions force us to release all fish between 18 to 26 inches and generally we release anything larger than 26 as well.  Therefore the contest relies on measured fish as the largest and is done in 1/8" increments.  The last 3 years it has taken a fish longer than 26 inches to win first prize.  This also includes a nice chunk of money as well as being able to possess the traveling trophy, which has been in play since 1978.  The winner of the Big Fish Contest has until next opener to get his name engraved on the plaque. We also recognize the 2nd and 3rd place.  In addition to the Big Fish Contest, we keep track of each boat's total catch and individual catch.  We award a prize for the best individual performance and best team performance.  It also helps to keep track of how many fish we have in the freezer.  I am delighted to announce that this years Big Fish winner with a beautiful 26.5 inch walleye is me!  This will be my 5th first place finish in 21 years catching Mark Mayerich's total after he clinched last years title.  As far as individual and team performance, although in the top 10, this year was a tougher year for Team Anderson.  Never the less the first place win made up for any issues of the total walleye catch.  My good friend Kevin Aiona, who with his partner John Felix are rookies, ended up with the top individual performance and 3rd place in the Big Fish Contest.  This picture is me holding the winning fish!

This year Team Anderson consisted my brothers Steve and Jon along with myself.  Steve has been my fishing partner for the last 4 years however it was Jon's first time with us.  Jon has had a tough life with a genetic condition that causes the arteries in his face to deteriorate, creating a number of serious problems.  He has had many operations to repair damage to his upper lip and palate resulting in the removal of one of his eyes and nose, as well as grafting tissues to his cheek area.  He is one tough hombre and both Steve and I are very proud of how he has dealt with this.  Jon and I don't agree on a lot of things but I still love him and it was fabulous to spend the weekend with him at Leech Lake.  Steve and I are what I would call accomplished fisherman and admittedly we expected it would take some patience with our younger brother.  Were we wrong!  I set him up with a nice St. Croix rod with a Stradic reel and he fished as an equal to both of us.  Here is a picture of a very nice 25.50" walleye that he nailed at a new spot I found on the lake.  Maybe it's just instinct,  but I was impressed how well he did, of course he is our brother. 

The forecast for this weekend is very windy and being away leaves me with tons of stuff to do around the house so we will have to see what develops.  I do have the opportunity to go and see the Twins in their new stadium, which will be hard to pass up. Next week I will have more to report on the opener so stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

One Week Till Opener!

Commercial airline travel has become an interesting sport these days. This morning I got up early to catch a 9:00 flight to Chicago only to discover that it had been delayed till 9:45. Given the additional 45 minutes, I wondered into the Skyclub for some coffee and a small bite to eat. Often this is a place to meet fellow colleagues and this morning was no exception. Conner Quinn of Emerson came strolling by and with time to spare sat together for a few minutes as he was heading to Las Vegas. I figured at about 9:00 I would head to the gate, hitting the restroom first. Double checking my flight status the monitor said it was back to 9:00 and boarding. Scrambling, I rushed out of the club and looked for the first cart with a driver. After explaining my dilemma he kindly let me on board and what would have taken me 7 minutes was accomplished in less than one. A nice tip for the retired gentlemen and I was the 3rd last to board. Crazy thing was that we pushed off the gate at 9:15 and sat on the tarmac for another 45 minutes. Truly amazing.

Well the snow combined with the cold weather gave me an opportunity for that last push to get the boat ready for this weekend. Having just received my new boat polish that I ordered from Walleyecentral, it worked great. Everything is cleaned and vacuumed, new line on the rods, tackle boxes reorganized, it should be a great weekend. It was a good weekend for my friends to send me evidence of their successes. The first is Lucas Kimblom and his father Greg, a good friend from Eau Claire. Greg has an interesting profession which he and his team harvests human tissue from those that are less fortunate and have passed away. Bones, blood vessels, and a host of other products are harvested and used to help treat those that need it more than the person from whom it came from. Lucas participated in his first turkey hunt this year and by the picture, was very successful. It is great to see hunting traditions being passed down to the next generation. Congratulations Lucas, nice bird.

The next picture is Rambo, showing off his successful hunt. My wife’s cousin, Tony Rombalski, he bagged this bird on his dad’s farm just south of Eleva. The Rombalski farm is designated a Wisconsin Century Farm having been in the family for over 100 years. Turkey’s have really established themselves back home and turkey hunting is as popular as deer hunting. Rambo is an interesting fellow, a veteran of both the 1991 invasion of Iraq as well as a second tour of duty a few years ago. He is an excellent diesel mechanic and as you see a proficient turkey hunter.

My last picture is of my good friend Lory Brasel. Lory used to work for me before heading to Portland Oregon to work for a window manufacturer. He has since come to his senses and moved back to Minnesota however he still maintains his connections in Portland. The great Columbia River flows past Portland on its way to the sea. It still sports a fishable salmon run and May marks the peak of the spring Chinook. Not as big as the Kenai king run, they still provide a great sport. This first run of salmon utilize the most upper portions of the rivers, often making their way hundreds of miles to their traditional spawning beds as far away as Idaho. The dams on the Columbia have had a huge impact on the modern day runs, however they still manage to support a population of both early and late run Chinook and Coho. I am sure Lory enjoyed great salmon feast.

Here's hoping for a great report next week!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Windy in Wisconsin

Minnesota Fishing opener is always 2 weeks before Memorial Day weekend and Wisconsin Fishing opener is always on the first weekend in May. Because Memorial Day is on May 31st this year Wisconsin's is May 1st, as early as it can be and Minnesota is May 15th, as late as it can be.  This happens about once every 7 years on average and when it does I like to cruise over to my cousin Greg's cabin (actually a house) on Clear Lake and try my luck.  This year was no exception so picking up my cousin Paul in Hudson we headed over to show Greg how to fish.  Paul suggested I be there at 6:00 but after telling him he's crazy as I am an hour away we compromised at 6:30.  A fresh hit of coffee and we took off.  Paul is my first cousin, as Greg is, and we spent a lot of time together when we were kids.  He had 3 sisters so my brother Steve and I sort of adopted him as our honorary brother.  Paul has come with me to Wyoming snowmobiling and in 2008 joined us for our Alaskan fishing trip, which helped make it one of the best yet.   Arriving at the landing, we decided to launch the boat first and look for Greg later.  The lake is really a small chain of lakes consisting of Island, McCann, Clear, and Chain Lake.  Clear Lake is the smallest of the 4 and as we came out of the channel onto Chain Lake ran into a man wearing a blinding chartreuse sweatshirt driving a Tracker boat with 125 Merc........both sure signs that we had found him.  In the boat were his dad (my uncle and Godparent, which BTW is so anointed because every time he saw me he said "Oh My God"!) Loren Nelson of Eau Claire, Greg's father in law, Norm Hanson and his neighbor Mike Brott, both from Cleghorn Wisconsin ( a suburb of Eleva!).  These guys have been going to Greg's cabin for at least 16 years now and it was fun to see them all again.  Loren is 82 now and still gets around pretty well.  It was fun to be with these guys as they had all sorts of goodies brought from their food plots.  Canned potatoes, fresh laid eggs with those deep orange yokes, home made cookies, I could not wait to eat.  The top picture from left to right is Cousin Greg, Uncle Loren, and Cousin Paul

Windy in Wisconsin was putting it lightly.  This small chain of lakes stretches north to south, perfect for riling up the whitecaps from the 30 mph south wind.  We were able to find some shallow bays and shorelines to try our luck with crappies but despite water temperatures in the 60's they were not around.  We tried the range of 1 foot water to 5 feet with little to show for it.  By the afternoon I had 2 - 4" perch, a 4" bass, and had exhausted any fishable water that has some protection from the gale force winds, which by the way were getting stronger as the afternoon went on.  Deciding we needed a break I headed to the very south end of the lake and told Paul we were going to troll shad raps on the weed edges, traveling with the wind.  It was our only hope to salvage a tough day of fishing.  Going with a crawfish colored glass shad, within 3 minutes I had a fish on.  Certainly not the largest northern I have ever caught yet today it would prove to be the big fish of the opener.  He was a tough guy breaking off the rear hook as he stayed secured to the front one.  Throwing it into the livewell I thought to myself, wow that was fast and we have about another 1/2 mile to go.  Thinking too quickly can be a big problem and this day was no exception.  Neither Paul or I had any other hits.  Being blown around for about 5 hours we decided it would be best to load the boat up, head to the cabin and have a cocktail before the fish fry started.  Lucky Greg had some walleyes and perch from Lake Erie or we would have starved!  Still it was a successful day for sure.

Finally I have some surprising news to report.  My brother found that first nickel he made and bought a brand new Lund 1725 Explorer SS, loaded with a 115 Merc Optimax, HDS7 sonar/chartplotter, Terrova 24Volt front trolling motor, and a custom cover to boot!   This is a pretty interesting development if you know my brother.  I figured something was going on when I got a call from him this weekend from the Stark's showroom in Prairie du Chien, WI.  His first attempt was a 1675 with a 90 Opti, however I am not a fan of 16 foot boats and big water.  I know, I am the one who used my 16 foot Lund Pro Angler on Lake Michigan for downrigging salmon, yet I just think and extra 8 - 12 inches really makes a difference.  Telling him he could do what he wants, my advice.........look at the 17 footers before you do anything.  Sure enough my next call was that he had taken my advice, checked out the 1725 and for $1000 more he got a longer, wider boat with 25 more horsepower, not a bad upgrade.  For listening to his older brother I have a very good Garmin 240 depth finder for that trolling motor ( has the built in transducer) complete with a Johnny Ray mount and the correct adaptor cable.  Truth be told that in 1982 he let me use a new trailer he had and I never paid him for it.  Although it was a smaller trailer for a 14 foot boat, I suspect that if you added the interest for 28 years, I would owe him about $50,000 today.  Unfortunately the depth finder is all he's getting!