Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Nice Ending to June

June has turned out to be a pretty good month for fishing walleyes on Mille Lacs.   The early spring put the fish in a pretty aggressive mood for the month with the fish being somewhat deeper than they normally are this time of year.  I usually reserve Sunday afternoon's for my trips as the lake is less crowded and it gives me a chance to get caught up around the house.  Along with great fishing we have had excellent rainfall that has keep me busy around the house.  I am in the process of replacing all of my landscaping that was put in 18 years ago.  Because I still am feeling the effects of my surgery I have some help in the form of 2 excellent gentlemen recommended by my good friend Tom McAtee.  Antonio and Jose are brothers and farmers from just north of Mexico City and have been coming to Minnesota for over 15 years to work as landscaping laborers during the summer for a number of nurseries in town.  Saturday is their day to make some extra money and half a day on Sunday,  they have been a Godsend for me.  Together we have removed about 15 tons of rock, removed around 20 mature overgrown shrubs, and have the areas prepared for an all new look!  It always seems to be something.

So this Sunday was Lory Brasel's turn in the boat.  Heading up around 1:30, our usual stop at Lundeen's gave us some indication of the current bite status.  With the wind howling from the west-northwest, there were no shortage of white caps. It was an interesting wind as it was blowing hard enough to create a frothy surface however the size of the waves were not as large as I would have expected.  Maybe we were just lucky to be on the right side of the lake and the big rollers were on the south and east side.  Our first stop was a set of humps just east of the landing.  They have been a good producer however it was starting to get too late in the season to really count on them.  Catching nothing we decided to head directly to Sherman's flat, as reports have been good.  This meant however that we would be subjecting ourselves to a little more punishment.  Starting at the what is known as The Cut, we would fish the top edge of the flat, just where it drops abruptly from 24 feet to 34 feet.  This drop runs for almost a mile in a SW to NE direction, perpendicular to the days wind direction.  This is a great opportunity to use a technique called quartering.  Pulling night crawlers on spinner rigs, the intent is to stay on the top of the break.  If you put the motor in reverse, backing into the wind, the physics of it will push the boat almost perfectly at a 90 degree angle to the wind, allowing us to stay on the break.  It is pretty neat but unfortunately it did not produce any fish.  Getting beat up somewhat we headed to the north side of the flat where there is an edge running exactly parallel to the wind.  This would allow us to drift right on the break with minor adjustments.  This proved to be a great strategy as we started catching fish immediately.  The run was about 1/4 mile long and we were catching 1 - 2 fish every 15 minutes (basically 1 run).  The first 4 were over 18 inches and had to go back however in the end we ended up with 5 keeper walleyes and 5 very nice perch in the 12 inch range.  I was surprised that we did not get any nice walleyes over 20 inches.   I decided not to take any pictures of my fish as I was looking for something large which of course never happened.   Well, it never hurts to be a little over confident!  The top picture is Lory with his largest, a nice picture for my post. 

This weekend is the traditional 4th of July outing with my friend's the Tom's.  Hopefully the bite will continue as I have yet to get skunked on the pond this year.  I am leaving you with a nice picture of a musky caught my my good friend and former Team Walleyer, Eric Hayes of La Crosse.  Eric and his family spend some time on Lost Land Lake, east of Hayward Wisconsin.  This year turned out to be a fantastic year for his group as they did very well on the muskies, including this nice on he nailed on Teal Lake, connected to Lost Land.  It is great to see my friends send in their trophy pictures as I always say, So many lakes, so little time! 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Still Waters

Friday was another successful ENA golf tournament.  Our 8th annual produced 184 golfers, a record, as well some beautiful weather to raise money for a great cause.  My job was fairly set up the proxy holes along with the hole sponsorship signs, take pictures of each foursome as they prepared to tee off the first hole, and spend money.  I did all three very well, especially the last part winning the highest silent auction bid on an Ardent C400 Fishouflage Walleye bait casting reel.  Although I had never heard of this brand, I was assured by the donor that not only it was a good reel but my winning bid was quite bargain.  Looking it up on the Internet that night proved to be an eye opener.  Made in the USA,  the reel is a high end product worth about $230.00.  Although my winning bid was about half that, I will probably have to throw in a few extra bucks to clear my conscience!  Saturday and Sunday morning was spent tearing out all of my landscaping which is 18 years old and about 5 years past due for being replaced.  Sunday afternoon was Mille Lacs time with my neighbor Tom Olson. 

My strategy for this weeks trip was to allow Tom a chance to call the shots for the first 3 hours then transfer the decisions to myself.  Tom wanted to try for smallmouth bass so we launched at Cove Bay Landing and fished the shallow reefs on the south side of the lake.  The rather large reef at the end of the Cove Bay outlet is a great place to start.  Really any part of the lake marked by hazard buoys spell smallmouth bass.  The water was somewhat stirred up from the previous days wind however what remained was quickly dying down.  There were a few active bass chasing minnows on the surface yet they were more interested in the real thing than the menagerie of imitations we threw at them.  Seeing a number of fish cruising the bottom, a 4 inch tube proved just as uninteresting to them.  After hitting a different reef we simply gave up on the smallies as I suggested we head to Sloppy Joe's, a deep gravel bar about 2 1/2 miles off shore.  I had done pretty good on this spot a few weeks ago and it was worth a try.  Rigging up a bobber and leech it took about 5 minutes before this very nice 24 inch walleye took the float down.  With such a quick hit, I figured we hit pay dirt.  Ah, the joys of premature thinking.  Marking a ton of fish on my depth finder we only ended up with 3 more fish, all on Tom's line as I could only just sit and watch.  We kept one and released the other 2 as they were pretty small.  After trying a spot my friend Bill Lundeen was parked on, we headed to Anderson Reef to finish the night trolling Shad Raps.  Once again all I could do is sit and watch while Tom caught 2 more smallies, including this beautiful 19.5 incher as well as a nice 17.5" keeper walleye.  It's interesting that fishing 3 hours for smallmouth produced nothing yet post sunset trolling seems to be the ticket.  I have caught a surprising amount of smallies after dark, something that would have been unheard of 5 years ago.  In all it was a great time as I had not been fishing with Tom since prior to my surgery. 

We got a later start on Sunday as Tom's son had scheduled a phone call to him from Afghanistan.  A Captain in the Air Force, he is in charge of building infrastructure such as schools and roads.  It is a dangerous job, one that has Tom isn't particularly fond of yet he is tremendously proud of him and all the men serving in harms way.  Sending pictures of our weekend trip  to him was a nice finish to another successful fishing trip. This was the third time in a row that I had glass like conditions on Mille Lacs, a tough situation when everyone is saying that the bite is hot when the wind blows.   I leave you with another picture of the gorgeous sunsets on Mille Lacs.  Like snowflakes they are all unique and represent a welcome finish to a wonderful day.  It truly is a beautiful world.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Walleyes with Weber

Last weeks fishing report from Mille Lacs was nothing short of phenomenal.  My good friend Jon Bathke conveniently takes off Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of each week during June to take advantage of the potential post spawn bite.  Reports from Jon included over 50 walleyes caught each day last Wednesday and Thursday.  Of course that talk gets my repaired heart a going and I knew that Sunday would be the day.  As luck would have it my old neighbor and friend, Roger Weber was working in the area last Friday and called to meet for lunch.  Never passing and opportunity to spend some time with Rog, we headed over to the new restaurant next to work, the Mango Tango.  They say that nothing will ever replace your experience with the first neighborhood you live in.  This was certainly true with my first house.  Being young and inexperienced, we counted on each other for help and support.  As neighbors, we each had our talents, me an electrical guy, our neighbor Troy, an excellent bricklayer, and Roger, enthusiastic laborer, we counted on each other for help and support.  As most things go time changes things and we all move apart.  Roger, Troy, and I continue to maintain contact with each other as there were too many good experiences to throw the friendships away.

Roger Weber and I had a lot in common as we both grew up working our way through the teenage years in a full service gas station.  Although Roger wasn't the most proficient fisherman I knew, he sure had connections.  Growing up in Aberdeen South Dakota, he was good friends with Tim Kessler and his family.  Bob Kessler owned the largest independent Super Valu store in the Midwest and had made a comfortable business for him and his family.  In 1989 and 1990 I had the great opportunity to be invited to fish Lake Oahe, a large reservoir on the Missouri River, west of Aberdeen.  Our 1990 trip was the most memorable as we were to fish with then South Dakota Governor Mickelson for the unofficial Governors fishing opener.  This was a private affair with the Governor, the Kessler family, Roger, a good friend Nels Johnson, and myself.  Staying in what I describe as the Kessler Compound, a house and 3 cabins moved to Akaska, South Dakota, it was a fascinating experience.  Akaska was a small town south of Mobridge, about 10 miles east of Lake Oahe.  Basically a one bar, one gas station town, at one time a cattle drive destination town,  it served well as a fishing camp.  At that time the Missouri was still experiencing the effects of the 1988 drought and the levels were down over 36 feet.  I found interesting was the boat landing was originally made to be usable as the lake first filled up, it became critical serving us as the levels went down.  Fishing was good however the lake had a 15 inch minimum size limit for walleyes.  One of the governor's staff came by my boat asking "Any Luck".  Responding that we were catching many walleyes however they were below the 15 inch minimum size.  I will never forget his next remark.............."Well you had better start keeping some of them, the Governor wants a shore lunch!"  I was more than happy to oblige and a shore lunch we had.  Being pretty proficient at cleaning the fish, that was my duty while the rest of the guys got the fire going and started cooking the potatoes, beans, with all the fixins.  I could not ever remember a better time eating fresh caught walleye, sitting on the banks of the Missouri River, and listening to the incredible stories Governor Mickelson shared about the history of the region.  Being a respected historian, we sat around the fire mesmerized by the tales of the days when cattle drives were the norm as the railroads forever changed the life in the west.  Unfortunately Governor Mickelson was killed in a tragic plane crash 3 years later, I feel lucky to have met such and interesting individual.

Meeting me at the house at noon on Sunday, Roger and I along with my good friends Tom McAtee and Mike Schuenke headed up to the pond.  After a stop at Lundeen's to get the latest info, we landed just north of the casino and fished the west side.  What ever the conditions causing the walleyes to go crazy earlier in the week had all but disappeared.  Maybe the cold front affected them as well the lake was like glass.   Fishing Rolands Flat, Sherman's Flat, the 20 Footer, excellent June spots prove fruitless.  I did get this nice smallmouth on Sherman's Reef, 20 feet of water in the rocks.  That's a lot deeper than I would have expected.  Heading to 4 Mile Gravel, we tried bobber fishing as one didn't even need an anchor to stay put.  There I nailed a nice 17.5 inch walleye, one for the box.  Deciding to finish the night back on Roland's, we anchored as Roger hooked this nice 20 inch walleye.  To big to keep it went back in the water.  The hit coincided with the wind picking up and after an hour we decided to leave with our single keeper.   Tom's boat had one as well, not the best day of catching, but a great day of fishing.  Spending the day with Roger reminded me why we have stayed friends for all these years.  Hopefully we can do it again.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

In The Money!

Fishing Mille Lacs as much as I do often prompts the question from my friends and colleagues, "Do you fish any tournaments on the lake?"  Mille Lacs is a popular lake for both professional as well as amateur tournament events.   Professional organizations include the Masters Walleye Circuit, FLW Walleye Tour, and Cabela's National Team Championship.  This events are the big money tourney's with top rated pros like Gary Parsons, Ted Takasaki, and others with total winnings in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The amateurs events include the Wave Wacker, various resort sponsored tournaments, and the Minnesota Tournament Trail (MTT).  My answer is always the same...............Fishing tournaments are too much work as I would rather just have fun.  True, I am pretty competitive in the boat and the thought had often crossed my mind yet the opportunity never presented itself until Sunday.  My friend Mark Applen had received a slot in any MTT walleye tournament as a charitable gift auction item for his Eric Nicolin Applen Charity Golf Event.  Not wanting to waste a good prize, Mark and I bought the position for the full amount, maximizing the charitable gift.  We decided that we would fish day 2 of the MTT on June 6th, 2010.  It will be a fishing trip I'll never forget.

The tourney was held at Hunter's Point Resort located on the east side of the lake.  There were a total of 87 two man teams registered  for the day's fishing.  The first 50 boats would leave at 7:00 returning at 3:00 while the second flight, boats 51 - 87 left at 7:30 returning at 3:30.  The rules were simple, 8 fish per boat allowed, 6 could be weighed.  This would help to accommodate the no culling rule and define each teams overall strategy.  Rules included only fish under 18 inches or 1 fish 28 inches or better.  This meant that if your fish measured 18 inches, you would be disqualified but a fish could be on the 28 inch line and be fine.  The money strategy was simple, catch 7 fish under 18 then go look for the hawg.  This way you would have your 6 fish to weigh and if you got a big fish you could swap it out and include it in.  Looking at the results from the day before, no one caught a 28 inch fish.  With the no cull and lack of big fish caught we decided to get 8 fish over 17 inches to maximize or position.

Mark and I did some prefishing on Saturday night to validate a possible location strategy.  It has been a deep water bite with most coming out of 25 feet and deeper.  Going out at 7:00 on Saturday night we checked out a shallow rock/weed spot in 10 feet of water.  In an hour we had 5 walleyes measuring in that sweet spot of 17 - 17.9 inches long.  We decided that would be a good place to start in the morning.  Arriving at Hunter's at 6:30 I signed the necessary paperwork, attached a ribbon to my bow eye, and had the boat inspected.  The first flight took off on schedule and we got out a half hour later.  Heading south we arrived at our spot only to see a boat from the earlier flight parked 50 feet from our spot, working the area.  Fortunately they were off the mark as we began to fish the weed line.   Within 5 minutes Mark had our first fish.  Keeping the net low, we managed to boat our first keeper while our company was oblivious to our quick strike.  After cutting them off as they approached, it became apparent to them that the fish were not shallow.   10 minutes later they fired up the engine and left, leaving us by ourselves.  Apparently they did not see us net our fish, foolish move.   In the next 3 hours we proceeded to get our 8 fish, with at least 5 of them over 17.25 and a couple in the 16+ range.  Almost all the fish were caught on night crawlers with spinners in 10 feet of water.  As stated, the rare 28+ fish prompted our strategy to weigh 6 fish over 17 and with a penalty for dead fish, we headed back to Hunter's to weigh them.  Being the first in, they were somewhat taken back but acknowledge we had done well.  Our fish weighed 10.71 pounds, good enough for fist place!  Done for the day and turning our fish over, we decided to try some lead line tactics.  Within 30 minutes the rain showed up so we headed back to load up the boat and watch the weigh in.  We knew a big fish would knock us out and as luck would have it a 7.56 pound walleye showed up.  After all said and done we ended up with 3rd, just 1.44 ounces behind the 2nd place team.  Not bad out of 87 boats.  Mark and I had agreed before hand that in the rare chance we would win, all monies would be donated back to the charity.  Along with a side bet, we netted $1046 for winning and $168 on the side bet.  Not bad for 3 hours of work.  Keeping the side bet money to cover our expenses, the balance of the monies went for an excellent cause.  Check out to learn more about our charity.  As far as my ego, sorry it got a pretty good boost on Sunday, one I will never forget!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mille Lacs 2010 Maiden Voyage

Having skipped last week's opportunity to hit Mille Lacs Lake, it gave me time to get a few things caught up around the house.  Memorial Weekend is usually my first real excursion to the pond and this year was no exception.  Monday is a great time to hit the lake as most of the traffic is heading south and the lake is substantially less crowded.  The reports from Mille Lacs has been excellent with a lot of fish being caught and a good number of them acceptable for the live well.  Mille Lacs has special restrictions due to the current Native American netting which goes on in the spring, during spawning, and before the fishing season opens.  These restrictions include a bag limit of 4 fish which must be under 18 inches with one allowed over 28 inches.  In the past 5 years the average walleye was exceeding 18 inches and bringing home some fish to eat was difficult.  This year has started out much better with many slot fish available.  The Minnesota DNR regulates the total amount of fish harvest based on the Indian harvest and available sportsman harvest.  The last few years the total harvest has been less than half of the total allowed (around 460,000 pounds).  This year we may have the opportunity to utilize our full allowable take of fish.  The first picture is the largest fish I landed, about a 22 incher.

Deciding to go out of the west side, we headed for a deeper rock reef south of Sherman's Point.  My friend Bill Lundeen had insisted that we fish deep, 26 - 30 feet.  The water temperature was 62, a number I expected to be higher.  After 30 minutes on the rocks I called my friend Jon Bathke to see if he was on the pond.  He answered the phone but was at home.  A short discussion of yesterday's success changed my strategy.  Hitting a special spot on Sherman's Flat, I nailed a couple walleyes, one keeper and one to long.  Action was slow so we moved to another favorite spot of mine, The Cut.  Although we marked a ton of fish as well I had a very nice fish on, that was about it.  I finally conceded to Mr. Lundeen's suggestion, headed south and bobber fish the deep water gravel.  Picking a popular gravel bar, we anchored in 28 feet of water, away from the assembled crowd.  Using slip bobbers set about 18 inches off the bottom baited with a leech, I had our first fish within 5 minutes of anchoring.  The next 3 hours proved to be quite successful as we put 7 more in the box giving us a total of 8 walleyes with a couple of nice perch thrown in for a bonus.  One interesting experiment that I like to do is target the fish just below the boat which show up on my depthfinder.  My guests were a couple of frequent friends, Tom McAtee and Tom Emmons.    Mr. McAtee had some issues with his line so I let him use my bobber rig as I jigged directly under the boat, watching the jig and fish on m depthfinder.  It was just like ice fishing as I caught at least 4 walleyes this way.  In an interesting experiment, I have a very cool stereo system in my boat.  As I marked fish directly below me, I cranked the volume to a definite uncomfortable level (Lot's of bass!).  The fish never moved.  So much for noise scaring fish.  This picture is of my good friend Tom Emmons with a nice keeper walleye.

This weekend I will be competing in the MTT Walleye Tournament on Mille Lacs.  Held out of Hunter's Point Resort on the east side,  Mark Applen will be my partner in our attempt to capture the $5000 grand prize.  It should be interesting as I have never fished an open water tourney on Mille Lacs.  I will report our results next week with the hopes that both bank accounts will be substantially larger on Monday!