Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lead Line Confidence Has Arrived

Last weekend my brother Steve had Friday off with the intent of having me take him fishing on Mille Lacs.  Never fishing a full moon walleye bite he wanted to see what it was all about.  In past years the September full moon has been very successful and although the last couple of years have been less than stellar, I have always had at least one good trip before October.   The 3 days before saw record rains in southern Minnesota and Wisconsin resulting in serious flooding for this time of year.   The weather showed Friday as a clearing day with Saturday having a chance of rain again.  Meeting me at work Steve and I headed to the lake with the wind howling from the northwest with gusts to 35 mph.   My strategy to fish the east side was definitely going to change.  Arriving at Lundeen's, Bill agreed that it would be a wet outing if we launched at Liberty Beach but the good news was the reports from the north side where it would be significantly calmer.   The latest fishing reports had the deep sand bite on the north end pretty good.  Running lead lines in 27 feet of water with #5 Shad Raps was the rumor for the hot bite.  With the 25mph steady wind out of the NW, this was a great option.  27 feet is fairly close to shore and after a short run, we snapped a Hot Steel Shad Rap on one rod and a Clown color on the other, let out 5 colors of line and headed east.  I am still amazed how well my 115 Suzuki trolls down, even with the wind it was under 2.0 mph.  Although the wind was blowing hard, the wave action was more than tolerable.  Within the hour we had our first rod double over, a nice 18 incher for the live well.  Starting at 3:00 in the afternoon, by 7:00 we had boated 7 walleyes, 5 for the live well and 2 were too big to keep such as this one pictured.  It was my best day fishing with lead line and it is definitely boosting my confidence with this presentation. 

At 7:00 it was time to find a shallow reef and check out the post sunset bite.  A 4 mile run to the shallows in front of Fisher's we trolled for about an hour and decided we should have stayed in the deeper water.  The waves were significantly higher and the fish were no where to be found.   Heading back we loaded the boat and made a beeline to my friend Mark's ice house for the night.  Our plan was to catch supper, get a good nights sleep and head home in the morning.   Located at Fisherman's Wharf, we stopped at the resort restaurant to eat before cleaning our walleyes.  The nights special was pot roast with all the trimmings for $10, a fabulous deal considering how much food we got.  A short ride to our quarters found a nice surprise, Mark had decided to drive up and stay the weekend.  After cleaning nice batch of walleyes, we proceeded to solve the world's problems, something that that took till 4 in the morning.  Admittedly we only scratched the surface!  Here is another nice walleye we nailed.  If you notice the pictures are once more lacking quality.  Being too excited at the landing, I again left my camera in the car.  I bought an extra camera to keep in the boat especially for my forgetful streaks however that camera was also in my car.  So much for that plan!  Steve took these with his fancy smart phone, not bad as I had little choice.

It is going to be hard to get out this weekend with a wedding on Saturday and a surprise anniversary party on Sunday.  The weather forecast is predicting a hard frost for Saturday night and things are drying out nicely.  With Indian Summer scheduled for next week, the fall rush to get those last minute chores done has started.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Back to Wapogasset

Sunday had me up at 5:00 to meet Jason and his dad Andy Rombalski for our annual fall fishing trip.  Because Andy lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and he has fond memories of all the fish they used to catch on Lake Wapogasset, this was our destination.  A medium sized lake north of Amery, the lake is popular for panfish, walleyes, and bass.  The last time we fished this lake it took about an hour to find the landing.  The lady at the gas station confirmed that there was a new landing and we couldn't miss it.  After stopping at the bait shop for some waxies, it was off to the landing using her directions.  Well, so much for not missing it!  This time it only took a half hour to find get the boat in the water, once we got back on the right road.   The water is coming off it's usually pea soup color with the algae almost gone.   The peak summer algae bloom prevents the weedline from going any deeper than 6 feet.  We quickly discovered the fish were located on the edge of this.   Jason ended up with most of the fish while I had an interesting collection of species including largemouth bass, northern pike, and white bass.  The rest of the collection included bluegills, rock bass, crappies, and surprisingly large shiners.  The white bass I caught was an interesting experience.  Andy was fishing sunnies and a fish was trying to eat the bobber.  Sensing an opportunity I pitched a twister tail and it slammed the lure.  Because this was a joint effort, both Andy and I are pictured here.

Being out on the water presents the opportunity to view Mother Nature at her finest.  I experience once of a lifetime experience as we moved down the shore, casting for fish.  On a dock was a mass of fur that was undulating back and forth in a nervous fashion.  As we cruised closer to investigate, to my surprise it was a family of otters, 5 in all.  It was like watching the Discovery Channel.  I have never seen otters in the wild and it was an exciting experience.  They allowed us to get fairly close before entering the safety of the lake, one by one.  Watching them swim as a group along the shoreline was amazing.  Sticking their heads up out of the water looking back at us they may have seen us as an oddity of nature from their point of view.  The trip ended at the boat landing when a huge bald eagle swooped down from a large tree to snag a fish right in front of us.  Often when fishing, the fish are simply a bonus.  Off to Mille Lacs later to try the remnants of the September full moon bite with my brother Steve.  It looks like a lot of wind which can be good and bad.  Maybe I'll finally get something to replace my picture with.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fall Salmon Fishing Wisconsin Style

A picture sent to me by my friend Eric brought back many memories of fishing for salmon on Lake Michigan.  Here Eric is holding what would be described as a perfect Chrome King.  Still in the main lake, not unlike Alaska, the fish have that "just out of the ocean" look of bright silver.  A few e-mails back and forth acknowledged that they were fishing no different than I did back in 1986/87.   Back then my good friend Gary Barneson was living in Appleton.  Although he lives in Eleva now, he was an important influence on my early days of fishing.  He was the first to invite me to fish walleyes on Mille Lacs, advised me on my first boat, a 14 foot Lund Deluxe with a 25hp, and he invited us to fish salmon on Lake Michigan with our small boats.  It did sound exciting, fishing these exotic fish out of our 14 and 16 foot standard boats.  After a few discussions I began rigging my 16 foot Lund Pro Angler for the trip to Manitowoc, Wisconsin.  First order of business was to find some down-riggers and mount them.  A 2" x 8" x 7 foot board, clamped onto my gunnels proved effective.  Next was to get some flexible trolling rods and reels, along with a couple of Dipsy Divers and some lures like the Northport Nailers, J Plugs, and flashers with squids.  Some PVC pipe to act as rod holders and we were rigged!  Arriving at Gary's we spent the night, heading out early in the morning to fish.  My friend Kevin and his brother Brent always accompanied me on these trips.  We were fast learners.  Having the ability to fish 3 poles each, we put down 2 down-rigger rods, a dipsy diver out of each side (these were diving planer devices that would take your lure down and out away from the boat), and a couple of long lines running close to the surface.  It was a surprise to find out just how close in to shore we were catching salmon and brown trout.  The average depth was from the surface to no deeper than 45 feet. 

It was a blast!  Today's charter boats fishing salmon on Lake Michigan have so many lines out that they have to keep moving forcing you to reel a fish that is also being pulled along.  With our own boat we could stop, pull in all of the lines and stand on the bow for a magnificent battle.  Not unlike chunking for silvers in the ocean, it was just you and the fish.  Of course fishing back then was fabulous.  A full day's work would be rewarded with a limit of Kings, Coho's, with a few rainbow and football browns mixed in.  Looking back it was some of the most fun I have ever had fishing.  Gary moved back to Eleva, the fish eventually ate the lake out of house and home, and Mille Lacs became a bigger focus for me.  I'll admit however that Eric has got me thinking!

The rest of the week in review was kind of interesting.  I had the chance to go to my 4th Twins game at the new Target Field with my good friend Lory Brasel.  Watching the Twins complete a series sweep of Kansas City was a perfect way to spend a night.  To my surprise my sweetheart Ellie Taylor was also at the game celebrating her 84th birthday.  Ellie is like a mom to me and we always have a great time together.  Her son Jack called me as we were going to the game and discovered the whole family was going.  The stars were aligned that night as Ellie sat in the section just below where we were allowing me to spend some quality time on her birthday.  Happy Birthday Ellie!  On Sunday I snuck on the river to wet a line for a few hours.  The fishing was horrible as the grass floating down the river was preventing a good presentation.  Nailing a 10 inch smallie was about all I could muster up before the grass made my crankbait useless.  There will be more chances.  Launching at my neighbors, Blair and his wife help me load up the boat.  A quick discussion about me taking my motorcycle road test prompted Blair to volunteer his 125CC Yamaha Zuma for the test.  Assuring me that I would have difficulty with my bike, we went to Anoka and practiced on the test course painted in the parking lot of the Drivers License Bureau.  He was right.   Monday I rode his scooter to work, then to my appointment where I wa the first of 5 guys to take the test.  I did pass and was glad that Blair intervened.  I don't know but I am sure the 2 guys behind me had some issues.  On Tuesday I headed for Cleveland Ohio for 2 days of meetings.  As usual my return flights from Chicago O'Hare were jinxed and after a 3 hour delay I finally got home around 1:00AM.   Off to our annual fishing trip to Lake Wapogasset, near Amery Wisconsin with Andrew and Jason.  Hopefully I will have a great report.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A New Member of the Family

Last week saw the addition of a new occupant for about 100 square feet of my pole shed.  She was a little rough and had not seen any tender loving care for a few years but underneath the dirt, cobwebs, and bird droppings was something special.  My late brother-in-law enjoyed fishing the Mississippi River out of Trempealeau Wisconsin and what better rig than a simple Jon boat.  Never one to travel far a 15 hp motor was more than enough to get him across the river for some good old sheepshead fishing.  Living next to the Mississippi River 160 miles north of Trempealeau, the boat would be a perfect craft for chasing Smallmouth Bass in the shallow and rocky section north of Minneapolis. Discussing the purchase with his wife Susy, we agreed on a price and I pulled it out of the old cattle shed.   After re-inflating the tires, fixing the lights, and finding an 1 7/8 inch ball, I got home in one piece.  A 14 foot square front Alumacraft with a 1976 Evinrude short shaft outboard, she needed a good cleaning, a new propeller, the trailer was begging to be repainted and have it's rollers replaced.   Having repacked the bearings by Saturday afternoon it was off to the neighbors river landing for her maiden voyage and a try at some smallies.

Having never been on this stretch of the Mississippi River in a boat there was a concern about the overall water depth.  The river is fairly high for this time of year but without a depth finder, it was a visual guess.  I was looking for a transducer to mount on the back and use my ice fishing flasher, an FL20 for the open water.  Deciding to take it with and hang the transducer off the side for a quick reference, there was a chance that this would be good enough.  Well that didn't work very well so I brought the transducer back in the boat.  As the boat came on plane I put the face of the transducer squarely on the aluminum floor with some water between then and voila, the bottom showed up on the flasher.  This proved to be a perfect solution giving me a great read of the river depth.  Traveling up 8 miles thru 2 known rapids I began the drift back fishing with a shallow fire tiger Bomber Model A.  The first cast into the riffle area produced a 14 inch smallie, life is good.  With the river high the boat drifted a good 100 feet before the fish was secured and released.  Motoring back to the starting point the next drift produced another 14 incher.  The 3rd drift resulted in a small northern pike.  Realizing there was a lot of water to cover it was off to the next spot, a deeper outside bend in the river.  A couple of cast later and a nice 17 inch smallie was on the line.  Man do these river fish fight!  I had my camera with but with no one there to record the fish, it was up to me.  Here is my attempt of a self portrait, not great but you get the idea.  The trip ended with a better understanding of the Mississippi from Dayton proper to Anoka and the lure of getting back to try it again.  I continue to add a few things to the boat like a permanent transducer, a Rock Hopper (a lower unit device for protecting the propeller from the bottom), and a trolling motor.  I love being a river rat again.

Last Sunday was Mille Lacs time with my friend Tom Emmons.  Lead lining was the goal with a stop at my favorite reef at sunset to round out the trip.  Arriving about 3:00 we headed to the north gravel bars and put out a couple of lines with the new hot bait, a Salmo #4F Hornet.  A smaller bait, I was skeptical however we did get a couple of keeper walleyes and a perch.  Sunset prompted us to abandon the lead and head for the 4 foot reef top.  The wind was perfect for my drift/casting technique which resulted in another 3 walleyes for the live well.  Leaving around 9:00 we had 5 in the box plus 2 nice perch, good enough for  meal but nothing large enough to take a picture of.  The one picture I did take of Tom's trophy rock he caught was done without a memory card in the camera..........oh well, it was pretty funny.  Hopefully I get back on the river this Sunday and try all the new crankbaits I bought.

Friday, September 3, 2010

State Fair Time

The end of August means one thing in Minnesota, State Fair Time.  For 12 days the State Fairgrounds in St. Paul comes alive as technically the largest State Fair in the United States.  Texas claims to be larger in attendance however it runs 30 days.  Either way it's usually a zoo.  My wife and I attended last Thursday to watch one of the guys who works with me compete in the amateur talent contest.  Welly Chou is both an excellent electrical engineer and an accomplished singer.  Born in Hong Kong, he came to the United States as a teenager, participating in a student exchange program where he attended high school in South Dakota.  He has been here ever since.   It is quite amazing as he has shed his Chinese accent and you would swear he just stepped off the bus from Nashville.  Welly has won many singing contests including an opportunity to open for Keith Urban a few years back.   Using my Canon pocket camera, I did a movie clip of his performance and Welly put it on Youtube.  If you have time, check out his performance, it's pretty good.

Of course one of my favorite attractions at the Fair is the Department of Natural Resources fish pond.  A concrete structure literally filled with fish of every kind, shape, and size.   A fairly large pond I would bet there is a 1000 fish from muskies, trout, paddlefish, carp, quillback suckers, crappies, sturgeon and everything in between.  I am not sure where they all come from, however I know many are caught by hook and line prior to the fair.  The other interesting thing at the fair is the animal barns.  Because Thursday was the first day of the fair, the main attraction were the sheep and rabbits.  Holy smokes, I did not realize how many different types of rabbits there were and the variety within those types.  Here is a picture of one that almost looks like a small dog.  There were rabbits you could hold in the palm of your hand to giants over 16 pounds.  I guess you can house train them to use a litter box so they must be smarter than they look!

Because of my niece's wedding, no fishing was accomplished this week.  I did manage to pick up a 14 foot jon boat with a 15 hp Evinrude which should be perfect for the river.  I will post pictures later, as soon as I get it cleaned up.  Today the temperature is about 64 and the wind is a howling out of the north, great for cooling down the water temps on Mille Lacs.  My plans are to maybe take the new addition to the family out on the river for a few hours and possibly make a Labor Day excursion to see if the cooler water has jump started the walleyes.