Wednesday, January 26, 2011

GroundHog Day?!?!?

In the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murry was destined to live the same day over and over and over.  Last week seemed like my own Groundhog Day week, living the week as I did the week before, fishing Pelican then watching the Packers.  Stopping at my neighbor Lory's, I asked him if he was interested in hitting Pelican Lake for a few hours on Saturday.  Never one to miss an opportunity to wet a line, I picked him up and we headed to Pelican.  Now last weeks spot was fabulous and I had turned the GPS on to get a fix on our position yet I made one mistake, I never marked the spot.  Taking an educated guess, away from the crowds, we drilled a hole and verified we were in the zone, 11 feet.   Drilling 2 more holes for the house and 3 outside we cleaned them out, set up the shack, and lowered my camera.  Well at about 6 feet the camera hit the bottom..............impossible!  A sanity check with the Vexilar confirmed  that whatever I read 10 minutes ago wasn't what I was seeing now.  Looking at Lory, I informed him that we would have to move.  I think he assumed I was crazy yet somehow knew that if he didn't agree, he was going to have to fish them holes by himself.  Driving around, trying to get my bearings, we stopped, drilled and CAREFULLY measured 11 feet.  I suspect that I had ice on the bottom of the transducer, skewing my first assumptions.  Resetting everything, the crappies started immediately.  Starting at 3:00 and finishing around 6:30, we logged about 30 total sorting out 9 for a meal later.  It was fun, lot's of little ones with not a single sunfish caught.  I felt we had a good spot but maybe too close to the crowds. 

One of the things worth mentioning was the temperature Friday morning, January 21st.  My thermometer had 25 below zero when I woke up and had climbed to about -22 by the time I took a picture of the bearer of bad news.  Later conversations confirmed that the neighbors had a minimum temperature of -28 earlier that morning.  Although these temperatures are great for making ice, as I get older it is easier to understand why people head south for a few months.  I sent this picture to my friends in China as they seldom see temperatures lower than 40 degrees.  When asked how cold it really is I tell them that if you went outside and yelled your name, it wouldn't be till March until you heard it!  This is traditionally the coldest week of the winter and temperatures in Northern Minnesota lived up to it's reputation, -46 in International Falls.  It certainly builds character!

If you have sound on your computer, you can't help but love the selection for my opening song, I love The Green Bay Packers.  In a repeat of last week, the Packers defeated the Chicago Bears to win the National Football Conference Championship and are headed for the Super Bowl on February 6th.  Trust me, being a Cheesehead in Minnesota, especially in my neighborhood can be rough.   Viewing the game at my neighbor Tim's place is a pure pleasure despite being outnumbered by Viking fans 10:1.  No matter, I am basking in the glory as everyone knows where my allegiance is, win or lose.  The entire state of Wisconsin is giddy for the next 2 weeks and we are excited about Aaron Rodgers having the opportunity to finally put the last nail in the Brett Favre era.   Tim has an annual Super Bowl Party and I am sure all of the neighbors are just waiting for me to show up as I always make a big deal about my Packers every year.  Hopefully it will end exactly how every Cheesehead dreams of.  Next week I am traveling with my sales representative Bernard Guzzi from the Chicago area.  Our plan is for me to fly to Milwaukee, drive to LaCrosse, drive to Appleton, then back to Milwaukee.  When he originally asked me to make the rounds I responded, under one condition...........we stop at the Packer Pro Shop in Green Bay.  He agreed however I found out today Bernard was at the game on Sunday.  It should make for an interesting 9 hours in the car together!  So until the Super Bowl is history, you will have to endure a couple more weeks of Eddy J. LEmberger.  GO PACK!!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Fantastic Weekend

Saturday turned out to be one of those days where the stars must have been aligned just perfectly.  After shoveling snow again (the last 30 out of 40 days) I stopped by my neighbor Tom Olson to see if he was interested in heading out to fish Pelican Lake in the afternoon.  After finishing up the endless snow removal and filling all the bird feeders, I hooked up the trailer, loaded everything up and stopped by Tom's to pick him up.  Next stop was Cabela's to pick up some bait and check to see if they received in any more of there special 6 inch fillet knives, a heck of a bargain at $9.99.  Well, they did have the knives but no waxies.  A quick stop at the hardware store in St. Michael and we were ready.  I have described Pelican Lake as a prolific shallow lake about 15 miles west of my house.  The last few years have been fantastic, even as the fishing pressure seems excessive.  After the water had risen more than 6 feet, it has transformed from a rather worthless duck swamp to a popular fishing lake.  The DNR is still planning on draining it, Lord knows why.  I guess creating duck habitat for the few if any ducks that fly this far east anymore is more important than the thousands of people that enjoy this unique fishing destination.  With the lake in sight, it was the typical scenario, there must have been over 500 shacks on the lake.  These shacks seem to form little communities on the lake and I am not sure if they are really catching fish or just having fun.  I guess it probably doesn't really make that much difference.

My strategy is always the same.  Because the lake is no deeper than 12 feet, I find an area in the middle of nowhere and drill my holes.  Today would be no different, yep 10 foot of water and a hundred yards from anyone.   Although I have fished with crappie minnows, like back home, I prefer waxies.  Crappies, especially larger ones can be extremely lite biters.  The key is to keep your bait moving slowly down from about 3 feet from the bottom.  The fish will simply inhale the bait and the only indication will be the line going limp as tension is taken off.  Time is of the essence as they will spit it out just as fast.  I think too many people in Minnesota ice fish crappies with a minnow and bobber combination.  Although I am sure they catch their share of fish, I cannot believe it's as effective as waxies and line watching.   Proof is the nice 12 incher Tom is holding in the first picture.  Using 3 pound fluorescent orange line, he can easily work his bait and detect the slightest change in the feel.   On the lake by 2:30 and off by 5:30 we ended up with a couple more added to this nice pile of sunfish and crappies, all larger than hate 2 status (hate 2 keep em, hate 2 throw them back).   By 7:00 all the fish were cleaned and I was ready for the next event of the day.

The other reason to fish a local lake was to make sure I didn't miss the much anticipated Green Bay Packer vs the Atlanta Falcon game.  Being a bonafide Cheesehead, I proudly fly the Green and Gold on my flag pole, just under the Stars and Stripes.  Although my neighbor Tim and his family hates the Pack, he has a huge projected screen television, perfect for watching football.  With my neighbor Otto (another closet Cheesehead) we convinced him that Otto and I could turn his boring night into something a little more exciting.  Bringing over the Walter's Beer from last week, we settled into what would be a totally unexpected outcome, a blow out by the Pack.  Of course we knew the Packers could win however it was pleasantly shocking to see the final score go from being 3 point underdogs to a 27 point differential.  My friend Phil was at the game and the tee shirt I sent was a big hit.  It was amazing to see how empty the stadium was during the last half of the game.  By the 2 minute warning it was evident the only people left were the Packer fans.  You'd never see that at Lambeau, I don't care how bad the Pack were losing or who the opposing team was.  Everyone is talking Super Bowl and it's easy to jump on that band wagon as Aaron Rodgers is proving to be everything Brett Favre isn't, yet we still need to get by Da Bears.  Here's hoping you have sound as you will find a special song in celebration.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed as Sunday's schedule will certainly effect my fishing plans for this weekend!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Not Much Going On

Its been one of those weeks that before you know it it's a week later.  It's amazing sometimes you seem to be so busy you can't find time to do much of anything yet it seems like you have done everything.  Besides snowing every day this past week I did make it back home on Saturday to see my dad.  He got a positive report from the doctor that his cancer was knock down as he continues to learn to swallow normal food.  Before stopping there I dropped my wife off with her sister and cousins and hit a few of my favorite spots in the area.  First stop was the Leinies Lodge in Chippewa Falls.  Leinenkugels Beer is brewed in Chippewa and they have a nice store where you can get a number of branded apparel.  My goal was to get a more formal Stormy Kromer hat, one with Leinenkugels embroidered on the side.  I like my red plaid Stormy Kromer but it's a little too farmer for those special occasions.  Finding a charcoal colored hat, I am pretty well set for any event!  My next stop was Schell's Sporting Goods in the Oakwood Mall.  I like Schells as they seem to have a good collection of stuff as well a full selection of Green Bay Packer merchandise.  I found the perfect shirt for my friend Phil Gordon.  A Packer green T-shirt with gold letters that spelled out "Brett Who?".  Obviously us Packer fans have all but forgot Mr. Favre as we celebrate the second round of playoffs with Aaron Rodgers.  Phil lives in Indiana yet he is a die hard fan and tells me he is on his way to see the game in Atlanta.  I hope the shirt brings him and the team good luck!  My next stop was to check out the rumor that Walter's Beer was once again being brewed in Eau Claire.  Back in my younger days Walter's beer was a staple of the area.  It's tag line was simple, "The Beer that is Beer". As a teenager I would work with guys like Bud Tollefson or Ronnie Semingson and Walters is what kept us going.  Like many local breweries, the Miller Lites of the world took it's toll.  Walter's closed in the late 80's, a victim of the changing times.  Arriving at the brew pub, yes they had Walter's, another goal in reach!  I ordered a glass, trying to relive that taste I had not experienced in over 25 years.  It was ok but I guess it just seemed to be better when I was 25 years old.  I did buy a six pack for home, it will give me something to talk about with the neighbors.

I did make it fishing to Mille Lacs on Sunday.  Deciding to try to evening bite, my friends Jason Rombalski and Lory Brasel filled the empty seats in my truck.  Getting a late start we headed to the pond and drove out past Indian Point.  Heading for my spot in 28 feet of water, we got the holes drilled and houses set up just before the witching hour, 3:00 - 5:00.  Although we have been fairly successful the last few times, the fish were skittish and I ended up with 2 smaller walleyes.  Jason had a few chasers and Lory caught a small one.  Certainly not my best trip, as always, it's nice to get out.  On Thursday I plan on heading down to the St. Paul Sportsman's Show to check out the first big show of the year and say hi to my friend Keith Holtan.  Keith and his wife own  Beaver Creek Cabins on the Kenai River in Alaska and was our guide in 2002 when we chartered with my friend Jeff King. 

I am leaving you with a picture of my dad, his brothers and sister.  From left to right is my uncles Gordon(Dewey), my dad Don, Uncle Keith, Aunt Lavonne, and the little guy in front is my beloved Uncle Jerry.  This picture was probably taken around 1937 or 1938 and really shows the style of the day, bibs!  Implying that time flies, although this picture was taken almost 74 years ago, dad remembers it like it was yesterday.  It's a great reminder to enjoy life while you can..........

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Winnibigoshish by Gosh!

My first trip to Lake Winnibigoshish (Winnie) turned into one of those trips not to be forgotten. My host, Mark Applen had planned the trip along with a few of his old neighbors and friends familiar with the lake and I was fortunate to ride shotgun. The plan was pretty straight forward, Mark was to pick me up at 7:30, drive to Mille Lacs and pick up his wheel house, head north up through Remer Mn, and be on the lake by 1:00. A stop along the way to pick up some groceries to fill the gaps, we made it pretty much on schedule. Heading out of Denny's Resort on the very south end of the lake, we made a beeline for the waypoint Mark's friend Russ had given us. The resort was expecting us and had plowed a road about 5 miles up the lake, creating a turnaround precisely at our destination. Lake Winnie has a very distinct drop off running along the south and southeast end of the lake. This drop off is pretty steep going from 15 feet to 30 feet in about a 60 foot span and runs pretty parallel to the shore for a good 6 - 7 miles. The waypoint put us directly on the drop, with little structure around us other than the drop itself. Pat the resort guy suggested we park at 21 to 25 feet. This structure reminds me of the pronounced edges of the flats on Mille Lacs where we fish either the top edge or the bottom edge, seldom in the middle of the drop. Well, never fishing the lake and subordinating the "spot on the spot" to my hosts, we set up in the middle of that break. Although I wasn't crazy about the location, my strategy was to drill a few holes on both the top side and the deep side, with a few in between to test their effectiveness. After helping get the house dropped on the ice it was show time. A typical pattern would be perch on the deep side, and occasional walleye passing through, finishing on the top side for that evening migration of walleyes to the shelf. Winnie is known for its perch however the walleyes were showing themselves the first day. By the evening I had 3 nice keeper walleyes and a few respectable perch. By 5:00 the bite had died and it was time for supper, smoked pork chops, salad, some munchies and a glass of cabernet. Jigging in the house proved to be purely wrist exercises.

By the evening we had 4 wheel houses in our group. They included Russ, his Brother Randy, and Mark's old neighbors Mike and Judy. Issues with Russ's generator force everyone to plug into Mark's Honda 2,000 watt power plant. Although expensive, these Honda's are extremely quiet and are barely noticeable. After an hour of inaction we headed over to Randy's mansion to play a little Farkle, a new dice game I was introduced to. Randy has a very nice wheel house and had no problem accommodating 6 of us around the table. A few beers and $2.00 poorer, we headed back to our house to set the rattle reels and retire for the evening. Mark's house is set up with Direct TV and the weather channel became our next focus.  Forecast for our area was a winter storm warning, due to arrive within the next 12 hours. Hitting the sack, the rattle reels were silent through the night. We awoke Thursday morning to a light drizzle, not enough to stop fishing outside but still enough to get us wet. By noon the rain started freezing on the reels and by after lunch the snow began to fall. Thursday morning was fairly productive with both Mark and I scoring well on the perch in the 30 foot depth. After we had lunch I suggested we move the house to the deep side, at least we were catching fish there. A half hour and a 50 foot move,  we were reset for the duration and none too soon. The wind and the snow got progressively worse and it looked like we weren't going anywhere for a while. By 6:00 the blizzard conditions were severe and there was no way we would repeat any visits as the night before. The move proved to be a good decision as we caught a number of perch before dark and finished the night with a couple of nice walleyes, one at midnight and the other at 4:30 in the morning. Here are a couple of those walleyes caught on the rattle reels.

Waking up to a clear cold morning on Friday, the first order of business was to get the door open. The blizzard raged through the night and had created a good 4 foot snow drift outside our door. Mark had wisely faced his truck into the wind which minimized any drifts around the vehicle. It worked pretty well. After eating breakfast the next priority was to get the house lifted off the ice. The weight of the house, the 2 pickup trucks parked outside, as well as the newly formed snow drifts caused the water to flood the ice through the holes we had in the house. With over 2 inches on the ice, it was imperative we get the house back up on the axle before it froze in. By 8:00 the group had the houses hooked up, ready to go absolutely nowhere! What was a situation where you could drive anywhere on the ice on Wednesday turned into the inability to move more than 50 feet from our original parked spot. 15 inches of snow had fallen and the ice was all but impassable with 3 foot drifts as far as the eye could see. Well, never say never to a bunch of guys. Knowing the resort would plow us out eventually, the weather had predicted another 6 - 9 inches later in the day. Plan A was hatched, take the biggest, baddest , 4 wheel drive we had (Randy's 3/4 ton GMC) and attempt to blaze a path to the resort's houses about 4 miles away. 2 hours later, getting stuck about 20 times, and 1 1/2 miles down the lake, Plan B was decided upon. Someone had called the resort and our rescue was imminent, provided we had the patience to wait. Even though we had a good path started, Plan B sounded pretty good and we headed back to hook up the houses. About an hour later you could see the cloud of snow being pushed ahead of the V plow headed our way. It seemed forever to get to us and what a welcome sight as he plowed by. Here is a picture of the plow as it blew by us, pretty impressive. A half hour later we were off the ice, heading south right into the next storm! We ended up with 3 nice walleyes, about 20 perch, and a pretty good story of my first trip to Lake Winnibigoshish. Further south had significant rains, clearing most of the snow from Mille Lacs. Sounds like a pretty good excuse to check it out on Sunday, if you ask me!