Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Final Results

I finally have found time to post the final results from our Leech Lake Opener this year.  Although I am still waiting for a few more pictures, Ron sent me enough to put something together.  As for the summary Team Walleye had 22 attendees this year.  2 short of our record of 24 guys last year, everything went off without a hitch.  As stated earlier, the weather was pretty tough on Saturday but turned around on Sunday with the best day being the day we left.  This usually happens 9 out of 10 years so we are well acclimated to the nuances of the weather.   Around 3:00 on Saturday the representative from Ron Schara Productions showed up to film footage of our group's appearance on MN Bound.  Laurie did a great job interviewing the key members of Team Walleye including Ron Edberg, Mark Mayerich, Gary Ullom, and Mark Taylor, the original members.  I was given about 10 minutes to explain how Team Walleye keeps track of our tournament status, scoring, and the trophies involved.  She ended with the next generation of Team Walleye, Adam Mayerich and Matt Taylor.   Saturday night's menu included 16 oz rib eyes for everyone and after a great meal it was back out on the lake for more filming.  Greg from Brindley's volunteered to take her out so she could film Team Walleye in it's preferred environment, fishing!  We were one of the first boats they came by and as if on cue Gary set the hook on a nice walleye.  Grabbing the net I landed the fish as I have thousand's time before and the video camera caught all of the drama!  With a little luck it will be part of the segment.  Wrapping up the filming on Sunday morning we have been told it will be a couple of weeks and she would let us know the schedule.  I suspect she got about 3 - 4 hours of material which will probably be shrunk to about 10 - 15 minutes.  Asked about the process, she would actually do the editing and Ron Schara would narrate the story.  We are really looking forward to the finished product.  Here is a picture of this year's group.

We did have some new winners in the Big Fish Tournament this year.  Having won it last year, I was in charge of presenting the trophy to John Felix, my friend from Ashland, WI.  Unfortunately I don't have a picture of him however his fish tied Matt Taylor for the largest walleye caught in the 38 years of Team Walleye, 27.5 inches.  I was very nice fish and continues to set the bar high for next year.  Second place was my friend Kevin with a 27 inch fish, another nice walleye.  Third place was my brother Steve with a 26.25 inch fish caught first thing Saturday morning.   For individual points, Kevin took top honors with 98 points.  Points are a combination of total individual walleye's caught, total fish caught in the boat, and extra points awarded for catching the largest fish in the boat per session.  Although 98 points is a respectable score, the record was 202 points by a gentlemen in my boat 3 years ago.  That will be a number destine to stay on top for a while.  As stated last week, Team D Anderson again took top honors with the top boat award scoring a total of 46 walleyes caught in the old Ranger.  Last but not least the DCS (Didn't Catch $hit) trophy went to my brother Jon for his lack of being able to put any fish in the boat.  With Ron Edberg winning the last two years, I am sure that he was relieved not to be in the running this year.  Admittedly Jon was pretty happy to walk away with something, a toilet seat trophy and $20 for his efforts.  The good news is that the Anderson boys, my brother Steve, Jon and myself all walked away with some type of honor this year!  Here is Jon receiving his award from me, a reconfigured toilet seat made of clear acrylic complete with fishing lures embedded.

Each year Ron has been compiling data on the total number of fish caught.  Compared to the previous 2 years our total fish count was down quite a bit, 250 walleyes vs 386 for 2009 and 314 for 2010.   Although we did get enough for a nice fish fry on Sunday night as well as each brought home at least 3 walleyes, the slow Sunday's catch was a major contributor to the lower numbers.  One thing notable was the lack of fish under 15 inches.  The previous 2 years had good numbers of smaller walleyes, apparently they grew up some!  Often the weather and bait fish numbers have a big factor on this as we see the future of fishing on Leech to be very positive.  Ron has done some comparative overlays on the graphs and I will try to post them later. I did get out on Sunday for my first trip to Mille Lacs with Jeffrey, my friend from Taiwan.  Time is forcing me to put that off till next week!  Have a great Memorial Day and don't forget those who have gave all for our country.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

38th Annual Leech Lake Report

Another year of fishing has passed and the start of a new season has begun.  My open water season gets inaugurated with our annual Fishing Opener at Brindley’s Harbor Resort on beautiful Leech Lake, Minnesota.   This was my 22nd year with the group and as always it proved to have all of the elements of a great time.  Our trip started on Friday morning with Ron, My brother Steve and Jon meeting at the pole shed, loading up the gear.   Heading out at 9:00 we stopped to pick up another friend, Gary Ullom then proceeded to Lundeen’s, meeting my friends from Wisconsin, Kevin and John.  Loading up on bait we headed north.    Arriving at the resort 2 hours later, the first order of business was to get our boats unloaded and the minnows in our holding containers.   Unfortunately one of my live well pumps failed and I lost quite a few shiner minnows however luckily we split them up so the impact was not too severe.  I had bought an oxygenator as a backup and quite frankly was very disappointed in how it didn’t work.  After a few celebratory traditions a couple of us headed to the harbor point at midnight to cast a few crankbaits.  Success usually means the morning will be pretty good.  Within 30 minutes we already had 5 nice keeper fish caught on Shad Raps and Rattlin’ Rouges.   The Omen proved correct as we woke up to a 20mph NE wind, rain, and a hot bite.   Leech Lake walleyes were in a tight post spawn pattern as the ice had just left 2 weeks earlier.  Wind blowing into Pine Point concentrated the fish, which were scattered throughout the 10 foot depth range.  Everyone caught walleyes on Saturday morning.  By noon you could see a clearing line coming in from the northeast and by time we ate supper the rain was gone but not the wind.  The bite continued to be OK however by the Sunday morning the sky was clear, the barometer was rising and the fish didn’t seem to like that very much.    The group records all of the fish caught, individual points as well as team points (by boat) are awarded.  If I have 2 guys in my boat and they do really good, I benefit as the total fish caught in your boat adds to your individual score.  Sunday morning wasn’t very good for Team Anderson!  Usually a good session can catapult you into the top scores as Sunday nights session would prove. 

Having tried the Goose Island area the day before with some success, I decided to open the evening session there.  Leech is a funny lake.  One year they can be killing on Goose and the next year there is nary a boat in site.  Sunday night was no exception, no boats on Goose and no fish.  After about an hour my brother (bless his soul) called to inform me they were getting some nice fish on Ottertail Point.   Heeding his advice we cranked in and fired up the Suzuki.  Arriving at Ottertail, there were about 10 boats working the area and a few nets showing themselves.  15 minutes into it I landed a nice 25.75 inch walleye….great start!  Well the next hour saw a number of fish caught in the other boats while we hit another dry spell.  As the sun went down my strategy shifted telling Mark and his son Adam, we were going to troll shad raps.  Earlier that day they had asked if both could accompany me that evening which was fine with me.  The rules are it’s my game.  Thinking they were simply going to use their spinning reels I informed them to put the lightweight gear away, I am not spending half the night getting baits unstuck.    Being the gentleman I am Mark got my top trolling rig and Adam got the next best.   Selecting baits for them, I suggested that color is less important than size and depth.   Sometimes you can have 3 identical baits but one has that special nuance which really turns the fish.  That night Mark’s white with a red bill was the clear ticket.    Trolling shads is one of my strategies on Leech however these guys had never tried it.  Sunday night I put on a Shad Rap clinic and by midnight we had boated 18 walleyes, the largest at 25.75 and put 8 in the live well.  Mark had the hot rod with 12 fish caught, Adam added his 4 and I only ended up with 2, which were twins at 25.75”.  This is why Mark and Adam wanted to fish with me that evening and I am glad they were not disappointed.    Of course I attributed Marks success to the fine trolling rod he was given to use, yet when you’re hot you’re hot!  The first picture is my 25.75” that fell victim to a #7 silver Shad Rap and the next one is Mark’s largest fish of the night.  Although I didn’t do so well personally, Marks performance put Team Anderson in the lead for top boat.
I believe Sunday night’s success was based upon a common situation that sets up on Leech.  As the wind pounds into a point it concentrates the walleyes.  The wind had been blowing into Ottertail point for 4 days and finally died Sunday afternoon.  That evening the fish were still there however by Monday morning they had scattered with the rising barometer.   Monday morning the lake was glass calm being much more reluctant to give up her walleyes.  By noon we had managed 2 walleyes so it was time to pull out the entertainment portion of the session and head to Submarine Island for a little sucker fishing.   With water temps in the mid 50’s the lake suckers were stacked in the 3 foot tops of the reefs spawning.  There were thousands of them full of eggs and milt, ready to hit a Hot’n’Tot that got too close.  It was a nice break to the rather monotonous state of the walleye bite and my boat companions enjoyed something they have never seen.  Back trolling Sunday night with Mark, we tried Stony Point with little fanfare so back to Ottertail and 5 more fish, again Mark had the hot rod.  This year was an interesting one as I scored a quintfecta  catching 5 species including walleye, perch, northern pike, eelpout and sucker.   An interesting mix for sure.  Here is a picture of me with a trophy lake sucker.   Unfortunately I had to leave for Denver within hours of returning home so again I am writing this on the plane.  The flight attendant just told me to turn it off so stay tuned as I will post more pictures and results from another fantastic  Minnesota Fishing Opener.   In addition, the representative from MN Bound showed up on Saturday afternoon and I will report on what proved to be an interesting filming session.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Big Weekend's Coming

Well, Minnesota Fishing Opener is just a few days away and everything seems to be coming together like it always does.  For me the Opener still has a magical appeal as it has all of my life.   Back home in Eleva fishing opener was always the most anticipated day of the year, better than birthdays or even Christmas!  Its been that way for as long as I remember.  The Eleva Pond was a typical Mill Pond created by the damming up of a fast moving creek then using the power of the water to mill grain prior to the invention of the internal combustion engine.  Most small towns and villages had a local water powered mill to provide the community with a location to process grain for many applications.  Although many of these ponds are no longer maintained, Trempealeau County, Wisconsin has no natural lakes so the ponds were the focal point for fishing and remain that way today.  The Eleva Pond is feed by Big Creek and Adams Creek, both spring feed and perfect for trout.  Every spring the local Rod and Gun Club would stock 500 or so adult trout in the pond, just in time for opener, the first week in May.  Known as "planted trout" their flesh was white and rather bland.  If the trout survived the season, feeding on freshwater shrimp eventually turns their flesh to a deep orange color improving the flavor tremendously.  We called these fish "natives" although true native fish were rate.  Worms were usually the bait of choice however an occasional Mepps Spinner was used when a more exciting way to fish was desired.  Here is a picture I pulled from the Eau Claire Leader, a young man fishing the Eleva Pond on the opener.  That could have just as well been me 50 years ago, I am glad some things never change.

The opener sets in motion a good list of things need to be done.  Tackle box cleaned, new line on the reels, searching for the last place you set down that prized lure last fall, and getting the boat ready.  Having installed my electronics, I had the chance to launch the boat in Diamond Lake, a shallow weedy farm lake a few miles from the house.  The lake is about 10 feet at it's max and although I believe it must freeze out from time to time, it's become home to a number of White Pelicans either migrating north or staying for a few months.  There must be some fish left as the count was over 30 birds.  Launching the boat, the motor started, my goal was to get some feel for the new depth finder and GPS, check out the side/down scan function, and do my normal check of all systems including livewell pumps, switches, gauges, and electric motors.  In mounting my Side Scan transducer there are conflicting theories of whether to mount for high speed operation as over 8 mph, the readings become less accurate.  I did a combination mounting, securing it to the step under the transom yet allowing the surface to read at full throttle.  This proved to be one of my better ideas as at full throttle my down scan images mirrored the sonar readouts with incredible accuracy.  The down scan offers an interesting look at what is underneath you, sort of like standing on the bottom of the lake and looking at a side view.  There are still a few settings to figure out on the HDS system but slowly I am mastering the intent of the manufacturer, not necessarily the easiest task.  There was an interesting twist to my maiden run this year.  I have removed all of the old transducers as the Ranger has a factory installed transducer epoxied to the fiberglass floor which "shoots" thru the hull providing excellent high speed performance.  The side scan transducer is long and narrow, offering little if any drag.  The first thing I noticed was my boat seemed awfully fast for having a full tank of gas.  A check of the GPS read 38.7 mph.  This made no sense as the most I could ever get out of the boat with just me in it and a quarter tank of gas was 37 mph.  I made a number of test runs hitting 39 at one point, 2 mph faster than last year.  Was it the 6 month rest the motor experience, I doubt it.  The only thing I can figure is my two Genetron transducers where adding drag.  I hardly believe this as these were installed for minimal effect but numbers don't lie.  Maybe its an anomaly!

Opener is going to be extra special this year.  Not only is it our 38th annual but now we are destined to be television stars.  Yep, Team Walleye organizer Ron Edberg was watching a regionally produced outdoors show call Minnesota Bound, hosted by Ron Schara when he noticed a contest they were having.  The show was featuring traditions in the outdoors and invited anyone to submit their "Fishing Opener Traditions", 300 words or less (of course) and the winner would be picked around May 10th.  The Grand Prize would be their production crew spending a couple of days with the winners to film an episode for an upcoming show.  Ron and I put something together, revised it a couple of times and sent it in.  Well, today we were informed that Team Walleye has been selected for the Grand Prize, WOW!!!  The details are starting to gel and the film crew has already made reservations at Brindley's to spend a few days with us.  I will have more updates as things progress including a review of our experience and the show dates.  One thing is for certain, it's going to be and exciting weekend for Team Walleye.  Here is our winning essay penned by Ron:

Our opening fishing tradition will celebrate its 38th year on Leech Lake. Started in 1974 at Leech Lake with 4 high school friends, we have continued the same tradition every year since. My late father once told me “If you give it up once, you will never get it back” and he was right. Over the years our Leech Lake Opener has grown, evolved, and changed to maintain the excitement and anticipation of the Minnesota Walleye Opener. In 1978 we created a traveling trophy that has the names of each winner engraved. Akin to the Stanley Cup is showing its age, complete with its own nuances left by each holder.

Camping at various resorts on Leech, in 1982 we settled into Brindley’s Harbor Resort and 3 years later secured the much coveted Cabin 14. Our group expanded, including more family, friends, and 3 different resort owners. Fathers and kids joined the group, some have passed away and some of our kids, now in their 30’s are poised to carry on the tradition for well into the future. This year along with the original 4 will be 18 more with 5 cabins reserved. Over the years we have had 61 different guys being part of our group. In 1991 we adopted the name “Team Walleye” long before any others. Each opener every team member gets an official embroidered hat with our logo, magnetic signs for our cars, stickers, and each person bringing a boat for the group gets a commemorative T-shirt. Each member has their pre-assigned duties from KP to sleeping arrangements.

In early 2000 the walleye fishing on Leech Lake was in serious decline. At one time there was a waiting list to get a cabin at the resort however the decline caused everyone but “Team Walleye” to abandon Brindley’s and Leech. At its worse we were the only group at the resort that year. Paris,at Brindley’s expressed their appreciation for sticking with them however we explained that tradition and their friendship were more important than all the walleye in Minnesota.

This year’s opener includes the combined efforts 38 years in the making. We break our fishing into 6 sessions, 2 each day. Having developed a points system for scoring total fish caught, it helps to keep an accurate count of our fish in the freezer. On Sunday we have a draft, the guy with the lowest points gets to draft his boat for the next session. This allows members a fun way to mix up the group. We have a Sunday Night fish fry as both 2009 and 2010 have saw record catches of 390 and 370 walleyes over 12 inches. During the early years it was only about fishing. In 2011 it continues to be much more than catching fish or getting together, it’s about the memories, the future, and tradition.

It's a winner for sure.  A crazy week has just turned crazier.............I love it!!!  Lot's to do in a few days.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Too Much Time in Chicago

Well, I am getting pretty familiar with Chicago's O'Hare airport these days as I just spent the last 3 days hosting our trade association meeting in Chicago.  The last speaker of the day had a great topic about creating experiences for your customers (more on that) and started his talk with a couple of interesting stories.  I found them fascinating and thought I would share them.  My apologies if you know the ending!

Easy Eddie with Capone Two StoriesTHE FIRST STORY: Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn't famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder. Capone had a lawyer nicknamed “Easy Eddie.” He was his lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie’s skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.
To show his appreciation, Capone paid Eddie very well. Not only was the money big, but Eddie also got special dividends. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block.
Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocities that went on around him. Eddie had a soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had clothes, cars, and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object. And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn't give his son; he couldn't pass on a good name or a good example.
One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done. He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al “Scarface” Capone, clean up his tarnished name, and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great.
So, he testified. Two weeks before Capone was to be released from prison,  Easy Eddie’s life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street. But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay. Police removed from his pockets a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion, and a poem clipped from a magazine. The poem read:

The clock of life is wound but once,
And no man has the power
To tell just when the hands will stop
At late or early hour.
Now is the only time you own.
Live, love, toil with a will.
Place no faith in time.
For the clock may soon be still.

Butch OHare 207x300 Two StoriesTHE SECOND STORY: World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific. One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet.
As he was returning to the ship he saw something that turned his blood cold: a squadron of Japanese aircraft were speeding their way toward the American fleet. The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn't reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger.
There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet. Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber’s blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly. Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction. Deeply relieved, Butch O’Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier. Upon arrival, he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch’s daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft.
This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the Navy’s first Ace of W.W.II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29.
His home town would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade, and today, O’Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man. So, the next time you find yourself at O’Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch’s memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It’s located between Terminals 1 and 2.
Butch O’Hare was “Easy Eddie’s” son!

OK, I thought it was interesting.  The point was how we never know how our actions will affect people or the future.  I particularly love Easy Eddie's poem.  Our talk progressed to how in today's market people are looking for an experience.  Well, it immediately made me think about my good friends Bill Lundeen, Jeff King, Keith Holtan, and of course my experiences guiding clients for fish.  Guiding turns out to be the ultimate in providing your customer with an experience.  Because one can never count on the fish cooperating, the experience is what saves the day.  His point was that successful businesses today provide that experience in a number of ways from buying a scoop of minnows to selling transformers.  It was a great lesson.  I did get all of my electronics connected and buttoned up.  With opener a week away I am scrambling to get the boat out for it's 2011 maiden run and a chance to do a dress rehearsal.  This week will be a mad dash to get line replaced, lures sorted, boat compartments cleaned, and everything polished up.  I'll let you know how that goes as it is looking pretty interesting.