Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pickin' With Dave

 My weekends are consumed with spending as much time with my dad as possible.  Time is against us so I am making the best of it.  This weekend also marked the opening of Blueberry Ridge Orchard, where you can pick your own blueberry's by the truckload if you so desire.  My brother Steve and mom have been picking here last year and claimed it was pretty easy to fill up a 5 quart ice cream bucket full of beautiful blueberries.  Sunday morning I headed north towards Eau Claire on Hwy 93 to the old Darrell Hageness farm.  When I lived in Eleva and worked for Vic, Darrell was a good friend and a very nice man.  He had suffered quite extensive burns while working at the Paper Mill in Eau Claire and he was going back to school for accounting at the same time I was going there for electronics.  The farm is visible from Hwy 93 and he often had a word cut into the hay field for everyone to read.  Darrell has since passed away however I was delighted to find out that his daughter and family were still on the farm and had started the orchard featuring U-pick blueberries.  And pick there is!  My brother and mom had been there on Saturday morning picking 8 ice cream buckets.  Parking in the field, I was pointed in the right direction and picked 6 ice cream buckets in about an hour.  The berries were huge, some as big around as a quarter.  I have a number of blueberry plants, the same variety but nothing like these.  Sweet and bursting with flavor, I ended up going back in the afternoon to get another 2 buckets worth.  I thought the prices were very reasonable as well.  At $1.85/pound, an ice cream full of berries weighs about 6.5 pounds and cost about $12.00.  Comparing to the bland berries you buy at the store for $3.00 a pint, the equivalent amount would have cost you $30.00.   The picture on the right gives a great example of how loaded the bushes are with berries.  If you are in the area check out Mark and Andrea Nyseth's Orchard and pick a few pails (they freeze really well!).  They are the nicest people and you will leave very satisfied.   You can visit their website at

So, weekends back home has left little time for fishing.  With the Mississippi River finally settling down to a manageable level (it is still pretty high and fast), my neighbor Lory and I decided to try out the Jon boat for the first time this year.  Loading up the boat and using my ATV, we simply drove to the neighbors house, through the horse pasture, and used his landing.  This take all but 5 minutes before you're in the water.  With the current still fast and 2 guys in the boat, we hit a whooping 10 mph running upstream.  Zig Zagging the river, looking for holes, our strategy was to run upriver as far as practical, drift back down fishing the rivers edge before anchoring close to the landing and trying for catfish, carp, or whatever enjoys a nice nightcrawler.  About 3 miles up we stopped, put on a couple of artificial lures and started casting.  My first choice was a shallow running Bomber A crankbait in fire tiger.  On the very first cast a small smallmouth bass inhaled it.  A nice start.  3 minutes later and 200 yards downstream I casted in front of a downed tree and this nice 17 incher grabbed the lure and put on an aerial display.  Lory finally got it in the net after about a minute and was taking my picture.  Releasing the fish we proceeded to follow the shore, casting tight and bringing it back.  With the water high and fast current, the fish were hanging tight.  By the time we arrived at our designated catfish hole the total was 6 smallies caught and released.  Not bad!  Our catfish hole was located where a side channel met up with the main river and formed a large current slack.  The edges of these slacks can be super productive.  The hole itself was about 14 feet deep so once anchored I rigged my casting reel with a 3/4 ounce bell sinker, snap, and a 2 foot leader with a circle hook at the end.  A fat and sassy crawler threaded on the hook I casted into the current edge.  It wasn't 5 minutes later when my pole almost went over the side.  Grabbing the rod I could tell it was a nice fish and within a few minutes the catfish showed itself.  After netting, unhooking, and snapping a picture, I released it back to fight again.  Because the line broke at the hook I retied, rebaited, and back out to the current break.  This time I wasn't going to chance losing my prized rod so I hung onto the pole waiting for that tell tale tug.  It wasn't long before something was yanking pretty hard.  The reel was in freespool so I let the fish run about 6 feet before reeling straight in, the proper method for circle hooks.  Well this fish was significantly larger than the first catfish however after about 10 seconds the line broke.  Although I did retie again it was getting late so we left.  The river is an exciting place to be.  We saw 2 immature eagles perch right above our heads while an osprey screeched it displeasure with our presence another half mile down stream.  It a great resource, one that is close to home and provides excellent fishing.

I will be heading back to Eleva this weekend to see dad, pick some more blueberries, and my good friend Rick Semingson from Blue Ridge, Georgia is coming home for a wedding.  Rick was a class mate of mine and I am always excited to see him.  He's lived in the south for over 30 years now and has developed quite a Southern Drawl.  My friend Charlie is suppose to be here for my annual trip with him and as well I am scheduled to go to San Francisco.  It's looking to be a busy next 10 days.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Too Hot to Fish?!?!?

Years ago if someone said it was "To Hot to Fish" I would have laughed in their face.  Remembering 1983, my boat was a 1982 Lund S-14 Deluxe with a 25 hp Evinrude.  My first new boat purchased the year before, it was a product of inspiration from my friend Gary Barneson, who had the exact same boat.  Come to think of it I saw him last week and he still has it so I took a picture of him standing next to his fine rig!  For 1983 it was a pretty nice boat, flat floor between the rear and front seat with a split center seat you could walk between.  Each center seat had a storage compartment for anchors, life vests, and other necessities.  This boat also had an open storage space under the rear bench seat, perfect for the 6 gallon gas tank.  A far cry from what I have today it was my yacht.  Being pretty handy I fashioned a front casting platform out of 3/4 inch marine plywood, added my own pedestal seat, and made a small front deck for mounting lights and an anchor mate.  It was pretty tricked out for the time and looking back I would have to admit there was something special about the simplicity of it all.  I caught a lot of fish out of that boat, with a metal mesh fish basket as my livewell, hung over the side it worked pretty well.  It was late July of that year and we were in a throngs of a pretty good heat wave.  I had just purchased a new Metro Fishing Guide and had read up on a lake I was interested in checking out, Whaletail.  Near Lake Minnetonka, it was suppose to be clear, full of bass and big crappies.  Getting away on a Sunday afternoon the bank thermometer in Wayzata said 105 degrees!  Often when it is this hot the wind is blowing hard right out of the south.  Remembering the humidity wasn't too bad, the breeze made it even warmer.  This weeks weather was insane.  As they often say, it's not the heat, it's the humidity and this week was no exception.  If you have ever been in southern China in August, you would have experienced exactly the same hot and humid conditions we saw in Minnesota this week.  It will actually take your breath away when you walk outside.  The latest trend in weather is to accentuate the Heat Index.  Living in the north country, we seem exceptionally proud of our wind chill index.  This is the result of the air temperature combined with the wind to make it feel colder than it really is.  Well we have gotten our fill of the "Heat Index" as a relative perception of the temperature, humidity, and wind to give you the feeling as though it was 120 degrees out.  Right, just as the wind chill all we need is something to make us feel more miserable than we really are!

So this is Fishin with Dave, not Bitchin' About the Weather so I my fishing picture today is of my sweetheart Megan.  The daughter of my friend, Megan and her brother Ben (who has been featured before) are very special to me.  As I have stated in the past, Megan's dad Jack Taylor and his family are my family away from home.  As long as I can remember I am Uncle Dave to all of the Taylor clan.  Dealing with my dad's hospice,  it is comforting to have my "family" close.  Well, Megan is quite the fisherwoman, she can be stubborn, but that's OK, it gives her that spunk!  Here is Megan with a couple of dandy sunfish caught on their lake just west of Mille Lacs.  You got to love it!!  She is turning into a lovely young woman and knowing how to fish just adds to her resume of her many talents.  Her brother Ben is an absolute fishing addict and in a sense reminds me of me when I was young.   Having adopted the saying, "My greatest fear in life is when I am dead and gone why wife will sell my fishing equipment for what I told her I bought it for!", I think maybe Ben would be a good repository for some of my stuff. 

The heat is breaking however the weather doesn't look good for the weekend with storms in the forecast.  Hopefully I can get back up to the pond as the State of Minnesota is back in business and with a little luck the slot limit will be increased from 18" to 20".  If nothing else it might be time to get the Jon Boat out and try cat fishing on the Mississippi River behind the house.  My good friend Jeff King of Mile14 (see the side bars) will be having surgery soon and I want to wish him well.  I have been working with Matt Taylor and his trip to Alaska, hopefully he can see some of my friends and say hi for me.  I am off to the Twins game on Friday night with my neighbor Lory, always a good time.  Lot's of stuff going on.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Second Time Around

Last week was as crazy as this week.  After flying to Chicago and getting back late on Friday night, Saturday we left early to see my Dad in Eleva.  My brother was there so we got a number of things done around the house.  I decided to take the "old" way of going back home, Hwy 10 which runs a mile from the house all the way to Eleva.  Back in 1973 Oil Crisis the government instituted a 55 mph speed limit on major highways so there was little advantage between taking Hwy 10 vs the interstate, I94.  Today the major 2 lanes remain at 55 mph but the interstate is back up to 65 (in Wisconsin).  Having recorded mileage both ways, Hwy 10 is 5 miles shorter than taking I94, is much more scenic, and only takes about 5 minutes longer.  It's a welcome change from the last 25 years of thinking the interstate is better.  We headed back early Sunday with the intent of hooking up with my neighbor Lory Brasel and trying the late afternoon bite.  Last week the bite lasted well into the 6:00PM time frame, could it still be on?  Heading to the landing north of the Casino, evidence of a busy morning was confirmed by the truck trailers parked in the ditch.  Arriving at 3:00 there were enough empty spaces to stay withing the landing.  My strategy was simple, head to the Cut, backtroll to the corner, and depending on our success, either stay or move to 7-mile flat, scene of last weeks success.  Although the cut was void of boats, we only nailed 1 fish before deciding to move.  We did mark a lot of fish but they didn't seem to interested.  I caught a smaller walleye, 21 inches, but that was it.  Time to move to 7 Mile.  There were a few more boats on 7 Mile but the fish were just as uncooperative.  One thing was evident, a big mayfly hatch was about to commence.  My sonar marked huge masses of mayfly larva setting themselves up to emerge into adulthood.  There are theories as to whether these bug hatches affect the fishing or not but I can't believe they don't.  Evidence of the previous night's hatch were all over the surface.  Marking a load of fish on the point, we decided to anchor and try bobber for a while.  Using a crawler, Lory nailed the first keeper I had seen in 4 weeks.  We through it in the live well then spent the next hour trying to duplicate the feat.  No such luck.

My friend Bill had called to warn us that a weather front was moving in fast and we need to be cognizant of the approaching storm.  Deciding to move closer to the landing, we headed back to the Cut.  Again, there was not a boat to be found we started on the edge and immediately began marking fish.  Putting down the crawler rig, we went 20 feet before that tell tale thump, a walleye.  Setting the hook the 26 1/2 incher finally succumb to the net, a good start.  Re-baiting and 2 minutes later  boom, another 22 incher hit.  Releasing it and re-baiting I nailed a 24 inch walleye, again within minutes.  After the 4th fish, I suggested to Lory he reconsider my offer to use one of my hand tied spinner rigs as it was obvious the presentation was hot and what ever he was using was not.  Almost as scripted he retied, threaded the night crawler, let it to the bottom, and within a minute had a nice walleye.  I am not sure who was more excited, me steering him right or the fact that he caught one right away.  As we unhooked his walleye, the lightening made it's presence known.  Time to head for the landing.  We ended the day with 7 walleyes, 5 caught in the last 30 minutes.  We were able to stay just ahead of the storm but eventually it caught up with us.  An hour later the wind took out one of my nicest Autumn Blaze Maple, a 10 year old tree, the 3rd I have had in that location!  Oh well.  Power was off till 2:00, just in time for the air to kick back in.  The first picture is the 26.5 incher that I caught and the second is the last fish of the day, Lory's 24 inch walleye that practically jumped into the boat!  I am expecially fond of how his hat dressed up the boat significantly! I am in Loveland, CO returning Friday, maybe heading back home for Saturday and doing the Mille Lac thing this weekend.   Hopefully the bite is still strong!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Spinner Blade Madness

Monday was the 4th of July, a great day to celebrate our nation’s birthday and even a better day to spend it fishing on Mille Lacs. My traditional partners for the weekend were not available this time and as luck would have it my friend John Delestry was ready to fill the empty seat. John was staying at his dad’s cabin near McGregor, MN and he e-mailed me looking for a vacancy in my boat. I was able to accommodate and we met at the landing, not too early of course. I was somewhat surprised at the lack of rigs that were parked at the landing; apparently everyone must have got it out of their system on Saturday and Sunday. Normally arriving at 10:00 would assure parking in the ditch on the service road. The day was looking to be a dandy as the southerly wind was strong enough for the perfect drift speed yet comfortable enough to make the fishing enjoyable. After talking to a few guys that had just returned to the landing we made a beeline for my deep rock hump off Sherman’s Point. Having done very well in the past, this year it has produced only a fish or two. Still worth a stop it proved elusive again. The next stop was The Cut on Sherman’s Flat. We had pulled a few fish off this structure last week as they were stacked right off the end. Heading up the edge, the wind was perfect as we long lined a couple of plain hooked leeches. Marking a school, as we passed John and I hit a double. Netting mine first produced a nice 21 inch fish. I unhooked it, took a measurement, and released while John was still battling a monster. As it appeared near the boat I could see John getting nervous! It was the largest walleye he had on a line, and a minute later we had her in the net. At 27 ¾ inches, she was fat and sassy, well exceeding 8 pounds. Not the magical 28 but close enough to be satisfied. Snapping a few pictures we quickly got her back in the water as she took off for the deep. Here is a picture of John and his fish. We continued to make our way up the edge until another boat claimed the last 50 yards. Working the edge, they nailed 5 while we basically stayed out of their way. We caught a couple more in the 20 inch range before the bite went dead. It was time to move.

Next stop was 7 mile Flat, a structure basically in the middle of the lake. Probably one of the best known flats on the lake, it’s been hot and cold the last few years. I think it’s popularity tends to attract a lot of boats and the activity tends to push and scatter the fish off the deeper edges. Today it looked like a ghost town. John stayed with a leech while I switched to a 3 way rig consisting of a 2 foot dropper anchored by a ¾ oz bell sinker and an 8 foot homemade crawler rig. My rigs are tied with 2 hooks that are 4 inches apart, 5 beads, and a quick change clevis. Starting with a chartreuse #5 Indiana Blade, it wasn’t the color. I switched to a silver hammered Colorado Blade, nothing. I replaced that with a red blade before finally digging out an old Glow color. It was like turning on the dinner bell. As fast as I could get a crawler on, the walleyes were hitting that lure with vengeance, often hitting so hard once or twice I almost lost my grip. John had got a few more on his leech but it was obvious a change was needed. For 3 hours we were getting a walleye every 10 – 15 minutes, right up to the time we had to leave. We had netted at least 20 walleyes, not one was under 19 inches, including this 27 ½ that I nailed. As I stated last week, the slot for keeping walleyes on Mille Lacs is anything under 18 inches. No fish for frying pan again this week. Oh well, it’s hard to complain! Rumors are that the walleye harvest numbers are down this year on Mille Lacs again as I have caught very few fish small enough to keep. Like last year the DNR is reportedly set to increase the allowable maximum size to 20 inches, but with the State of Minnesota shut down, who the heck knows what they will do.  I guess we will know by July 15th.  Either way it was one of the more memorable trips and I was very fortunate to have John as my partner for the day.  I have promised him a late summer lead line trip and I hope we can make it happen. 

As for the rest of the weekend, I spent the other 3 days with my dad in Eleva. I had decided to deviate from my normal I94 route and cut down to Hwy 10, which passes a mile from my home in Dayton and goes right through Eleva. It is a scenic route and a stop at the Ellsworth Coop Creamery for some fresh cheese curds is a must. At 11:00 AM they bring out the days freshly made curds and they are manna from heaven. The fresher they are the more they squeak as you chew. You buy them in a 1 pound sealed bag and they are just laying on the counter at room temperature. The first bite produces a symphony of sounds bursting from your mouth. I am not sure that even describes it well. The next stop was Gunderson's Meats in Mondovi. In Minnesota no one knows how to make good summer sausage. They have the best, that tangy sour taste with plenty of mustard seeds to get stuck in your teeth. As a bonus I bought a pint of pickled kielbasa, fabulous! With the bite strong I am hoping to get out again and take advantage of the hot bite. I bought some plastic crawlers and would like to try them out. Hopefully I might even get a few to keep this time.

Friday, July 1, 2011

June Walleyes

As predicted last week, I made it up to the pond on Saturday morning with my neighbor Tom.  He had not been out this year so I figured he was ready.  Normally I don't try to get up too early as I prefer the early evening bite and of course allows me to get my much needed beauty sleep.  The wind was a little stiff but in a goofy direction.  The best winds are those that allow you to slow drift an edge of a flat or back troll with some sense of accuracy.  A calm wind allows you to use your trolling motor to present your bait right where you need it but if I need to fire up the big motor along with winds at right angles it becomes a challenge.  Pulling spinners with a crawler and Tom with a leech, we started at the humps before moving to a deeper rock reef.  I nailed a nice fish right away then nothing for the next hour.  From there we headed to the Cut, a area on Sherman's Flat that usually produces well this time of year.  There were quite a few boats scattered on the edges and by the looks of what I was marking on the HDS 10, they had shoved the active fish off the edges and into the deeper water.  Hugging tight to the bottom we needed to move as generally these fish tend to not cooperate very well.  Searching for a flat edge that was in the right direction of the wind by the time we arrived the wind ad switched!  Oh well, with time running out for the day we headed back to the rock reef catching a nice smallie before loading the boat up.  We caught 4 walleyes, all longer than 18 inches so my plan to bring some fish home didn't turn out very well.  Catching fish too big........darn! 

Sunday saw us heading back to Eleva to see my dad.  Dropping my wife off in Eau Claire to spend some time with her cousins, I hauled my motorcycle on a trailer and went for a little ride before getting to Eleva.  This part of Wisconsin is deceivingly beautiful and scenic.  My goal was to get on the back roads that wind between the villages and farms of west central Wisconsin.   Heading to Mondovi I followed Hwy 37 to Hwy 88 which took me to Gilmanton.  There I went east on Hwy 121, past Lookout taking a right on County Road Q.  This road was made for motorcycles as it curves it's way to Independence, following the ridges and valleys along it's course.  Alone on the road, you notice things that were once an everyday part of your life.  The smell of fresh cut hay filled the air as the farmers were harvesting their second crop of the year.  Coming over the ridge one would get a wiff of good old cow manure.  Not exactly like smelling fresh apple pie, never the less brought back memories of cleaning barns with my friends in years past.  It was a good smell.   Heading north on Hwy 93 past Elk Creek, I took left on Cty Y deciding to go through Chimney Rock.  Not much has changed other than I almost hit a jake turkey as he pecked at the gravel along side the road.  I ended my trip by going past Jimmy Tollefson's old place where I spend many a day in the summer experiencing those smells that bring me back.  Up the hill and over to Mockingbird, it is the highest point between Eau Claire as it overlooks the valley were I grew up.  

Heading to my folks I was put right to work mowing, trimming and weeding the garden.  One thing my dad taught me well was the right way to mow a yard.  He has this old Simplicity with a back mower roller that gives that ballpark, checkerboard look.  Seeing how his help (an bless their souls) had simply mowed the grass, I took charge and did it the right way, mowing in the opposite direction, trimming around everything, and edging the driveway and sidewalks.  It's the least I could do as we learned on Tuesday there is little left to do for my dad.  With a 4 day weekend, we'll go see him first then hopefully I can head to Mille Lacs and catch a few walleyes as they are much easier to eat as he likes anything my brother or I catch for him.  I will leave you with a picture from Mockingbird Hill looking over Eleva.  It's a great place to be from, that's for sure.