Thursday, October 27, 2011

Indian Summer

Here in the Upper Midwest we often experience a nice warm spell after we have had a killing frost.  This fabulous weather is known as Indian Summer and can be some of the nicest of the year.  This is also the last push for the fish to fatten up for the long winter ahead, with the spawning season just after ice out.  Some of the walleyes I have been catching have already started developing eggs.  Although I have tons of stuff to do before the snow files, the temptation to take advantage of the Indian Summer day that last Saturday turned out to be was too much.  I decided to meet my friend Jack at his cabin on Platte Lake and check out our new deer hunting land for this year.  Just south of our old spot on Rich's land, the 80 acres proved to be significantly less wet as it was getting tough tromping through a 1/4 mile of swamp in the dark, with your hip boots, never sure that the next step wasn't going to fill those boots.   The new land is about 70% fields with the rest a mixture of popple, oak, and some minor muskegs.  It looks pretty good as we scouted the best spots, met the neighbors, and walked the parameter.  Once that was done our plan was to head to Mille Lacs to take advantage of the late afternoon perch bite mixed with some shallow water reef trolling just as the sun would disappear from view.   Jack's 7 year old son Ben wanted to go with and figuring I wasn't going to stay out late, it would be fun.  We picked up a bag of crappie minnows at the bait shop before heading to the lake and took off.   Once on the lake we headed for a relatively shallow bay to fish perch in 4 feet of water.  This time of year you can often catch your limit quite quickly with the bonus aspect of seeing the fish hit your lure, something I thought Ben would enjoy.  It was very surprising to watch Ben work his spinning rod and reel.  Most children start out with a spin cast outfit, something that is easier to handle and somewhat cheaper to replace if it happens to go overboard.  Not Ben!  From casting to setting the hook on the first perch of the day I was pretty impressed by this young man's fishing demeanor.   I remember catching sight of his bobber sailing out 60 feet or more thinking it was nice of Jack to help his son.  Looking back towards them, Jack was still baiting his hook while Ben was setting the bail on his reel.  He can only get better. 

Just as the sun set on the horizon we headed to Indian Point to troll shad raps for an hour or so.  Ben was a little chilled so just Jack and I put out rods.  About 15 minutes into the run something slammed my shad rap hard.  It felt like a very nice fish yet when I got it close to the boat it seemed to have shrunk by 8 inches or so and lost 4 pounds.  Ben wanted to net the fish so we gave him the net and he scooped up the walleye better than a lot of guys I have had in the boat.  Jack took a picture of me holding the "monster" 19 3/4" walleye and another of Ben working his net magic.  The return trip down the long reef produced another walleye for Jack.  With the temperature dropping, Ben was getting cold so we called it a day.  All told we had 8 nice perch and kept both walleyes.  It looks like this might be my last soft water trip for the old Ranger for the year.  This weekend will see Jack and I setting up our tree stands and doing some more  scouting of the land we are hunting on.  Deer season opens on Saturday, November 5th, hopefully the new location brings us luck.  Indian Summer is suppose to return next week, probably the last 60 degree day we will see until next March.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dallas'd Out

Having spent the last 5 days at the Solar Show in Dallas, I am pretty whipped.  Although it may sound like fun, standing in a booth for 8 hours answering the same questions, heading back to the hotel, meeting your business contacts before going to dinner, finding a good place to eat, then having a nightcap with them before retiring to your hotel room, answering e-mails till 1:00, then getting up at 6:00 to do the same thing the next day wears a guy out.  Dallas is an interesting town and about 30 degrees warmer than here in Minnesota.  When we arrived on Monday my good friend Joe Stanfield picked up Lyle, Welly and myself from DFW.  Driving us back into downtown Dallas Joe and I dropped off Lyle and Welly to set up the booth and we went back out to to airport to pick up a couple more colleagues.  Between airline flights we were able to sneak into Bass Pro Shop and look around.  Not having a lot of time I did find something interesting, Dynamite Redneck Fishing Lure, a red tube meant to look like a stick of dynamite with deep fried pork rinds and Tabasco Sauce inside.  My friend Jeff King has a bundle of dynamite in his guide boat  using it as a prop against the possibility that if they didn't catch fish, he always had a backup plan!  These reminded of me of Jeff so I bought 3 of them to use for the same purpose.  I am curious what the pork rinds taste like. 

The Dallas Convention Center was located about 5 blocks from our downtown hotel.  On the way is one of the first cemeteries in Dallas with some of it's occupants being born in the late 1700's.  Many of the stones are tipped over, missing, or unreadable however the intact ones tell an interesting story.  There are early government officials, civil war casualties, but the most striking are the family plots where many of the young children were laid to rest.  Born 1839, Died 1841 there are so many that only lived a few years of their life.  Obviously living in Texas in the middle of the 1800's was not easy.  At the cemetery location is a sculpture monument(s) dedicated to the old Longhorn Cattle Drives of the time.  There must be at least 50 true to life bronze sculptures of what it must have been like to drive these animals across the plains.  Each sculpture was unique, complete with it's own Brand, tattered ears and skin flaps caused by their horns hitting each other.  The Longhorns were depicted as lean, probably signifying their ability to exist in the driest conditions.  It is an amazing piece of work and if you are ever in downtown Dallas, it's worth a stop.  Although we did not go through the Book Depository Building were Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shot, killing President Kennedy in 1963, my friend Joe stated that at that time they were acquaintances with the owner of the building.  Joe said that the owner removed the original window that was used, denied that he knew anything about it, and when he died his son returned it to the now museum.  Pretty cool.

Last weekend was too windy to fish!  Bill called me on Saturday and said that I should stay home, the lake was just a churning with 35 mph winds.  I took the opportunity to pick the rest of my apples, made some more cider, and tried getting more stuff done before deer hunting.  I am hoping to be able to use the predicted warm weather to get the boat prepped for winter.  A few bottles of Sea Foam in the gas and get it through the engine, I can always change oil and the lower unit grease later.  I have some nice pictures of the the wine my neighbor Lory is making that I will publish later, the work never ends!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Grousing at Club 10

Last weekend I was invited to the annual grouse hunting tournament at my cousin Don Schmidt's hunting cabin in Alvin, Wisconsin.  Cousin Don is my mothers sister Pat's son and mom hadn't seen her in a while.  Pat and my dad always had a nice friendly rivalry on game day, arguing about Brett Favre's ability and who would win.  It's something that made their Sunday's much more interesting.  Pat lives in Antigo, Wisconsin about 40 miles northwest of Wausau and my brother Steve and I decided to kill 2 birds with one stone, drop mom off at her only surviving sister's place while we continue another 90 miles to the Michigan border and spend the weekend with Don at Club 10.  Club 10 is an interesting place to say the least.  Don's Grandfather on his dad's side had an opportunity to buy 40 acres of hunting land located about a 1/2 mile south of the Upper Michigan border, just north of Alvin, Wisconsin.  The year was 1944, the war was still going on when  the land came up for sale, one could buy it for the back taxes totaling $76.  Well, in 1944 $76 was still a lot of money and Don's grandfather could not afford to buy it himself.  Many of the men in the area were farmers and spent most of their spring, summer, and fall working the land.  As soon as the ground froze it was not that uncommon for these men to head for the north woods and work in the logging camps, cutting wood all winter.  It was here that his Grandpa found 9 other guys to chip in about $8 each to obtain the property, hence the official name...Club 10.  It took another year to build the cabin that still is in use today.  Although today the cabin is about an hour from Don's house (he lives in his grandfather's old homestead) back in the 40's it took the entire day to drive their model A's up the dirt roads to the cabin.  Today the original galvanize siding still covers the cabin, salvaged from an old barn.  There is no water or electricity as it is 2 miles from the latest power line, but a generator gives some comforts of home.  Situated in the middle of the Nicolet National Forest, it definitely is isolated.  Today Club 10 is owned by the descendants of the original owners, has a legal set of bylaws and has become a fixture in the area.  My first picture in my cousin Don standing on the steps of the cabin and the local bar owner Dennis sitting on the Green Bay Packer Chair.  Don, thanks for the great time.

After arriving Friday night Steve and I were introduced to the gang.  Don has a Ruffed Grouse hunting tournament on the second weekend of October which usually attracts 30 or so guys.  The guys are mixture of local farmers, construction workers, business owners, all who have hunting cabins in the region.  Don offers prizes for the most grouse shot, prepares a fabulous prime rib dinner after dark, and provides a perfect setting to share all of the stories associated with Club 10.   This is the big woods, full of large maple, hemlock, aspen, and white pine which stretches for miles.  Steve and I decided to walk into the woods as it appeared to be prime grouse country yet were somewhat hesitant as we forgot to bring a GPS.  Luckily Don had one for use to use, which came in useful a few hours later.  It was pretty windy and it became obvious that walking the wood for grouse was probably not the best strategy.  The winner had his limit of 5 grouse and they were all bagged while cruising the thousands of miles of logging roads in the area.  Towards the end of the day Don gave us a tour of the area in his Polaris Ranger and we did get to shoot at an actual grouse, but that was about it.  It was a good excuse for some exercise, seeing cousin Don, spending time with my brother Steve, and getting my mom up to see her sister Pat.    This picture proved interesting to Don as he arrived on Thursday night.  Apparently a bear had visited the cabin and had decided to chew up the post that held up the entrance light.  I was hoping I didn't run into him while walking the woods with my 12 gauge loaded with light grouse loads.  If so the score would have probably been Bear 1 Dave 0!

This week has also been the peak of our apple cider making operation.  With the help of my neighbor Lory, his wife Lyn, and my wife, we have pressed almost 18 gallons of fresh apple cider during the last 4 days.  We are getting pretty good at it as our team work can slice up and grind 10 gallons of apples and press out 6+ gallons in about 2 1/2 hours.  My press can really put the pressure on and we have an excellent yield, about 60% of the ground apples turns into cider.  I have been feeding the pomace (squeezed out apples) to the bees and it doesn't last long.  I have picked about 20 bushels of apples so far and estimate at least another 6 - 8 bushel need to be harvested.  I am amazed at how clean the apples are and for sure it has been my best year ever.  Here is a picture of my neighbor Lory and Lynn putting the pressure on the cider press as the juice runs into the pail.  It a gift from heaven for sure.  Autumn is moving fast as the leaves are now off the trees and the weather is finally cooling down.  Losing a number of trees to wind storms, I need to get out an buy a replacement this weekend and get it planted before it freezes.  The perch haven't inhabited the shallows on Mille Lacs yet however the walleyes have been going strong.  There are few weekends left for open water fishing yet I have so many things to do, so little time!  Oh well!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Report From North Pole Alaska

This week I received a call from my friend Pete Mlinar, a fellow fisherman and electrician who is working in the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.  Pete is a proficient fisherman and is solely responsible for my Mississippi River smallmouth knowledge.  Having been laid off in Minneapolis he decided to sign the book in Fairbanks Alaska with the hopes of landing a job at the top of the world.  This March he loaded his River-pro Jet Boat and drove to Fairbanks.   His quest was successful as he started a regiment of 6 weeks working, 2 weeks off.  The money is good and within a short time Pete hopes to make enough to retire.  Working through the summer, winter has began to set in at his camp with snow covering the ground.  Throughout the summer he has sent me pictures of caribou and musk ox seen around the camp.  On his 2 weeks off the company flies him back to Fairbanks where he has befriended a fellow sportsman which assures him a place to stay and store his boat.  Word was out that the silvers were in thick near Delta Junction, Alaska which was an hour from where he stays.  Pete's River-Pro boat is quite the rig sporting a 200 hp Merc Jet Drive.  Having been to Alaska many times I can assure you that this is the Cadillac of the boats running the rivers.  Pete reports that his tip stated the fish were 8 miles down from the landing but with the water gin clear, 60 seconds heading down river he found the mother load of silvers.  The first picture is an absolutely gorgeous silver salmon.  This fish has made it way up the Yukon River to the Tanana River, a trip that has to be over 1500 miles.  If you assume this fish entered the Yukon in late July it has taken it over 60 days to make the journey, almost 30 miles a day.  When we fish the Kenai River for Silvers the fish are fresh out of the ocean and are a bright silver color.  Although I have caught fish that are just starting to turn color, we have caught nothing as beautiful as this fish.  Pete is planning on getting a graphite reproduction of this fish as it will make a great addition to his trophy room.  His work will shut down for 3 weeks over Christmas and I hope we can touch base then.  Here is another picture of his ride home, following the now snow covered Alaska Range on his right.  Man does that give me the itch, thanks Pete!

Saturday we were fortunate to attend the wedding of my cousin Linda Barneson's youngest son, Brad.  It's been 2 months since my father passed away and it was great to get together with my friends and family from Eleva for a better occasion.  Linda's husband Dennis Barneson, along with his brother Gary were instrumental in getting me started fishing Mille Lacs.  Gary had been going there for a number of years for the Minnesota Fishing Opener with a some of guys from home and they finally invited me.  Over the years they had stopped going but it had a lasting impression, one that is still with me today.  Both have made the trip to my Uncle Jerry's in Idaho to hunt elk, something I should have really done but you can only do so much in life!  Jerry has a cabin in the mountains of Idaho, a perfect place to hunt these magnificent animals.  Hunting in the rut, the bulls are open to bugle calls and the hope is to call one close enough to decent shot.  Over the years they've accumulated a ton of stories and a few elk along the way.  This year was no exception.  Jerry sent me a picture of Brad's best man, Dave Frank with a huge bull taken with his bow.  It's a real team effort with guys scouting, bugling, and if they get one, skinning, quartering, and hauling the meat out.  Congrats guys on a successful hunt, one that will undoubtedly offer a lifetime of stories.  Someday.

I did make it to Mille Lacs on Sunday afternoon to see if the bite was still going.  The mild weather had warmed the water temp at least 3 degrees from last weekend.  Trying the same pattern as before my neighbor Tom Olson and I started at the 4 Mile Gravel with lead lines.  Earlier that day my friend Mark Applen had called with the hot tip......redtails in 30 feet, the walleyes couldn't leave them alone.  The wind had created a nice walleye chop in the morning but by the time we launched the lake had laid right down.   Although the fish appeared to be up off the bottom not a minnow, Shad Rap, Husky Jerk, Rouge could entice a walleye.  After 3 hours of trolling we headed back to the reef to cast for walleyes and muskies.  I got a couple of 10 inch walleyes before we started my new favorite trolling run.  On a #5 crawfish Shad Rap produced our first keeper, a 16 incher.  Within an hour I had 3 nice walleye slam my bait but they never made it to the boat.  I use Excalibur Rotating Hooks for an unbelievable hook up success but the fish must have been hitting light as I seldom lose fish like this.  Oh well, it was still fun.  This weekend I am taking my Mother to Antigo Wisconsin to see her sister while my brother Steve and I continue to Elvoy Township on the Wisconsin/Michigan border to hunt grouse with my cousin Don.  He has invited me every year and this year we figured it would be a good chance to get mom out of the house and verify if Cousin Don actually is telling the truth about his annual fall hunt.  Either way the leaves should be in their peak form and I should have a good report for next week.