Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Last Day of the 2011 Walleye Season

Sunday was the official end of the inland waters walleye season here in Minnesota.  Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to fish my favorite lake for walleyes, it was either this weekend or wait till May 19th.  Luckily my good friend and fellow Team Walleye member, Mark Mayerich was planning on going back out on Saturday and he graciously allowed me to join him.  Mark and his son Adam fished out of the Red Door Resort on the north side of the lake the week before and did really well. The bite on the southern part of the lake had slowed considerably however the north end was still going strong.  Accessing the lake out of the Red Door was about as far north on the lake as you can get, but the advantage is there are a large number of offshore flats that are relatively close to shore.  My last 2 trips were out of Dewey's, just south of Indian Point and it's a good 8 miles to the nearest flat.   After loading up with a scoop of minnows at Bill's, I proceeded to head north to Garrison then up around the top of the lake.  As I drove through Garrison there was a huge event happening on the ice, Stud Races.  I just had to call Mark and tell him that I was going to be delayed as I just had to enter, it was a sure bet to win.......he didn't think that was too funny!  Arriving at the Red Door Resort the first order of business was to get our road pass for the day.  $10 is not a bad price when you consider they put a nice bridge over the big heave in the ice allowing one to basically drive anywhere on the lake.  Loaded up we crossed the bridge and headed south towards Resort Flat, a structure about 2 miles offshore.  To be honest, I have never fished this flat before but with my GPS and Lakemaster chip, it was an easy find.  Arriving at the northeast tip I asked Mark if he had a favorite spot from last week.  While his GPS was acquiring the satellites he thought we should be on the other end.  When it locked on his way point showed we were within 200 yards of where they were before.  Mark swore they were more south but upon further investigation his GPS was set on Track Up instead of North Up.  This would give the opposite view of what my GPS was showing, we reset it and agreed, we were close.  Unfortunately someone was set up at the point so I decided to move down the break by 300 yards, looking for an inside turn along the way.  Finally settling in on a promising spot I drilled a number of holes from 30 feet to the top of the flat at 24 feet.  While Mark set up on the deep side I continued drilling a number of holes along the top and bottom edge, probably at least 20 or so.  Time to fish! 

The temperature was almost warm enough to fish outside but cold enough to freeze the holes pretty fast.  I elected to try my hand at searching for fish while Mark fished inside his portable house.  Mark's favorite bait has got to be the Chubby Darter by Salmo.  Although I have fished them many times, I have never had the success that he has.  As I stuck my head through the door of the portable, he showed me a signal on his Vexilar FL22 that indicated a fish starting to come off the bottom.  Just then a big red mark appeared 5 feet about the bottom and as he pulled the bait up the fish came down to slam it.  We landed a nice 23 inch walleye, a great start.  Mark had been seeing fish all along yet I was drawing a blank.  Within 30 minutes he nailed another smaller fish, big enough to keep, a good start to our trip.  It went pretty dead after that.  As I moved around from hole to hole, Mark stayed in his warm abode, still marking fish but no biters.  I finally caught a 16 incher on the deep side.  Eventually I got cold enough to set up my house at the same depth level as he was.  Drilling 3 holes, one for jigging, one for a dead stick, and one for my camera, I was nice and warm.  Unfortunately nothing seemed to come through so I put the camera pointed towards my suspending minnow and resumed hole jumping.  15 minutes of that brought me right back into my shack and as I glanced at the display on the camera, there was walleye smack dab in the middle of the screen.  Glancing at my bobber it was 18 inches down the hole.  I set the hook, the walleye shot off the screen as I started reeling it up.  6 cranks of the handle and the weight disappeared.  Quickly rebaiting I dropped it back down the hole and just as the minnow appeared on the screen another walleye showed up.  Staring at the minnow for about 3 seconds it sucked it in as the bobber sank.  I could see the minnow was completely in its mouth, set the hook and landed a nice 16 inch fish, we had 3 in the pail.  Another 30 minutes and nothing so I moved back outside.  Moving back to the 24 foot hole and dropping a Rattlin' Flyer a large mark met it at 22 feet and slammed it.  As it came through the hole the knot failed.  This was rare occurrence with braided line as the estimated 24 inch swam back down the hole.   Rather than retie I grabbed another rod, put a new Flyer on the snap and within 5 minutes had my third walleye.  As the old saying goes......all hell broke loose as I was landing a keeper walleye every 5 minutes.  On one occasion I dropped the lure, a fish came up but would not hit.  If you stare at your flasher long enough you can tell if the minnow head on your lure was still there.  It looked wrong, felt wrong so I reeled back up and found the lure was bare.  Hooking another minnow to the treble hook my hands were so cold I could not snap the minnow in half and with a fish hovering above the bottom there was no choice but to bite it in half, which I did!  Dropping it down the fish about grabbed the rod out of my hands and it was a dandy.  Measuring 27 inches, it was the nicest walleye I have caught in over 2 years.  I had Mark snap a picture as I told him his 23 incher just moved to second billing for this weeks post.  Within another 30 minutes we both had our limits of nice fish, packed up and headed out.

This year was the best I have ever had for walleye fishing through the ice on Lake Mille Lacs.  It started slow but really picked up in the month of February.  With all the bad ice, reports of record low fish populations, its been a lot of fun.   I did get a tullibee on Saturday as this and perch will be the main targets for the month of March.  Walleye fishing is still legal at Lake of the Woods till April 15th and is always open on the Mississippi River.  My friend Kevin bought a Jason Mitchell Meat Stick for pan fishing and my hope is to meet him on Saturday to see if I can match his performance of a few weeks ago.  We finally got some precipitation today, about an inch, the most since August of last year.  Driving to La Crosse earlier this week the river (other than Lake Pepin) was completely open.  Maybe an early trip in the boat for walleyes is in the cards. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Frankies Live Bait and Marine

While watching the fishing shows on television this weekend I saw a commercial that really made me smile.  The star of the minute was Frankie Dusenka Jr from his business bearing the same name, Frankie's Live Bait and Marine of Chisago City, MN.  It gave me pause to think about one of the truly great boat dealers I have ever met, one I have been doing business with since 1989.   Thinking back Frankie has been an important part of my fishing experience for 24 out of the 30 years I have owned a boat.   About the only thing that has changed is we both have a lot less hair and it's gotten more gray!  The way I am treated as a customer has never changed.  My first experience with Frankie was in the summer of 1989, I had a 1986 Lund Nisswa Guide with the "new" Mercury Classic 50 outboard motor.  The Nisswa Guide was Lund's fiberglass boat, at 16.5 feet it was super wide and heavy.  To heavy for that motor as one afternoon on Mille Lacs the waves were 3 feet and I could not get the boat on plane.  Mark Taylor was with me and after turning down wind we finally got her going before swinging around back to the landing.  That Monday I checked out the Sunday paper and there was an ad "Non Current 1988 Suzuki 55 hp Outboard Sale, 651-257-6334".  1988 and 1989 were tough years for the marine industry and many dealers had either gone out of business or had a ton of inventory.  Frankie's had a number of these and although I wasn't excited about owning a Suzuki (Heck, I didn't even know they made outboards), the price was very attractive and they would take my outboard on trade.  It was a done deal.  Frankie assured me that I would not be disappointed and he was right, that 55 woke up the Nisswa, it was a new boat.  In January of 1990 I had the opportunity to buy a Ranger 680T without a motor.  I put that Suzy on the Ranger, sold the Nisswa and wow, did that boat move.  The 680T was a nice boat but in the big waves of Mille Lacs it was somewhat inadequate.  In the spring of 1993 I drove back to Frankie's to talk about something different.  I left ordering a new Skeeter 135T with a 75 Mariner, trading in the Ranger.  Now Frankie is an optimistic guy and I was assured that it would be delivered by Minnesota Fishing Opener.  I soon learned that it was more related to whether the factory had a full load coming north from Texas than one guys expectations.  After calling Frankie to discuss he said that if I wanted to get the boat, he could refund the transportation charges.  My brother Jon was unemployed at the time, gas was still about $1.25/gallon, I offered him the full $300 and he went and picked it up in Kilgore Texas.  With just a few days to spare, Frankie's got her rigged up in time for my annual Leech Lake Opener.  The next year I ran over a plastic bag which sealed my water intakes and my new outboard froze up while traveling full throttle 7 miles from shore.  I got her started and got back to the landing and dropped it off with him, yep the pistons were scored.  After contacting the insurance, we worked a deal where he put on a new 1994 75 hp, it had 6 cubic inches more than the 1993.  We re-propped it and I ran it till 2001, when at a walleye show Frankie grabbed me and showed me the new Ranger 620T he just got.  He was right, I needed that boat and he was willing to sell.  He quoted me a price, $26,500 with a 115 Suzuki, dual axle trailer, and could order whatever color I wanted.  Giving me almost what I paid for the Skeeter I still decided to check around.  Crystal Marine was the big Ranger dealer in town so I checked, $29,000 with a Yamaha and a single axle trailer.  After telling him he was really high priced the next comment was he wanted to beat Frankie, I'll match his price.  To late, I don't play that game. 

The Dusenka's have always treated me as their #1 customer.  I can assure you that they have customers of a much higher profile than me, as being the 1st or 2nd largest Ranger Dealer in the World doesn't come from me!  Frankie's wife Deb, runs the service department and many times I have called to inquire on parts and she will always order them for me without regard.  Frankie's brother Brad runs the bait shop and in both 2002 and 2004 he advised me on our fishing trips to Alaska offering to use his boat on the Kenai.  It was the difference between a nice trip and a great trip.  They do all of my repair work and in 2009 my '01 Ranger tilt switch stuck causing my outboard to tilt up to the point where it broke off the tiller handle.  Back to Frankie's, they fixed everything and when I picked it up we began to talk about a possible trade.  I left buying a 2008 Ranger 620T with a 115 Suzuki, exactly like my 2001 only updated with a longer shaft motor and a better trailer and one heck of a price.  In this age of come and go marine dealers it's really nice to have someone you can go to who you trust, that treats you like their best customer, sells top quality products, and is always looking out for your best interests based on a number of things....usually the way you fish.  

So I did get out this weekend, on Sunday afternoon my neighbor Tom and I drove to Pelican Lake to see what was biting.  The ice is pretty thin for this time of year guessing not more than 12 inches.  Because of this we decided to go on the north end and walk out to our spot.  There were plenty of guys including Chad Bentley, a friend I snowmobile with out west who I haven't seen in a few years.  This end of the lake is about 8 - 9 feet deep and arriving at around 3:00 we figured the crappies might be hungry.  My friend Kevin felt sorry for me from last weeks trip so he sent me a Jason Mitchell Meat Stick, an excellent panfish rod.  I mounted a smaller fly reel loaded with 2# test orange colored Suffix line and was eager to try it out.  We caught about 40 sunfish, some were almost big enough to keep but honestly, I have enough fish in the freezer for a while.  Tom did get this 2 pound largemouth that put up a nice fight but that was about it.  This weekend is the end of walleye season so I might head to Mille Lacs for one last try.  Lake of the Woods is still open until April 15th and a trip north might be in the future.  The weatherman says that Sunday could see our first significant snow of the year but I have heard that before.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Like Old Times

Sunday I had the opportunity to do something I probably haven't done for the last 30 years, ice fish with my friend Kevin Aiona,  back at our old fishing haunts around Wabasha, MN.  Home of the movie Grumpy Old Men, we lived that lifestyle of fishing the back waters and sloughs of the Mississippi River.  Places like Cattle Pass, The Oil Tanks, Railroad Slough, The Boat Harbor, and Nelson Road, these areas provided all the entertainment we needed to make the winters more enjoyable.  Back 30 years ago our fishing poles were simple sticks with 2 posts to wrap the line around,  a nail to stick it in the ice and our quarry was mostly sunfish, crappies, northerns, and bass.  The depth finder definition was a piece of lead snapped to our line and dropped down the hole to check how deep the water was.  Holes in the ice were accomplished by using an ice chisel and chopping our way through and the Mora Swedish Ice Auger had just made it's debut.   After dropping my wife off in Osseo, Wisconsin I made my way to Eleva, arriving around 8:00 Sunday morning.  Kevin poured me a quick cup of coffee as we loaded our gear and headed west towards the  river.  Our first stop was the bait shop in Durand.  I love these small bait shops in the small towns.  They have plenty of minnows, waxies, maggots, a few lures, and the latest fishing reports.  Today's strategy was to use maggots or Euro Larva, a bit smaller than a waxie grub but I think a lot more hardy.  Minnows can be a great crappie bait but I think that grubs tend to be more versatile and will consistently catch more fish.  Crossing the railroad tracks assured us we were in Wisconsin/Minnesota Boundary waters and my fishing license was now valid.  Although we did pull out our portable ice shacks, the plan was to drill a few holes and look for active fish before setting up the shelters.   With the ice being relatively thin for this time of year (12 inches) we decided to simply use my new Eskimo 8" hand auger.  At the end of last season I bought an really nice ice fishing combo from Cabela's at over 50% off.  It included a Quikfish 3 pop-up shelter, the hand auger, a portable stool, and a small sled with a cover to put everything in.  My "big" Clam ice shelter is heavy, bulky, but works get for the colder situations or when I am using the ATV for transportation.  This new setup is a breeze for early and late season ice where the temperatures are warmer, the ice isn't so thick, and I am walking out.  The sharp auger really works slick for punching a few holes where you need them.

It was still pretty cold out as we started fishing, enough to skim our holes fairly quickly.  Immediately we began to mark fish on our screens, a great sign.  The fish seemed somewhat aggressive as they would follow our lures but were very reluctant to bite, or so we assumed.  While I used my trusty old spring bobber setup loaded with 3 pound test line, Kevin had a high end pole with a sensitive tip and 2 pound test line.  Spring bobbers are great for detecting the faintest of bites and work very well.  Unfortunately we were in 15 feet of water and the line stretch of 3 pound test line negates most of that advantage.  Almost immediately Kevin connects with a nice 3 pound bass.  Back when we used to fish the Oil Tanks with tip-ups and shiner minnows, bass were a common target.  One trip Kevin and I nailed 6 largemouths with the largest pushing over 5 pounds.  The top picture is that first fish.  Within minutes I caught my first fish, a nice 10 inch perch.  It is interesting that the perch in the Mississippi are much larger now than what I remembered.  I suspect the cleaner water, a result of Zebra Mussels invading the river has played a role in this phenomenon.  With a few more fish in the bucket we set up our shelters that would provide a place to sit down and warm up.  For me the bite was tough.  You could see the fish approach your bait, hang there for a few seconds, then slowly slip away.  A few jigs of the lure would call them in and repeat the cycle.  Occasionally you would see a fish rush to met your bait and slam it but this was few and far between.  In the meantime Kevin was holding a seminar on light bite pan-fishing and was catching 3 to my one including this nice 13 inch crappie he is holding.  Admittedly his reactions are faster than mine which in these conditions make all the difference in the world.  The fish were there and simply coming up to the bait, inhaling it then spitting it out as fast.  Both of us spend a lot of time switching baits and he ended up catching most of his fish on a small teardrop lure with almost a micro piece of black plastic attached to the hook.  I simply had to laugh.  Watching his line, he would slowly drop his lure through the fish zone and look for any slight change in the line.  You really had to set the hook before the fish realized what it just did and Kevin is a master at this.  For me, I am become familiar with the slam of a walleye, even the finesse bite seldom passes me by but this was totally different.  Not unlike tullibee fishing on Mille Lacs, they too will inhale but are not a particular about line size so it's easier to feel them.  That combination of the right gear and paying close attention to your line really paid off.  I am sure that of the 10 people or so that were fishing around us, we were the only guys consistently catching fish.

We ended the day with a bucket full of very nice panfish, 38 total.  Our take included 12 crappies ranging from 11 to 13 inches, 6 perch in the 10 - 12 inch range, and 20 nice bluegills all over 8.5 inches.  It was a lot fun returning to our old fishing spots and experiencing those things that seem like they happened yesterday.  The trains still cause the ice to tremble as they rumble along the shoreline heading to Minneapolis or Chicago.  It sure seems like there are more of them now then ever before.  The blue skies accenting the majestic bluffs along the river makes a perfect backdrop for a day on the river.  The river has changed quite a bit in the last 40 years as sediment has filled in and cut off many of our old favorite fishing holes.  Driving by some of our old duck hunting haunts, they are now leased out and impossible to access.  The old bait shops come and go, replaced by larger convenience stores and gourmet cheese shops.  Heck, even as a fellow fisherman was leaving the ice he stopped to examine our impressive catch, commenting how tough the bite was.  He whipped out his small portable Aqua View camera exclaiming that "There down there, just don't want to bite!".  Oh well, for all that has changed some things will always be the fishing with my friend Kevin on a relaxing Sunday afternoon.   We have better equipment, better clothes, better transportation, yet we still look at life no different that when we were growing up together.  Thanks Buddy!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Word is Out

Saturday was my birthday and at the last minute decided what better way to spend it than on Lake Mille Lacs fishing the hot walleye bite.  Because my friend Mark had already spent the night in his fish house the night before, he thought it would be a good idea to tag along and try the flats for a change of pace and agreed to meet me at Lundeen's at noon.  My plan was the same game as last week, drive on the ice at Dewey's till the bridge across the heave, unload the ATV, pack everything in the sled and head out.  I could not go by the first set of deep gravel humps without trying them.  It was as dead as the week before so off to 7 mile flat.  Word was that a couple of the east side resorts had roads open to the flats and Holy Moses, half the world must have gotten the word.  As we approached the center of the lake every flat in front of us had cars and trucks lining the entire edge circumference of the flat.  I'll bet from the air it looked like a high level Lakemaster Bottom Contour Map!  Arriving on 7 mile there must have been 75 guys set up including 1 guy in our exact spot of last weeks massacre.  Stopping to see how his luck had been he confirmed it was slow and if fact about 25% of the people had left already.   Amazing as I cannot believe that many people would be driving out as the ice conditions were not that great just a week ago and it hasn't been that cold.  If fact the word was 2 trucks went in on the south side earlier that morning.  As Ron White would say......You can't fix stupid.  Mark and I fished a few open holes left by the previous guys with nothing showing up on our screens.  Deciding to move we loaded up and headed west to a near shore flat called Sherman's that had few anglers and is quite large assuring we could find our own quiet area.    Using our maps we found that "special" looking area and drilled our holes along the top and bottom of the edge.

Almost immediately we began marking fish.  Within 10 minutes Mark had had a nice walleye through the hole, a good sign.  It was about 2:00 in the afternoon and the prime time was about 1 1/2 hour away.  Well, it took its merry old time and arrived about 30 minutes late.  The fact that we marked fish with regularity helped keep our interest knowing eventually they would turn on.  About 4:00 the action started as we put a couple of keepers on the ice.  At about 4:30 the fish really became aggressive.  Although hard to believe, they were almost too aggressive as they would hit so hard the the hook would almost be ripped out or hooked lightly.  I fish braided line and often the lack of stretch will make this problem even worse.  Between Mark and I we must have lost 9 fish after hooking them for less than 10 seconds, many of them coming off just before we got them into the hole.  By the time the bite stopped we had 3 nice keepers, a respectable perch, had let at least 3 more over 20 inches back into our holes, and lost another 9 fish we never saw.  Of course you should have seen the ones that got away!  Over all it was a great day on Mille Lacs as again we proved how important it is to get away from the crowds and noise, look for that "fishy" spot, and drill a lot of holes to move around looking for active fish.  On this trip both Mark and I caught all of our fish on the deep side of the drop and really never moved much as we settled into the couple of holes that stayed consistent.   Our hot baits were Mark's Swedish Pimple and my Rattlin' Flyer although I did catch one on a Jigging Rap.  With the fish as aggressive as they were, the Rap is a great bait however this time the fish were a little more fussy wanting something more subtle yet they still hit with vengeance.  With the season winding down I can't complain much about the last 2 weeks on the pond. 

It has been an interesting week as I spent Monday thru Wednesday in Orlando flying back Wednesday night.  Having been upgraded to first class I was looking forward to a nice relaxing ride home as I wrote this weeks post on the plane.  As luck would have it the on board WiFi was broken so I given a choice of playing solitaire for 3 hours or watch the Steve Martin movie, The Big Year.  It wasn't too bad.  This week might find me fishing some of my old stomping grounds on the back waters of the Mississippi River somewhere between LaCrosse and Alma.  My friend Kevin has been doing well as he nailed a 15 inch perch a few days ago.  That's a nice perch anywhere.  I continue to get the boat ready as everything indicates an early spring.  With the low water the walleye fishing this spring could be interesting.   We'll see!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Bite is On

After last weeks attempt to get to the offshore areas I like to fish, Lory and I decided to try it again.  Another week of colder weather coupled with the additional time the resorters had to figure out their roads, we headed up much earlier in the day to take advantage of having more time to adjust our strategy if needed.  When arriving mid afternoon for the most part you are stuck staying in one place as it's important to be settled in during that peak time from 4:00 to dark.  I have a "secret" spot near Indian Point that is often very good when few have fished it.  With no roads beyond the heave and the threat of 8 inch ice you are restricted to ATV travel but once across those newly frozen areas there is substantial ice.  Driving up to Dewey's access we dropped $10 in the pay box and headed out to the known heave.  As always we stopped at Bill's and his thought was Dewey would have a bridge over the bad area to drive the ATV over and continue from there.  Parking the truck about 1/4 mile from our intended crossing point we unloaded the ATV to check everything out.  Well the bridge was laying on the ice and no practical way to cross the heave.  Looking across the barrier, contemplating plan B another truck came out with the intent on following our plan of getting to the other side.  As we talked Dewey shows up, gives a short assessment of the situation then offers to head back, get the plow, and push the bridge over the suspect area.  15 minutes later he was back and with some help from us spectators we had the bridge safely in place.  This was our cue to pack'em up and get going, destination 3 miles away.  The ice was very rough to the north of us so we followed the edge east till an opening presented itself then turned north towards the magic spot.  Lory was somewhat nervous as we maneuvered around large chunks of ice protruding from the surface, a result of the previous winds pushing the ice around and smashing it into itself.  Arriving at our spot it was great news, only one other set of holes were drilled and whoever was there had left.  On the other hand maybe that was an sign.  Setting up our house and drilling around 10 holes we fished for almost 2 hours and never marked a fish.  I had put the camera down and it sure looked like a great spot with gravel and small rocks scattered on the bottom.  Unfortunately we were not there to fish rocks.  After 2 hours I looked at Lory and stated we are leaving. get packed up as I had my eyes on 7 mile Flat, a good 6 miles north of our location.  I had rigged my HDS5 with a 12 volt plug and a RAM mount for inside the ATV cab,  it was just like being in the boat as we worked our way further north. 

Arriving at 7 Mile I had an idea of where I wanted to fish however the area had a number of portables parked in my spot.  Looking at the GPS and the Lakemaster bottom contour map I located a spot that indicated an inside turn with a gradual slope from 36 to 24 feet.  As stated before these structures often rise from the lake floor to the top of the flat within 20 - 30 feet.  I fish this area quite a bit in the summer and am pretty familar with where the fish tend to be and this was one of those spots. The changed strategy was to set up on the bottom side of the flat in 36 feet while drilling holes at the top edge then paralleling along both edges to provide a stretch of structure to work along.  The ice was a good 18 inches thick, in great shape, and once set up we started working the area.  It wasn't too bad out but the wind was cold, never the less we worked the outside hole structures with little protection from the cols.  By this time it was about 3:00 in the afternoon and almost immediately we started marking fish.  They were not very aggressive and would often just come up to the bait, check it out and quickly disappear off the Vexilar screen, at least there were fish in the area.  It took about another hour before the fish started hitting our lures and by 4:00 we had enough to know the best was yet to come.  With a few walleyes on the ice and a few bonus jumbo perch, at 5:00 the switch really turned on.  I had caught a nice fish earlier but didn't get a chance to snap a picture.  The first picture is a nice 23 inch fish that helped redeem myself of letting the first on go without getting an official picture of the blog.  Within minutes Lory nailed this nice 22 inch walleye.   We were still hole hopping when Lory landed a keeper out of a hole exclaiming there was another one down there.  Quickly baiting up he dropped the line and a second fish slammed the lure, another keeper.  He said there is a third one, again dropped the lure and wouldn't you know picked up a third fish in less than 3 minutes.  We ended the day with over 20 walleyes caught, 8 nice keepers 16 - 17.5 inches, and over 6 released that were 20+ inches.  My real prize was a 4 inch walleye that hit my minnow head, pretty comical.  The hot baits were the Rattlin' Flyer with a minnow head, a Hawger spoon with a whole minnow, a shiner on a dead stick, and my trusty old Jigging Rap.   With 3 nice perch we left the flats for the 10 mile trek back to the truck hoping the ice hadn't shifted while we were gone.  The bridge was still in place, we loaded the truck and left satisfied with one of the best ice fishing day's we've had on Mille Lacs in a while.  It is a testament to being able to adjust your strategy, understand your location, and work for your fish.  Sometimes it all comes together, just like on TV!

Today is my Dad's birthday, he would have been 82 years old.  His birthday is on Ground Hogs Day and I will always remember his comments regarding the predictions for winter as he always felt a connection to the folklore of the day.  Today he would have said we will have 6 more weeks of winter, something that we haven't had much of lately.  Happy Birthday Dad, love your son Dave.