Thursday, March 29, 2012

Not Much Happening

Tick, Tock, Tick, much to do, so little time!  The sad part is that with my work schedule and this great weather, I still haven't had time to get the boat out.  Fishing reports on the Rainy River has been nothing more than fabulous and somehow fitting it in seems impossible.  So I'm relegated to yard work, cleaning the garage, putting the ice fishing stuff away, and getting the boat ready.  One thing that I have completely ignored is my asparagus plants in the garden.  Usually I am cleaning up the beds around the middle of April, hoping for the soil to warm up and encourage those tender green sprouts to show themselves.  I have about 100 or so plants in my garden and on a good May/June day can pick 2 to 3 pounds of succulent spears.  My usual routine is to leave the tops on the plants through the winter giving it some protection from the elements.  In the spring I prepare the beds by raking the dead stuff and burning what's left to create nice clean rows.  If lucky I can usually accumulate about 10 pounds to bring up to fishing opener on Leech, with some years not having anything.  Well with everything greening up like it's May I looked out the window and thought to myself, man I had better get out there before those shoots start popping up as it's a lot easier when I am not digging up good ones.  With Saturday slated to be in the 70's, it'll be a great day for it.  On the other hand, if the asparagus is up, I might just have to cook up some.  Either way this early spring has got me in a rush.  Just an FYI, one of my favorite ways to cook asparagus had been to either microwave it or cook it in a special steamer made for the job.  Today I simply brush some olive oil on the spears and throw them on the grill, need I say more.

So, what about fishing, it is Fishin With Dave ya know!  Well things are moving along in that department.  I am pleased to report that Mille Lacs Lake official ice out was Monday, March 26th.  This smokes the previous old record for the earliest ice out of April 3.  As a reference, last years official date was May 1 and the average is around April 26th.  Leech Lake has reportedly lost it's ice cover yesterday, March 28th.  With nice weather scheduled we can look forward to an early walleye spawn with the fish being on the bite by time Minnesota fishing opener begins.  Man, it's awfully early.  I am even hearing reports that there are boats out on the main lake at Lake of the Woods.  We should still be ice fishing!  With opener 6 weeks away, the big females will be deeper than normal but should be more aggressive.  I did buy a new fishing reel a few weeks ago.  During the 2010 golf tourney I bid and got an Ardent C400 casting reel and at $115 it was a steal.  Looking to replace a worn out reel I checked them out on the website and they had a closeout on the reel in a Fishouflage Walleye color, $75.00.  I ended up getting 3 of them, one each for Adam and Mark Mayerich as well one for myself.  These are first class reels, made in the USA, and work exceptionally well.  I have my Ranger almost ready to go and just have a few more tweaks before she takes her maiden run for 2012.

Finally on Sunday we went to celebrate my great aunt Florence's 100th birthday at the Strum Lutheran Church.  Just like Garrison Keillor would describe, it was held in the church basement like all good Lutheran events.  Florence is quite amazing and at 100 still retains that Fagerland edge to her.  I asked her if she was coming to my 100th birthday and she gave me a resounding YES.  Quite articulate, we had a great discussion and I can only hope that I age as well as she has.  At 100 a person has lived an interesting life.  She witnessed WW1 as a child and lived through the depression, and WW2.  She saw technology change right in front of her as there were no phones, no radio, no TV, cars were a luxury to today when we take all of this for granted.  She's certainly seen more than most, Happy Birthday Sweetheart!!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

April Showers Bring May.....Oops, Make That March

So, the nice weather continues.  For the last 10 days we have had daily temperatures above 60 as the ice has all but disappeared on most of the lakes south of Brainerd, MN.   Amazingly everything is about 4 weeks early as the week of rain has transformed my brown yard into a carpet of green. I was able to prune up all but 3 of my apple and 1 pear tree, which I will have done this weekend.  This is usually a transition period where it often takes 4 to 5 weeks for the ice to clear.  My friend Mark Mayerich had his annual Lake of the Woods ice fishing trip cancel, which is extremely unusual for this time of year.  Apparently the ice has deteriorated much quicker than normal with decisions to shut down made within a few days after the onset of this weather.  I have been on this trip many times with Mark as it is usually around St. Patrick's Day.  Having stayed at both Arnesen's Rocky Reef Resort and Morris Point Resort, I can tell you that this time of the year can be very cold as well.  In 1997 we stayed at Morris Point on the southeast side of the lake.  We woke up to -10F a couple of mornings but the fishing was great.  More often than not you need an extension on your ice auger as the ice thickness is greater than you auger length, which is usually 42 inches.  I have a 12 inch extension and have needed it for most of my trips to Lake of the Woods.  The trip in 1997 was memorable in 2 ways, first the Hale-Bopp comet was clearly visible in the night sky.  I had brought my good 35mm camera and a tripod, set it up and using a 30 second exposure, the resulting picture was incredible (for an amateur).  One day I will have to see if I can find them.  The second experience was meeting a FBI agent in the lodge after a hard day's fishing.  He was from Washington DC, had never been to LOTW, and was very interesting to talk with.  Much so that after a while he offered to buy us a drink...........EJ (brandy) and Charge was our request.  He took one look at us and with a big smile said "Ah, you boys drink Easy Jesus huh!"  It was pretty funny as we had a great time.  Anyway, with the ice fishing done my friend Ryan Sterle decided to keep the cabin reservations and fish the Rainy River.  Wednesday night he sent me this picture of a 60 inch sturgeon he had caught later in the day.  Ryan is a Team Walleye member and is an avid fisherman as well as a good friend.

Everything looks like it's about 4 weeks ahead of schedule.  This could bode well for opener as the fish might be well into their post spawn period and the big females may be on the bite.  To give you an idea of how early things are here is a picture of the lilacs in my yard.  Normally they do not even start to bloom until the third week in April.  Unfortunately these early springs can mean a late season killing frosts as everything tends to even itself out.  2 y
ears ago a hard mid May frost essentially wiped out my entire apple crop as it froze all of the blossoms before they had a chance to develop.  It did result in less work for the summer, however!   Driving by Mille Lacs yesterday it was interesting the temperature change by the lake.  When I left Brainerd the outside temperature was 63 and overcast.  As I approached the lake the temperature dropped to 43 degrees as a mild east wind blew over the ice creating a layer of fog and the need for a jacket.  Reports that the ice was out almost a mile was not evident as I suspect the wind had shifted it to the west shore.  Not enough to pile the ice on the shore, I am sure it's only a matter of time before the wind will create some late ice havoc.  Either way I predict ice out on Mille Lacs will occur within the next 2 weeks as this picture shows it's breaking up fast.   Mille Lacs average ice out date is April 24, the earliest was April 2nd in 2000, and the latest was May 7th, 1965 (modern records).  I think it has a chance to beat the old record by a day or 2 as it is still forecasted to be in the upper 60's this weekend with the mild weather continuing in the foreseeable future. 

This weekend is my great aunt Florence's(Grandma Myrt's Sister) 100th birthday celebration.  She's still quite the gal at 100 and I just hope those good Fagerland genes were passed down to me!  I got my jon boat all fixed up moving the battery to the front, I have re-situated my pole shed and have put the Ranger in it's rightful place, ready to hook up.  It seems as though I should find sometime to get out and take advantage of this nice weather.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What Happened to Spring?

March 6th, 2012 was the first day of the entire winter season in which I was able to actually use my new snow blower.  Waking up to 8 inches of heavy wet snow, the John Deere got a long overdue workout.  Seven  days later, March 13 it was 66 degrees and the forecast predicts temperatures in the 70's out till next Tuesday, March 20th.  Plans to fish Lake of the Woods have been all but dashed as reports have all lake access closed.  Reports from Wheeler's Resort at the mouth of the Rainy River claim they have never seen the ice deteriorate a quickly as it has.  Well, it's Minnesota and as we say.....If you don't like the weather, just wait a week!  Just as fast as the warm has arrive, it can be pushed back south just a quick.  This year's lackluster winter has resulted in lake ice thickness considerably less than normal.  It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming week.  Besides putting a damper on our late season ice fishing this weather is really affecting the another little know rite of spring, the maple syrup harvest.  After being dormant for about 5 months maple trees start waking up when the daytime temperatures start getting over 40 degrees.  With temperatures below freezing at night and warm temps in the day, the sap flows from the roots making it's way to the very top of the tree.  The ideal conditions of cold night/warm day temperatures really get things going as it is not unusual to get up to 5 gallons of sap from a medium sized tree.  The current weather is proving less than ideal for the sap flow.  With nighttime temperatures in the 50's and day time in the 70's, this has all but shut down the sap.  The above picture is one of my trees that the neighbor has tapped.  Last year I noticed that the neighbor a few blocks down from the house had every available tree fitted with a tap and bucket.  Inviting him to have access to my trees for this year he stopped by on Monday night asking permission.  I checked out the buckets this morning and there probably wasn't a gallon between them.   It takes roughly 30 - 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of pure maple syrup.  Sap is boiled, driving the water out as it becomes sweeter and thick.   As the sap is reduced the sugar content increases which in turn raises the boiling temperature of the liquid.  When the boiled sap reaches a temperature of 219.1 degrees it is finished and ready for a big stack of pancakes.   A grove of maple trees is called a Sugar Bush and my friend Bill Lundeen harvest's over 1000 gallons of sap each year making 25 - 30 gallons to sell at the shop.  He's not very optimistic this year.

The weather put a stop to getting out this past weekend.  Most of the small ponds in the Minneapolis area are ice free and the lake ice is already starting to turn black.  I have been working on both boats, putting on a new MinnKota Terrova on the Ranger while replacing a storage compartment and moving the battery on my jon boat.  The Terrova is the I-pilot version and has a accurate electronic compass and GPS built into the motor head.  It has a number of cool features like Spot lock which when engage will keep your boat in a stationary location as an anchor.   I hate throwing out an anchor.  It will also memorize up to 6 different tracks, each could be 2 miles long, and accurately follow what it has memorize.  I am pretty excited to try it.  Having learned the ways of the river last year, I am fine tuning my jon boat to make my fishing experience more enjoyable as I am moving the battery more to the front of the boat.  This will give me a lot more room in the back to fish from.  If the weather continues a trip to the Mississippi River or even the Rainy River might be in the cards sometime in the next 4 weeks.  It could be a record early ice out for many of the lakes I fish and could really change our Minnesota Fishing Opener on Leech Lake.   Looking in the sky tonight, I can't help but notice my winter friend, the constellation Orion.  He is soon to disappear from the night sky as we continue to to longer days.   If you have a chance look in the western sky just after sunset and you will see 2 very bright stars very close together.  The one on the right is the planet Venus and the one on the left is the Planet Jupiter.  They will be the closest together tonight before starting to move apart.  If you turn around and look above the eastern horizon you can see the Planet Mars, the one with the reddish tint.  The stars are really putting on a show this month.

With fishing winding down till opener my weekend will be tasked with starting to trim my apple trees.  March is an excellent time to do this and is necessary to assure a good crop later in the year.  Pruning the trees opens up the inside allowing air and sunlight to penetrate the fruit, which is good.  It makes spraying and picking much easier.  The frost is expected to go out by Friday, it looks like I am going to be fairly busy. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Back on Lake Pepin

With walleye season closed on Mille Lacs I decided to call my friend Kevin and my brother Steve to see if they wanted to meet me back down on Lake Pepin on Saturday to try our luck again for panfish.  I was really looking for an opportunity to fish against Kevin now that I had his secret rig, a Jason Mitchell Meat Stick.  It also gave my brother a chance to get away from work for a while.  Dropping my wife off at her sisters in Hudson I headed cross-country to Hwy 35 while Steve picked up Kevin in Eleva.  Arriving a few hours earlier I met them on the ice to find out the bite was tough.  Steve had seen a number of nice fish on his underwater camera but they didn't seem very interested in getting caught.  Dragging my Eskimo portable, a hand auger,  and a few of the basics, I decided that based on the temperature projections, would leave my heater in the truck.  Well, that was a mistake.  With my Ice Armor bibs and coat I can usually stand to be outside most of the time, however Saturday proved to be quite windy which sucked the heat right out of your body.   Relenting I set up my portable hoping to at least get out of the wind.  The Eskimo Kwik Fish shelter can be a challenge to set up in the wind as it is basically a sail, catching as much wind as it can as you desperately try to get it secured to the ice.   I did manage to catch a few fish, 6 to be exact with 4 sunfish around 8 inches, an almost respectable crappie, and a perch.   The good news is that although he had a few hours head start on me, Kevin ended up with the same fish count as I, 6.  I can only conclude that given the same set of circumstances, Kevin and I are pretty much alike.  My brother Steve did get a couple fish and because we have had some good successes this year we donated our catch to him so he could at least have a decent fish fry.  The side benefit is both Kevin and I did not have to clean fish. 

Tuesday was my day for tests at the medical clinic.  At 9:30 was a date with the Dermatologist, 10:30 was with the Heart Echo Lab, and 12:30 was with a NeuroOptomologist.  Uffda!  The first appointment with the Dermatologist was to discuss a mark I have on my temple.  With all the time I spend on the water, admittedly my application of sun screen is often secondary to getting out fishing.  In addition I really believe the higher the SPF rating, the more it scares the fish.  Truth be told that SPF really means Surely Poor Fishing!  I do carry that spray type that allows you to apply without touching your hands but often by the time I remember applying it my skin is half cooked.  Well, the doc determined that the mark was precancerous and needed to be removed.  After asking me if I was going to be in a wedding, giving a presentation, or on television within the next 2 weeks, using a small aerosol can of liquid nitrogen he quickly froze the affected area.  He was right, it burned a bit! As he set down the can I was expecting a good lecture on the use of sunscreen, my time in the sun, and other doctorly things you hear once faced with a diagnosis.  Actually he was pretty good about it.  Although my excuse of SPF being a fish repellent must of hit home as he mentioned a couple of others such as gasoline and bug spray, he suggested that I put SFP 30 UVA and UVB or better on my exposed skin before I leave in the morning, allowing time to wash my hands and free my hands from the scent.  I'd be lying if I told you it was probably not expected but you can be assured that I will start taking better care of my face (it's the only one I have!).   To prove that it has crossed my mind, about a month ago while checking out the Maple Grove Gander Mountain store closing, I picked up this nice TilleyLTM6IS Airflo hat complete with a hidden, pull out neck protector and InsectShield.  I am not sure about the insect protection but at least the wider rim and neck protector will help with those raccoon eyes I sport after a good day of fishing on the lake.  Hopefully I can get used to the hat as my good friends always claim that I look good in a covers up more of my face!  My echo went well as my heart shows no changes from my surgery exactly 2 years ago last Thursday.  The NeuroOptomologist was pretty amazing, heck I never even knew they existed.  Searching my records he found a test for Acetylcholine Binding Antibody needing to be run again.  That's a pretty big word and looking it up on the Internet, I am still confused.  Oh well.

This weekend is suppose to hit 60 degrees.  The snow will be melted, Lake Pepin will probably have an ice breaker open a path for the waiting fleet of north bound barges, and the tullibees have not yet shown their intent on Mille Lacs.  I have started putting my Ranger back together and my river boat is in need of a new interior make over.  Maybe some open water fishing is in the cards.  Alas there is much to do to get caught up before Opener just 65 days away.