Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Blueberries and Walleyes, What a Pair!

My 8 pails of fresh picked blueberries

Last year we discovered the joy of picking blueberries at Blueberry Ridge in my home town of Eleva, Wisconsin and according to their website Saturday would be the first official picking day of 2012.  Along with my wife Lyn and neighbor Lory Brasel, we loaded up and headed east on Highway 10 which would take us straight to our destination.  Lory had been to Eleva in the past as he and others came down for my dad's funeral last August.  I suggested that he stop and pick some berries, which they did, and he was looking forward to filling a few buckets to bring home.   I love showing off a few of those out of the way spots that are truly represent what rural Wisconsin is all about.  Our first stop was the Ellsworth Creamery in Ellsworth Wisconsin, home of the worlds best cheese curds.  Everyday at 11:00 AM, the day's cheese curds are brought out from the factory, packaged in one pound bags, and ready for sale.  There was quite a line up waiting to buy which assured that our order would be packed within minutes of hitting the sales floor.  It is hard to describe how delicious fresh cheese curds really are.  Still warm in the bag, once opened the warmth and creaminess are accentuated with the unmistakable squeaks they make as they contact your teeth, a symphony in itself!  And squeak they do.  Within 5 miles we had devoured one bag knowing we need to save some for later.  Next stop was Plum City, Wisconsin to show Lory the beautiful trout pond carved out of a hillside by early settlers in the late 1800's.  The pond is feed by a substantial spring which keeps the water cool and flowing, perfect for the couple
Lory with a nice 26 incher
hundred rainbow trout that live there.  Springs have little dissolved oxygen so they have installed a couple of large aerators to enhance these levels.  The water is crystal clear with trout ranging from 15 to 28 inches.   They even have a vending machine to buy trout pellets for feeding the fish.  Unfortunately I forgot my camera, I should learn by now! It is a neat place to visit, very peaceful and if you enjoy watching fish like I do, a perfect place to spend a few minutes.  Next stop was my friend Kevin's house to pick up a GPS he used during fishing opener.  He warned us that cars were lined up at 6:30 in the morning at Blueberry Ridge and he doubted they would have any berries left.  With that in mind we drove up Mockingbird Hill and over to the blueberry patch where there were plenty of people still picking.  Lory and I had sent Mark and Andrea (Owners of Blueberry Ridge) a 1.75 liter bottle of our homemade Eleva Blueberry Ridge Wine which we we made a few months ago.  It is pretty good if I say so myself, and they were thrilled to receive it.  Mark assured us there were plenty of berries left and he was right, we filled 12 ice cream pails in 2 hours.  Lory took 4 and I took 8, as pictured above.   These blueberries are huge, some as big around as a quarter.   As we hauled our berries back to their new "headquarters" I promised Mark that if he wanted to fish Mille Lacs, I would be more than happy to accommodate him and a guest.  His wife Andrea claims that he would really enjoy that so here's hoping he takes me up on my offer.  We have frozen most of the blueberries by simply putting them on a cookie sheet and freezing them before packing.  Blueberries freeze very well and make an excellent frozen treat in this hot weather.  Of course, more wine is on the menu.  Thanks Mark and Andrea for a great day of picking!  As a side note, last week I posted a picture of my blueberries as they had just started to ripen.  Notice the word HAD.  When I went out to check on them Sunday morning, there wasn't a ripe blueberry left on any of the bushes and none were on the ground.  Monday the mystery was solved as there were 2 hen wild turkeys with about 20 little ones circling my patch, looking for what they might have missed the day before.  I guess we'll just have to go back to Eleva and get more.

Not huge but still nice
Bill had asked if we had a chance to pick a few buckets of blueberries for him, he'd certainly appreciate it. Well, of course we did and with all the work accomplished on Saturday, Lory and I decided to hit Mille Lacs on Sunday afternoon, delivering our fresh picked berries as well, spend some time on the lake.  Not in a big hurry to get there, we left at 2:00 in the afternoon with the plan to be on the lake around 4:00.   Our first stop was to drop off the berries and charged only the price of the berries plus a few dozen crawlers as our picking fee.  My plan was simple, drag crawlers on the edge of the flats until we found some fish, engage my Minnkota I-pilot, and hone our bobber skills.  Like a broken record, our first stop was Sherman's as we dragged rigs for 30 minutes only catching 1 fish.  Deciding to head to 7-mile, we trolled the east side of the flat and again got one nice walleye but that was it.  As we approached the south end of the flat the Lowrance began marking fish more consistently with small pods of fish close together so we engaged the anchor function and brought out the slip bobber rigs.  Within 90 minutes we had over 16 walleyes caught, at least another 8 lost as we attempted to set the hooks early to avoid harming the fish, and put 3 in the livewell.  These were all caught on leeches in 24 feet of water.  As I have done so many times before, the fish bit the best when the radio was tuned to Willie's Roadhouse on my Sirius Radio.  It must be that old country those walleyes love! One thing that I learned about using slips knots as bobber stops is you need to check your depth all the time.  Once you reel a fish in the stops will catch on your rod guides and slide up the line, changing your depth to something more shallow.  I showed Lory how to use the rear depth finder to check your depth by dropping the rig next to the boat and watching it on the screen.  More often than not it was set too shallow, we would reset to about 18 inches off the bottom while watching a fish come into the screen and grab the leech.  We left the lake by 8:30, cleaned the fish and were done by 11:00.  Not a bad weekend at all.

I continue to prepare for Alaska as well watch the Mississippi River level as it's almost back down to where it was 3 weeks ago.  We may go back and get more blueberries, there is a graduation party in the neighborhood on Saturday, and I am chomping to get back on the river.  Seems like there is plenty of things to keep me busy!

No comments: