Thursday, October 25, 2012

Making Sense

2012 Mille Lacs fall census results
 Last weeks post lamented the fact that my recent outing on Mille Lacs produced not so much as a single fish, not even a rock bass.  While there has been spotty reports of guys doing fairly well on the north side of the lake, I haven't spent the time to figure out what the exact pattern the fish are responding to.  For the most part, it isn't that necessary.  Over the years I've figured out the fall trolling bite, where the fish have traditionally been, as well as adapting to some of the changes that Mille Lacs has thrown out there.  It also involves new techniques like lead core trolling, looking in areas that may have been hot 15 years ago but is no longer the go to spot, trying new baits including those that you might have forgotten.   I am not a guy that measures success by the number of fish caught rather whether or not I figured out where the fish were, what they were biting on, and did I have a good time.  It has not been that unusual for me to drive up for the evening bite, spend 5 hours on some key areas, catch a few fish, and head home.  Honestly, it's not that hard in October.  On Monday the Minnesota DNR released their report on the fall netting census they do every year to assess the health of the walleye population on Mille Lacs and the news certainly gave an excuse for my lack luster performance last week.  As you can see by the graph, test nets set out in September were the lowest catch rates in 40 years.  Generally the black line represents more inshore, shallower locations and the red line represents nets set out into the deeper waters.  Each year they use this survey information to determine the "safe harvest" levels for the following year.  This year it was 500,000 pounds of walleyes with the estimate of 400,000 pounds taken by the Native Americans (80,000), sportsman (160,000), and release mortality (160,000).  One of the problems identified is that the spring netting targets too many male fish disrupting the normal spawning success.  I am not that smart and I try to remain politically neutral with my blog but if you see me and offer to buy a beer, you will certainly get an ear full!  Either way we are certainly in for some changes at Mille Lacs for the 2013 fishing season.

Two beautiful river walleyes
 Luckily there are guys out hammering the walleyes.  One of them is my friend Pete Mlinar, master guide on the upper Mississippi River.  Guiding under River Run Guide Service, Pete is by trade an accomplished electrician.  After the 2008/2009 economic downturn Pete packed up his truck, hooked up the boat and drove to Alaska seeking  work on the North Slope.  After spending 18 months working the oil fields, he's finally back and I have to admit, in fine form.  Pete is a master at fishing the river with redtails and chubs, the bigger the better.  I have fished smallies with him many times and I have to admit, we've done well.  Fall is his favorite time as he's a true river rat, fishing the Mississippi River from Brainerd to the Coon Rapids Dam.  Pete runs a River Pro Jet boat and can hit 45 mph in 3 inches of water.  With the river really low, he's probably the only guy that can get to these walleyes.  I can't tell you where he got these but I can assure you that anywhere on the river is probably good right now.  Maybe there's still time to get my jon boat out and hit a few of the deeper holes behind the house.  These walleyes are schooling up for the long winter, and with the water level at near record lows, it wouldn't be too hard to find a few that are hungry.  Along with this picture, he also sent me one of a nice 19 inch smallie.  All these fish are really fat and sassy.

So last weekend was occupied with taking wedding pictures for my friend, Mark Applen's daughter Jackie.  It was a frantic weekend as we first drove to New York Mills for the funeral of my friend, Lory Brasel's mother.  Back home by 5:00, at 6:00 we were at the Daytona Golf Course to take pictures of the wedding rehearsal.  Saturday was the big day as my wife and I snapped over 1500 pictures of the big event.  Sunday morning we were invited to a brunch in Rogers, MN to unwind from the previous days events.  Later on Sunday, and with the weather being perfect I loaded up my motorcycle with a new alternator for my tractor and delivered it to River Falls then returning before dark.  It was a nice day to ride, probably the last one of the year.  This weekend is deer hunting prep time as my friend Jack Taylor and I will set up our stands for the Deer Opener on November 3rd.  The year is flying by for sure!!

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