Thursday, December 26, 2013

Red Lake Reunion

Mark with a keeper walleye
After a hectic last week, Friday morning arrived with the news, they are still not allowing wheel houses on Red Lake........Plan B I guess.  I always have plan B, it just works out better that way.  After a short call to Mark on Friday morning we decided to pull up the wheel house and park it at JR's resort for future trips.  The plan was to bring our portables as they were still allowing small 1/2 ton trucks out on the ice.  The weather wasn't predicted to be too bad and this would work for a day of fishing, we could drive up Friday afternoon and stay in the house.  Leaving at about 1:30 we stopped at Cabela's to pick up a few items, said hello to Bill Lundeen as we purchased our bait before finally arriving at JR's at 7:30.  JR's Corner Resort is located on the south shore of Red Lake, the last one at the end of the road.  Settling down for the evening we fired up the furnace in the wheel house and decided to have something for supper before retiring to bed.  About 9:30 JR arrived with great news, their allowing wheel houses back out in the morning, get ready to go.  Back to Plan A!  After getting to know a few of guys that already had been out, we were excited to again be the first wheel houses out for the year, similar to last December's trip.  Waking up at 8:00 and getting everything set, all we had to do was drink coffee in the resort, waiting for the go ahead to hit the ice.  Apparently he had a plow making a special area for our houses, an area no one had fished yet.  What seemed like forever finally arrived as Mark and I were the first ones to lead a caravan of houses to the newly plowed area.  Red Lake has quite a bit of snow on covering the ice which slows the progress of making ice, even with the number of below zero nights, it can be a challenge.  Along with the slush under the snow and on top of the ice, it can make travel impossible.  I am sure that without the snow, they would have been driving on the lake 2 weeks ago.  Mille Lacs, on the other hand is still at a standstill because of the slush and snow.  We traveled 5 miles out and settled on a plowed "camping lane" where we parked the house and began setting up.  The ice wasn't as thick as we expected and the first hole drilled saw the water shoot up out of the hole.  The weight of both our truck and the house pushed down on the ice causing the water to seek it's real level.  Quickly hustling to drill and clean out the holes (which was very easy as the water pushed the slush out), we blocked up the frame, dropped the house on the ice and moved the truck away from the house.  A half hour later it was warm and cozy as we set up the rattle reels and 
Lots of fish!
were fishing by 11:00.  Next I got out my jig rod for the 2nd hole when the rattle reel went off, wow a 23 inch walleye within 5 minutes, it's going to be good.  Thinking I should take a picture but with this fast of a bite, there will be plenty of opportunities, think again as it was the largest fish of the trip!  Never the less we started catching fish and by 6:00 we thought we had our 8 in the bucket, and had let at least 10 walleyes back into the lake as it's easy to get fussy when your catching fish.  The next move was to drive into JR's, clean our fish then have him fry them up, a great deal for $5.00 a person, eat before heading back out for the evening.  Well, closer examination showed only 7 walleyes, so much for my math skills.  We were back on the ice by 7:30, through a movie in, as the bite had slowed down significantly.  Mark hit the sack while I stayed up till past midnight and just as I was about to shut everything down the rattle reels went off.  In the next 90 minutes I had 3 keepers and threw back at least 3 smaller one.  Finally giving in I settled down while Mark had gotten up, tending to the fish that seemed to hit all night.  Sometimes you can sleep through the noise and sometimes it will keep you up, we managed to get some sleep and by sunrise had 5 in the bucket.  A new day, we determined to fill out however we only managed 2 more before it was time to leave.  Well, I'm not complaining, 2 days of fishing, a great meal of fresh fried walleyes, and enough to bring home, what more could you ask for.

Avenue of the Pines, Hwy 46 north of Deer River, MN
The drive home was beautiful as the trees were covered in a blanket of freshly fallen snow.  Red Lake is 4.5 hours from home and the route goes through some of the prettiest scenery in Minnesota.  Getting home on Sunday, work on Monday, back home to Eleva to see everyone on Christmas Eve, Mark and I are heading back up Thursday afternoon to meet another friend, Russ, back to Red Lake and JR's.  We hope the bite is still as strong as I estimated we caught about 30 walleyes in a 24 hour period last week.  As they say back home, you have to make hay when the sum shines and right now the bite on Red seems pretty hot.  We will probably stay till Sunday morning before heading back home, our last gasp of fishing for 2013.  Over all it's been a good year of fishing for me.  Early in January we did well at Red Lake.  Mille Lacs ice fishing wasn't all that hot and coupled with May's fishing opener completely froze out, well one could say it started slow.  My return to Canada with brother Steve in June was great, our trip to Lake Oahe in July was very successful, and getting to go with my neighbor Pete to Lac Seul in September was fabulous.  Along with this trip to Red, overall these adventures have made up for all that has transpired this year.  Hopefully 2014 will bring an new set of adventures as I am already looking forward to a trip in March, fishing the bayous of Louisiana, fishing opener in May, maybe back to Canada again, Oahe, Devils Lake, who knows where the future will see me wetting a line.  Either way as I get older, it just seems more important to live life to it's fullest as the clock just keeps ticking away.  Happy New Year and hopefully my next report is as good as this weeks!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

December's Cold Moon

Full Moon Over the Pole Shed
The Native Americans had a tradition of naming each of the full moons such as March's Worm Moon or October's Harvest Moon.  December's Full Moon bears the name of Cold Moon and occurred on December 16th of this week.  Interestingly enough the shortest day of the year is the is December 21st and the full moon on the 19th will represent the longest moon lit night of the year.  This week is as crazy as they all seem as Sunday was filled with picking up Lory at the airport port as he returned from his trip to China.  This was at 2:30 in the afternoon, brought him home then turned right around and drove back to pick up 2 business associates from Taiwan at 6:30.  The Taiwanese are not used to the cold and it was quite entertaining to see their reactions.  Two days of meetings with them, dinner each night, Wednesday would see me boarding a flight to Denver (where I am writing this from).  When I travel to China visiting them at their factory we have a tradition of going to the 101, a Taiwanese based  restaurant near the hotel.  The food is excellent and if you look back at some of my previous posts their is a picture of me with the owner.  While here I wanted to take them to a genuine Minnesota place to eat and decided on the  Tavern on Grand in St. Paul.  I believe they serve the best walleye around town and offer it in various forms such as walleye cakes, walleye spring rolls, pan fried, blackened, broiled, and served with deep fried dill pickles or their lefse dish, you can't beat it.  Scrambling to get things done on Tuesday night, I rounded the corner by my garage and was taken back by the beautiful scene created by the full Cold Moon's effect on the new fallen snow.  Grabbing the camera I snapped this picture, a winter wonderland right in my back yard.  If you see notice the bright object just down and left of the moon, this is the Planet Jupiter as they travel together through the night.  Wow.

Nice Sunfish
With the cold weather and snow it's was questionable whether I's get out ice fishing or not.  With a ton of snowplowing to do before Sunday. Luckily my neighbor Tom stopped over about 1:00 to see what was going on, that's all it took as we planned to go to Pelican for the evening.  Not sure of the ice or snow conditions we loaded up the Razor and headed out.  Approaching the lake there were trucks on the ice!  I have been keeping track of ice conditions up north at Mille Lacs and Red Lake, with the snow it hasn't froze much at all.  Well, I'm not driving on the ice so we pulled off the Razor and headed to an area we have done pretty good in the past, about 3/4 mile from the landing.  Drilling our holes I was pleasantly surprised at the 16 or more inches of ice.  Even more interesting was the ice was virtually devoid of any deep snows.  I have at least 6 inches in the yard but there was about an inch on the ice.  It was actually evenly distributed so it wasn't the wind that blew it off.   I suspect the early snow caused water to cover the lake and it refroze allowing it to create the fairly thick ice so early.  Honestly, I would not have been afraid to drive out but with another week of cold weather, it's should be perfect by now.  We did get a lot of little ones however both Tom and I each nailed a nice sunfish.  OK, only about 8 inches but heck, better than 99% of what we've been getting the last couple of years. 

Returning on Friday, Mark and I are planning on going to Red Lake Friday afternoon to pull the wheel house up to JR's.  A text from him yesterday didn't sound very good as the resort was pulling all wheel houses off the lake and restricting travel via snowmobile or chained ATV's at this time.  Apparently the slush is real bad and has created an undesirable situation.  Now if they didn't have any snow and accounting for the low temperatures, the lake should have 20+ inches of ice by now.  The snow unfortunately insulates the ice from freezing very fast so Pelican lake here next to home has much more ice than Red Lake which is 4.5 hours straight north of here.  Even with the many sub -20 degree nights, it's still not making ice like we need.  We are keeping daily updates and if we get the all clear, Mark and I plan on leaving Friday afternoon.  If not, well hopefully after Christmas will find better conditions.  All I know is the fishing reports from Red are excellent and we are missing out!Merry Christmas to everyone and we'll see what the weekend brings.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Arctic Blast

San Antonio River Walk from my balcony
Last Sunday was relatively balmy as Tom and I fished Pelican Lake.  Tuesday ended in San Antonio's 70 degree evening,  even humid enough to turn on the air conditioning in the hotel room.  Leaving Minneapolis, it was already snowing with a significant snowfall predicted during the next few days.  Meanwhile it was 80 degrees on Wednesday, unfortunately I was stuck in meetings all day.  San Antonio is beautiful this time of year.  If you've never been there I certainly recommend spending a few days in Texas's most visited city.  The focal point of downtown San Antonio is the Riverwalk, a man made canal which included the San Antonio River, circling an entertainment district downtown.  Staying at the The Omni La MansiĆ³n del Rio right on the Riverwalk, our room balcony on the 4th floor faced the river.  With the Christmas Season in full force, the area was one big holiday celebration.  By Thursday night the weather I had left in Minnesota was barreling through Texas and arrived in San Antonio unwelcomed.  Now this is a relative term as it was still a comfortable 45 degrees, enough to still walk around with my sleeves rolled up.  In the meantime the locals looked as though it was -10 below zero, bundled up in coats, stocking hats, with the outside propane heaters at full on.  I'm sorry, I just had to laugh as the predicted temperature when I arrive at MSP was -16, 45 degrees seemed tropical!  I guess it's simply relative to what you are accustom to and it was obvious no one was ready for this cold front.  The reality is we are a group of "tough bastards" up north but then again, everything is relative.  We'd probably complain about the heat come August!  The reason for being in San Antonio was our annual TTA fall meeting.  The TTA stands for The Transformer Association and I have been it's President for the last 2 years.  My tenure has been highlighted with a number of successes including an increase of almost 20% in membership and an increase in it's assets.  Probably my greatest success is leveraging my humble (don't laugh) upbringings growing up in Eleva, Wisconsin by making fun of my own heritage....Ole and Lena jokes.  The TTA has members from California, Texas, Illinois, New York, and everywhere in-between.  For me, it doesn't matter, I am who I am and damn proud of it.  I think that at first some people felt it was somewhat backwoods but in the end I believe that my genuine portrayal of who I really am became important.  I am proud of my Norwegianness, my parents, my up bringing, and my home town of Eleva.  I guess there's not much else!

Crappies from last week
Sunday was set aside to attend the St. Paul Ice Fishing show at the St. Paul Civic Center.  I really like this show and this year was accompanied by my friends Mark and Russ, two die hard fishing friends.  I've often talked about Mark, he is like a brother to me and Russ....well, just another friend that I share much in common.  I have had the chance to fish with Russ at Winnibigoshish, Red Lake, and this year we spent some time at Lake Oahe in July.   Mark and I have been discussing Wheel Houses for ice fishing and the show gave us a chance to check out all the pluses and minus's of the different brands.  I'd like to talk my brother Steve into going in with me on a new Wheel House as him and I have a lot of future plans, we'll have to see.  In the meantime Mark has added a few improvements to his wheel house and we will have an opportunity to utilize them over the Christmas holiday's, probably at Red Lake again.   So admittedly I am a sucker for these show specials that you run into while checking everything out.  My first purchase was a flag/bite indicator to install on my dead stick rod that I usually have fishing out of my portable.  Normally I have a rod with a slip bobber setup yet when a fish takes it down, you really have to pay attention.  With the flag, you have a better indicator of the bite.....we'll see!  There was a booth from Wisconsin selling Lily River Fish Breading coating, it's delicious.  I suppose just because it's from Sconnie I had to have at least 2 different varieties.  Could be worse.  Next was a device called  The Filet Claw, a stainless steel device for securing your filet while skiing to ensure a clean and effortless process while using your preferred technique (OK, I stole that from the package).  Either way it looked pretty cool so I bought 2, one for me and one for my brother Steve.  I have to admit, he's a pretty lucky brother as I am always thinking of him.  I finished the show with a purchase of a TUCR noodle rod for ice fishing.  We'll see if it lives up to it's reputation.   I decided to post a picture of last week's crappies, a limit is 10 but I did share with my neighbor Tom.  With the sub zero weather last weekend it is making ice, let's hope I can get out this weekend.

You can tell that winter is in full swing.  My friend Jeff King and his wife have left for Mazatlan, a sure sign it has started.  My other friend Keith Holtan is settled in Brainerd and catching walleyes on his lake.  In the meantime the weather continues to challenge the global warming crowd with a predicted -20 below tonight.  The weekend is suppose to warm up to the high teens, maybe enough to get out and try for some more crappies.  With the recent snows, it will be challenging for sure.  I have guests from Taiwan arriving on Sunday and their first request was if I had coats so we'll see how that goes.  Other than that, experiencing a 100 degree temperature swing is enough excitment for one week!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

First Ice

It doesn't get any better!
This Thanksgiving holiday turned into a drive fest as Thursday was spent in Lacrosse with my brother Steve and his family, brother Blake, and mom.  I was surprised how quickly we made it, 2 1/2 hours.  While there Steve and I hit Gander Mountain where I picked up a new blade guard for my old auger bit then stopped by Festival Foods to get some Lefse that they offer as private label made in Blair, WI (It's absolutely heavenly!).  My friend Eric lives 1/2 mile so we decided to drop off a few calendars for the guys at his work.  As we got out of the car his son Carter was looking through the window and exclaimed......Hey, it's the guy that went fishing with us!  He's a great young man as his mom said, he never is without the Cabela's small multi-tool that I gave him during last summer's fishing trip in Alma.  Sure enough, it was on the kitchen counter as he set it down to see us.   Eric and Carter wanted us to see their new duck boat so we walked over to his mom's garage to check out the beast.  We left with a standing invitation to take it for a ride next year, something that looks like a lot of fun.  Leaving Eric's we headed back to Minneapolis only to turn around on Friday to attend my wife's uncle Andrew's 75th birthday celebration.  Quite a cast of characters, it was good to see everyone before we left for home.  My friend John Delestry works at Scheel's in Oakwood Mall so a slight detour was in order.  On the way down our friend Greg called to wish us a nice Thanksgiving and give me the inside scoop on John's crazy morning which included stitches in his hand, a result of his earlier attempt to butcher his deer.  Greg, John, are friends of Eric and we have become great friends over the years.  It's a perfect example of the people you meet over the years, who sticks and who doesn't.  On Saturday I headed up to Jack's cabin (another 1 1/2 hour drive) to take down my tree stand and maybe try out some ice fishing in front of his place.  Arriving around 11:00 we decided to ice fish first as the day was perfect.  I brought my newly repaired Jiffy auger to see if it actually worked.  With over 7 inches of ice, we walked about 100 yards off shore to the deeper 16 foot hole in the bay.  Jack and his son Ben already had a couple of northern pike from earlier in the day using tip ups, Ben's favorite way to fish.  Although I was after panfish, it really turned into a test run for the auger, my new FLX28, my new panfish rod, and a simple opportunity to get out.  Well, the auger engine ran great but the blade cut terribly, the FLX28 is going to be great, the jury's out on the new fishing pole but something's don't change, like Ben's enthusiasm for tip up fishing.  Watching the top of the tip up spin as the fish runs with the bait is pretty addicting.  In one of my brighter moments I took a video of the event and you can see it by clicking this link Ben nails a northern pike.  Posing for the victory picture, I'm not sure I have taken a better picture. 

Dan keeping his hole company.
Jack's neighbor Dan, was also out on the lake with his son Tony.  Dan is retired and a permanent resident of Platte Lake and a pretty good guy!  He also loves to fish and with all of us on the lake, it represented 3 generations of avid sportsmen.  I had forgot my camera at the cabin and walked back to get it, snapping this picture on the way back.  While taking the picture I noticed his Vexilar FL8 wasn't in the hole.  When asked him why his response was that he really didn't know how to use it while fishing as it was used mostly to check the depth.  Not missing an opportunity to help I explained that I'd be lost with mine and we started his lesson!  Although the FL8 doesn't have a zoom feature it can still provide an invaluable look at what's happening under the ice.  We first verified what he was seeing and when I asked if he had a sinker above his bait, he was surprised.  Not really as I could see the 2 marks move in unison when he lifted the line up then let it fall.  Pretty soon you could see marks rising off the bottom as I explained they were fish and look for the marks to turn red as the got right on the bait.  A quick hook set and up came a perch, about 4 inches long.  After catching 4 identical fish Dan got the hang of it as I left.  Whether he continues to use it or not, it was fun to help and maybe he will catch more fish this winter.  Soon it was time to head out to the swamp and take down the stand.  Normally I wouldn't be such a hurry to take it down but it is in need of repair and leaving it in the woods just would delay something that honestly, may not get fixed until next year anyway.  At least it's not exposed to the elements anymore than it has to be and should give me plenty of time to get the job done.  I'll probably contact the manufacturer and see if they have a ready made hardware kit for it, or better yet Brett is talking about making some permanent stands, I like that a lot better.

Tom with a few fish already
Sunday was very nice and with the high around 34 degrees and zero wind, it was a perfect day to try Pelican Lake, just 20 minutes west of the house.  My neighbor Tom was running by the house on Sunday morning when he stopped to see how the weekend was going.  Stating it would be better if we got out for a few hours in the afternoon and do some ice fishing as my few hours at Jack's lake wasn't very productive.  Agreeing to leave around 1:30 he showed up as I was loading the truck. Knowing the journey would be walking we packed a tub sled, a couple of pails, my Vexilar, one for Tom, and my old Jiffy auger which I had the chance to sharpen the blades in the morning.  For insurance we also packed the Eskimo hand auger, just in case.  Our first stop was the hardware store in St. Michael to pick up bait.  Dressed like we were going fishing the guy greeted us with a message.....We are all out of waxies and eurolarva.  What!! That's impossible, nobody runs out of waxies.  Well, the early ice caught them by surprise and by 2:00 they were sold out.  Plan B, buy some of the new plastics, they are supposed to work really well.  Arriving at the parking lot there was 1 position left as a well worn path to the lake was already made.  I suppose there was 30 guys on the ice which was a surprising 6 inches thick.  Meeting some of the people coming off they all had fish and offered some locations.  9 1/2 feet is about as deep as it gets so we spread out.  The great news is the Jiffy cut like a new auger as I punched about 10 holes in various places.  Putting on some of the plastic I started catching small crappies right away, and I mean small.  The fish would definitely come and look at the plastic but seemed hesitant to hit it unless they appeared aggressive.  If they just came up to the bait, it would take a lot of movement to get them interested.  Deciding that the fish needed a switch I tied on a Purist, a bait that my friend Kevin is a master at catching fish with.  A fairly large one, black with a white tip the fish, it was the answer to the slower bite.  Ending up with over 25 fish caught, I brought home my limit of less than respectable but adequate crappies.  I'll take it as it was great to finally catch something through the ice.

This week I head to San Antonio, and just in time.  We are expecting a substantial cold front to blow in on Wednesday night with -10 to -15 below zero predicted while the 70's are predicted for the home of the Alamo.  I can guarantee it will be making lots of ice here.  Saturday is the St. Paul Ice Fishing Show and Mark Applen and I will try to check out the latest and greatest.  Sunday could be back out ice fishing, it will depend on the weather.  Either way the winter of 2013/2014 is shaping up to be great for ice fishing. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Mille Lacs Ice, as far as one can see!
Another Thanksgiving is upon us, this year arrived much quicker than the last one.  I guess having spent a Saturday afternoon in the emergency room give one a lot of time to think about the things that we are thankful for.  Good health is right on the top of that list!  It's been interesting since the neurologist gave me a clean bill of health with the simple suggestion to take a full aspirin each day, my bouts of short lived dizziness have all but disappeared.  Lasting between 10 seconds and a minute, it was a common once a day occurrence but now it's been over a week.  Maybe it's just all in my head!  The other thing to be thankful for is early ice.  Every year we are subjected to different conditions, the earliest I have been safely ice fishing was November 17th while in the late 1990's we were still fishing from the boat on Mille Lacs, all the way to December 6th.  I still remember how we hammered the walleyes on the north end of the lake fishing the sand drop off with nightcrawlers, quite the experience.  On Saturday my wife and I drove to the Onamia VFW to help celebrate a friends 50th wedding anniversary and spend time with our friends Bill and Kathy.  On the way home, just past Chico's Place the car thermometer hit -1 below zero and it's been cold every night since.  Even this morning I had 2 degrees above with one exception, the wind was calm.  With the last 4 days of big winds, even with the low temperatures the wave action delays the freeze, especially on a big body of water like Mille Lacs.  Well, last night she tightened up as the picture shows ice as far as one can see.  I have heard of 4 inches in the bays were the water has been calmer the last few days but fully expect that by Sunday there should be walkable ice on the pond.  The weekend plans are to head up to the deer hunting camp and remove my ladder stand.  With this cold weather the swamp will be frozen making it much easier to drive the ATV back into the woods to haul it out as it's quite heavy and bulky.  That should leave some room to hit a local lake on Sunday with the hopes of getting some panfish.  I have all the gear ready, it's just a matter of getting out.  I did buy a Thorne Brothers custom panfish rod at the Ice Fishing Expo a few weeks ago, coupled with the new Clam inline reel and 3# Sufix orange Ice Line it looks like it should work very well.  Hopefully I'll have a report early next week.

They just can't leave them alone!
So what's not to be thankful, well how about the assault on my trees by the local whitetail bucks needing to scratch their horns.  Our house is situated on 5 acres of land, just a lot off the Mississippi River.  Ever since the day we moved in the deer find the garden, the apples, and the trees are fair game in there quest to be deer.  Over the years I have lost a number of trees to these antler rubs, enough to think that I would know better than to leave the bark uncovered.  The problem seemed to go away during the last few years so one forgets.  Hopefully this tree will make it as the scrape is only on one side and does not encircle the entire tree.  Either way it will show some damage and maybe 10 years from now that damage will have weakened it enough to blow down in a good storm.  Wherever the outcome, I'd still would have liked to see the deer that did this and maybe need to find my trail cam and take some pictures.  When I first moved in we saw big bucks all the time however they seem to be more nocturnal these days.  With the ground frozen and a wetter than normal fall, the garden cleanup will just have to wait till spring.  Most of the leaves are finally off the tree yet it's too cold to chop them up with the mower, that will have to wait for spring as well.  I finally removed the mower deck from the John Deere and installed my snow blower, hopefully we won't have to use it for a while.  The chains and back blade are on the Ferguson as that's ready to go for the winter season.  With a few odds and ends to wrap up, I think we are set for the winter.  I'd still like to make some vension sausage with the trimmings from the early November deer hunting success, maybe a good snowstorm project.  I am also planning on trying to fish more with my friend Kevin and brother Steve.  They seem to always do well with the big sunfish as one has to travel a couple of hours anyway to find them, I might as well join them.

Mark Applen and I are already planning the annual "go somewhere and ice fish" trip that happens between Christmas and New Years.  With the success we experienced at Upper Red Lake, it's on the top of the list for this year.  Last year's trip was hampered by late ice as we were one of the first houses out to the offshore hump a number of miles from shore.  I think this contributed to our fantastic fishing we had however this year with the early cold weather, I'm sure the fish patterns will be well established before we get there.  The nice thing about fishing Upper Red Lake is if in fact the fishing isn't that good you are only an hour from Lake of the Woods or Winnibigoshish, which can also be fabulous fishing.  I am in San Antonio next week and hope to have something written by the time I leave.  The Packers play on Thanksgiving and let's hope they do better than their performance against the Vikings last Sunday, it was pretty pitiful from a Cheesehead's perspective.  Have a great Thanksgiving and if your ice fishing, be safe as that water is pretty cold.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Interesting Weekend

An "Unremarkable" Brain!
So it was an interesting weekend, one spent not doing what I originally intended of helping Jack on the last day of deer hunting, rather sitting at Mercy Hospital while getting my head literally examined.  Now I am sure that some of my friends would attest to the fact that this should have happened years ago but never the less by 7:30 on Saturday I was told to go home and relax.  Because it was 50 degrees on Saturday the plan was to work in the shed, getting the boat tucked away for the winter, moving the snow blower out, gathering all my ice fishing stuff and putting it front and center.  Getting a good start by 1:30 in the afternoon I was on a pretty good roll when I began to lose feeling on my left side lasting about 20 seconds and felt like when your leg goes to sleep then starts waking up, that feeling like pins and needles abound.  Hummm this isn't good!  At 58 years old and recent discussions about my friends mom having a stroke I immediately locked up everything and went to the emergency room.  Although I actually felt pretty good when I arrived, after describing my concerns they issued a CODE 3 STROKE and I was whisked away faster than Alex Baldwin's show was cancelled.  An IV went in immediately as 3 nurses worked on checking out my vitals, which were now normal.  Cancelling the Code 3 almost as soon as they issued it I was still in for some tests before anything else would happen.  Emergency room protocol meant that I would get the heart ultrasound and brain MRI when they could fit it in.   I've had both before and somehow knew the heart scan would show nothing.  My surgery in 2010 pretty well fixed any issue with the ticker and was more interested in the MRI.  By 6:00 I was in the MRI machine, thank God I'm not too claustrophobic yet toward the end of the 20 minute procedure it was getting tense.  With nothing to report, I was allowed to leave and had an appointment with a neurologist on Tuesday.  Keeping that appointment the first thing I learned was the MRI showed my brain "unremarkable".  Wow, I never knew!  I guess it's a term meaning that there is nothing evident to remark about, go figure.  In fact the doc complimented my on my brain's lack of little white benign spots, apparently guys my age often have many of these as opposed to my single one.  In the end it was determined I had Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), a very temporary blockage of a blood vessel in the brain either cause by a clot that disappeared quickly or a blood vessel collapsed for a split second.  Either way I have no evidence of anything wrong, no treatment recommended, the usual watch the blood pressure and cholesterol, and there's no need to follow up.  Well, at least now I know as it one can't help think it could have been a lot worse.  What was amazing is the compliments I got from the staff citing that most guys would have not taken the time to got through this rather simply tough it out.  We are a stubborn bunch, ya know.

Kevin's Successful Archery Hunt
So, instead of going north to help my friend Jack finish off the 2013 deer hunting season, I decided to play it safe and stick around home for the day.  It worked out for the best as it gave me a chance to rearrange the pole shed and put the summer toys away for their long winter's sleep.  One thing that's a staple for winter storage is making sure anything with a battery in it has a battery tender attached.  A battery tender does just that, tends to your batteries by first assuring that it is fully charge before going into a maintenance mode which holds the battery voltage at 13.2 volts.  At this voltage the battery stays charged but will not loose water and most have a high frequency component to them which helps prevent sulfation of the battery plates caused by holding them in a single polarity for too long.  At around $30.00 each they are a bargain.  One thing nice is my boat has a built in 3 bank charger and does the same thing, keep the batteries optimally charged and maintained as long as you keep it plugged in.  The only time my boat is unplugged is when I'm using it.  With Saturday's high expected to be only 18 degrees and the cold weather continuing into next week can only mean ice fishing is close at hand.  Sunday gave me the opportunity to put my new Clam Scout TC, a single man portable, together.  When fishing panfish and the weather is nice, I prefer to go lighter than dragging all of my heavier stuff out on the ice.  I have to give another plug for D-Rock, a Strikemaster Service Center in New Brighton, MN.  As I explained last week, the did a fabulous job on my Strikemaster Lazer so I left my old and seemingly wore out Jiffy.   I'm sure it hasen't run in at least 9 years.......have at it boys and call me if it's junk.  4 days later it's running like new and the bill is $63.36.  You can't beat that for sure as I now have both augers ready to go.  The nice thing is the Jiffy has a heavy duty transmission and can drive an earth bit, which I have. 

So, with the Packer's having 3 losses in a row, Sunday is with the Vikes and I'm sure it's going to be interesting, especially if the Purple win.  Thanksgiving is next week, San Antonio the week after, hopefully there will be some room to drill a few holes.  Either way, it's nice to end the week knowing that going forward I should have a few years left in me!  I'll leave you with a picture of a nice 8 pointer my friend Kevin harvested a few weeks ago.  Maybe some day.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Deer Hunting

Sunday Morning's View From My Stand.
 Early November means one thing in Minnesota, Deer Hunting season.  Admittedly each year that passes it gets a little harder to trudge out to through the swamp yet it's something that once you stop you might never start again.  After moving from Eleva, Wisconsin to Osseo, Minnesota it took a few years of adjustment to get into the swing of things.  It was easy the first year to head back home and hunt however after meeting my first friend, Mark Taylor I started my Minnesota Deer Hunting tradition with Mark, his brother Jack, his brother-in-law Tim Guzek, and lead by Dale Larsen.  Dale was a co-worker of mine who grew up in Roseau, MN.  Dale was going back  home to hunt so we talked him into "guiding" us what started as our own Minnesota Deer Hunting tradition.  Those first days were pretty interesting.  We hunted in the Beltrami State Forest, 30 miles SE of Roseau, one of Dale's traditional places he went with his father.  Our first trip found us staying at the Evergreen Motel in Roseau, $22.50/night for a room with 2 full size beds.  With 4 of us staying in that room it cost us about $17.25 for each of us for the 3 nights.  Our mode of transportation was "Ol'Blue" a late 1960's vintage powder blue Chevrolet panel van, complete with a couch, carpeting, and all the comforts (and refreshments) for the 6 hour drive to Roseau.  Leaving in the morning, we'd get there about 1:00 in the afternoon, enough time to check out our hunting area, get back to Roseau for a few drinks before getting up at 4:30 to drive back out to the woods.  We always planned one meal at Dale Larsen's mother's house, something she really enjoyed as it was just like those hunting days of years ago when Dale's father and all the relatives came around for the hunt.  Saturday night was always celebrated at the Roseau VFW, the town's best restaurant.  Hunting till Monday morning, we'd drive back to the Twin Cities that afternoon.  I really like those days of hunting as we had almost unlimited areas to hunt, there seemed to be a lot of deer around, and half the fun was the 12 hours we spent on the road.  Eventually our income allowed us to move up as we rented 2 separate rooms so each one of us could have our own bed.  Luckily the 2 corner rooms were connected making it seem as one big place.  Eventually Dale stopped hunting so we teamed up with our friends Mark Mayerich and the Ullom boys who were hunting just southwest of Beltrami Forest near the small town of Skime, Minnesota.  Nothing more than a country store with a couple of gas pumps and some rental cabins, we hunted that area until a gentlemen bought a significant amount of the acreage we hunted and along with the locals basically ran us off.  Things were changing anyway as Tim Guzek had bought a cabin on Pelican Lake near Pequot Lakes, MN and we decided to hunt a little bit further south.  Although the hunting areas had much more hunters, there were still deer to be had.  I have tons of deer hunting stories, so much and so little time.  I have yet to miss one season since that first trip 35 years ago however today it's only Jack and I left.  We still have fun but it's nothing like the those first years of hunting, the best of times for sure.

Trenton in his stand.
As we have for the last 10 years, this year was back at our dear friend Rich Allen's place soon the be Brett's place.  It's still fairly wet yet passible as I returned to my traditional stand location on the small peninsula of large poplar trees that extend into the swamp.  Hunting with me was Trenton, Brett's son who was sitting in the stand right at the point.  A nice 8 pointer was shot off that stand last year so it has some great potential. Trenton is a great kid and proved to be a trooper as he stayed on stand all day, both Saturday and Sunday.  Although I couldn't see him from my stand, it was good to have someone nearby in case I needed help.  Saturday was opening day as we were greeted with 20 mph winds, low overcast clouds, with a touch of snow falling off and on all day.  The air temperature wasn't too bad but the wind pretty much put any damper on deer movement for the day.  Sunday was quite a bit better as around 4:00 in the morning the wind died, the clouds disappeared and the temperature was still reasonable.  I do enjoy sitting in  my stand most of the day, maybe getting down for a simple stretch, a little walk to get the blood circulating again.  I had dragged my large tub sled out to the stand as I typically use hip boots for walking then carry out my bibs and cold weather boots, changing before I climb 18 feet up into my stand.  The tube comes in handy if I do happen to get a deer, I have something to drag it out through the swamp.  About 11:00 on Sunday morning I had exhausted all of my remaining food stashes, was somewhat bored with the wait so I brought my HDS 12 Touch Manual with me, a great place to get familiar with it while I waited.  Hearing something I looked down and a small doe had walked within 30 feet of the stand.  Deciding this might be my only chance I grab the rifle as the manual dropped out of my lap and hit the bottom of the stand.  Damn, that wasn't good!  Well the deer was dumber than I was and ended up hanging from the garage.  I'm one of those guys that the averages tie into the success rate in Minnesota for deer hunting, about 34%.  I seem to bag a deer every 3rd year and this year marked 2 years since I had bagged one.  The deer wasn't very big but it did remind me of the time Mark Mayerich had shot a very small deer in Roseau.  After registering it he asked the guy what to do with it (referring to the tag) to which the guy a loaf of bread and make a sandwich!  That was still pretty funny.  Helping my neighbor Pete, he has allowed me to bring my deer over to his heated garage for a comfortable place to butcher it.  With 10 degrees on Tuesday morning, it was a lot better than doing it in my shed.  I did take a picture of the deer hanging in his garage, I'm not telling which one was mine but I'm sure you can guess!

Vension to be cut up.
With lows of 10 degrees, the ice is not far behind.  The Champlin pond has skimmed over and the ground is starting to freeze.  The weekend is supposed to warm backup into the 50's, maybe a reprieve allowing enough time to finish the last of the yard work before it gets to late.  I got a feeling Saturday is going to be crazy.  The mower deck needs to come off the lawn tractor and the snow blower needs to be mounted.  The boat has to be moved back for the winter and the snowmobiles brought forward.  I have a Strikemaster Laser Power Auger in a 9 inch model and was beginning to start hard, even after I put a new gas tank on last year.  I decided to bring it into D-Rock in New Brighton, an authorized Strikemaster service center.  While driving up hunting they called me to let me know it was ready and the bill was $66.  I asked if they did anything as nobody does work for that kind of money these days.  Sure enough, I picked it up on Monday as they installed a new carburetor kit, new spark plug, cleaned it thoroughly, and reassemble like new all for $66.  If I knew it was going to be that cheap I wouldn't have waited so long.  Dropping off my 30 year old Jiffy auger, we'll see how they do with that.   My plan is to go back up for a day to hunt with Jack, maybe on Sunday, trying to help him get a deer. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Knocking at the Door

Waking up to snow!
Well, I wook up this morning to a fresh layer of snow, the first accumulations of the year.  As I stated last week, in 1991 we had 31 inches by the time it ended on November 1st, so this morning's 2 inches on the ground is pretty uneventful in the grand scheme of things.  It does represent the progression of winter and early snow hopefully means early ice, as I am anxious to get out.  One thing that is different this year is that even after a week, the leaves are stubbornly still on the trees.  I did get out on Saturday to put my tree stand up for this weekend.  We are still hunting on Rich Allen's place near my friend Jack's cabin, west of Onamia, MN.  Rich passed away a number of years ago and we sure do miss him.  Our tradition is to serve a steak dinner at his place on Friday night, a time now dedicated to reflect on our friend, his generosity, and how he enjoyed life.  You can be sure there will be a few toasts to Rich, a few stories, some deer hunting strategies discussed, and the general camaraderie I enjoy so much.  I'm not sure we'll solve anything but it is certain to be a good time.  Hopefully that big buck will walk by my stand, if it doesn't well, no big deal!
Record of jig fishing off 7 mile Flat
Digging around the office I ran across an old section of graph paper from my Lowrance X15B.  A state of the art fishing tool, it had a stylet on a belt that would pass across thermally sensitive paper and burn the image of what was under the boat via the transducer.  A precursor to today's super sharp color LCD/LED screens, it still provided images in detail that is still not available today, although admittedly they are pretty good!  The problem was that the thermal paper cost between $4 and $6 per roll, and if you ran it at the right speed, could last for over 6 hours.  Compared to what a dozen shiners cost, it really wasn't that much and gave a nice printed record of the days fishing.  I used to buy paper at a dozen rolls at a time and would probably go through 12 - 15 rolls a year as I never ran it while traveling from on spot to another.  The first picture is a shot of a jig I was working on the bottom off the edge of 7 Mile Flat in the middle of Mille Lacs Lake.  Graphs were super sensitive and you can see the jig fall almost from the surface to the bottom, watch it bounce off the bottom, and observe the fish come up and look at the jig as it rises off the bottom.  In the middle is a suspended fish, all of these were more than likely tulibee's as they inhabit the deep areas of the lake, just off the flats and throughout the deeper basin.  As a side note, I have never caught one during the summer yet if the water temperature gets over 75 one starts seeing them floating on the surface, a victim of the warmer water as Mille Lacs is about a south as their range goes.  On the other hand ice fishing can be very good because they are a cold water fish and seem to be quite active under the ice.
The day the wind came up.
The next picture is taken a few hours later as the wind abruptly came up and blew exceptionally hard.  Although I can never be sure, I believe this segment of the recorded events shows a wave that is 5 feet from peak to trough, the largest wave that I have ever experienced at Mille Lacs.  Granted, one night while fishing with my friends Eric Hayes and John Delestry, those waves were insane, yet nothing records better than the old paper graphs and the paper doesn't lie.  Another significance to this picture was my passengers for the day, Tom Emmons and Tom McAtee.  Although Mr. Emmons is no longer with us, I can still remember after riding this rather large wave I stopped the boat to put on my life vest.  Of course back then we were all invincible yet this one did shake me a bit.  Tom never forgot and through the years used this event to make fun of my vulnerabilities.  I wish he was still here to give me some crap!   Today I wear my inflatable vest 100% of the time as I've gotten quite a bit smarter than I was 20 years ago.  Funny, I still have the graph and if paper was available, I'd love to hook it up and make some recordings of the bottom readings.  The reality is the new HDS 12 has and extra SD card slot and one can simple insert any SD card and record the events of the day from the HDS's perspective.  Still unrolling the exposed graph paper kind of made one feel you just got back from a secret mission and were reviewing the findings.  Times have changed for sure.
Lory and I just finished up our last cider making day exceeding more than 40 gallons pressed this year.  I still have about 13 boxes of apples but with the cold weather, we are done.  Making wine, giving it to the neighbors who stopped by to help, freezing a bunch, we are all set for the rest of the year.  It looks like the garden tilling will have to wait till spring, I nailed my 6th pocket gopher this week, and the next week will be a push to get everything set for the winter, no small task.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Apple Cider Time

Kevin's Paddlefish!
The first thing I would like to share is a picture that my friend Kevin Aiona sent me this week.  When I first saw the picture he texted to me I wasn't quite sure what the heck it was.  Closer examination revealed a prehistoric looking fish he had caught below the dam in Alma, a paddlefish weighing at least 40 pounds.  More common in the middle areas of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, I can never remember anybody catching one of these fish even though I have heard they are found this far north.  Calling Kevin to get the scoop he explained that while fishing walleyes below the dam in Alma he hooked into something large.  Often large catfish will hit a jig and minnow, he simply assumed it was a big Flathead.  After a prolonged battle it finally came to the boat and to his surprise it was a paddlefish.  Alone in the boat his net wasn't large enough to land the fish and with both being somewhat exhausted he was able to grab it under the gills and bring it in the boat.  Hooked in the mouth, it must have been swimming by just as he lifted his jig as paddlefish are plankton feeders and generally will not hit a lure of any kind.  In fact they are usually caught by snagging them during a special season or by accident.  Either way I am sure Kevin was surprised as he released the fish back into the river.  Along with the once in a lifetime catch, he went home with a nice limit of walleyes as they move towards the dam to spend the winter.  Nice catch Kev!

Cider Production Line
So Saturday was the day the Brasel's and I planned to start up the cider press.  Without an apple crop last year it had been 2 years since the last time we squeezed cider.  This year included a new, larger press and the integration of my apple grinder that fit right on top of the press.  Its actually a pretty slick deal, grind the apples directly into the cider press hopper till full, swing away the grinder an press away.  Prior to pressing Lory had made me 4 wooden half circles to put underneath the main press plate.  When we set up the press a few months ago it was noted that the main press mechanism did not go far enough, in my opinion, to adequately press a less than full load of ground apples.   We were right as these wooden spacers really helped the cause.  With about 40 - 50 bushels of apples from the harvest we averaged around 1 gallon of cider per bushel.  2 years ago we ground the apples in my meat grinder first, which really worked great for extracting as much juice as you can yet it's a slower process.  With the new grinder on the top, the apples are not ground as fine and therefore don't yield as much juice but with so many apples, it just seemed a waste of time and really, what I don't use will eventually get thrown away, so why work harder.  One advantage we have is I have 6 varieties of apples.  From super sweet to tart, and everything in between, apple cider is always better when it is blended as it adds balance to the flavor.  By the time you have read this we have pressed over 28 gallons of delicious apple cider, some are given as a reward for their help, Lory has already started this year's vintage apple wine, and it's just plain fantastic to drink.  We might try to use up more apples and make more this weekend, we'll see.

It's on Fire!
As you know our Minnesota fishing opener was completely froze out this year with the ice leaving almost 3 weeks later than a normal year.  The weather has carried on this fall as of October 28th, most of the leaves are still on the trees.  Normally by now the trees are showing their naked winter form but not this year.  The dry period we had in July and August was hard on the ash trees and they dropped their leaves early.  I have a catalpa tree, the one with the huge leaves and long beans, which really doesn't like the cold and a hard frost will make it drop it's leaves in less than 24 hours.  In the meantime the oaks, birch, maples and most of the other trees continue the 2-3 week delay that the late spring gave us.  The wait has it's advantages as the maples in my yard are simply on fire.  This picture is my Silver Queen Maple, a cross between a silver maple and a hard maple.  It grows like a weed, typical of silver maples, but has the color of a hard maple with brilliant reds, orange, and yellow colors.  Of course the real problem is when they all fall off and I have to clean them up.  I can never remember the leaves staying on the trees so long, but of course I've never seen ice still on a lake in the middle of May either.  Mother nature is interesting for sure as this year we went right from summer to late fall.  It seems as though the days are screwed up this year and there just doesn't seem time to do anything as scheduled.  I suppose it's never as bad as it was on Halloween, 1991 when we had over 31 inches of snow by the end of the next day, November 1st.  This storm was part of the scenario which occurred when a hurricane moving north along the Atlantic coast and another low pressure system developed into the Perfect Storm.  Thank God it's suppose to be in the 50's this weekend, Indian Summer at last!  I plan on setting up my tree stand on Saturday, preparing for the 2013 Minnesota deer hunting season that starts on November 9th.  Maybe I'll get lucky and get that once in a lifetime monster buck, but don't hold your breath. The first of the ice fishing expositions starts Friday, a sign that hard water is not too far away.  I got the oil changed on my 115 Suzuki outboard and was amazed at how clean it was, maybe a sad reminder of how little it really ran this year as opener was a bust and both times in Canada were with other boats.  I hate putting the boat away but it's time.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Last Time Out?

Keith with a nice smallie
With the allure of trolling walleyes on Mille Lacs during the full moon, last weekend was probably the only opportunity to get out before the water turns hard.  Not that I'm a big full moon guy as frankly the success I had 2 weeks ago was just the opposite, a new moon and dark yet successful.  Never the less, with time running out I had the chance to fish with my friend Keith Holtan, who just returned from Alaska to spend his winter in Brainerd.  Keith was a former assistant to the Nisswa Guide's in Brainerd who then went to the Kenai River to become one of the established guides.  Meeting Keith in 2002, he was our guide as we booked a trip with Jeff King at Budget Salmon Charters.  Both being from Minnesota, we had a lot in common so when I suggested we meet at Mille Lacs on Friday night he jumped at the chance.  I reminded him the bite was tough, just like any good you customer, set up the scenario, and if the outcome is better than expected, your a hero!  Well, there wasn't much heroing going on that day.  I decided that the south end might be better as the north end of the lake has been getting pounded.  With some previous success we headed out of Cove Bay and started with some deep water lead line trolling on Sloppy Joes, something to bide our time before sunset.  With all of the navigational buoys pulled it gave me an opportunity to show Keith my boat electronics with the big screen HDS10, the networked receivers and entertainment peripherals, previous boat track history, the works.  On the Kenai there is little one needs other than depth yet I still say that Structure Scan would be interesting.  Arriving at Sloppy's I mark few fish and caught nothing.  We moved to a mid depth structure west of Spirit Island, and with the exception of a very small smallmouth bass, it was also void of fish looking for an easy meal.  Next stop was Indian Point to troll the edge of the drop off.  While running the 2.5 miles to get there the sleet started pelting us, enough to accumulate on the carpet.  We made 2 trolling runs up and down the long reef that extends into the lake and the only thing to show for our efforts was a nice smallmouth bass, typical of what we seem to catch on Indian Point these days.  As the sun continued it's downward journey we headed back to Anderson's to see if we could at least repeat the success of a few weeks ago.  Making a number of long, deep to shallow to deep, up and around trolling runs with nothing to show for it, we called it quites at about 8:00.  I had some friends that were just arriving on the lake and would fish till 2 or 3:00 in the morning, been there, done that.  Stopping at the Onamia VFW for some walleye fingers and a couple of Nordeast beers, we parted ways.  I am positive this won't be the last time we get to fish together in the next 5 months however I sure hope we can be more successful.  The good thing, Keith understands fishing and being a former Ranger owner, I am sure he enjoyed the boat ride as much as anything.

A standard Haralson, pint of salsa, and a 22 oz Wolf River
So did I say apples!  I am literally drowning in apples as yesterday, with the help of my neighbors Lory and Lynn Brasel, we finished the last of the picking.  This year was a bumper crop on the 10 mature trees I have. A quick survey of the boxes of apples sitting in my pole shed, I'll bet I have over 40 bushels of some of the best apples I have ever grown.  The last to be picked were the Fireside's and Honeygolds as a good frost really improves their sweetness.  On Sunday morning I started the process and picked the apples off my Wolf River tree.  I have discussed them in the past however I picked the biggest apple I have ever seen and just had to post it.  Of course the picture really doesn't do it justice unless you realize how big it really is.  Weighing in at 22 ounces (1 3/8 #) it is 5 inches in diameter and almost 16 inches around, this thing is huge.  Named after its discovery location along the Wolf River in eastern Wisconsin, these apples are noted for their enormous size, cold hardiness, resistance to disease, and it's ability to fill a pie shell with just one apple.  Unfortunately they aren't the best eating apple yet once cooked, are delicious.   This variety (as well as my Fireside apple) has fallen victim to some of the more popular apples today like the Honeycrisp, Zestar, Gala, and other recent cultivators to hit the markets.  With the popularity of some of the older types of heirloom plants, maybe it will become more popular, I just know that it's alot of fun to give them away as my neighbors are really impressed with my growing abilities.  It gives me an opportunity to remind them why they call me Superdave!  This weekend will be apple cider time as a bunch of us plan on getting together to make home made apple cider at it's best.  Our process includes washing the apples, cutting out the bad parts, grinding them into the cider press then tightening the press screw down.  With all the apples and some dedicated help we will probably make at least 20 gallons or so.  If your around, stop in check it out.

Pocket Gopher making a mound
October weather has been quite wet.  With the last 2 mornings at 22 degrees, what was growing has stopped.  It was snowing on Sunday, we really went from Summer to Winter, Fall wasn't even around for more than a week with the next 10 days looking more like the middle of November than the end of October, so much for global warming.  I still have things in the garden to dig out, change oil on the Suzuki outboard, get the snow blower out, blow out the sprinklers,  the list is a mile long.  This time of year really brings out the pocket gophers.  They get their name from the big pockets of flesh that form cheek pouches on either side of their mouth and are used to store food (roots and stems) as they gather it for the winter.  In October the newborns are large enough to be kicked out of their summer homes so they migrate to newer areas and start building their own series of tunnels and wintering areas complete with the new mounds to announce their presence.  When I was a kid there was a $0.50 bounty given by the County for a pair of gopher feet.  Along with that the farmer would often match it because the mounds of dirt made by the gophers were very destructive to their equipment, especially the machinery that cut alfalfa.  Today they are simply a pain in the butt and so far I have only trapped 2 of them.  It's easy to see if they're active as they make quite a few mounds preparing their tunnels and dens for the long winter.  I estimate there is about 4 more that need to go, we'll see if I can get them before the ground freezes.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hooked for a Cure

Dylan and his 16# trout.
One of the things I really enjoy about my work is all the people I have met over the years.  My business Precision Inc, is an electronic transformer manufacturing company in Minneapolis and I have been there since 1976, my very first real full time job out of technical school.  Through the years we have become a substantial supplier in the industry and our membership into the TTA (The Transformer Association) has given me access to the real players in the industry.  Serving as the president of TTA I have a ton of good friends who manufacture the same things that we do.  One of those guys is Vitez Pablo Nayarady, owner of ECI World, a transformer manufacturer in Massachusetts.  Pablo and I have a number of things in common and maybe more that are opposite as I often kid him, I'm his favorite redneck! Pablo is Hungarian and the Vitez in front of his name is given as an honorary knighthood title, similar to the English title of Sir.  Pablo also owns a highly renowned winery in Napa Valley called Trifecta and I can attest to the quality of their wines.  Through his winery Pablo does a tremendous amount of Philanthropic work for a number of charities, many are very well know such as the Tug McGraw Foundation, a cause started by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill (way out of my league).   Well, I was on his site a few weeks ago and something caught my eye, a charity called  Hooked for a Cure.  You know me and fishing, I had to open it.  The site is run by Pablo's nephew Dylan Wawruck, who reminds me of my younger years.  Dylan's grandmother is dealing with her second recurrence of breast cancer and he decided to do something about it.  Using his love for fishing he was just looking for support for each fish he would catch this year with the proceeds going to the Susan G. Koman Foundation.  At 13 years old this is quite ambitious and with my association with our own charity for cancer families, it was impossible to turn down.  His top category was the Whale Sponsorship, $100 for 100 fish caught, I couldn't resist.  It's hard not to be impressed with Dylan and when Pablo sent me this picture of his 16 pound brown trout caught on a fly rod it gave me the perfect subject for this week's post.  A quick check on Dylan's site shows 334 fish caught since starting his quest, that's an impressive number for anyone.  What's more impressive is the initiative he has shown to get up and do something rather than sit and play video games all day. Fantastic job Dylan on catching a great fish but more importantly on your quest.

Myself with Brother's Steve and Blake
Sunday found me in Alma, Wisconsin where I met my brothers Steve and Blake along with my nephew Danny and his girlfriend for what probably is the last motorcycle ride of the year.  All I can say was it was gorgeous as the leaves are finally showing their full color.  The roads in Buffalo and Trempealeau counties are made for motorcycling and we took full advantage.  Blake is a seasoned biker and has over 87,000 miles on his Harley while Steve and I are still working to pass the 10,000 mile mark.   Living in the area is suppose he takes these roads for granted as it was a chore to keep up with him while Steve and I are simply enjoying the beautiful routes.  We did stop at a few places, small and unique establishments basically in the middle of nowhere yet great destinations.  One was Hanson's Hideaway just south of Arcadia, Wisconsin on Highway 95, overlooking an expansive valley.....a fantastic location especially this time of year.  I had Danny take a picture of my brothers and I, a great reminder of our day together.  Brothers are interesting to say the least.  Steve and I are 18 months apart and used to fight like cats and dogs.  By the time we were seniors in high school, we settled down as our interests and values had come together.  In the meantime my other brothers Jon and Blake were younger, especially Blake (by 10 years) and by the time I was out of the house he was turning 10.  Not that I didn't like him but honestly my interests were far from developing a relationship with my younger siblings.  Of course as one grows older you do have more in common besides blood, as dad has passed away and mom is 79, I count on them to help her get through as it's difficult for me to be there all the time.  They really do a great job of helping mom and I am grateful for their concerns and friendship.  As stated this will probably be my last ride of the year as they are predicting snow for next Sunday. Who knows, maybe we will get a true Indian Summer, it just doesn't look like it.

A Haralson Harvest
My apple harvest is in full swing and I have to admit that it's pretty bountiful!  First to be picked were the McIntosh apples which yielded around 4 bushels full of what I would call U.S. Grade Extra Fancy, a way of saying they were large, had great color, and no worms.  McIntosh have a great flavor but get soft fairly quickly.  Next harvested was the Haralson's a tart apple that really crunches when you first bite into them.  With my neighbor Lory and Lyn on Saturday we picked the tree clean which I estimate was over 8 bushels.  There were all sizes however I was very surprised at the number of large apples we had and again few worms.  Apparently all of the work this spring and summer paid off as apples do take some care.  They need a good pruning before the blossoms emerge, after blossom drop they need to be chemically thinned as you would get zero large apples and all small ones.  Thinning also helps to lessen the stress on the trees and gives a more uniform crop each year as apposed to a great yield on year and nothing the next.   The apples need to be sprayed about every 6 weeks to minimize insect and cedar rust damage.  Along with fertilizing the trees it looks like this year the work really paid off. I still have 5 trees that need picking, my Honeygolds, Fireside, and Wolf River apples hoping to get it done this weekend and ready to start pressing cider.  I just wish time wasn't flying by so fast.  On Friday my friend from Alaska, Keith will grace the boat as we do some full moon walleye trolling on Mille Lacs.  The way the weather is looking, this could be the last trip of the year for the old Ranger as well, unless of course we really have a tough time keeping the fish off the lines.  Hopefully I'll have a great report next week as we head towards deer hunting.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Window of Opportunity

First fish of the evening.
Last week we finally got some much needed rain.  Projections had rain through Sunday however by noon Saturday, it was looking pretty good.  Too wet to mow the yard, too wet to garden, I decided to fire up the old Ferguson and finish mowing the field behind the house with the brush hog.  I didn't really care if I made ruts in the field and with the wet grass, there would be minimal dust.  The brush hog is a 3 point hitch mower that is driven off the tractor PTO.  5 foot in width, the heavy blades will mow down anything in it's path including trees up to 2 inches in diameter.  I was able to finish it up while contemplating whether I should try and get up to Mille Lacs for the evening, after all it was turning into a nice night.  After stopping by my neighbor Tom's place, we had a plan to leave at 32:00 and fish till about 8:00.  Nothing too long but if they were biting, we'd know.  I finished the mowing, unhooked the brush hog and put it away for the winter, cleaned the tractor, and at 3 Tom showed up.  The sky didn't look too bad to the west, maybe it would be a nice night.  As we approached the lake and hour later, the sky was telling us a different story!  I hadn't seen Bill in a while so we had to stop and touch base.  It's been slow on the lake and anyone (even me) coming through those doors were welcome.  Picking up a few things, getting the latest reports, we left but not before he gave me my early Christmas present, and ice cream pail full of his hand harvested wild rice from a month ago.  It's insanely delicious.  From there we headed to Cove Landing as our strategy was to troll Anderson Reef, just about a mile out from the landing.  Anderson Reef used to be very good in the fall, often there is competition for the trolling runs by the guys fishing leeches under bobbers.  To my surprise there was not one rig in the parking lot, we would have the lake to ourselves. 

Besides the fact that the trolling bite had been slow, the darkening skies didn't help either.   Bill thought the buoys marking the channel and the reef had been pulled yet to our surprise they were still in, which always helps to have a visual reference point.  As we launched the boat the clouds gave us a little taste of what was to come.  Maneuvering through the marked channel that separates Cove Bay from the main lake, we headed straight for the south tip of Anderson's Reef (no relation) and started on the west side.  I like trolling the south and west side of the reef as it offers a nice trolling run caused by the gradual slope of the drop off from the shallowest point.  On the north and east side of the reef it's pretty abrupt and you can get into trouble fast.  At Bill's we discussed the strategy of using larger baits so I went with a large Rattlin Rouge while Tom tied on a #12 X-rap.  We hadn't gone 100 feet and Tom nailed a nice walleye, actually it took me somewhat by surprise as I did not expect a fish so soon.  We snapped a picture and back it went.  Now at this point it's easy to, it's going to be hot tonight!  With the lures back in the water and another 5 minutes later a fish hit my Rouge.  Unfortunately it must have struck short as it came off after about 10 seconds, oh well, still a good sign.  I like to troll over to an off reef hump, makes for a nice trolling run and 20 minutes after Tom's first fish I landed a 19 15/16" walleye, good enough for the live well.  A half hour later Tom gets our 3 fish in the boat and at 7:20 I even the score with 2nd fish.  By now the rain is in full deluge mode and we were getting pretty wet.  With the wind and rain and our years of experience, there was no need to continue the punishment....we headed back to the landing and to report back to Bill.  It was the best trip I have had on Mille Lacs since the middle of July, 5 hookups, 4 landed, 1 lost, all in about 2 real hours of fishing.  The water temperature was still a balmy 60 degrees as the fish felt warm to the hands as we unhooked them.  Although the night was short

Fishing in the Rain!
This post is later than usual as I just got back from Chicago.  My friends offered to include me on a salmon fishing trip out of Waukegan, Illinois but it didn't work out.  My apples need picking, the trucks in the shop, and it looks like Sunday I will be joining my 2 brothers for a nice fall motorcycle ride back home to see the gorgeous colors the trees are displaying this time of year.  My friend Jeff King was here last week to see his son and we just didn't have time to get together, maybe next time.  On the other hand Keith is returning home and might force me to take him on a trolling run to see if this post is actually true!  Earlier I stated that my friend Bill gave me a pail of wild rice.  He and a friend spend a number of days around the first of September and harvest wild rice in the lakes around his place.  Using a canoe and rice harvesting sticks they paddle through the rice beds, knocking the rice off the plants into the bottom of the boat.  This method of harvest is the same the Native Americans have used for centuries.  Once gathered the rice is spread out to dry for a few days before it's brought to a processor who will further dry and remove the hulls.  After harvesting around 1000 pounds of wild rice the processing yields about half or 500 pounds.  If you are ever driving north on Highway 169 by Mille Lacs stop by and buy a package of his hand harvested wild rice, it's absolutely delicious.  Open water season is swiftly coming to an end, time to start thinking about ice fishing...........uffda.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What The Heck

Chamberlain Narrows just a sunrise.
It's been a strange fishing season to say the least.   Starting in May our annual Leech Lake Fishing Opener was essentially cancelled because the lake was still frozen over.  Taking a few weeks for Lake Mille Lacs to start firing up, I returned to Canada in June for the first time in almost 40 years for 4 days of non-stop fishing.  Back to Mille Lacs, the fishing remained good up to my trip to Lake Oahe for 4 days.  By the time I returned the bite slowed significantly.  Most of August and September was either on the river and cumulated with a 5 day trip to Lac Seul.  Leaving at 6:00 in the morning, I took this memorable picture of the Chamberlain Narrows looking north as the sun was about to rise.  I love the way the fog rises from the water as the air temperatures was about 28 and the water temp was still in the high 50's.  Usually fishing once a week from Minnesota Opener to the middle of October, this year has seen as many trips yet 11 of those days were concentrated in 3 separate trips with the time in between filled with other activities.  All I can say is thank God for those 3 trips!  I am almost embarrassed to say that the last time the Ranger has been in the water was August 7th.   For me that's pretty bad yet looking back I do have a pretty good excuse however my Suzuki is getting pretty lonely.  So, am I feeling guilty........after all this is called "Fishin' With Dave", admittedly yes it's been a year of highs and lows.  Yet with Mille Lacs fishing collapsing on itself and the destinations I have experienced this year being exceptional, I'm not complaining.  The next few weeks don't look any better with a Chicago trip planned and a few family weekend events, I am hoping to try the fall trolling bite on Mille Lacs at least a couple of times before deer hunting.  With the water temps still in the 60's, I got a feeling it will be prefect in a week or so.

Jeff King
The moon must be lined up just right for October as my two great friends that I have made over the years from Alaska have contacted me.  The first is Jeff King, Kenai River Guide extraordinaire and owner of Jeff King's Budget Charters originally from Montana, his son Max lives in Minneapolis so Jeff and his wife MP are planning on visiting him this weekend.  I am really hoping to get together with them on Monday, just before I head out to Chicago.  We did get to see Jeff last year during our Alaskan trip but with both of us being busy, sometimes it's just hard to coordinate times.  Let's hope this weekend will be different.  As a side note, if you look down on the left side of this blog under "My Blog List" you will see Mile 14,  a great reflection of Jeff's salmon on the Kenai in the summer, fishing rooster fish in Mexico in the winter.  One of these days maybe I can meet him in Mazatlan, we'll see.  The other event is the return of Keith Holtan, the guide Jeff had us with in 2002, fishing silvers.  Now with his own place called Beaver Creek Cabins just off the Kenai,  Keith spends his winters north of Brainerd and we are going to try and hook up for a evening of trolling on Mille Lacs.  Whether I can deliver on the big walleyes will be one thing yet I'm thinking it would be worth it to take a day off from work and see if I can reverse rolls and guide the guide!  An interesting note, last week I reported my trip to Lac Seul and Keith had the opportunity to fish there a few years ago.  He asked me to say hi to Ken, the outpost owner, I mentioned it and Ken replied..........oh yes, the guy with the Alaskan Salmon.  Obviously he made the right impression.  One meets a lot of people in their lives and both hold a special place for me.  I look forward to seeing both in the same month and I don't even have to travel 2500 miles to arrange it!

Keith and Jane Holtan
Fall is running a few weeks behind and the good news is it's finally raining.  So far in September I have made at least 27 quarts of Salsa from my home grown tomatoes, peppers, and onions.  Having finally figured out that last years salsa was pretty good (of course to my standards) the 2013 vintage is living up to the expectations.  Potatoes are still in the ground and my apple crop is simply fabulous.  Saturday I harvested the apples off my Macintosh tree with 4 bushels of fabulous tasting apples and 2 bushels being almost perfect, no blems and huge.  The spring fertilization, thinning of the apples after blossom drop, and a pretty good spraying routine, I'm pretty impressed.   With the Wolf River's apples  hanging to the ground, my Honeygolds are breaking branches on the trees, the Haralson's are exquisite, the Firesides getting larger every day, it's a great year for apples.  With my new cider press, we should be awash in fresh apple cider for quite some time.  I like to blend the apples, just like the big boys, and it really turns out good.   With a record crop, my neighbor Lory and I have already made plans for our next batch of apple wine with the hope of doing better at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair wine competition.  I don't know about you but it sure seems like time just flies by these days.