Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ma Donna

Ma Donna

Last Saturday we said our goodbyes to my friend Kevin's mother, Donna Aiona.  Having graduated high school with my dad, she was a fixture in Eleva, living right across the street from the church.  We grew up just a couple of houses away and with Kevin and I's love for fishing, all of us friends simply called her Ma Donna.  Growing up in a small town meant that you really had to mind your P's and Q's and with Donna, it was no exception!  If you were goofing off or slightly out of line, she'd let you know it right now.  Having a house full of kids which included Brent, Michelle, Eddy, Kevin, Warren, Camille, and Valerie as a visitor you simply became one of them.  It was actually pretty nice as you never had to worry about where you stood with her.  At the funeral Pastor Kermit Solem said it well, with Donna nothing went to waste.  Kevin and I spent most every weekend hunting or fishing and those activities were appreciated in the Aiona household.  Whether it was suckers that we caught out of the river in March, trout in May, Sunnies and Bass in the summer, squirrels in October, nothing went to waste.  She was a pretty good cook as I always look forward to seeing Kevin as she would with out fail have something for us kids.  My fondest memory of all came on Thanksgiving Day as a teenager.  I suppose Kevin and I were going deer hunting in the afternoon so arriving at the house just before dinner, Donna was putting the finishing touches on her Thanksgiving pie.  She asked if I would like a piece of homemade squash pie.  Now as a teenager, squash wasn't necessarily in my list of preferred foods but what the heck.  Well, it looked just like a pumpkin pie anyway.  It was delicious!  You see pumpkin is nothing but a big squash anyway and like Donna, she used what had come out of the garden a month before.  She finally got to use those cooking talents and became a cook out at the high school....the perfect job and I am sure she had the opportunity to straighten out a few of the boys while she was at it.

April 20th???

So winter's grip this year doesn't seem like it would ever end.  Last week I was in Colorado while we were having a blizzard back home.  To be quite honest, last weekend looked more like the middle of January then it does the third week in April.   I snapped this picture in the morning before we had a chance to head to Eleva for the funeral.  Sort of depressing isn't it!  The good news is that we do need the moisture and these record April snows are just what we need to alleviate the drought conditions of last fall.  Never the less it's getting pretty frustrating.  I guess from one extreme to another, last year the apple trees were in full blossom, the ice had been gone off Mille Lacs for a month now to this, a solemn winter scene as the ice on Mille Lacs is still over 30 inches thick with 12 inches of snow on top.  It's suppose to be 70 this weekend and as I write, most of this snow is gone already.  It will be an interesting Minnesota Fishing Opener in 2 weeks.  I did call up to Brindley's Harbor, the resort we stay on at Leech Lake and Greg confirmed that the ice isn't even out of the harbor yet with 36 inches of ice on the bay in front of the resort.  I wanted to check to see if they'd even be open for our annual trip.  Having moved us to the new log cabin which is available year around, it's not a problem.  As for fishing, Team Walleye will just take it as it comes as whatever Mother Nature dishes out to us, it will become another story to remember with my friends on opener.

Lowrance Point 1

Time is running out to get the boat ready.  The cold weather has put on hold pretty much everything from getting it cleaned out to re-spooling line on the reels.  I decided to get a new external GPS receiver for my boat and got that hooked up this week.  Finally figuring out the where to mount it, I'm pretty impressed as it locked into every satellite it could receive as the boat was in my pole shed with a steel roof.  Normally I cannot get a very good reading inside the shed.  This should really enhance my tracking abilities in the boat as the built in GPS only updates once per second while the external receiver updates 10 times a second.  This might seem trivial however I do notice a difference between the performance of my old Garmin GPS and the one built into my HDS10 unit.  Last Saturday I had the chance to join my brothers and sister in taking my mom out for her 79th birthday.  She's looking pretty good for having put up with us all these years.  It did give me a chance to stop at Scheels and buy a new rod for opener.  They have a great guarantee, break it for whatever reason, bring it back and we'll give you a new one.  I guess you can't beat that!  Coupled with a nice Shimano CI4, it's very light and sensitive, perfect for opener...........if we can get out.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Winter's Stubborn Grip

2013 Minnesota Fishing Opener
Well, while I'm in Denver struggling against a late season blizzard, the forecast for back home on Thursday is but another winter storm warning, 3rd for the month of April.  If you check my posts from this time last year the apple blossoms were in full bloom, the ice had gone off Mille Lacs 2 weeks ago, and we had several 80 degree days to brag about.  This April it's a 180 degree difference.  We still had 4 inches of snow on the ground when I left home, have yet to experience a 60 degree day, and the ice hasn't even pulled from the shore yet. Reports that the ice is still 30 inches on Leech has Team Walleyer's ratcheting up the concerns.  I continue to remind everyone that in 2008 we arrived at Leech with almost half the lake ice covered and would not experience it's official ice out until 3 days later on Monday.  Never the less, with ice sloshing against the boat, we had the best success in the 35 years of fishing Leech Lake on opener, with almost 400 fish over 12 inches caught.  Even more impressive was that almost half were over 20 inches.   Well, this picture has been the rage of the walleye forums these days and seems appropriate for the prediction of the 2013 Minnesota Walleye Fishing opener.  Either way I am ready for it!  Admittedly I have a lot of work to do as I have the boat tore apart installing my updated equipment, cleaning and reorganizing, putting new line on my reels and a number of other stuff that requires more time than is available.  Oh well, a labor of love.

Keith's Exciting Day on The Rainy River
So, someone is still fishing, or at least attempting.  Last year at this time the Rainy River had been open for almost a month and fishing was in full swing.  This year the river stayed stubborn with only a few landings open for boats and 20 inches of snow on the ground.  Youtube videos showed boats parked along the road up to 2 miles away from the landing.  Reports of 2 - 4 hours of time to either land your boat or get it back loaded an the trailer including a long walk was not my idea of fishing nirvana.  Never the less I have 2 friends that we dedicated enough to try their luck, Keith Holtan and Ryan Sterle.  Keith headed back to Alaska on Monday and really wanted to drive up from Brainerd to Baudette and fish the Rainy.  I told him he should take his shrink with him.  Never the less he had to go, sort of like the spawning urge of those salmon he fishes for on the Kenai.  I really do understand but this year wasn't normal as he was delayed by the weather, drove up, got the boat in and started fishing.....I guess the picture says it all.  Anyway, I am glad that he got to go before he left Minnesota as I look forward to his return in 6 months and hopefully we can still get out to Mille Lacs for a little lead lining for walleyes. Reports from Ryan were a little better.  On Monday he texted a picture of his boat partner holding a nice walleye and a report of hot action with 8 walleyes over 20 inches.  Ryan lives north of Hibbing, MN and being single and self employed,  can take off at a minutes notice.  He is one of the guys on Team Walleye and given the weather warms up, I will see him in 4 weeks.

Ellie's funeral turned out well as I got to see many of her friends and relatives over the years.  I finished 8 more pints of pickled pink salmon as I seemed to end up with a quite a few.  My friend and distant neighbor Rick Shermer raises laying hens and as long as I have fresh fish he keeps me in fresh eggs.  Having more than he can deal with, I made him some pickled eggs.  I probably won't see him till next Sunday and will be interested in seeing how well he likes them.     Heading back home on Saturday to celebrate my mom's 79th birthday and this crazy weather, it's getting tight!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Miss Ellie

Miss Ellie

Most of the week has been spent with my friends the Taylor's as their mom, Eleanor or as we always called her, Miss Ellie had a severe stroke last Friday evening.  Having had minor strokes in the past, this one was something she could not recover from as she passed away early Thursday morning.  Both Ellie and her late husband Earl Taylor have been an important part of my life here in Minnesota.  The story has been told many times, my friendship first with Mark Taylor that started 36 years ago when we worked next to each other in Brooklyn Center after I had moved to Minnesota for a job.  Our relationship grew to include his entire family, Jack, Linda, Earl, and Ellie.  When you find something good in life it's always wise to grab onto it and that I did.  Over the years they became my family away from home.  Whether it was fishing, hunting, special events like reunions, weddings, birthday's, or just an excuse to get together, my wife and I were always included.  Eleanor Taylor was a die hard Swede and the minute you entered their house it became quite apparent.  She had some of the coolest things including the top of her mother's wedding cake that had preserved itself for eternity.  That thing must have been over 90 years old.  Now, I am never sure where the term Miss Ellie cam from but my guess it was from that old television show, Dallas.  The matriarch of the Ewing's was Miss Ellie, and I suppose if it came from there it was definitely fitting. Those bright blue eyes and huge smile always directed her love towards 
anyone who would receive it.  Being a Swede, she also never held much back and would often let you know what she really thought and sometimes it came as a surprise!  With bobby pins in her fine white hair she was an elegant lady for sure.  After Earl retired they found their paradise in Lindstrom, Minnesota where they bought a home on South Center Lake, a perfect spot to spend the rest of their lives together.  Along with the house on the lake, Lindstrom is probably the most Swedish based town in Minnesota, and actually has a sister city in Sweden called Tingsryd( something Miss Ellie really took advantage of.  Both Ellie and Earl became fixtures in their community and am sure their legacy will live on forever.  Earl left us on November 1st, 2009.  It is kind of interesting as Earl served in WWII and wanted to have full military honors at his funeral.  Being cremated, Earl was interned at Fort Snelling National Cemetery until his love of his life could join him.  Now Ellie, she had other ideas and opted for a traditional burial in Lindstrom.  Earl was willing to wait and when the day came, he would join her at their final resting place, I always thought Earl was a romantic at heart.  So Monday we'll say our final goodbyes to Ellie as she joins Earl in their eternal life together.  Time marches on, a generation disappears and a new one takes it's place.  Thank you for being there for me, my life has been truly blessed by you and your family. Love you Miss Ellie.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

One More Time

A nice mess of fish

Although we have lost most of our snow during the last week, it still been pretty cold at night, enough to keep the lakes safe.  Saturday was exceptional, actually our first official 50 degree day of 2013.  With the snow melting like crazy I decided to get my tractor out and open up a channel through the snow drift at my neighbors rear drainage area.  This allowed the water to drain off faster as I remember when he first moved in, the builder had not done his homework and in the spring he had a waterfall coming through his basement window.  With the weather nice, I decided to take a drive around the block where I ran into Petey.  A quick hello turned into...........well, ya wanna go out fishing this afternoon?  We agreed on a time, 2:00 which gave me about an hour to get things ready.  After deciding not to drive on the ice for fear the landing would not be in good shape, I loaded the Razor on the trailer, picked him up, stopped for bait and were soon at Pelican Lake.  It was pretty slushy yet the ice remained solid.  The fact that there were a few trucks driving on the ice did not
12 inch crappie
deter us from staying with our plan of using the ATV, I'm glad we did.  It was awfully wet as the ice was covered in large pools of water and slush.  Having marked our previous successful outing of last week on the GPS there was no need to reinvent a new hot spot.  Unfortunately as we approached the waypoint there were 2 guys sitting on the exact same spot.  They had drilled around 30 holes around the area and invited us to enjoy the holes however soon it became obvious why they had abandoned them.  Deciding to work to the south of their spot we drilled a number of holes until we started hitting fish.  I'm not sure they were too happy with us however we were pretty determined to get back into last weeks action, and that's just what we did.  Both Petey and I ended up with 45 sunfish and crappies including this nice 12 incher, my personal best from Pelican.  The sunfish were somewhat iffy and we tried to keep the largest ones ranging from 7.5 to 8 inches, not huge but cleanable.  Our plan was to be off the ice by 7:00 however that got extended to 7:30 because the bite was so good.  I suspect we caught at least 120 fish between the 2 of us.  It was pretty interesting being out on the ice as the water was draining through the various holes in the ice.  Like small whirlpools, it reminded me of a big bathtub with the drain plug pulled.  I even drilled a couple of holes where the water was deeper to see if I could get some of it off the ice.  As the water drains through the holes it helps improve the oxygen content of the area, something after a long winter of snow covered ice is probably appreciated by the fish.

Holy smokes Dave, Nice Crappie!

After my last weeks post, Petey decided to call me on my assessment of his fishing skills.  Reminding him that he did start out with a sinker on his line, this trip may have been more about of proving himself than anything else.  Well I have to say that if it was, he passed the test.  We basically tied for the total number of sunfish kept, Dave 17, Petey 16 and although he was 6 short on the crappie side, 3 to 9, overall he ended up with a respectable 42% of the catch, enough for me to leave him alone for a while!  I did catch this expression on his face and because I have control of the blog, he doesn't have much to say regarding why the surprised expression.  Therefore it was the reaction to the above crappie I caught.  Maybe that will get him to comment!!  Either way it's been a real pleasure going with Pete this year as we made it out 5 times together, more than with anyone else.  It's amazing since he lives down the street and we have been neighbors for over 18 years yet never fished together.  Maybe he finally figured out I was serious about this fishing thing.  I am looking forward to showing him the Mississippi River smallies and hopefully make it up to Mille Lacs a few times.  He's actually a pretty good fisherman so I suppose I should stop while I'm ahead. 

It's 5 weeks to opener, things are moving along with Team Walleye.  I am starting to get the boat ready by installing a new Titan tiller system which locks my engine in one place when I take pressure off the handle.  This should really help reduce fatigue on those long runs or when it is advantageous to trim the motor in to keep the bow down.  I'll report on that as soon as I can.  The firmware on both of my depth finders have been upgraded, the waypoints loaded in from my previous units are done.  There is still a lot of things to do in the next few weeks and hopefully the weather will warm up enough to make working in the shed bearable.