Thursday, May 30, 2013

Catching Up, Slow but Sure

Holding down the fort.

It was Memorial Day weekend and it still seems like the first week in May.  With all the rain we are having, just getting in the garden has been a challenge.  For the most part I am still 3 weeks behind but slowly catching up around the house.  For the last month the plantings have been a little here and a little there with potatoes in first, radishes, onions, carrots and peas.  It was good that I rototilled before the rains as it is still significantly wet 4 inches down.  With half the corn in, dill, kale, beans, squash, tomatoes and pepper plants looking better, all I have left is the cucumbers.  I traded my 10 liter fermentation crock for a 15 liter crock and am looking forward to making crock pickles again, they're pretty awesome.  Saturday was spent helping my good friend Bill Lundeen run his bait shop, Lundeen's Tackle Castle on the southwest corner of Mille Lacs.  His daughter, Amanda graduated from the University of St. Thomas and there was no way he and Kathy were going to miss seeing her receive that diploma.  Unfortunately graduation coincides with some of the busiest time of the year for the Lundeen's but I guess he felt we could handle it.  Along with me was Mike Wolff, Mike Melleen, and Don Zaske, all who have worked for Bill at one time or another.  All of these guys are just wonderful and each has their own specialty.  While Don worked the propane, Mike Wolff and I manned the cash register, credit card machine, and with Mr. Melleen's help we all took turns with the license machine.  And licenses we sold!  I'll bet we did over 120 sold to locals and as far away as Hawaii.  Leeches were the most popular with most people and we almost sold out of 5 - 6 inch sucker minnows as some guys were just hammering the big walleyes on them in the various harbors around the lake.  All in all it was a great day to meet new people, work with the guys who have your same passion, and give the gift of letting Bill and Kathy do something special in their lives.

Little and Big Waverly Lakes
Did I say it's been raining?  With a short window on Sunday I did a little planting if the garden before heading out to fish for the afternoon.  With the boat still having sat on the trailer since last October, we simply had to get out.  My destination was Big Waverly Lake in Waverly, MN.  Having purchased a Minnesota Lake Map book that showed significant walleye stockings the last few years and some encouraging words from a friend of mine, I stopped by Cabela's to get some shiner and fathead minnows before cutting cross country to my destination.  Big Waverly is a misnomer as it's not very big at all.  I guess next to it's twin, Little Waverly, it's the biggest...........makes sense.  I arrived at the boat landing just as 2 guys were loading up their bass boat, we discussed the fishing conditions before putting the boat in the water.  After unhooking everything, plugging what needed to be plugged, I backed into the landing.  It was obvious the water was high as it was at the same level as the dock, oh well....more water to float the boat in.  Not this time as the high water covered the more level part of the ramp and with the front wheels of my truck in 6 inches of water the boat was still on the trailer.  I could get to the dock and possibly jump out of the truck and launch but it just didn't seem like a good idea.  Now if I had another guy I would have backed it in far enough to drive it off and back on again, which I am sure the bass boat guys did.  So much for Plan A.  Little Waverly Lake was across the street and although it was just as high the ramp was steeper and I was able to launch.  The problem is that Little Waverly really didn't have the fish population as it's significantly more shallow with much less clarity.  Well at least I got out and tried everything.  You can't knock a guy for trying!

These weekend is graduation central as we are invited to 3 different parties.  I have decided to skip the ones on Saturday and fish the Minnesota Tournament Trail's event on Lake Mille Lacs with Mark Applen.   2 years ago we had taken 3rd place winning over $1000 for Marks Charity.  Last year we got somewhat greedy and could have been in the money but decided to switch strategies, lessons learned.  This year will be more difficult as the slot size is 18" - 20" and the limit is 2 per person.  You can be assured we will do our best looking for a top 10 win. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Gas Prices This Week
One of the authors I read in high school was Ray Bradbury.  His book, The Illustrated Man was a collection of science fiction short stories written in 1950.  He starts the story with this: "It was a hard rain, a perpetual rain, a sweating and steaming rain; it was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping in the eyes, an undertow at the ankles; it was a rain to drown all rains and the memory of rains." At the time Bradbury was writing about astronauts on the planet Venus and represented the current theory of the climate on the nearest planet to Earth (That theory has since been proven false).  I really think he was writing about the last 6 days here in Dayton, MN.  It has rained none stop through last weekend and has assured that the drought is all but a distant memory.  Besides raining the only thing else going on has been the rapid escalation of our gas prices.  I used to laugh at the gas prices in California, often $0.60 - $0.70 higher a gallon than here in Minnesota.  Well, I guess it's not very funny anymore as Minnesota took the top spot in the lower 48 as the highest gas prices in the nation.  WHAT??? Yep, according to Pete, my neighbor and gas station owner, the perfect storm of refineries shutting down for so called "maintenance" opening the door for astronomical prices.  I snapped this picture at the neighborhood Sinclair station where I buy my motorcycle gas.  For the first time in years Diesel is less than Unleaded Regular.  There are some reports around the Cities of prices exceeding $4.40/gallon.  Rumors are that in a couple of weeks things will get back to normal if we even know what "normal" is these days.  It wasn't less than 6 weeks ago we were under $3.29/gallon.  I guess we can thank our government for another unnecessary exercise in stupidity!  Either way one has to do what one has to do!

Incredible Blooming Apple Trees
So the apple trees finally decided to outdo themselves this year, making up for last years early bloom, a full month later than last years.  And bloom they did.  Apples tend to do well every other year so orchards work hard to even out this cycle.  By chemical thinning of the new apples, they succeed in keeping the apple crop relatively the same each year assuring product for market.  Last year my apples were blooming on April 15 (very early) and a normal frost pretty much destroyed the entire crop.  Because the trees did not have to put energy into producing apples, this years blooms were absolutely incredible filling up each branch on every tree.  With the danger of a late frost pretty much past, I will definitely have a ton of apples this fall, especially if my spraying routine is adhered to.  Spending time trimming my trees each spring, my orchard is looking pretty good these days.  The pruning theory is to open up the middle of the trees allowing the sun to penetrate the center of the tree.  It's the sunlight that gives color to the apples and its interesting that a leaf covering the apple can create it's shadow as the fruit turns red.  I have already fertilized them and the spraying will start as soon as the blossoms fall.  My neighbor Otto has a recipe for coddling moth traps involving water, vinegar, sugar, and a banana peel.  It smells pretty bad but it worth trying out.

So why am I talking about gas prices and apple trees?  The sad truth is the boat hasn't even been in the water yet.  With Leech covered with ice and the weekend filled with yard work, rain, and a trip to Osseo, WI to see my niece's daughter's dance recital, what can I say?  Reports on Mille Lacs have been spotty as the ice went out on both Leech and Mille Lacs on May 16th, the latest for Mille Lacs ever.  I suspect that it will take a few weeks to get the lake going however I did hear that Leech has been putting out fish.  Saturday is my day to help a friend, Bill Lundeen.  His only daughter graduates from college on Saturday and he needs my help to run the bait shop for about 6 hours.  I have done this before yet the Saturday before Memorial Day is probably going to test my resolve.  Either way it will be fun as I am pretty good at doing this and it will be good for Bill and Kathy to celebrate another milestone in their lives.  If you are driving by Lundeen's Tackle Castle on Saturday between 11:00 and 4:00 stop by and say hi.  I'm betting I can increase his sales by 20% so I'll need all the help I can get.  I might bring the boat up and fish the evening bite or simply head over to my friend Mark's place and jump in his boat for an evening of bobber fishing.  Of course there's always Monday!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Iced Out!

May 12, Brindley's Harbor

As good as our intentions were, we could not change the situation at Leech Lake when we arrived at Brindley's Harbor for the 40th Annual Team Walleye fishing opener.  I guess in the back of our minds we figured that the bay we are on might be ice free by Sunday giving us some soft water to float a boat in.  No such luck.  After meeting at my place on Friday morning we headed north to Lundeens to pick up bait.  Normally our order would have been 3 gallons of spot tailed shiners and a gallon of fatheads, about $450 .  We left with only a gallon of fatheads as the shiners were not even available.  Leaving Bill's we headed north along the west side of the lake only to see that Mille Lacs was completely frozen over.  Not good, especially when we had 2 more hours of distance ahead of us. Turning off highway 200 heading to Brindley's we soon discovered that Leech was completely white.   Arriving at the resort only confirmed the situation, the harbor was froze shut, everyone but us had cancelled, and based on historical data it would probably be another 5 days before we would see open water.  Well............there were still important things to do.  One thing our group Team Walleye is proud of, we have never missed an opener.  With 40 years of history in our favor it just didn't seem right to think about redoing our traditional Minnesota Opener.  
Ryan standing on the ice
Other factors came into play such as changing 22 members schedules, something that was impossible.  The resort did not have significant room for the following week, and most important was our need to follow through with our friend Ron Edberg.  His daughter Jessica had planned to come down and spread his ashes into Leech Lake and join us in a celebration of his life exactly where Ron would have wanted to be this weekend.  Unfortunately for some like my friend's Kevin, John, and brothers Steve and Jon had come a long way from Wisconsin to simply see ice.  Making some quick decisions the Wisconsin guys stayed the night then headed out on Saturday.  The rest of us welcomed Jessica and turned our disappointment into a tribute to Ron.  I am sure he would have been proud of the group as we made the best of the situation.   On Saturday night we decided to have our traditional steak dinner and steak we had.  Adam Mayerich has earned his way to be a first class meat cutter at Cub stores and made sure we all had a 1 1/2" thick rib-eye, special cut for Team Walleye.  It was as good as it gets.  Later that night we set up the karaoke machine and let it rip.  Being the only ones at the resort, we  invited Tim and Greg (from Brindley's) over to celebrate the "still ice on the lake" opener.  It was nice as there no one to complain about our party!  Packing up on Sunday morning, we all headed back south knowing that it would probably be Wednesday before it opened up enough to get a boat out.  Tim and Greg worked a deal for us as they appreciated our loyalty as we did their's.   An opener to remember for sure.
My opening fish

So, it wasn't all bad news.  Adam and his friends discovered a crappie lake where one could fish right off the road.  With nothing else to do a few of us headed over to see what it was all about.  The water came right up to the road and if you set your bobber about 2 feet deep, a small jig and minnow did the trick.  I suppose we caught 20 crappies, some were decent sized in the 12 inch range.  Along with the crappies were a few average sunfish and a couple of smaller largemouth bass, like the one I am holding up here.  It just seemed like I needed to get a picture of me holding something I caught on opener regardless of size.  It was pretty cold out on Saturday as a substantial front came through accompanied by 40 mph winds.  Definitely cold enough to prompt one to wear a coat, at least we could fish down wind.   Leaving on Sunday Lory Brasel and I decided to take the scenic route home, east through Remer then south on Highway 6.  I was really surprised that some of the lakes still had substantial ice on them, especially with the wind as strong as it had been the day before.  Arriving at Mille Lacs, nothing seemed to have changed since Friday as it was still locked up.  With the shifting winds one would have thought there would be more open water.  It would take a few more days however I think that Leech was officially declared ice out on Wednesday the 15th and Mille Lacs will be out before today is over.  With rain in the forecast, family events to attend, work around the house to be caught up, it's going to be a stretch to get out fishing this weekend.  I am excited about checking out my new HDS 10 Gen 2 software upgrade as there is a number of improvements they have made to the system.  In addition to that, I still haven't had a chance to try my new Merten tiller control.  If it's nice, maybe I'll sneak out on Saturday for a while.  Of course, with gas hitting $4.20/gallon these days, maybe I'll be doing more river fishing this year!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Heading North

Official 2013 Team Walleye Shirts
After some debate based on facts and a little speculation, we are full steam ahead for the 40th Annual Team Walleye opener on Leech Lake. I finally got the boat back together, tackle box set (noticed I didn't say organized!), the correct rods in the boat, carpet washed an vacuumed, she looks pretty good. I am anxious to try out my new Titan tiller system which promises to make steering the 115 Suzuki much easier especially in the big waves. A few weeks ago a new Scheels 7 foot spinning rod with a Shimano CI4 reel found it's way into my rod locker and it just screams for that familiar tug of an opening day walleye inhaling a shiner minnow as we drift across Pine Point. Unfortunately Mother Nature may have other plans for us. The latest reports shows a lot of white ice left on the lake yet the ice out line continues to trudge north. My friend Jack was at his cabin on Platte Lake, west of Mille Lacs, on Sunday to get his boat ready but was unable to dump it in because the ice was tight to shore. On Tuesday night, Wednesday morning the lake was officially declared ice free. My friend Keith from Alaska texted me that on Wednesday the ice had officially gone off his home lake of North Long Lake, outside of Brainerd about 25 miles north of Jack's lake. We'll just have to keep our fingers crossed! Team Walleye is committed to going regardless of the ice. There have been some discussions about moving it by a week yet with 22 guys going this year, with schedules and having to rent substantial amount of space that is not really available, food purchased, it's not rally much of an option. Plan B includes the possibility of fishing some of the smaller lakes around and with the big wind due on Saturday, that might be enough to allow us to get out on Sunday. Oh well, it's just fodder for future stories about our group. I did pick up our official hats and shirts last night and admittedly, even if we are not fishing, we will sure look good!

Potatoes are Planted!
With the late spring comes late planting. My asparagus is 2 weeks behind as I normally have about 5 pounds to take with us for opener. Last night there were a few spears poking their heads out of the ground, maybe enough for a meal. The old adage is the best time to plant potatoes is on Good Friday. For 2013 that date would have been March 29th. Admittedly a little early for my preference however there is some basis for the folklore and in years where Good Friday occurs in April, it is not a bad reference. Easter is really celebrated the first Sunday after the next Full Moon which occurs after the Spring equinox (March 21st) Next year the first full moon is on April 15th putting Good Friday on my mom's birthday, April 18th. In the past lot's of things were tied to the moon phases and it's affect on life so many things are tied to these celestial occurrences. For me, I simple try to get it done when I can yet May 8th is pretty late to be putting in potatoes yet that's exactly what I did. Planting 5 varieties, Yukon Gold's, Russet's, Red's, Kennabec's, and a purple variety, at least that is done. Most everything else can wait another week or so. One of the things I have been meaning to do is upgrade my raspberry patch. Right now the garden has Heritage planted and although they do ok, the second crop tends to be later and often over half is lost to an early fall frost. Researching different varietals for our area, I decided that getting one summer bearing type, Boyne, and an earlier fall maturing type, Autumn Bliss was in order. My garden store ordered them and while in Chicago they came in. Sunday saw a new raspberry patch just behind my existing garden, we'll see how they do.

One last note, although the late spring is causing a number of issues, the good news is that it's stopped virtually all netting on Lake Mille Lacs. Although I try not to be too political here, this is a good thing as the Minnesota DNR and the Native American tribes from Minnesota and Wisconsin have really screwed up my favorite lake, Mille Lacs. One day you might just open up to a diatribe of personal thoughts yet it's time to fish so keep those minnows dunked and your lines tight!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Ground Hog Day, May 2nd?

May 3rd snow accumulating

OK, I know that Ground Hog Day is on February 2nd and not May 2nd, my dad's birthday was on February 2nd so I know the story well.  As the folklore goes, the ground hog (we call them wood chucks around here) comes out of its burrow each year on February 2nd to see if he can see his shadow.  If the sun is shining, it's shadow will appear causing it to go back into the burrow for winter will be here for another 6 weeks.  If it's cloudy and there is no shadow, spring will come early.  The most famous ground hog of them all is Punxsutawney Phil and for 2013 it was cloudy and spring was to come early, well so much for that prediction.  Having spent the last 3 days in Chicago it was reported that just east of Minneapolis near Ellsworth, Wisconsin the total snowfall for Wednesday's storm was 14 inches.  As we approached the Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport it was easy to see the extent of the storm as my home did escape the brunt of the snow.  It's still dang cold as the average high for today is 65.  Today the temperature is 35 degrees and snowing....again.  So, the garden remains bare, my potatoes should be in by now, the apple trees should be starting to blossom, the lilac should be showing hints of green but it looks like April 1 instead.  Oh well, it's Mother Nature at her finest!  Rest assured warmer weather is going to come, the garden will be just fine, and I expect a record crop of apples, pears, raspberries, and blueberries.  The problem now will simply be finding the time to get things going.

Satellite view of Leech Lake, 4-29-2013

Along with our late spring is the issue of our annual trip to Leech Lake for the Minnesota Walleye Opener.  This year is the 40th annual and Team Walleye is really looking forward to getting back up on the lake.  I only wish the lake was as excited as we are!  Here is the current satellite picture from the University of Wisconsin site that shows Leech Lake as if though it was still January.  With the sun high and rain predicted for the next few days, with a little luck the bays will open.  Next weeks weather doesn't look like it could set any melting records but all we can do is hope.  The signs are being complete, our 40th commemorative shirts will be done on Monday, the food is bought, we will go regardless.  We generally get our bait at my friend Bill Lundeen's bait shop however he has informed me that with all of the ice, shiners are probably not going to be on the menu for Mr. Walleye this opener.  Most shiners that are sold in bait stores come from local bait dealers who actually net them from a number of different lakes that include Leech and Winnibigoshish, which are of course iced in at this time.  Shiners are by far the best choice for opener but so again is open water at a nice 55 degree temperature.  It certainly will test our ability to make the most of it as our Big Fish Tournament should prove interesting.  The Sunday night fish fry could be in jeopardy as well, but not the great time.  Our friend Ron really looked forward to the opener and if nothing else, it will be a celebration of his life. 

Being in Chicago means the boat is still apart.  One thing that bothers me about my Ranger is the control panel mounting to the fiberglass.  It is simply screwed into the fiberglass with 10 #6 screws, it's OK the first or second time you open it up however eventually the threads disappear an you need a #8.  That's fine as well but eventually they will strip out of the soft fiberglass.  I ordered some #8-32 stainless steel T nuts and matching machine screws.  My idea is to drill out the holes, insert the T nuts with a generous portion of epoxy and mount them as inserts into the fiberglass.  It looks like it will work so that's my project for this weekend.  Other than that, the countdown continues!