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.