Friday, December 26, 2014

Back to JR's

Steve's 36 inch northern
November's weather was good enough to give us a significant layer of ice on the lakes which started the ice fishing season with a bang.  Lately however we've experienced a December thaw and all of the snow has disappeared on both the ground and the lakes making for easy travel no matter where you go. Taking advantage of the great weather we decided to head back north to Red Lake last Thursday night and stay through the Sunday.  Joining my friend Mark Applen and I was my brother Steve and friend Kevin.  Because of meetings I was stuck at work till 3:00 while Mark left at 8:30 that morning with Kevin which was good as they could scout the area and have our location ready to go.  In the meantime Steve showed up on time as I snuck out earlier and was ready at the pole shed when he arrived. Leaving at 3:30 and needing to stop at Bill's we figured an arrival time around 8:00 or so and by the time we got the house hooked up and pulled out on the ice we should be fishing before 9:30. Needing Mark to blink his lights a few times we finally located him and parked about 200 feet away.  As luck would have it there was areas on the ice which had a small amount of snow on it, just enough to provide a nice insulating bank around the ice house and in the wheel wells to keep us warm. With some teamwork we were finally fishing right on time and it wasn't long before we had our first walleye.  After a cocktail with the guys we set up the rattle reels and hit the sack after a long day of working, driving, and setting up.  Friday came and I have to admit, the fishing was pretty slow.  Not that there wasn't any fish around rather they were quite tight lipped and would come and look for a few seconds then as fast as they came, they were gone.  Occasionally a fish would simply slam the bait in a complete opposite mood of the day, often it would come as a surprise as you weren't ready for it.  Steve did have a very large fish on his line on Friday but it threw the hook before we could see it, of course after a 10 minute battle.

A nice 16 7/8 inch keeper
By Friday late afternoon Russ Praught showed up with his nephew Zack and Mike Schneps arrived with his friend Tim, we had our small shanty town set up.  After a couple hours we had enough fish to take in to JR's and have him cook them up for supper that night.  It's a pretty good deal, simply clean your fish, cut them up into smaller pieces, hand them to the cook and he brings back your walleyes nicely deep fried with a pile of french fries to boot, all for $5.00 a head.  Russ brings his special tartar sauce and with a nice glass of Maker's Mark on ice, it just doesn't get any better.  Because fishing wasn't that good we headed back to our shacks for a friendly game of Farkle, something that seems to be a tradition with Mark, Russ, and Mike.  It's played with 6 dice and doesn't take too long to figure out how the scoring goes.  Seems like I need to equip the house with a game.  Retiring for the night we caught a few on the rattle reels but again the fish were not jumping out of the holes like 3 weeks ago. Saturday morning brought a new day and some more fish.  Our goal was again to have enough walleyes for supper that night and like the previous day, we managed to get enough to provide a meal. Most of the fish were about 16 to 18 inches and the new limit on walleyes that took effect on December 1 made a difference.  The previous slot limit was 20 - 26 inches, 4 fish with only one over 26 however the new slot is 17 - 26 inches and 3 fish with only one over 26.  We did get a number of fish in the 17 - 20 inch range that a month ago would have been in the pail so it did make getting a keeper sized fish a little bit more difficult.  Certainly the action was good enough to eat a meal each day and ultimately bring home some walleyes for later.  Just before we went in for supper on Saturday night Steve hooked into another big fish as it quickly tangled all of the rattle reel lines that were down.  This time we were successful in landing the fish which turned out to be a very fat 36 inch northern pike.  That nice fish deserved top billing on this post and is the first picture above.  Like 3 weeks ago when Keith landed his 40 inch northern, it takes a while for the fish to come back into the area if a northern is around so we are glad to catch these fish then let them go thinking that they have had enough of us! After making sure we had enough fish for supper we headed to JR's for our nightly fish fry.  This night Mark pulled out his special tartar sauce and wow, it was in Russ's class.  It certainly makes for an enjoyable day of fishing when you can eat fresh walleyes almost as soon as they are caught.

TX at JR's on Red Lake
The plan was to leave by Sunday morning at 9:00 however the fish seemed to be biting better so we extended it till 10:00.  I guess we really didn't do any better and Steve had another 3 hours of driving once we hit home so we started packing up.  We got everything put away, hooked up to the trucks and headed for JR's.  I pulled up first as Mark was right behind me.  While handing Steve the fish to clean for the way home, I noticed Mark was talking to JR as I haven't even seen him since last year. Mark had given him a bottle of 18 year old Wiser's Whiskey, his favorite brand.  They were discussing how mad JR was as his so called friends were drinking his gift without impunity, actually mixing it with coke for crying out loud.  I had picked up a 1.75L of straight Wiser's for JR and it seemed as good a time as any to give it to him.  To us it's never a big deal but I know that it's important to make sure you are a good customer and to let your host know that you appreciate everything they do for us.  Appreciative of our jester, JR gave Mark and I a special parking spot for our wheel houses which later we learned the back lot was completely filled, a true gift.  It really pays to be nice to nice people and JR is the greatest.  Speaking of great friends, Matt Davis from Texas introduced me to TX Whiskey while we were on our Louisiana fishing trip with Matt, my wonderful friend Joe Stanfield, brother Steve, Mike Schubert, Jim Cox, the Professor, and our hosts.  It's a great sipping whiskey and Matt makes sure I always have some around as it's only sold in Texas and Louisiana.  I brought a bottle up and we had a few rounds with Adam, JR's son who helps run the place.  I like to send pictures to Matt and Joe showing them where TX has been and to let them know I still appreciate their thinking of me!  TX has been to Lac Seul, Leech Lake fishing opener, deer hunting camp, and now Red Lake.   Maybe I should send this picture to the distillery, maybe they'll send me a bottle.

Well, it's Christmas time again and like my dad used to say, the older you get the faster it goes.  I'll definitely be heading to Eleva to see my family on Christmas Eve then head to my wife Lyn's family as they are going through some issues as we all get older.  We have a standing invitation to spend Christmas with the Taylor's, our Minnesota family and with a little luck well make it back in time. The plan is to get back up to Red Lake after Christmas and before New Year, might as well while we have the time off.  A very Merry Christmas to all of you, especially my loyal readers including Jeff King (who's in Mexico dammit), Dewey Ness, Keith Holtan, all my fishing friends especially Kevin Aiona, Mark Applen, and Bill Lundeen.  There are too many of you and I'm sure you know who you are, have a great Holiday Season as I look forward to seeing all of you soon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Spring has December

On Lake Pulaski
After a hectic week in San Diego and spending some time with my Taiwanese friend Jeffery it was time to get back to work.  It looks like I had the flu for the last ten days as I really didn't feel very well until the weekend.  As stated last week the weather was predicted to be in the high 40's and low 50's and the weatherman was right this time!  It was sort of like a temperature inversion had settled over the area and by Monday all the snow was pretty much gone everywhere.  With a few hours available I called my friend Pete Mliner as we had talked earlier in the day about heading out to a local lake near Buffalo.  I used to do well at the lake but the last few years it's been a struggle and with Pelican Lake being my local go to lake, my other previous haunts were forgotten.  Now that Pelican has froze out last year and the DNR is lowering the levels (that's another topic!) it's time to re-explore these older lakes as well as new ones. After stopping by Cabela's in the morning my afternoon cleared and I picked up Pete around 2:00.  It was interesting because we were going to Lake Pulaski and he had a friend on the lake where we could park our truck and walk out.  Arriving at the house we were greeted by Mark Haskins, and old Team Walleye member.  I guess I was the only one surprised as everyone assumed I knew, funny.  So after catching up on things and unloading we headed out on the lake and drilled some holes with Pete's new drill adaptor/auger.  It actually worked pretty good as the ice was a solid 12 inches, it took a little to get used to but we drilled quite a few holes.  As you can see there was a lot of water on the ice and my first hole became a drain for the rest of the day.  Moving from hole to hole we managed to get 7 crappies, the biggest about 10 inches. Nothing to brag about it was still nice to get out and renew at least one of my old fishing holes. Once the sun went down the bite stopped so we headed back home.

Andy with a nice walleye
The balance of the week has been getting prepared for our next visit to Red Lake for the weekend. This trip is going to include my brother Steve, Nephew Kevin, and good friend Kevin Aiona as we plan on heading up on Thursday afternoon for 3 nights of what hoping to be a great weekend of ice fishing.  As stated a few weeks ago I have left my Salem Ice Cabin at JR's Resort on Red Lake so it's pretty easy to drive on up, hook onto the truck and take it out.  My friend Mark is heading up 6 hours earlier and with a little luck he'll have the spot ready for us, maybe even have some fish to eat for supper!  Last week my friend Andy Achman was at Red with his newly acquired Ice Castle and they did pretty well.  He sent me a report where him and his brother Pete, both Team Walleye veterans, had caught over 40 walleyes after a few nights out of JR's.  He stated they had to move once but caught all the fish they needed to eat and bring home.  Parking his rig next to mine, I tried to convince him to join us this week but he's too busy.  Here's hoping the walleye's are still hitting as the weather forecasts are quite stable for the next 5 days, which is perfect for the walleye bite.  With the near zero temperatures the last few days warming up to the high 20's for Thursday thru Sunday, it should be perfect.   There is absolutely no snow on the ice and it might be a good time to practice putting on my tire chains just in case we get stuck.

Christmas is just around the corner and as always, it's moving too fast.  Although all the snow is gone it looks like Sunday through Tuesday may just give us enough snow to have a White Christmas. With the 25th falling on a Thursday this year it really breaks up the week, and not necessarily in a good way.  With a little luck I'll do well this week and be back up the next.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fishing the Kelp Beds

Red Rockfish matching my shirt!
Last week was a tough one as the flu or something as diabolical hit me on Tuesday, just in time for my flight on Wednesday to attend our annual fall TTA meeting in San Diego, California.  Limping through the conference, I wasn't in very good form yet was able to pull myself together for our planned fishing trip on Friday afternoon.  The last speaker on Friday was done by 11:00, it was time to head to the harbor where we hooked up with Sauerfish Charters located in one of the harbors just minutes from downtown San Diego.   On the trip were a number of important colleagues including Bill Dull, Randy Eller, Chris and Jeffrey Chen, CK, Lyle Shaw and myself.  Although the December/January time of year is not the best time to catch fish off the entrance to San Diego harbor, there is no better time to fish than the time you get to go!  Our host was Eric Sauerwein, captain of the 42 foot twin diesel "Classic Fishing Battle Wagon" was extremely gracious and worked very hard for our fish.  Eric had a very interesting setup on his electronics which included a Furano 12 inch depth sounder and a Nobeltec computer based navigation software that was separate but tied into his systems.  With a computer screen in the helm, it would show our position as well as the bottom contours, not as lines but rather in 3D as we could easily see the shelves, drop offs, canyons, humps in real 3D, it was pretty awesome and something that would be nice for around Minnesota for sure. As we pulled out of the San Diego harbor we were greeted by the USS John C, Stennis (CVN 74) aircraft carrier coming into the San Diego naval base.  These ships are huge and this one was no exception.  Coming within 100 yards as we passed by it was interesting to see the escort gun boats, complete with a person on the 50mm machine gun staying between us and the carrier.  Many waves to the sailors we continued to the 70 foot level and started fishing.  Our rigs were pretty simple, a stout rod with a open spooled trolling reel with about 20 pound test and a 3 ounce sinker tied to the end.  Looped at both the 1 and 3 foot location above the sinker was a horizontal line with about a #2 octopus hook.  The hooks were baited with cut squid and dropped to the bottom, much like fishing halibut or rockfish in Alaska.  Right away I had a tap tap and pulled up a calico bass, a type of rockfish.  It was pretty small and I released it but coming from 70 feet of water, it ended up as seagull food.

Bill's bonus fish, a nice yellowtail
The swells were actually pretty good sized, I suppose 6 to 8 feet and it made standing on the bow, fishing off the rail somewhat challenging as we were about 8 feet above the water.  It took an hour or so to get my sea legs and by 3:00 it was pretty comfortable.   I did manage to get about 5 fish including a keeper bronze rockfish and the red rockfish in the above picture.  Although not very big I have been assured they are very good to eat so we keep most of what we caught.  The highlight of the trip was when Bill Dull hooked onto something considerably more substantial than the smaller rockfish we were catching.  The captain speculated that it might be a nice halibut, considering where we were fishing but having caught halibut before, they don't run like this fish did.  Trying to follow the fish around the boat, Bill headed towards the bow as the captain followed him with the gaff.  All of a sudden the first mate notices a large shape in the water, a damn California Sea lion.  These things are notorious for stealing fish and whatever Bill had on would probably make a nice meal for the seal.  As Bill rounded the bow the fish made it's presence known, a Yellowtail. CK and Jeffrey were very excited as the yellowtail makes some of the best sushi in the world and is known as Hamachi and they are huge fans of raw fish.  The critical factor was to get to the fish before the sea lion did and as you see in the picture, we were successful.  The yellowtail is a member of the amberjack family and is a very strong swimmer as you can see by the shape of the fish, almost like a longer tuna.  Everyone was pretty impressed with the catch including the captain as a fish like this is a real bonus this close into the harbor. Actually you can see the video of Bill catching the fish and the excitement HERE, it's pretty cool. My excitement came when I was reeling up the red rockfish pictured in the top photo.  Just as it came to the surface a huge sea lion lunged for the fish, normally I'm not very fast but a quick snap and I was able to deprive the swift mammal it's dinner! It's pretty impressive to watch them swim around the boat, searching for an easy meal but there wasn't anything this time around.

Jeffrey, CK, Lyle, Bill, Dave, Chris, and Randy
After catching a mess of fish that included the yellowtail, 5 red rockfish, 2 bronze rockfish, 1 white sea bass, 1 calico bass, and 4 mackerel we headed back to port. The first mate simply gutted the fish as Bill was going to finish packing them when we got back to Temecula, CA.  I'm sure there was plenty of fresh sushi to be eaten sometime later in the weekend.  It was interesting to watch the seagulls and pelicans follow the boat as they would fly parallel to the side of the boat and look over at the fish as it was being gutted. Once the entrails were thrown over it was a battle royal to see who would get the meager scraps.  It was a lot of fun to watch for sure.  Even though the fishing wasn't spectacular, it was fun to get out for the short amount of time we had.  I can definitely put San Diego as one of my "been there, done that" spots as I continue to explore new and different places to fish.  We left California on Saturday coming back to the colder weather, quite a change.  In turn Jeffrey flew to Minneapolis on Sunday so I picked him up and we went to the ice fishing show in St. Paul.  He found it interesting as they have no ice fishing in Taiwan.  He left on Tuesday as it was nice to show him a little bit of Minnesota while he was here. This weekend is supposed to be warmer than normal, actually they are predicting as high as 50 degrees, now that is a change!  The ice will be heaving like crazy as everything heats up and expands. I will probably fish around home this weekend looking for some crappies and sunnies using the new rod I bought at the show.  Next week will find my brother Steve, his son Kevin, and I back up to Red Lake, here's hoping the lake gets settled down by the time we get there.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Red Hot Red

Parked on Red Lake
What a week of indecisiveness! Saturday I got a text from Russ Praught, he was in the tree stand and the talk around camp was the possibility of heading up to Red Lake with the wheel houses, bring the portables and either ATV out or walk out to the first break.  That first ice can be awesome and word was the Upper Red Lake was on fire with his friend catching 2 limits of 4 walleyes in a couple of hours.  Actually Mark Applen and I had discussed going up on the Friday after Thanksgiving and a quick call confirmed, he had a conflict on Saturday and had to be it town to attend.  On to Plan B, contact my good friend Keith Holtan to see if he had any interest.  Originally we were going to take Mark's wheel house up and leave it.  Plan B was to take my house up, park it on shore, and fish out of JR's.  Keith confirmed that he could go but would like to be back on Saturday which fit with my plans.  In the meantime Mark could not take the fishing reports and decided he would head up by himself early Friday morning and return in time for his Saturday night commitment.  On Thanksgiving the word came JR's were letting 1/2 ton pickups on the ice. So Mark headed out at 3:30 on Friday morning while I waited till 9:00, getting caught up on my extended trip back home on Thanksgiving.  Keith confirmed and I would pick him up around noon, we'd be at JR's by 3:00.  With the Salem hooked up I headed north first stopping at Bill's to get bait and propane before continuing on to Brainerd to pick up Keith.  In the meantime Mark called to confirm JR's were letting trucks and wheel houses out and he was on the lake making his way towards the rock pile.  That's a game changer as we would no longer need any portables.  As I pulled into Garrison a text from Mark confirmed, s
tarted at 11:00 and by 11:16 he had 2 fish in the bucket.  At 11:25 he repeated his text, 4 in the bucket, I'm done!  Uffda, his limit in 20 minutes and I'm still 4 hours away.  Arriving at 3:00 we said hi to the crew at JR's, paid Adam, and slowly drove on the ice heading west towards Mark. A mile or so down the lake we spotted his house and pulled up about 100 feet away.  Coming over to help we had everything set up by 4:00 with lines in the water.  I took all of one minute to have a fish in the bucket and with Mark anxious to get back to JR's for supper we went to work.  By 4:30 Keith and I had our 8 walleyes not counting the 6 or so we let go, time to go back in.  Geez, we had only been there 30 minutes and had to go.  Of course the strategy was simple, get back to JR's and clean/cook our fish before the crowd gets crazy.

40 inch Northern at Midnight
After stuffing our faces with fresh fried walleye and Russ's World Famous Tartar Sauce, it was time to head back to the Salem to settle in for night.  Keith and I decided to watch an Alaskan based movie called The Big White starring Robin Williams, Holly Hunter, and Woody Harrelson.  When my cousin Greg, Paul, brother Steve and I were in Alaska the discussion started about the best movies ever.  My choice was "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", cousin Greg's was "What about Bob", Steve's was "Second Hand Lion's" and Paul's was "The Big White".  These are all great movies and definitely worth putting on your list as I have all 4 in the wheel house.  In the meantime we continued to catch walleyes although not as fast and furious as a few hours later but it was OK as we were getting tired. Setting the rattle reels for the night it was time to get some sleep.   About 11:30 all hell broke loose on 3 of the 4 reels.  Keith had set the hook on a big fish and it decided to wrap around the remaining reels before it was subdued.  Pulling it out of the hole the fish kept coming and coming, all 40 inches of it.  A quick picture of Keith holding the fish after jumping out of bed and he let it go.  That's pretty exciting for sure.  Luckily the rest of the rattle reels were silent for the remainder of the night as we woke up at 7:30, ready for the morning bite.  Keith doesn't drink coffee and Mark showed up just in time to fill up my mug which was appreciated.  He had 3 fish and was looking for a 4th as he planned on leaving withing an hour or so.  The bite started picking up around 8:00 and we were able to help Mark with his needs and fill up our bucket with 8 really nice 17 - 19.5 inch walleyes by noon.  We continued fishing till 3:00 before packing up and parking the Salem behind JR's till next time.  After cleaning the fish we headed south for the long journey back to Brainerd, then home.  Although we only stayed about 23 hours with another 10 hours of driving and 2 hours of setting up and tearing down, it was quite a trip.  The walleye action was incredible and it was amazing to think we are at least a month ahead of where we were last year.

Successful Morning's fishing on Red Lake
Fishing on Red Lake has been nothing short of phenomenal, much so that the limits have changed for December 1st to February 22, 2015.  Because our trip was still in November we were allowed 4 walleyes under 20 inches and although 1 of those fish could be over 26 inches we would never keep one that big.  On Monday the possession limit drops to 3 and the length drops to under 17 inches. There has been a lot of fish taken out of the lake in the last couple of years and though the walleye population seems healthy I don't think it's going to bother anyone too much if they cut the harvest back somewhat.  With the Lake Mille Lacs restrictions of 2 fish between 18 and 20 inches, the change in Leech Lake and Winnibigoshish perch populations, and the huge increase in fisherman using wheel houses (Count me in!) Red Lake is almost the perfect storm.  A good population of fish, little structure so almost any spot can be a good spot, the ability to hold a lot of houses more than offsets the 4 1/2 hours of drive time.  I suspect that eventually things will change, the fishing will die down on Red,  Lake of the Woods - Leech - Winnie - Mille Lacs will become more popular and the hope is they become more wheel house friendly.  Right now it seems as though 50% of the wheel houses are at Red right now and will be for another couple of months.  I know that as the years progress it is much more enjoyable fishing out of my portable RV with holes in the floor than it is dragging the ATV and my Clam X2 Thermal, unloading it and finding a spot to fish.  It also nice to hit these further away lakes and have the ability to spend a couple of days enjoying the outdoors rather than simply loading and unloading your stuff and leaving right away.  I'll always have the portables as it's really not a bad way to fish, in fact I'm looking to upgrade my one man Clam to a fully thermal model as my go to panfish shelter.   I am finishing this post on a Delta Airlines A320 bound for San Diego for our annual fall TTA (The Transformer Association) meeting.  The 70 degree weather will be a nice change to the below normal temperatures we have been having in Minnesota.  No trip would be complete without something to do with fishing and Friday will be no different as my friend Bill Dull has arranged a half day charter off the coast of San Diego to fish the kelp beds.  This is something I have yet to do so I'm pretty excited.  Going with will be my Golden Brother CK from Taiwan as well as Chris and Jeffrey Chen, Randy Eller, and Lyle Shaw.  Here's hoping we'll have some nice pictures for next week.  Getting back on Saturday, Jeffrey is flying in on Sunday to visit our factory.  We are planning to go to the St. Paul Ice Fishing Show, it should be an interesting experience as Jeffrey i from Taiwan and I can assure you there is no ice fishing there!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

First Hole Fished

First Ice
Determined to get out on Saturday I lined up my neighbor Tom as we decided to try a lake north of Cambridge Minnesota called Lake Nunya.  With the below zero temperatures earlier in the week the ice had to be at least 4 inches, easily enough to walk out and drill some holes.  Saturday was very nice temperature wise, in the mid 30's so there wasn't a need to drag any houses out and simply fish out in the open.  Stopping at St. Francis we loaded up with crappie minnows and waxies as the latest 2013 test nets showed Lake Nunya being full of 10 - 12 inch crappies.  Arriving at the lake and using my cell phone Navionics map app showing the deepest part of the lake was about 1/2 mile walk across the ice so we took off.  There were a couple of guys on the ice which was a good sign, hopefully they were catching fish.  I had brought along my ice spud to test the thickness as we walked but it soon became apparent that the ice was quite solid, measuring around 5 - 6 inches. Arriving in the area we wanted to fish I noticed a guy had drilled a bunch of holes about 25 feet apart for a long ways across the basin.  Deciding it would be a lot easier to fish the ready drilled holes I walked up and first asked how's he doing then asked if he'd mind if I would fish his holes and his response, go ahead and have at it.  There must have been over 30 holes over a 1000 feet, I started fishing each one (hench forth my title for this week).  The lake is about 8 feet deep and because it's part of a small creek flowing into a larger river, there is plenty of oxygen to prevent any winter kills like we had last year.  Fishing from 2:00 to 5:00 I marked only a couple of fish that didn't stay on the screen long enough to even give the impression there was a chance to coax it to bite.  Having completely struck out, we headed back the half mile across the lake to the truck.  A quick stop at the Gander Mountain in Blaine forced me to buy a  Custom Jigs and Spins Pro Slender Spoon in the gold/sunrise claw pattern which looks like it would be a great color for Red Lake or Lake of the Woods.  I guess one can never have enough baits in your tackle box!  After putting my stuff away for the night ended up fixing the fuel leak in my tractor.  Being nice out I decided to take a spin around the neighborhood and ended up at Mike Claffey's place where I met 2 other friends Wade and Shaun Lind.  Telling of my fishing adventure of earlier in the day they were flabbergasted.  "You went to Lake Nunya, that's our lake?" to which my answer was nope...and what's Lake Nunya.  Wade says that it's what we call the lake when someone asks where'd ya catch them......Lake Nunya Business!

Slender spoon
It's interesting that the above picture of the lake looks alot like it was done in black and white.  Actually it was taken towards the end of the day and it was pretty gloomy out as the temperatures were in the upper 30's.  We had just tied a record for consecutive days below freezing for November at 12.  The early cold weather has made it interesting times for ice fishing as it's been a number of years since we have had walkable ice this early.  The further north you go the thicker the ice is yet it's still not enough for me to feel comfortable driving my ATV out.  Even at Red Lake there has been guys going through the ice on their machines.  The long weekend was looking like we might get up to Red Lake to haul up our wheel houses and try for some walleyes before the December 1st slots and possession limits change but that has fallen apart.  The nice thing about Red Lake early in the season is that one doesn't have to walk very far out to get to the first structure break and catch walleyes.  Russ was talking about going to Lake Winnibigoshish and I am waiting for a report from him to check out plan B.  Plan C is maybe head towards Alexandria and try to locate some nice bluegills or crappies. Everything is sort of up in the air and it may be Thursday night before I know exactly where I'll be fishing.  I am looking at possibly bring my ice house up to Red Lake on either December 13th or at the latest December 20th as long as my brother Steve can get away or my friend Keith Holtan can get off work.  It will more than likely depend on the weather as we have lots of plans but time does fly.  Decisions, Decisions..........  I guess the good news is that in years past we were not even getting out until after Christmas and in fact one year my friend Pete and I were hammering the walleyes on the north end of Mille Lacs through December 6th before the lake started to freeze.  Anyway, for anyone going out, just be careful!

Thanksgiving is Thursday and a time to give thanks to of families, friends, our health, and country. Getting older puts these things in greater perspective as one becomes more aware of the limited time we have to be thankful.  God Bless.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Second Week of Deer Camp

View From the Stand Late Saturday Afternoon
Well, we are done with deer hunting in Minnesota as Zone 2 ended on Sunday, November 15th.  It is still open for another weekend in Zone 1, just east of where I hunt yet mentally I have moved on to ice fishing.  I do like venison as well as the process of butchering it but this year was pretty cold and busy so not having to deal with it isn't the worst thing in the world.  Somewhat undecided as to what I was going to do last weekend for hunting, my mind was made up when Jack Taylor called and asked if I would bring his son Ben up with me.  That was a good enough excuse to leave a little early and hunt Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.  Ben was pretty excited as his mom was going to go up Friday night but decided to stay home, meaning he wasn't going.  Arriving at Jack's house by 11:30, we stopped at Cabela's to get some gloves and it was a good thing I had him along. Forgetting my reading glasses in the truck I needed Ben to tell me the prices of the items I was interested in.  With the cold weather upon us the goal was not to have cold hands on the stand. We arrived around 2:00, just in time to get the warm clothes on an head for Brett's.  He had earlier called to tell us the swamp had frozen over and getting back to my traditional spot would be easier.  Well it wasn't quite that way as the swamp had areas of standable ice yet it was still unfrozen under the snow.  Inching my way back was like walking a tightrope working hard to avoid the areas that weren't so thick, I managed to get a little wet yet stayed dry enough to get to a stand.  Saturday night was very nice as I took this picture from the stand.  There was some fresh tracks under the stand yet by 5:00 nothing had come by.  Not wanting to walk through the swamp in the dark, I headed back through the maze of solid ice, open water, and muck.  Unfortunately the trip back wasn't so forgiving as I broke through over my boot landing on a solid piece of ice.  Although I didn't get too wet, it was enough to rethink Sunday morning's hunting stand.  Not wanting to walk back out in the dark I chose a stand near the road, not to difficult to get in but not the ideal spot either.  Waking up at 5:30 I was in the stand by 6:15 and was it cold!  I lasted about 90 minutes before it was time to leave.  Packing up I headed back to Jacks cabin, enough of deer hunting for this year.  We did measure the ice in front of the cabin which sits on the east side of Platte Lake and found over 5 inches. Heading back in time to catch the Packer's play with the Philadelphia Eagles like a cat plays with a mouse!  My bet with Carl was a good one and I look forward to a trip to San Jose, CA to collect.

A Great Addition to the Tackle Box
Last Friday night Tom McAtee and I went to the Ice Fishing Show at the Blaine Sports Complex. One of the first of the year, there were a lot of new gimmicks and ideas to  mull around.  One of my favorite tools for cleaning fish is the Filet Claw, a great tool for holding fish filets when taking the skin off.  Made of stainless steel it has a claw like edge on one end and is bent up on the other to make handling a breeze.  It's one of those simple tools that really works and I never go anywhere without one.  It was interesting to meet the owner and his wife as we talked about business, his successes, and the future.   I love innovative things, I have 2 of these and decided that my ice house needs a dedicated one as well. Check out the link above and get yourself one, they are the real deal!  Besides some well know retailers at the show, I was really looking to see some of the wheel houses on display as I'm always looking for good ideas.  Unfortunately less than half the houses on display were accessible and those that were, those showing the houses weren't too interested after you let them know you have a different brand.  Clam Corp had a nice setup and it's got me thinking about selling my 1 man Clam Scout TC and getting something a little bigger in a thermal type fabric yet stay light enough that it will easily fit in the back of my truck and I can load myself.  Looking at the Clam Dave Genz Legend XL Thermal and will probably pull the trigger on one soon.  Although I have a big 2 man Clam X2 Thermal, it's really heavy and tough to load unless I bring the trailer.  This is OK for Mille Lacs but around home and on the smaller lakes I need something more portable. With 4 inches of ice already on the lakes I'll probably go out on Saturday afternoon as Sunday is the Packer/Viking game.  My last time in Wisconsin brought me by Louie's Meats in Cumberland and I purchased a couple pounds of Packer and Viking bratwurst which will be served at neighbor Tim's for lunch.  Here's hoping Aaron get's his 3rd 50 point plus game in a row!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Winter is Here!

Steak ala Kienitz
OK, so deer hunting was less than successful last weekend but it was still nice to get out.  Because of the extremely wet summer and the fact that we had Jack's 10 year old son with us, we decided to hunt Loren's 80 acres, about 10 miles southeast of our usual hunting grounds.  It was definitely a lot easier to set things up and walk to our stands in the morning, sometimes you just need a break from the normal.  We did scout the area the previous week and there is certainly sign of a lot of deer moving through the fields and along the edge of the woods.  The trails coming out of the woods and through the fields look like cow paths in a pasture from back home.  Arriving on Friday at Jack's cabin on Platte Lake, his son Ben and I started getting prepared for our annual Steak Feed at Brett's place.  I have posted before about this but it's always a nice reminder.  A simple recipe stolen from my friend Troy, who now lives in Montana, it doesn't seem like it would be good but it's excellent.  As stated last week, I bought about 12 pounds of boneless ribeyes and a big aluminum roasting pan. The first ingredient is Tabasco sauce, I use a small bottle and sprinkle it on each side of the meat.  Next is the Hot Buffalo Wing sauce, a big bottle of this is emptied into the pan.  the last thing is adding a big jar of Pace Picante Sauce, hot.  The meat marinates for about 4 hours before we fire up the flip flop grill and cook them to a delicious medium raw state.  Along with baked potatoes, mushrooms, and a glass of zinfandel, it's a meal fit for a king. Besides myself, Jack, and Ben were our good friends Eugene and his son Kevin, Brett, and Jack's brother-in-law Steve.  Stuffed to the gills, we headed back to the cabin and were sleeping by 9:30 as 5:00 comes pretty fast.  Saturday morning we woke up to a very strong west wind, something that usually keeps the deer laying down, and being a full moon doesn't help either.  This year I did a ground blind and it was very nice as it provided protection from the wind and because we were hunting the edge of the fields, it really wasn't too bad.  By noon I decided to move my blind to the opposite side of where Jack was set up as he had seen deer move into that area but was too far to shoot.  I stayed there both Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning and only saw 1 deer.  At least I
First Snow of the Season
was comfortable.  In the meantime the deer I saw walked right in front of his blind and he got a nice video.  Ben wanted him to shoot it but Jack said it was too small, which didn't make Ben very happy! I decided to leave Sunday afternoon as a significant snow storm was bearing down on Dayton and I wasn't very prepared. The boat needed to be tucked away, the leaf vacuum system and mower deck needed removing and replaced with the snow blower, the tractor needed to be pulled into the shed, with little time before the snow was forecasted to start. Working till 11:00 that evening I was able to get all of the tasks done just as the snow began to fall.  We were predicted to get 8 - 12 inches and this time the weather man was very accurate as I had about 10 inches to deal with on Monday night.  These first snow storms start out as wet heavy slush then as it get's colder, tends to get more fluffy.  It was still difficult to shovel as it was very wet underneath and my blower wants to dig into the soft ground and mix some dirt with the nice white snow.  In addition to getting everything cleaned out my friend Mark's ice house that sits next to mine was sold and needed to be picked up Tuesday, that area needed to be cleared anyway.  Not complaining as Mark brought over a bottle of Booker's Straight from the Barrel Bourbon, incredibly smooth but being straight from the barrel, it's about 120 proof! Either way we toasted the beginnings of a new ice fishing season that's soon upon us.

Showing off at TCF Stadium
So last week I forgot to post my Sunday adventure, going to TCF Stadium on the University of Minnesota's campus for the Vikings game against the Washington Redskins.  Not much of a Vikings fan, I had never been to that venue, it was nice out, and the tickets were free from my neighbor Pete Sipe so what the heck.  Along with Pete and I were his son Rob and our good neighbor Tim Kuntz, a fanatic Vikings fan.  With the temperature predicted in the 40's I decided to dress for the occasion wearing my warm Green Bay Packer sweat shirt and a Stormy Kromer hat.  Walking around the stadium to check it out, I had Tim take this picture of me on the top deck overlooking the field with the skyline of downtown Minneapolis in the background.  A far cry from Lambeau Field it should be interesting as the Vikings play the Packers on November 23rd at home, we'll probably watch it at Tim's.  At least they sold Leinenkugels Beer there.  I am still waiting for my Rattlesnake Rattle Reels that were ordered from Bill, he took off to Arizona to bring his mom to her winter residence and a well deserved vacation, I guess it will be after Thanksgiving now.  Beyond that I'm ready to go and with the recent snow, the temperatures are not predicted to get above freezing for the next 10 days or so......we might be on the ice sooner than later.  The first of the ice fishing shows start on Friday and I definitely plan on spending some time there as well might sneak out on Saturday or Sunday to see if I find a nice buck to shoot.  Beyond that it's the inbetween time of year as we wait for the lakes to freeze.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Deer Hunting, Ready or Not

Ben's newest addition to his Trophy Room!
Well, like everything these days it's amazing that deer hunting is already here.  What started out in the early 1980's hunting with my friends Mark and Jack Taylor, their brother-in-law Tim Guzek and myself has been reduced to simply Jack and I for the last 15 years or so.   Our first adventures deer hunting was in Roseau, Minnesota which is 10 miles from the Canadian border.  Staying at the Evergreen Motel, $20 a night for 1 room with 2 full sized beds, 4 of us slept very comfortably as the goal was to go on the cheap!  We hunted in Roseau because a guy at my work, Dale Larsen was from there and invited us up.  These were the great deer hunting times, 6 hour ride up north in Mark's dad Earl's Blue Chevy van, couch in the back with room for our gear and in those days, beer for the road! After a couple of years we started making a little more money and decided to get 2 adjoining rooms, we each had our own bed.  Eventually we ended up hunting just south of Roseau, staying in some cabins at the Skime Store.  Simple rooms built on a slab, the flies would come to life once you turned on the heat.  Hunting was good around there but eventually that faded as Tim moved away and the hunting land we were on had been bought by a country celebrity called Shotgun Red and his wife Miss Daisy from the old television show He Haw.  We had asked Shotgun to hunt his land and he had no problem however a conflict occurred between us and Red's old hunting camp, the Olsen's.  Red was in the wrong but wasn't going to put us in front of the Olsen's even though he knew that us being on the land would help stop them from assuming they could have free reign of his newly aquired land.  Busting into our cabin and being warned about getting shot ended our days in Skime.  Next we hunted around Pequot Lakes, where Tim's cabin was, those were also good times but eventually Tim sold the cabin and we started hunting the area we are today.  Things continue to change as Rich is been gone over 5 years ago, Mark no longer hunts, and this year Jack's son Ben is joining us. Speaking of Ben, my friend Ben Aiona from Eleva texted me a picture of the beautiful buck he shot while bow hunting in the area.  Trempealeau and Buffalo Counties in Wisconsin are home to some of the largest whitetail deer in the country and this 13 pointer just validates that.  Next to Ben is his son Jared, who I am told actually helped track the deer and found it (wink).  As I say every year, only in my dreams!

Well, Ben wasn't the only one sending me pictures of their successful hunt, another friend Dwight Jordan sent me a picture of the nice elk he shot last week in Colorado.  A nice 5 x 5, maybe not a massive trophy but definitely worth bragging about.  Dwight goes out west every year to hunt and for the most part he does pretty well.  I hunted a few times with Dwight up near Thief River Falls when my cousin hunted a few years back and we have stayed in contact ever since.  I know he's a few years older than me but I'd tell you that he is still someone I wouldn't want to mess with and I'm afraid if I ever did hunt with him I know I couldn't even keep up with him.  He lives just south of Hudson, Wisconsin and I have featured his family in past posts on the Blog.  He's a really great guy and often wish that I could see him more often than I do.  So with that I have bought 12 pounds of boneless ribeyes for the steak feed on Friday night, my stand is ready although we are still debating where we are hunting, in the swamp or on the edge of the field 10 miles down the road.  I can tell you the field sounds like a better option but I think there is more deer in the swamp.  It will be good to see everyone again as we toast to our glasses to Rich Allen, a very nice man who really embraced Jack and myself.  It's suppose to rain on Friday and turn cold on Sunday which is OK with me.  We might as well start getting the lakes froze over as I'm getting anxious for ice fishing.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Out For Trout

A couple limits of nice Rainbow Trout
So last Thursday was my day to spend with Bill Lundeen of Lundeen's Tackle Castle on the corner of highways 169 and 27 in Onamia, MN.  I seldom get a chance to fish with Bill and usually when we go it's not only a great time but more often than not, very successful. It's been a tough year for Bill with the current situation at Mille Lacs however he is a survivor and while others are leveraged to the max, Bill has persevered through this difficult time.  I have a friend that states when a guy dies he probably has less than 5 guys he can count on as his true friends and Bill is on my list.  So when he asked if I was interested in a trout fishing outing to one of the many old pit mines near the Crosby/Akin area it was an invitation hard to refuse.  Setting the date of Thursday, October 23rd, I opened my calendar and was ready to meet him at the crack of dawn.  Unfortunately an important customer asked at the last minute if he could stop by at 9:00 the same morning I had little choice to oblige.  Now what our planned start time of 7:00 in the morning was now 11:30, oh well Bill is an understanding guy.  After a successful 2 hour meeting I headed north and pulled into the bait shop in record time.  Bill was ready to go as we loaded his canoe carrier and canoe onto may truck we headed north.  The day was absolutely gorgeous and if the fish weren't biting it still was going to be a great day.  Arriving at the lake we unloaded our gear and carried the canoe down to the landing about 50 yards down the hill. These old mine pits are deep, clear, and usually are stock with trout as they do well in the deep water during the summer.  With the water temperature around 50 the trout would be found in the shallower water as we headed to the 20 foot range and started trolling with small nightcrawler rigs.  Its kind of interesting to fish out of a canoe, it takes a while to get your sea legs and the confidence to move around and feel comfortable maneuvering around.  Our strategy was to troll the 20 foot water, looking for fish that might be suspended.  I ended up putting a 2 hook crawler rig on 4 pound test
Reflections of a day trout fishing
that Bill tied up for me which had a gold hammered spinner then weighted with a 1/2 ounce sinker. We probably went 50 yards when a tap tap was felt, I dropped the rod tip back still feeling the fish, gave a jerk yet still missed the fish. It was another 20 minutes before I felt another fish and letting it take the bait a little longer the hook set yielded a very nice rainbow trout in the 14 inch range.  Although it was a smaller lake and we could circle it in a reasonable time we decided to get back where the fish were biting. That last fish I caught ended up breaking the line (it was only 4# test)in the net so I put on another rig Bill had tied up but I don't know, not much confidence in going from Gold hammered to Red and White spinner color.  After another 20 minutes I decided to tie my own rig using 6# test, the hooks from the broken rig and the gold spinner blade I was back in business.  Almost immediately I got another rainbow trout, then another and another.  Struggling to put a fish in the boat Bill finally landed one but in the end our limit of 10 trout was predicated on my ability to out fish him 3:1.  I was just one of those days.  Most of these trout are stocked and represent a stock and take fishery, these fish had been in the lake for over a year as they were all 13 - 15 inches and had a nice pink/orange flesh.  It was a super day watching the trout leap out of the water, catching our limits, and the most important aspect........spending the day with Bill, the most important.  Heading back to the bait shop and home we cleaned the fish, had some pizza, a few beers before heading home.  It truly was one of the best days fishing this year.  One of the more striking pictures was the one of the reflections of the trees off the water as we pulled into shore.  With no wind to disrupt the water, the scene was fabulous.

Loaded with fish
Sunday was slated for getting the Ranger out to run some SeaFoam through my system for its long winter sleep.  I asked my neighbor Tom Olson if he wanted to go and he affirmed so we headed out. The lake was Indian Lake north of Annandale, MN, not particularly deep but it has 3 distinct areas in the lake that drop to 25 feet.  I have an old crappie fishing book and they claim that in the fall crappies will congregate in these holes, stack up, and should be easy to fish.  Well the first small hole proved both windy and impossible to fish so we moved south on the calm side of the lake.  Maybe thinking the fish were shallower we worked the 7 - 10 foot depth around the south shore but nothing was biting. With a southeast wind and a 25 foot trough perfectly positioned for a drift we dropped the trolling motor and using a slip bobber and jig, floated right down the middle.  With the weed line at about 12 feet, anything we marked should be fish. Just at the point where the bottom started rising was about 4 marks close to the bottom and one of our bobbers went down.  After putting the trolling motor in anchor mode we hovered over the spot and the longer we stayed the more fish congregated below us.  We caught a few crappies with the first one being awfully small with a couple of keepers in the mix, I was surprised by the amount of fish showing up on the depth finder screen.  The fish were biting very light and maybe it was just our setup that used standard light jigs verses maybe a plain hook in the dorsal fin presentation.  We ended up with 5 and I'm sure that given time we could have sorted through a limit of fish but it was time to go.  Forgetting to take a picture of the screen showing all the fish I went online and found one that exactly duplicates what we were seeing, it was pretty incredible.  Either way the day accomplished my 2 main objectives, the first was to get the SeaFoam mixed into the gas and into the motor and second, to prove the schooling crappie theory.  It would have been nice to catch more but at least I know it is true!

It time to set up my deer stand although it's more like setting up my deer blind.  With my bad luck this year all I need to do is fall out of an eighteen foot high tree stand.  My friend Jack has secured a place to hunt this year as we really don't feel like trudging the swamp again for the wet summer has surely filled it up.  There's still work to be done winterizing the boat as the oil needs changing, the lower unit is do to be changed, and it has to be tucked away in the garage for it's long winter's sleep. Slowly the ice fishing stuff is coming out and I'm looking forward to drilling a few holes soon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Back on the River

20" Smallie on a 6 inch sucker minnow
My good friend Pete has been doing really well on the Mississippi River, including some really nice walleyes.  He fishes the Monticello area and knows that river like the back of his hand and his report on Saturday was no different, 20 fish, 15 smallies and 5 walleyes.  Figuring out where the walleyes are on the stretch of the river behind the house has proven difficult at best.  Although there has been 4 walleyes caught in my river boat this year, nothing has been of any significance compared to the stories I have heard.  Some of those stories were heard on Sunday morning as I stopped by my friend Rick Shermer, returning his tractor with a 6 foot rototiller attached to the back. BTW, it a phenomenal machine which gave me the time to go fishing but that's another story.  Rick's friend John was picking his apples as I parked the tractor and walked up to them.  My neighbor Lory had offered to pick me up and was there to take in the conversation about fishing the river in Dayton.  John sounded like he had fished the area and was familiar with all the "walleye holes" from the bridge across Hwy 101 to behind the house and with time running away from us we decided to try this stretch one more time.  It's pretty easy as we simply hook the boat to the ATV, open a few gates and we are on the river in less than 10 minutes.  Planning on fishing the Mississippi on Sunday I had stopped at the hardware store to buy some smaller sucker minnows in that 4 - 6 inch range.  Arriving at home my aerator on my Engel Bait Cooler didn't work so it was off to Cabela's to get a new air pump.  They had a Marine Metals Hush Bubbler Air pump and I am pretty impressed as it is significantly quieter than the one that came with the Engel.  With the sucker minnows alive and ready to go we hit the river.  With the water clarity at over 4 feet and it's temperature in the low 50's we concentrated on a couple of deep eddies that usually hold fish. Looking for those elusive walleyes, it seems as though they should be congregating in these holes about now.  Lory decided to fish with a jig and plastic while I rigged up a simple slip sinker and a 18 inch leader with a plain hook and a sucker minnow.  We worked the first hole pretty good but didn't
Lory's 18 incher
have single hit.  Next stop was the next eddy behind Cloquet Island, it's 10 - 12 feet deep and "should" be loaded with fish.  Within a few minutes of dropping my sucker to the bottom of the current break I noticed the line moving in the opposite direction it had been going.  Taking up the slack it was obvious a fish had my minnow but with a circle hook one has to simply reel the line and yanked the bait out of it's mouth.  Verifying the sucker minnow was still good I put it right back in and as it hit the bottom it started moving away.  This time I gave it a minute to take the bait and when I reeled the hook drove home.  This fish was a dandy and once Lory got it in the net we measured the smallmouth at 20 inches.   Within a few minutes Lory had a nice fish on but we never saw it.  His determination to land a fish with plastic paid off with a nice 18 inch smallie.  Our next stop was were we caught a walleye in the main current near the old Steven's farm.  A couple of drifts produced nothing so we headed up river to the spot John has given us.  I knew where he was talking about and once we arrived it wasn't easy to fish his spot with a boat, in fact it was all but impossible with the amount of water flowing.  Nest time I see John we are going to have that discussion!

Check out the red eyes!
Our next stop was checking out what was upriver from where the Crow empties into the Mississippi. After navigating the rapids below this point we found a very nice eddy that looked promising yet after 20 minutes we didn't even have a hit.  Deciding to try the area just below the 101 Bridge again, another great looking spot but not one fish.  I suspect that maybe we simply needed to spend more time but with the day running out we headed to the bridge to fish the pillars.  We were greeted by a Cajun Bass boat with 2 guys casting the area with plastic.  I sensed they had been there before as we watched them orchestrate a number of precise casts into the pillars.  Not wanting to horn in too bad we waited for them to move off then dropped our lines.  Within a minute a nice fish hit my sucker minnow and the fight was on and soon a nice 18 inch smallie was in the net.  In the meantime the guys in the Cajun noticed the fish and gave us a nice compliment as they had been only getting smaller fish.  Big fish like big minnows, that's all I could say.  Lory did get a couple smaller smallies before we headed back down river to fish the Cloquet Island area before dark.   It's nice to have the GPS trails to help you back yet one never knows if your choice of routes is the ideal one as we still hit a number of rocks on the way downstream.  Luckily the Rock Hopper really does a great job of keeping the propeller intact and we didn't miss a beat.  Arriving back where I caught the first fish another 18.5 inch fish hit my minnow and we landed that.  Lory decided to try the sucker minnows and immediately had a nice bite but unlike plastic, it's good to give the fish some time which is hard to do if you are used to setting the hook right away.  Those 6 inch sucker minnows take time to get turned in the fishes mouth and patience is certainly needed.   The last spot was the first one we tried and although it's been a good producer it never did anything for us this trip.  We ended up with 8 smallies with 6 of them in the 18 - 20 inch range.  The walleyes continue to elude us but I'm not giving up as they have to be somewhere, I've heard stories you know!

I am heading to see my friend Bill Lundeen on Thursday to try a little trout fishing.  It's been a while since I have fished with Bill for trout so I'm pretty excited and hopefully we'll be successful.  I had helped my friend Mark Taylor pull his big boat out of Lake Minnetonka and besides the usual reward of E & J, he brought some smoked salmon from Costco.  I have to admit it was pretty good, enough to buy it myself.  The Salem Ice Cabin is about ready for ice fishing as I have finished up the last of the improvements, now we are just waiting for the lakes to freeze over.  The Packers won convincingly last Sunday, the fish are biting, Indian Summer continues, I'm not sure there's much to complain about other than the speed in which time flies these days.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Indian Summer

The Maples are on Fire
Indian Summer is defined as the period of nice weather that occurs after we've experienced a killing frost.  Here in Minnesota or Wisconsin our first killing frost is usually at the end of September and Indian Summer happens in the subsequent weeks in October.  Well, it is definitely Indian Summer in Dayton as the weather is just beautiful, 65 during the day and frost on grass overnight.  Our above normal precipitation this June has set up the trees for a spectacular show of color.  The leaves are just peaking in the metro area as this time of the year is one of my favorites.  Unfortunately the days are getting shorter which allows little time for all the things that need to get done.  The garden is pretty well done with the exception of a few carrots still in the ground and my potatoes.  I am sort of hoping my good friend Ricky Shermer may drive over any day now with his Kubota tractor with his 3 point, 6 foot rear mounted tiller.  What would take me 4 hours would take him about 15 minutes. If not I guess it's good exercise!   With October already half gone I'm needing to get in high gear if I want to have everything done by deer hunting, which starts November 8th.   My friend Carl Le Jambre stated it very well the other day....As we get older, life seems to keep accelerating.  No truer words have been spoken as I feel exactly the same way.  The clock isn't running fast as much as life is.  Oh well, I guess there's not a lot we can do other than enjoy those moments.   Carl lives in San Jose, California and is one of my respected peers.  He is also a big football fan with the Philadelphia Eagles as his home team.  I have known Carl for 23 years now and in that time the Packers and Eagles have played 17 times over that period with the record of 10 wins for the Eagles, 7 for the Pack. Although our distance has prevented any recent friendly bets lately, last Sunday night's game where the Eagles just blew out the New York Giants just prompted me to kindle our old bet for the November 16th game between the Eagles and the Packers.  The Eagles look pretty tough at 5-1 but with the game in Lambeau, I might have a chance!  Either way it will be good to see Carl and pay or collect, I'm fine with it.

18 inch Huge smallie.
Sunday was gourgeous as it presented an opportunity to get out fishing in the afternoon. On short notice I stopped by Tom Olson's place to see if he'd be interested in going out on the river for a few hours.  Basically if he showed up at 4:00, we'd head off and like clockwork he arrived.  It's a quick process to move a few things out of the way and we were off to Blair's landing.  Our main focus was to troll the deeper holes with crankbaits intending on catching a few walleyes.  With the water temperature in the low 50's, it should be a trigger for the fish to start congregating.  The first area was just up river as we fished a large current break cause by an eddy.  With a #7 firetiger shad rap and the water depth of 10 feet we pulled the lures up river to take advantage of the current.  Almost immediately something was tugging on the end of my line, about a 1 pound smallmouth.  Not a walleye but it was encouraging that the fish seemed active. After another small bass we headed up to fish the hole just downstream from Cloquet Island.  This has been one of my favorite spots and have gotten a couple of smaller walleyes earlier this year yet all we could muster was another nicer bass.  One big problem was the amount of leaves in the water, as we were constantly losing the action on the baits because they would hang up on them.  It was quite frustrating however we continued trolling as we were getting fish.  The next spot was the hole above the Steven's farm.  This area is simply a deeper hole in the river with no current breaks.  Tom has switched to a Bomber crankbait and was rewarded with our first walleye, a 12 inch fish.  Not large enough to keep it went back into the water hoping there were larger fish to be caught.  No such luck as we headed back to the first spot as the sun was getting low and the temperature was dropping.  As we trolled the edge of the eddy we started coming up to the front of the hole in 6 feet of water when I saw a big fish come up and slam my shad rap.  The water is incredibly clear as you can see 4 feet down and this fish was visible for the entire fight.  It certainly isn't the longest bass I have caught on the river but it certainly was one of the thickest and deepest fish for it's size.   Letting her go we drifted back down river where I caught a couple more small bass before we headed back to the landing.  I'm thinking another trip would be nice, this time trying jigs and minnows as I think we might be more successful.  I know the walleyes are in there, it's just going to take a little more time to find them.

1971 Ski Doo Olympique
I was in Phoenix last week and it nice.  Expecting 90 degree weather it actually rained both days.  I'm not exactly sure of the fishing around the area but I did get to spend a few hours with my friend Jim Tollefson.  Jim grew up on a farm northwest of Eleva and from the time I was 15 to when he graduated from high school we hung around together almost every day.  Whether it was me riding my bike the 3.5 miles to his house to help with feeding the cattle, haying, cleaning the barn, we always found time to enjoy ourselves.  In 1970 I had enough money saved to buy a brand new Ski Doo snowmobile, at 15 years old I was on the top of my game.  We didn't have trail groomers back then however there was enough snow to keep the trail open from the back of my house to Jim's.  Passing through what we called Indian Valley, up and across Old Baldy, the landmark hill north of town, through the woods, we really put on the miles.  I'm not sure how anyone could have as much fun as Jim and I did back then.  I guess we didn't have television (just 2 channels then), video games, computers, cell phones, and all the distractions that kids have today.  At 15 and 16 our parents didn't worry about what we were doing or if they did, they never said.  Like the statement at the end of the movie, Stand By Me...I'll never have friends like I did when I was 12, well, make that from 12 to 18.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Lambeau Magic

After attending the annual Coil Winding Show in Chicago last week (OK, I know it sounds boring), on Thursday my wife Lyn and I headed to Lambeau Field in Green Bay for the Thursday night game between the beloved Packers and the hated Vikings, ok I guess that's a matter of opinion.  My tickets were courtesy of my good friend Phil Gordon, a trusted confidant from Fort Wayne, Indiana who has season tickets but could not make the game.  Phil is like most guys form Sconnie, a passionate Packer fan and he was happy to share them with the same.  Anyway with the leaves in their peak fall colors the 5 hour drive did not disappoint.  From the time we hit Hudson on the Wisconsin border to Green Bay, the trees were on fire with the bright reds and yellows and orange colors.  Although the game didn't start till 7:30, I knew that getting there a little early would afford us time to take in the sights and sounds of a home game at Lambeau, and sites and sounds there were.  Lambeau Field is the oldest venue in the NFL today.  Celebrating it's 58th year of hosting the Green Bay Packers, it has a interesting history which you can see by clicking on this link:Lambeau Field.  Because the Packers are the only publicly held football team in the NFL, they decided to sell stock to raise money for additional renovations that including adding another 7000 seats.  And why not, the waiting list for season tickets has surpassed the 90,000 mark.  Taking advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity, I bought a share for $250 and am now an official owner with voting rights.  Yes, some people say the stock is worthless yet I ask what is your Adrian Peterson jersey worth these days?  As well, Lambeau is still Lambeau and not some lame name like Sports Authority Stadium at Mile High.  There has been talk about naming rights yet I'm pretty sure that would not be met with a whole bunch of fan and shareholders support.  Anyway, deciding to park about 6 blocks from the stadium would give us an easier way out as previous games we parked very close and it was over an hour to get out.  Lambeau and Green Bay are set up for tailgating.  All along the way to the field were parking lots full of fans, their RV's parked from the night before, tents, charcoal grills and of course beer!  Even the Shell gas station had closed to make way for the fans and at $20 a care probably made more than selling gas for that time period.  There were quite a few Vikings fans mixed in with the crowd as the border battle tends to be quite friendly but intense.  With a forecast of an inch of rain predicted over game time, we crossed the road with our rain gear in a clear plastic bag (as required) and entered the stadium.  The first thing you see is the big poster of Clay Matthews gracing the fact Green Bay holds the most NFL World Champion Titles of any team in the NFL dating all the way back to 1929, and includes 4 Superbowl wins.  Pretty amazing for a city of 100,000. 

Start of the game and of the rain.
Our seats were centered just behind the north end goal posts, 53 rows up.  As predicted, the rain had started and by the time we got to our seats it was coming down pretty hard.  Kudos to my wife Lyn for bundling up as we stayed nice and dry with my fishing gear.  Luckily it was 68 degrees out as it made sitting there quite a bit more pleasant.  With the huge screens setup on each end, it was the best of 2 worlds, you could see the plays then watch it again as the did the replay.  Being in the Packer end zone during the first and third quarter we were able to see the first score, a beautiful pass from Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson who was wide open deep and walked right in.  It was awesome.  Of course those who watched the game also know that the score quickly escalated to 42-0, in favor of the Packers, and if wasn't great, after the first quarter the rain stopped completely.  What a night.  Pulling Aaron Rodgers in the 4th quarter didn't sit too well with the 78,000+ fans attending the game but hey, no reason to risk an injury with that margin.  With a touchdown and field goal in the 4th by the Vikes the score ended up 42 - 10 as most left the stadium with 5 minutes to go.  I did manage to stop at the Packer Pro Shop to pick up some new hats, a nice pair of lounge pants for the ice house, and some decals for the same. If you have never been to Lambeau Field, even if your not a Packer fan, it's truly an experience.  The fans, the true tailgating, the food, the history, its definitely worth a trip to Green Bay.  I even hear that next July they are going to retire Brett Favre's number.  I guess it shows just how nice us Wisconsin guys are!

Tailgating at it's finest!
With ZERO hotels available in Green Bay, we were forced to drive an hour and a half west to Wausau, Wisconsin for the night.  Even at midnight Hwy 29 was like rush hour.  After a good nights sleep we headed back north to see my aunt Pat Schmidt in Antigo.  My mom's only living sibling, she has lived in the area most of her life.  Uncle Harold worked for the US Forest Department but unfortunately died way too young.  As a bonus my cousin Don Schmidt, was working on remodeling the house next door so I got to visit with him for a while.  My brother Steve and I were invited back to his Club Ten Grouse Tournament next weekend but timing isn't good this year.  Deciding to take in the rest of the weekend's fall colors we continued north to Hwy 8, which takes you back to Minnesota, the scenic route.  Unfortunately it rained all the way back limiting our view of the fall colors.  Managing to stop at Louie's Meats in Cumberland, WI we picked up some of their famous Packer bratwurst, brats mixed with cheddar cheese and sauerkraut.  As well they had Viking brats, brats mixed with purple cabbage and Monterey Jack cheese.  I got enough to host the neighbors at the next Packer/Viking game on November 23. 

The rain and cold has put a damper on getting stuff done around the house and time is running out to finishing up my projects on my Salem Ice Cabin.  I got the cable rewire project finished but still have to caulk the floor, replace the curtain rods and rehang the curtains, then put everything back in it's place.  It's sort of a labor of love but it still takes time.  I have a
small whitetail buck that's been really taking his hormones out on my small apple trees, I guess I should know better not to protect them more.  With a hard frost the raspberries are entering the final stages yet they are very plentiful and great tasting this year, it must have been the rain.  No fishing last week but I'm sure there's one more trip somewhere.  Sunday I drove to Mille Lacs to spend some time with Bill and deal with my Lowrance equipment.  While on Lac Seul it was impossible for me to control my trails, storing specific routs and the day's fishing history.  We finally got that figured out, too much to remember. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mille Lacs Report

Tom's 17.5 incher
The last week in July was the last time I had been on Mille Lacs Lake, and that was only the 3rd trip of the year.  Thinking the late September bite may have improved, my neighbor Tom Olson and I decided to head up on Saturday night to fish the sunset time, from 5:00 - 8:30.  After getting caught up on a few chores around home we hooked up the boat and pointed the truck north to fish Anderson's Reef on the southwest end of the lake.  Unfortunately this reef has been a hit or miss area, nothing like it was 20 years ago when you could easily pick off  6 to 12 walleyes trolling Shad Raps or Rattlin' Rouges.  The advantage is it has some nice structure and minimizes our time on the road.  There is 2 special areas off the main reef that can be good and one has to troll through the 10 - 12 foot water before you hit the spots.  This can be good if the fish are hanging a little bit deeper than the 5 - 7 feet that I usually like to fish.  Stopping at Bill's to drop off some raspberries we headed to the landing.  I was surprised how high the water was for this time of year, as well there appeared to be a lot of musky fisherman working Cove Bay.  Getting the Ranger in the water, we headed straight for Anderson's through the marked channel out of Cove.  Interesting as the "new" channel doglegged to the right as you entered the main lake, where as the last 10 years it was marked pretty much straight thru.  It seemed somewhat deeper and I guess I should have changed my waypoints but decided maybe later.  There was only one other guy working the 10 foot perimeter of the reef and another boat anchored in one of those "special" spots.  Working the south edge we headed towards the anchored boat, a 621 Ranger and it
was the same guy we talked to at Bill's as he picked up a couple dozen leeches. Reports of substantial catches of 10 inch walleyes have been coming from the launches and as we trolled by we saw them pull in 2 that size.  Looking for better fish we were trolling 4 inch Rouges when Tom nailed a 17 inch small mouth bass.  Before long he had another fish, actually a nice 17.5 inch walleye. With the keeper slot at 18 -20 inches, the fish went back.  Although a 17.5 inch walleye is not really worth taking a picture of, we snapped one anyway to prove if nothing else, we did catch something. Twenty minutes later I felt like a weed had tangled my lure only to find a 10.5 inch walleye hanging on the back of that 4 inch rouge...go figure.  Hitting both special spots with nothing more to show, we headed out.  The surface temperature was still 65 degrees so maybe the full moon next week along with a major cool down will change the bite.
Sunset at 5,000 feet

With snow predicted in Minnesota for this week I have been working feverishly to put the finishing touches on my Salem Ice Cabin before winter.  As stated earlier I had the underside spray foamed and expect a noticeable difference.  Finished installing the compartment door underneath the unused space by the couch, it turned out pretty nice.  With the help of my neighbor Tim's Rotozip and air stapler, it went in like it was designed to be there.  It's a perfect place for my cord storage, up front and handy.  The next thing was to install an outside cable jack to connect a satellite antenna to. Because the wiring is all pre-done I decided to replace the current inside antenna output/12 volt power jack with a dual antenna/cable outlet.  Figuring the framing would allow me to snake a wire near the floor by cutting an access hole at the back of the cabinet, in line with the jack,  I was successful in running a wire between the openings.  Using a hole saw and my other neighbor Todd, we drilled some holes, pull the coax cable through, connecting the external jack before bolting it together.  It turned out like it was supposed to be there!  Reattaching the internal cable jack, I think it turned out very well.  The last thing is to caulk around the floor with clear silicon RTV before it gets too cold to cure.

As you know I like sunset pictures and had 2 to pick from.  The first was from Saturday night on Mille Lacs and the one I chose was taken from my airline seat coming home from Chicago on Wednesday night.  The low clouds hung all the way from Milwaukee to when we landed.  Being on the right side of the plane I didn't have a nice view until we turned south for the final approach.  It was still very nice.  Off to Lambeau as we are going to the Packer Vikings game tonight.  The weather guys are calling for heavy rains so it should be interesting.  Either way the Pack should win tonight and give me bragging rights back at the office on Monday!  Once a Cheesehead, always a Cheesehead.  The high this weekend is supposed to be in the upper 40's so I'll be scrambling to keep moving on all of the outside chores.  I can finally drive on my new concrete driveway thanks to the bungled job the city contractors did with the asphalt overlay on the street in front of the house.  The good news is we have more room.  Go Pack!!