Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Back on Mille Lacs

Austin's 21 incher
Saturday was finally the first day I was able to fish Mille Lacs Lake since fishing opener on May 11th.  It's the latest the boat has been absent from the lake since I can remember.  Usually Memorial Day is the first run to the big lake but because the boat was in the shop and last week was too windy, I'm about 4 weeks later than normal.  My good friend Hondro Zeller and his family were planning on camping at Father Hennepin State Park last weekend.  Hondro called me to get some advise on making spinner rigs and what beads to use.  After a few tips I suggested we meet on Saturday at Lundeens, we could split up his family in our boats then he could follow me to the summer haunts of the Mille Lacs walleye's.  Arriving about 1:00 we headed for the landing by the Casino, I was surprised that it was almost full.  Fishing reports haven't been very good as the rain may have put a damper on things.  Usually this time of year would find a person parking in the ditch along the road, maybe blocks away as the mud bite tends to be pretty good until the middle of July. With all the negative publicity about Mille Lacs, fisherman have been scarce as the area businesses are feeling the pinch of reduced limits, bad press, and a general feeling of despair about the fishery.  Note, my friends Jeff King and Keith Holtan, Kenai Alaska guides understand.  Never the less the best time to go fishing is anytime so we launched our boats, split up the crew where Hondro's wife Faith and daughter-in-law Brittney went with him while both Hondro's son's Austin and Anders went with me.  Like most guys I have a milk run for this time of year.  Hit the Humps first, head to Sherman's Flat, then to 7 Mile, try 9 Mile, maybe pull some lead core before doing one last trolling rig up and down Indian Point.  Seldom do I ever get past Sherman's however this time it was tough.  Marking quite a few fish on the graph, we also marked huge schools of bait fish as the fish have plenty to eat.  As Hondro followed us to Sherman's his wife Faith nailed a 24.5 inch walleye, her biggest ever.  It was pretty funny as Hondro was trying to get the net in place when she yelled "Get out of my way!" as she didn't want to lose it.  It's fun to see someone get excited about fishing as she later thanked me for helping her catch
Hondro Zeller at his finest!
it by bringing them to the right spot.  The fish got me excited as I had seen them on the graph, maybe the fish are turning on.  We continued to troll up the Cut and finally caught the one and only walleye in my boat for the day, this nice 21" fish that Austin nailed.  I had fished before with Hondro and Anders but this was my first time with Austin.  He was pretty excited and even though that was the only one we caught, he would have stayed out all day.   We continued the routine heading for 7 Mile with nothing to show, went to 9 Mile and experienced the same, did some deep trolling before heading back to Sherman's where Hondro went back to.  Just as we were pulling up Hondro landed another nice walleye.  As he held it up, I snapped this picture.  I'm not exactly sure what he is showing off but I know his wife sure thinks he's a stud!  We ended the day with a trolling run up Indian Point hoping to get some small mouth bass but no luck.  Back at the landing we loaded the boats and headed back to town.  It was great to get back on the lake and with some stable weather in the forecast it simply has to get better.  Some observations, the water is a high as I can remember as we had to jump onto the docks to get in the boat.  The reports of super clear water caused by a number of things like the zebra mussels had certainly changed from my point of view.  Seeing only about 6 feet down, the water was in fact pretty churned up, which is good for fishing.  Some reports even have a huge zebra mussel die off as the winds had pushed a lot of dead shells onto the shorelines during the last storm.  The slow bite could be contributed to the large amount of small perch, again a nice sign.  I still have little confidence that our Minnesota DNR have a clue on how to fix the lake as they just spent 15 years screwing it up.  There is a ton of theories but I find it interesting that Lac Seul had the same problem so they bought out the netters and implemented an 18 - 21 inch protected slot for walleyes and it's an amazing fishery.  These are the exact same fish size that we target on Mille Lacs.  Some one has to wonder the logic but I guess the rest of use are just too stupid!

Fish at 30 feet
So, I said we were marking a lot of fish on Saturday so here's a picture of what that means. While deep water trolling in "No Man's Land" we kept driving over pods of fish that were suspended at 30 - 32 feet in 36 feet of water.  The left side is the GPS display and you can see we are just about straight north of 9 Mile Flat by about a half mile.  The right side is my sonar display and you can see a pod of 3 fish on the left side with another tight to the bottom as the next fish is starting to appear.  We use search type baits like Reef Runners for the planar boards and #5 Shad Raps for the lead lines.  These are great  reaction baits and suspended fish often mean active fish, they should have had a hit them just because!  Well there are no pictures for a reason, none of the fish were hungry or mad enough to hit the lures.  The rain last week has caused the Mississippi River near the house to be at it's highest level all year and it's really flowing through the park just down the road.  I'm anxious to get on the river but the way it's going it will be a while.  In the meantime my plans to fish Lake Oahe has been disrupted by a business trip that can only be scheduled at the same time.  I did enjoy the fishing last year so I'll have to make other plans.  My good friend Joe has thrown out the possibility of going on a 2 day tuna fishing trip out of San Diego later this summer.  With the latest El Nino occurring this could be a lot of fun if you don't get sea sick.  I've caught 10 - 15 pound Yellow Fin and Black Fin tuna and they are by far the fastest and hardest pulling fish pound for pound.  Another friend, Jim Cox has been on these trips and 40 pounders are not uncommon.  I couldn't even imagine.   Hopefully I can get to Mille Lacs again this week, with the stable weather we may finally hit some active fish.

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