Friday, August 29, 2014

Busy Week

Sandhill Cranes Near the House
Mark Applen and I had been discussing his current wheel house situation for this years up and coming ice fishing season and apparently he decided to do something about it.  There were some deals floating around the area for a few 2014 Salem Ice Cabin wheel houses and some of those were actually pretty good.  Mark ended up purchasing one at a dealership in Mankato and in the process, arranged to get his floor spray foam insulated.  He generously offered to haul mine down and drop it off at the insulating company, Reichel Insulation, the same day he would pick his up new house and it really worked out slick for me.  As stated last week they called and said that it was done and to come and pick it up on Friday afternoon.  It's a nice drive to Mankato and after meeting the owner's son and looking at the nice job they did, I'm pretty impressed.  The house should be a lot easier to heat using less propane as well as be more comfortable to spend your time in.  With Mark having the identical house its been fun to help him not make the same mistakes that I have!  With summer winding down it's time to start getting it ready for the winter as the inside floor/wall joints need silicon caulk, hopefully I can get the new door under the couch installed for extra storage, and Mrs. Sipe can finish the last curtain.  On Tuesday morning I headed to California for work.  Driving by the field just across from the old PDQ station there were 2 large sandhill cranes eating the grain stubble left from the combining that was done earlier.  They are magnificent birds standing close to 4 feet tall, they are certainly becoming more numerous around the area.  Stopping along the road I snapped this picture of them pecking in what was left oats that were planted to keep down the erosion.  Like the resident bald eagles that next down where the neighbor Blair has the boat launch on the Mississippi River, it's nice to see these exotic looking birds.  As long as they stay out of the garden, there fun to have around.

Pacific Ocean Sunset
Tuesday morning caught me getting on a flight to Los Angeles (LAX) for a number of business meetings. California is a great place to visit, especially if its February but to be honest, just too many people!  Like the old Mama and Papa's song, It Never Rains in Southern California, they are in the midst of a severe drought.  I don't know, it seems brown there when ever I go but it is pretty dry.  We have a couple of employees in the Los Angeles/San Diego area so it's nice not to have to rent a car and fight the craziness of their what seems to be a constant rush hour.  Tuesday night we connected with one of our suppliers and had dinner at the Chart House Restaurant in Cardiff, California. Sitting practically on the beach, we had a stunning view of the sunset looking out over the Pacific Ocean, it was quite amazing.   It didn't make up for the sorry state of the oysters on the half shell, they were pretty bad for an upscale seafood place.  On Wednesday I was relayed to Mike Schubert where we headed to Dana Point to check out the incoming fishing boats.  With a hurricane developing off the coast of Baja Mexico, the waters were pretty churned up, great for surfing but not so good for fishing.  Never the less we did see some yellowfin tuna carted off the boats heading for a weighin and cleaning.  Mike had an hour meeting at the American Legion, a great place to hang out before we went to his favorite place in Huntington Beach, Longboards (what they call surfboards).  There the oysters were in perfect form and about a third the price from the night before, as well as their entire menu was extremely reasonable.  They had an interesting side drink, a shot of vodka with cocktail sauce added then topped with a raw oyster.  Not afraid to try anything, it was pretty good.  Being from Minnesota it was quite unusual to sit outside on the sidewalk patio, it's 76 degrees out and they have the propane patio heaters going full bore.  I suppose with a strong wind coming in from the ocean, it's something people expect there.

The countdown to Lac Seul for next week is still being decided.   All that is known is I'm driving so the boat needs to get ready.  It's going to be pretty exciting to have my boat there, it will give me a great opportunity to explore the areas we fish with the electronics, not that it's needed.  I am worried about the sand and have assurances from Pete that he'll keep his shoes off the gunnels, I think we'll be ok.  With some family things going on this weekend, fishing next, a wedding on the 13th, as always, I'm running out of time.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dog Days of Summer

10 inch Walleye on the Mississippi River
There is a lot going on these days, enough to limit the fishing to a few hours a night on the river.  The current situation on Mille Lacs has turned off a number of my usual fishing partners but there's always someone to hit the river with.   Now that the jon boat has a 25 hp motor, it's a bit more enjoyable fishing the river as it pushes the boat about 20 mph upstream, about 67% faster than the old 15 hp.  Joining me on Saturday night was my good friend Mark Applen who had never been on the river with me before.  Loading up the crawlers, his poles, some sucker minnows, and a few adult beverages, we launched at Blair's and headed up the river about 4 miles.  In Old Town Dayton, where the Crow River meets the Mississippi, the two waters take almost the entire length from our launching point to finally mix.  The Crow flows through mostly farmland and tends to be quite "muddy" while the Mississippi has more of a flow through forest regions and has a number of dams upstream to help settle the water.  It's quite noticeable where on the north side of the river, it's pretty clear while the south side, where the Crow empties, stays fairly muddy.  I tend to like fishing on the north side, although I cannot be certain it's better, it is more fun to fish water that looks cleaner.  Mark and I had a number of nice smallmouth on the lines but never landed anything larger than 14 inches.  Lot's of little ones, which is good and maybe with the water level dropping, one might have to change our fishing strategy.  As we approached closer to home the plan was to anchor and fish for whatever shows up on the end of the line.  Mark rigged up a sucker minnow while my pole was the old standby, a gloob of night crawlers fished on the bottom.  Night Crawlers are the super bait of the river, anything and everything likes them and besides, one never knows what's at the end of your line.  It wasn't long before that familiar tap-tap was felt, nothing big as it sort of bit like a small catfish, which the river is full of.  A minute later the hook comes up bare, threaded another 2 crawlers on the hook and the same thing, tap-tap-tap and nothing.  Now catfish are greedy fish and even if they bite light eventually they swallow the entire bait and end up hooked.  Well whatever was stripping my bait, it couldn't have been too big and I soon found out.  Finally hooking one, the fish appeared on the surface, a 10 inch walleye, interesting.  I caught another one soon after, there must have been a school of them hanging in the 10 foot current break, just below the island.  I suspect that as the water continues to drop it will concentrate the fish into the deeper holes and it will be time to try and see if we can locate some larger walleyes, I know they are there.  We really didn't get too many more fish and suspect that they are up in the shallower waters at dusk.  Loading the boat we headed back to the pole barn where a number of the neighbors stopped over and helped finish the remaining refreshments.

Test run after a rebuild
The other highlight of the weekend was attending the Lucas Oil Nationals at the Brainerd International Raceway (BIR), site of one of the fastest drag racing tracks in the United States.  Another good friend and business associate Kevin Sonsalla met myself and my neighbor Todd at Cabela's and headed north.  It been a number of years since I've been to BIR and it was alot of fun to get back up and watch the race.  Last week's post mentioned that the teams would tear the engines down and rebuild them with new heads, pistons, rods, and bearings after each run.  With only about 2 hours between runs, these guys did it in about an hour and it was pretty amazing to watch.  Because of Kevin's VIP passes, we got to eat supper in the hospitality area and I even had the chance to get Tony's autograph for Lyn's cousin Micky, an avid race fan.  We watched Tony test start the engine after the last rebuild of the night before we headed back to the bleachers at 5:00 to watch the finish.  The fastest we saw were times in the 3.83 seconds for 100 feet with speeds up to 313 mph.  Overall the race saw 2 track records set, the first was a Funny Car time breaking the 4 second mark at 3.998 and the second record was set by Doug Kalitta with a Top Fuel Dragster passing the line at 3.72 seconds.  Man, that's fast!  It's really hard to describe the feeling when these cars head down the track, your whole body shakes.  I definitely appreciate Kevin thinking of me as we got to see some really fast cars, have a nice dinner with refreshments on the house, and did get to meet a few people including Tony Schumacher as well as my other neighbor Tim and his crew.

The Taylor's Door County fishing adventure
Last but not least is news from the Taylor Family vacationing in Door County, Wisconsin.  Apparently they chartered a salmon fishing adventure and did pretty well.  Jack sent me 2 pictures, one of Ben holding the biggest fish of the trip, one he caught, a 20+ pound King Salmon.  They did not send me the final results but as you can see, the family is holding up 7 beautiful fish.  My personal opinion about this picture however is different, yes they were very successful yet check out Ben's head as apparently he's hung around Uncle David enough to finally wear something that differentiates him from the rest.  The biggest salmon and that Green Bay Packer hat, a sure sign of a true winner for sure!  Jack and his family are family to me and I appreciate them sharing their lives with me, we'll see if they will share the fish as well.  Check out their video report from Sturgeon Bay Outdoors HERE. We are approaching Labor Day and some of the busiest times of the year.  With family birthdays this weekend, out of town next weekend, my annual motorcycle trip with brother Steve the following week, back to Lac Seul starting September 5th, it's truly crazy.  The garden is ripening right on time and canning needs to be done, I make pretty good salsa, ya know!  I brought my ice house to Mankato, MN to get the bottom of the floor spray insulated before it got too cold out, which will really help keep it warm on the ice.  As my grandma Myrtle would say......Uffda!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Catfishing for Harold

Otto's first Mississippi fish
I am fortunate to have a lot of great friends in the neighborhood and one of those is Ricky Shermer.  Ricky is younger than me and 10 times crazier.  We both garden and have apple trees, enjoy working outdoors, and possess the same cynical attitudes about many things including politics.  Generally what's mine is Ricky's and what Ricky's is mine if we every need something.  He has a real nice Kabota zero turn monstrosity of a lawn mower and coupled with a dethatching unit and a vacuum system works wonders for getting the yard in shape in the spring.  Rick likes to get up early each day and you can always tell if he's been around checking out the place as there's a motorcycle track in the yard where he drove his scooter, verifying that your onions aren't as big as his!  I have been telling him about my latest adventures on the river when he asked me to do him a favor, "My dad, Harold Shermer loves catfish and next time when you go out and catch a few, save some for him".  Well, that's about as good excuse as any to get back out on the River and try our luck.  After getting a few chores done around the house I called my other neighbor Otto to see if he'd like to go with me for a couple of hours.  Now Otto is not much of a fisherman but when I added that there would be Jameson served in the boat and he would really have to do very little but sit there and enjoy the tranquility, he couldn't refuse.  After asking him to humor me for 5 minutes while I casted a crankbait into the shallows for that huge smallie I missed last week, we headed below Cloquet Island, scene of last's weeks success.  Dropping the anchor in the current break it would be a simple strategy, night crawlers on the bottom and a Jameson in the cupholder.  It wasn't long before we got a few small taps, the kind catfish are notorious for which stripped our hooks.  Otto finally hooked a nice golden redhorse before we finally got a keeper sized channel cat, maybe 16 inches.  Putting that on the stringer we continued to get bites and ended up with 3 catfish before it got too dark.  After getting the boat put away the fish were cleaned, vacuum packed, and frozen for Ricky.  Here's hoping his dad Harold is going to like them because there's a lot more where they came from!  Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the catfish, oh well.
Tony Schumacher

Sunday my wife Lyn and I went down to Independence Wisconsin to the annual Fall Fest.  It was fun to see all of our friends that we have known for over 40 years now.  It's interesting how much old fashioned bread, coffee cakes, and baked goods are sold there.  I can guarantee you that you'll never find this kind of home cooking in the city.  After stopping to see Lyn's uncle and aunt, Bernie and Nellie, the next stop was at Kevin's to retrieve my motorcycle GPS that I let him use of their trip to Glacier National Park.  It's actually a pretty nice GPS and is completely waterproof and shockproof.  With lifetime updates, the maps are always the most recent, sometimes I'm surprised how quickly they are updated.  Friday will be spent at BIR (Brainerd International Raceway) to attend the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals featuring all of the top drag racing stars in the world.  Another good friend, Kevin Sonsalla has pit passes to Tony Schumacher, the #1 guy in Top Fuel Dragster racing today.  It's a lot of fun to stand next to the guys working on the engine, it's amazing that they make one run then completely tear down the engine and rebuild it, all in about 90 minutes.   BIR is the fastest track in the country, so fast that the quarter mile has been reduced to 1000 feet to add additional stopping distances needed.  Interesting that the cars have reached the same speeds as they once did in the quarter mile, amazing.  I should have pictures for next week.

I'm hoping to get out again this weekend, the river continues to drop which really concentrates the fish.  I am bound an determined to find out where the walleyes are!  Maybe even try to get Harold some more catfish fillets.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Million Dollar Smile

Ben's First 17" River Smallmouth
With a number of things to catch up with around the house it was an easy decision to stay close to home and fish the river.  With the different motor on the jon boat, it's much more enjoyable to get around at a reasonable pace.  Actually I had fished both Saturday and Sunday afternoon however we start with the Sunday trip as the Saturday adventure was just a couple of old guys going out.  The Taylor's are my closest and longest friends since moving to Minnesota in 1976.  The patriarch of the family, Earl Taylor was one of my best fishing buddies.  Although no one can replace your own father, Earl came very close.  His two son's Mark and Jack represent my generation as we think alike, enjoy the same activities (including Easy Jesus), and have been friends for over 36 years.  Mark's son Matt and Jack's son Ben represent the 3rd generation of Taylor's that I call family.  Ben Taylor is 9 years old and turning into quite a fisherman.  Enough so that I never hesitate to use him as my repository for all those baits and fishing equipment that sit around simply collecting dust.  A couple years back I fished with my friend Eric and his 9 year old son Carter and was very impressed by his rod handling abilities, good enough for dad to let him use his G. Loomis rod.  Ben has those same qualities so a few weeks ago I ran across an excellent deal on a high quality Quantum rod/reel combination.  Picking it up for Ben, I gave it to him around his birthday, complete with line and a rod sock.  Ben had been asking about fishing on the River so on Sunday him and Jack met me at the pole barn as we headed to the neighbors landing.  The river can be somewhat difficult to fish.  The current is swift, boat control is limited as our strategy is to drive up as far as practical for the time we want to fish, then float back down casting lures into the shorelines, looking for active smallies, northern, or whatever may be hitting at the time.  A favorite lure is a squatty type crankbait that dives around 4 feet, in either a crayfish color or the ever successful Fire Tiger pattern.  Earlier in the week a trip to Fleet Farm found a bin of clearanced crankbaits and there were a few Matzuo Asai Shads, shallow water cranks in fire tiger for under $4.00.  Picking up a couple I knew these would be great for Ben, if he lost them, no big deal and yet they would be very effective.  Arriving about 3 miles up river and after getting everything ready, it was time to give Ben a lesson on casting...Stay out of the trees, hold your rod tip high, don't over cast and hit the rocks, keep a steady retrieve, often times the fish hit right at the boat.  It only took about 10 casts before I felt comfortable that he "gets it" and started fishing on my own.  Well it wasn't 10 minutes and a bass exploded out of the water with his bait firmly hooked in it's mouth.  Before we could even get the net out he lifted the fish over the boat gunnel and onto the floor.  I sort of winced but when your excited, getting the fish
A beautiful Golden Redhorse
in the boat is the most important aspect of fishing!  "So, I'm fishing for the first time in Uncle David's boat and the first time on the river. I'm fishing with the pole Uncle David gave me along with the lure he bought for me. Uncle David shows me how to fish this brand new experience and right away I catch my first small mouth and it's a beauty, 17 inches long!"  I'm not sure who was more excited me or Ben but I can definitely guarantee there isn't a smile that could compete with his.  After settling down we continued our float where we caught a few smaller fish before finishing the casting part of the trip in the Big Fish Eddy.  OK, I just made the name up but last week I pulled a 20 inch smallie out of that hole and Sunday saw me connect with a fish that appeared even larger.  Unfortunately she threw the hook before we could net it so it was time to put the casting gear away and head across the river to anchor and fish the bottom with night crawlers.   After re-rigging our poles and getting situated, I felt the first bite.  For river fishing like this it's almost mandatory to use circle hooks.  In Alaska all halibut fishing is done with circle hooks.  Basically the fish can swallow the bait but the hook does not catch until it's pulled back out to the corner of the mouth where it rotates and digs in. With the bottom feeders on the river, they work great, you let the fish take the bait then simply reel in and the fight is one.  Grabbing my reel and simply turning the crank, the fish was on.  Handing the pole off to Ben, he fought the fish while we got the net.  Being too big to hoist over the side of the boat, we landed this beautiful 5 pound golden redhorse.  Of course neither Ben nor Jack had ever seen one before so we took a few pictures and let it go.  They are really unique as we did get another one, 2 nice carp, and a 3 pound channel catfish.  5 fish in about an hour and all species Ben had never caught before.   About 7:30 we headed back to the shed with another great day on the river.  I do like the night crawler fishing, it's very relaxing and you never know what will show up at the end of the line.

19 inch Smallie
Going backwards for Saturday, my neighbor Tom and I spent a few hours on the river to check out to see if the fishing was as good as it was the week before.  The first thing we noticed was the river level had already dropped another foot or so, enough for us to pay more attention to where we were going.  With a couple extra hours to play with we headed upstream about 6 miles and started beyond where the Crow River meets the Mississippi.  Almost immediately Tom nails a nice 19 inch smallie, a great start to the trip.  We really like fishing those outside bends where the bank is quite steep and the river depth provides a nice continuing drop.  With new line on his reel, I think Tom had a lot more confidence and it shows with this fish.  As we drifted down the sky was getting darker and darker.  Looking at the weather map on the phone it was obvious we were going to get wet unless we thought of something fast. A glance at the County Hwy 12 bridge going across the Crow River, we arrived just in time to park underneath as the sky opened up.  I was a nice break, time for a beer and discuss the next strategy.  With the water down, what was looking good last week had changed significantly yet there were new area's becoming apparent.  Drifting down the north side of the River, we decided to try the south side but soon discovered a dramatic change in the water quality.  The Crow River enters the Mississippi River form the south and it is very dirty, chocolate colored from the farm areas it flows through.  With visibilities of less than 6 inches vs the north side at around 18 inches, it was apparent that the outflow of the Crow stayed on the south side for a number of miles before completely mixing with the Mississippi.  After 200 yards of drifting we headed back across the river for cleaner water.  We encountered many smaller bass this trip and Tom
Nice northern pike
did manage to get another fish over 16 inches but that's about it for size.  A number in the 12 inch range and even a few under 6 inches, regardless of size, those bass are pretty aggressive.  I did get a couple of northern again, including a nice 28 incher.  I'm surprised at how many of those snakes have graced my line these days.  We ended up at the Big Fish Eddy (see previous reference) where the previous week saw us hook up 4 smallies before leaving.  We did get some smaller fish again and I decided to try for walleyes while Tom casted for bass.  I tried a smaller sucker minnow on a 3 way rig and bottom bounced it for 50 yards down the current break in 10 - 12 feet of water.  No such luck.  After a few last casts we headed the boat down river to check out the Anoka Bridge as I had never been that far down river before.  It was interesting and it looked like there were a few potential fishing holes to try before the summer is done.  As we loaded the boat back up my tow vehicle, a 2008 Polaris Razor side by side had completely lost power in one cylinder.  Assuming it was a fuel issue, it was time to bring it in the shop for a tune up.  As we locked the last gate behind us, Tom, who is a superb mechanic, suggested that it sounded like an ignition problem to him.  After cleaning the boat and putting it away Tom left yet I couldn't help think about his diagnosis.  Pulling a spark plug wire on one side, the motor simply turned over.  Repeating on the other side and it started but only ran on that cylinder so I swapped the spark plugs and the problem followed.  Next I pull a plug from my Sportsman 800 ATV then replaced to assumed bad plug and voila, purred like a kitten.  New plugs were only $6.00 but it saved me from hauling it in and paying the minimum charges, I guess a nice trips for engine advice.

This weekend's as busy as most have been.  Sunday is the annual St. Peter and Paul's Fall Fest in Independence, Wisconsin, my wife's home town.  With friends we haven't seen in a while it will be fun to get back and meet old friends.  As well we'll probably go and see my niece to celebrate her birthday as she's growing up too damn fast as well.  The colder summer has put the damper on my sweet corn however the pickles seem to be holding their own as I've made about 8 buckets so far.  It's almost time to start working on my wheel house and get it ready for the winter.  It needs to get the underside spray foamed for insulation, and I have a cupboard door to install taking advantage of a space that isn't being used.  Lac Seul is in 4 weeks, that will come up fast.  Oh well.