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.

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