Thursday, September 25, 2014

Catching Up

Pig on the Pig Roaster
This weekend was a chance to get caught up on a few things before winter is upon us and that is now less than 90 days away.  Saturday was our neighbor, Tim Kuntz annual end of summer pig roast and I usually help out in some fashion even if it's only moral support.  Finding a reasonably priced pig can be a challenge these days as he ended up going to Starbuck, MN to get this beauty, a 265 pound porker. Injecting the meat with our favorite Maple Cure from PS Seasonings in Wisconsin, he let it sit overnight before putting on his pig roaster Saturday morning.  Adding a nice rub to the outside of the pig, it looks pretty good as we slow cook it to 200 degrees.  It can be amazing how long it can take to fully break down all of the fats and connecting tissues however by 6:00 it was ready to eat.  We had a good amount of the neighbors stop by but in the end there was a lot of pork left, enough for a few good meals.  While the pig was cooking in the morning I did take advantage of Tim's cleared driveway to pressure wash the inside of my boat, cleaning what remained of our Lac Seul trip a couple of weeks ago.  With just the right slope and having a concrete surface to work on, I used some commercial carpet cleaner and my pressure washer to make it look new again.  Sometimes I feel that the sand that gets down inside the carpeting can be almost impossible to remove and  that a pressure washer only drives it deeper.  Vacuuming it out a couple of times before putting the hose to it should help but I think next time, if I have the opportunity to return to Lac Seul, I will definitely put temporary carpeting over the entire floor.  I will take one less "anxiety" point away from the trip and it's probably a good idea anyway.  My current Ranger was suppose to be "The Griz's" boat and in talking with him over the years he always put down additional carpeting while using the boat for guiding in order to protect the original flooring.   I'll have to look him up at the Sportsman Show this year to see what he used.

Cookie, Carter, and Marcus
So while I was out mowing, cleaning boats, and helping with the Pig Roast my friends Eric and Greg were busy participating in the Wisconsin Youth Hunt this weekend.  Eric to ducks is like me to walleyes as he well set up with all the equipment and knowledge to hunt in the backwaters of the Mississippi River around La Crosse and beyond.  The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources establishes a youth hunt ahead of the normal duck opener.  This really give the youngsters a chance at those first ducks before they get too wary caused by normal hunting pressure.  It's a chance to get the young interested in duck hunting, a sport that has seen a decline in participation for a while.  As you see in the picture, they were very successful bagging a number of nice wood ducks plus a nice hen mallard.  Cookie, the yellow lab belongs to Greg and his son Marcus is on the right.  Carter, in the middle is Eric's son as I've had the good fortune to fish with him last year.  As you see these kids are getting pretty good at handling a shotgun and certainly have been rewarded for hanging with their dad's Eric and Greg.  It great to see this and is definitely worth the time to recognize their efforts to keep their sons interesting in something besides video games.  

My plan for the weekend is to try and get to Mille Lacs for some night trolling.  Believe it or not, I've only been up there 3 times this year and am almost embarrassed to say so.  I guess it will depend on whether I can find someone to go with or not.  In the meantime the work continues on the Salem Ice Cabin, getting it ready for the ice fishing season.  Re caulking the floor, finally getting to cutting and installing a door to take advantage of the space under the couch, adding an external cable antenna connection and upgrading the inside one, replacing the curtain rods, finish spray insulating the hole covers, time is getting short.   Recently the City of Dayton overlaid our street in front of the house and totally screwed up my driveway.  Where it used to be 1.5 inches above the road was now almost 3 inches below it.  Although there was a solution, replace a third of my driveway to match up with the road, it was a stupid plan so I had the entire driveway redone.  It's looks great, not like somebody cobbled together a stupid plan to simply get by.  It's a 7 day wait to drive on it however the weather has been perfect for curing concrete.  My travel schedule is crazy for the next few weeks, more adventures I guess!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lac Seul, Days 3 and 4

39 inch Northern Pike
Deciding there was too much to write about in one week, my Lac Seul report is broken into 2 parts.  It also works well as I didn't go fishing last weekend.  This trip was my longest to Canada since I was a teenager traveling with the Tollefson's and the Semingson's to Lake Nipigon.  4 full days of fishing was on the docket and admittedly the first 2 were pretty good.  Sunday was our third day on the water so the boats headed back to Wapesi Bay where we had fished the first day and did quite well.  Arriving at the same point my bait of choice was a jig dressed with a 3 inch Gulp Alive minnow, cream colored.  A few bounces off the bottom and it felt like a freight train just hit my bait.  The pole I was using had braided line on the spinning rod and you really do feel everything.  Whatever it was, it was big and after 4 minutes she surfaced, a huge northern pike.  After a couple of runs Dan finally coaxed the fish into my landing net which was not nearly as big as it needed to be.  With it's tail hanging out of the net we managed to get it over the gunnel of the boat and unhooked.  A quick measurement put the fish as slightly over 39 inches, the largest northern I have caught since the 42 inch monster that I had landed while ice fishing on the north side of Mille Lacs in 1994.   She was quite fat and we estimated her at around 17 - 18 pounds, all I know it was difficult to hold her steady while Pete took the picture.  A few snap shots and back into the water she went, one flick of her tail and she was gone.  This fish may have explained why the walleyes weren't as plentiful as they were 2 days ago.  Getting more comfortable with the reading the water and using the electronics, we began searching for active fish.   On Sunday a minor cold front went through and like most waters, it definitely affected the fish bite.  With the wind coming from the north or northwest we struggled to find any area's of concentrated fish yet between the 6 of us we managed to catch enough for dinner that night and get a good start on accumulating our take home limits for the trip which were 4 walleyes each.  With 8 walleyes packaged for transport, we cooked up all the cleaned fish from the days catch and what was left over from the previous day, we were stuffed.

A net full of walleyes
Monday was our last day of fishing on the big lake.  With the second day's success in Tuktegweik Bay, it was decided to return as the wind was already quite strong by the time we headed out.  Having a known previous trail on the depth finder was critical as one now had a trusted route into the bay though the rocky channels.  Of course our first stop was the same point that we named Dan's Hole where 2 days earlier we simply caught one after another.  Although we marked quite a few fish still hanging around the point in 20 - 24 feet of water, they seemed quite lethargic and not really very hungry.  The wind had set up a great drift and while we did manage a few fish it was time to start looking again.  Up the shoreline were a few points that looked promising and the map did show a channel heading to a smaller lake, sometimes these channels can be really productive.  With 8 fish in the refrigerator the goal was to bring home 16 keepers for the day (our definition is 16 - 18 inches), the number needed for all of us to fill out.  Bruce's boat joined us for a while but admittedly the bite was tough and soon he took off for more productive waters.  In the meantime we decided to work the bay marking a few fish here and there, catching a few here and there, checked out the channel which wasn't anything to write home about.  Eventually we fished passed an outpost camp to find a nice sand flat between and island and shore.  Again not much there. Finally at the west end of a small island, the fish marks started to appear on my screen.  Generally speaking, when those marks are a foot or two off the bottom it is a good chance they are active and feeding, and feeding they were.  Dropping the Minnkota and using the spot lock we sat in place while Dan and I reeled in one after another.  We weren't sure what was going on with Pete as he could only sit there and watch the 2 masters at work.  Although I did get a few on Gulp most wanted a real minnow on the jig as the bite was rather soft instead of simply slamming it.  After starting to accumulate a number of fish we talked about how many we should keep in the boat.  If Bruce was having the same luck we'd be over however we decided to keep 12 and assume that we were on the fish and Bruce wasn't.  With a flurry of 3 straight hours of non-stop catching we decided to head back to camp somewhat earlier than usual.  Having to clean fish, prepare supper, and get things packed for the morning ride out, it was the right thing to do as we spotted Bruce's boat in the Narrows.  With only Dave and Wayne in the boat, apparently Bruce had enough of catching fish and was in taking care of business.  A quick question to Wayne, how many did they have.............3 keepers.  The decision to keep our 12 worked out perfect as they really needed only one more to complete our catch.  Luckily within a minute they nailed the last fish as we headed to the dock.  Loading the net with the walleyes I headed for the fish cleaning house with 16 walleyes to fillet.  It was a successful trip indeed.

Waking up to a brisk north wind, the temperature had dropped to a chilly 41 degrees for the boat ride to the landing. Even fully bundled in a rain suit with many layers of clothes I was pretty chilled by the time we arrived.  Enjoying a hearty and hot breakfast at Knobby's in Sioux Lookout we were ready for the 9 hour trip back.  It was another great trip, my third to Lac Seul within a year, I'm getting to like it.  So far I have discovered 3 new areas where to fish beyond the normal spots they go to, it's a lot of fun to explore.  Now it time clean the boat carpeting and see if there are any walleyes biting on Mille Lacs.    

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Lac Seul in September

Pete's High Noon Walleye
No worse for the wear because of my bonehead move on August 31st, our trip to Lac Seul finally got underway last Thursday.  As stated last week, this trip would be quite a bit different than my previous visits as we were taking my Ranger 620T.  It's was sort of exciting and worrisome at the same time.  The exciting aspect had to do with the accessories on the boat, a great depthfinder/gps, a bow mount trolling motor with Ipilot that has an anchor function, the Sirius radio attachment for weather overlays, it would be a real test of their validity on Lac Seul.  The worrisome part deals with my own, what some call anal, concerns with the huge amount of sand everywhere.  Sand is hard on carpets and can really scratch up the gunnel's if one rests their sandy shoes on them.  Without being too much of a pain I gradually let Pete know of my concerns and both him and our other guy Dan Sadler really respected my wishes.  Having a broom and a rug on the dock right where you entered the boat didn't hurt either!  The only other concern was the stainless steel prop on the Suzuki, they are great for open water performance but hitting a rock can bend the prop shaft, I know as I have done that in the past.  Prior to leaving I was able to locate an aluminum prop from Frankie's and installed it, using the stainless as a spare.  Being extra careful, we returned with not even a scratch on the prop.  The only other issue was the tilt/trim function on the motor, on Sunday it started acting up, I'm not sure what I did to fix it but the rest of the week was fine.  With the concerns addressed it was time to get into camp and hit the water.  From the landing at Deception Bay to Lac Seul Outfitters, it's about a 75 minute run at 30 mph.  We followed Bruce as he had the route on his GPS, however my Lowrance and Navionics chip had a detailed map of Lac Seul which included the safe routes displayed on the map. Although we did deviate somewhat, a safe arrival at camp was welcome.  Unloading and settling in, it started raining so it was decided that cocktail hour would suffice. 
Dan and Dave with a couple nice walleyes

Friday morning arrived as planned with coffee, eggs, bacon, American fries, and stove top toast (toasters draw too much current for the generators).  This would prove to be our staple morning meal for the next 4 mornings.  Our first destination was Wapesi Bay north west of camp and about a 30 minute boat ride.  Actually its only about 5 miles as the crow flies yet the route takes us past Tom's Landing, Pecker Point, and back southwest around islands and sunken reefs.  Following Bruce we stopped at one of his favorite points with only a few fish.  Using the electronics we moved over to the next point and drifted the 25 foot to 12 foot depths looking for active fish.  At 20 feet we found them as we deployed the Minnkota and set the anchor function.  This really works slick as the head of the motor has a built in GPS and it directs the motor to stay on that spot, or at least within 15 feet.  We started hammering them including the first picture, Pete's high noon walleye.  Fishing with a simple jig and a minnow dropped over the side of the boat was all one needed to do.  Often the jig never hit the bottom before a walleye would take it.  Lac Seul has a nice regulation, 4 fish, everything from 18 - 21 inches has to be released and only 1 over 21 is allowed in the 4 fish limit.  Our own slot is 16 - 18 inches and no fish kept over 21.  Catching over 100 fish a day is pretty easy for the boat yet our tight slot can mean limited fish to bring back to camp.  Of course we always have enough to eat yet trying to time our take home fish can be interesting.  Dave Callister was the new guy in camp and in his honor we did a genuine shore lunch.  BTW, I am the designated fish filleter as I've seen what the others do and personally I can't deal with it so it's lucky I love to fillet fish.  Going to work I cut up 10 walleyes while the rest of the crew (except Pete) started the fire, cut up potatoes, cooked up some beans, and got the oil nice and hot.  Everything was ready as I filleted the last fish, it was time to relax and chow down.  Because the shores are 99% rock one can't be too choosy where you have your shore lunch as long as it had sand, we managed to find an acceptable spot.  An hour later we were back catching walleyes, filled to the gills with shore lunch and 2 hours later we headed back to the cabin, a great first day. 

Blue colored walleye
On Saturday it was decided to head south to an area called the Goal Post.  A 14 - 20 foot flat rising in the middle of the channel, we drifted a couple of runs before anchoring again.  Although the wind was fairly strong the trolling motor held up beautifully.  Unfortunately it was difficult to fish as the wind continued to get stronger by the hour.  Deciding to leave, Bruce headed into what is known as Tuktegweik Bay as we followed.  Being out of the wind would be nice and who knows, the fish might be biting better than where we were.  Bruce headed to the front of an island to fish the face of the steep drop off that existed.  He likes this kind of structure yet I prefer the sharp drop offs then 15 - 25 foot flat area just off the points.  With little room to maneuver 2 boats we decided to go and look for fish with the depth finder.  Two points later we mapped an area where the fish seemed to be stacked, dropped the virtual anchor and again started hammering the walleyes.   What was really interesting about this spot were the "blue" coloring on the walleyes.  Checking the Internet it appears that they are simply a coloration phase of your standard walleye, much like you see then vary from dark golden, green, to almost black.  These fish were absolutely beautiful, especially as they came to the surface the color was almost neon like.  Our spot was consistently producing all day as it was hard to leave.  Before leaving we established a waypoint on the Lowrance and labeled it Dan's Hole after Dan Sadler, the guy that occupied the middle seat.  Although his fishing equipment leaves much to be desired, his fishing abilities are second to none! Catching quite a few, we ended up with enough fish for our evening dinner. 

Lac Seul is a great place to fish and as I get to know the lake better it's really fun to go exploring new places.  It's easy to have a few honey holes and jump between them yet finding new areas can be really exciting.  This spring we discovered an area just full of walleyes in the 7 foot depths and there was no one around to bother you.  It's said that you cannot catch fish where there is no fish so using the electronics to verify that a spot even holds fish became very important.  Next week will be the last 2 days of our trip as we have a wedding on Saturday and there will be little time for fishing this weekend, not that the last 4 days shouldn't last me a while!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

When it Rains it Pours

First fish of the day.
Let's start off with the good stuff from last week!  While scrambling to get things done for our trip to Lac Seul this week, Pete and I found time to get out on the river for a few hours on Saturday night.  The last trip saw a couple of walleyes caught on nighcrawlers fished on the bottom, a surprise as normally carp, catfish, and suckers are the results of this setup.  It got me thinking about trolling the holes with Shad Raps, Flicker Shads, or any other bait that would tap the bottom while trolling up river.  Once on the river it was obvious the recent rains had risen the water levels over a foot from last week.  The current was faster and maybe the higher water had pushed the smallies back shallow.  We decided to head upstream and cast for some smallies before starting to troll for those walleyes.  Rigging up Pete with a spinning rod, I attached my yellow crankbait and within 2 minutes he had a beautiful 18 inch smallie on the line.  Pretty impressive however there became an immediate discussion of was it the fishing skill or the guide's attention to setting up his guest for the evening?  Of course it was my opinion that the guide had 80% of the reasoning for this nice fish being on board.   Think about it as he picked the location, the choice of rods, the ever important "lucky" bait which he could have easily saved for himself.  That debate will continue this week as we both head to Lac Seul for 4 days of nonstop walleye fishing.  As for the rest of the evenings fishing, we did get about 8 fish, a couple in the 17 inch range and a number of small ones before we started trolling for walleyes.  I put on a brown perch colored Little Ripper on my rig and a fire tiger Flicker Shad on Pete's.  Trolling to the top of the hole, our intent was if we caught anything substantial, we would continue the pattern.  About the time we decided there was nothing going, we dropped the anchor and reeled in the baits.  To my surprise was a small 8 inch walleye, the same size as I got last week hooked to the Little Ripper.  Well, at least the method has promise.  Not all that excited about small walleyes and with the high water comes more current, we decided to fish some nightcrawlers.  The sun sets too fast these days and after 20 minutes of no action we called it a night.

A nicer time, sunset on the river
Sunday was originally planned to go motorcycling with my brother Steve.  We have done this for the last 3 years as I trailer my bike down to Fountain City while my wife attends Farm Fest with her cousins.  This year I had been a little indecisive as plans were changing by the minute.  Of course at the last minute it was decided that we would go, I loaded the Victory Kingpin and met my brother at our destination.  Our plan was to head to Minnesota, go through Iowa along the river before crossing at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin before returning home.  Things were going really good, we weren't traveling too fast when we hit a left turning curve.  We were riding together as I was traveling on the outside of the lane when I got too high on the curve.  Instead of looking where I needed to go I looked straight, a big mistake.  We covered this in my motorcycle training but it was too late.  The bike went upright and straight for the guardrail.  Although my speed was more than reasonable, I should have never looked forward as now I was on a collision course.  Hitting the brakes the bike scrubbed a lot of speed before it went down.  Hitting the cable guard rail, it stopped everything like it should but threw me onto the edge of the road.  I suspect I was down to 10 - 15 mph when this happened and I sustained only a few areas of road rash and a jammed toe.  I always ride with protective clothing and I'm sure things could have been worse without a helmet, riding jacket, heavy pants and boots.  Getting up I staggered some before coming to my senses, was thankful no one hit me while I was thrown onto the road.  Walking back to the bike, it was impaled between the cables, still running and on it's side.  Unfortunately those cable guard rails do a great job of stopping you but also inflict a lot of damage as my bike was really wedged in.  I am confident that had there not been the rail there the bike would have stopped within a few feet of it, a little scraped up but rideable.   A few guys stopped by to help including a lecture on going too fast, but we finally got it out and upright.  Now the fender was pushed into the front wheel, the back tire was flat, not much I could do but hop on my brother Steve's bike and head back.  He really helped by getting my trailer and with his son in law Brandon, picked up the bike and brought it back to LaCrosse.  I guess pictures were the last thing on my mind.  Deciding to go to the Urgent Care on Sunday morning the doctor asked what's wrong.  I showed her the scraps, they took an xray of my toe which turned out OK but it was pointed to my that I have arthritis in the toes, and they showed me how to brace it using the toe next to the big toe.  She asked if there was anything else she could fix, I told her my pride.  No such luck.  I would not be surprised if the bike is totaled, but I'm hoping they can fix it.  Hitting a boat on opener, now's hoping my luck changes soon!  I guess one should be fortunate that all that happened was a few scrapes and soreness.   Therefore I decided to post a picture from the night before looking up river.

Tomorrow at 5:00 AM we head to Lac Seul and this time I'm bringing the Ranger.  I did have the sense to put on an aluminum prop, just in case, but it will be fun to fish out of my own boat.  Not one to go off exploring where I'm not comfortable with, cross my fingers, it will be just fine.  The only thing I worry about is that the water has been high and there has been a lot of deadheads in the water.  Apparently the water is down, which should help.  I guess we'll have a report next week and I'm looking for it to be as good as last year was.