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.


Beaver Creek Cabins & Guide Service said...

Wish I could have made it back to Red with you but I had other fishing plans. I should have rescheduled because there's not too many "funner" places than being in the Salem...

Happy New Year to you.


Duane said...

Again with the hat!!!!!