Thursday, February 26, 2015

2015 Perch Extravaganza

Perch Extravaganza
This weekend saw my fishing buddies Mark, Mike and Judy, Russ, Scott and Ann, my brother Steve and nephew Kevin attend the 32nd Annual Johnson's Perch Extravaganza held at Nitti's Hunter's Point Resort on the east side of Lake Mille Lacs.  It's probably the largest perch fishing contest with nice prizes for the largest 10 perch plus a ton of great attendance prizes including a couple of Ice Castle wheel house and a side by side UTV. The plan was simple as Steve and Kevin would meet at the pole shed around 5:00 Friday afternoon, we'd drive up to get my equipment from Bill at Lundeen's Tackle Castle before meeting the rest of the crew at Hunter's Point.  Arriving around 7:30 on Friday night I had assumed that everyone had their houses set up but when I pull on the ice to park everyone's wheel houses were still parked near shore.  Well, this could be interesting as the crew was there quite a bit earlier than we were. Luckily they saved us a spot at the bar as we unwound from the week's past events.  Hunter's makes probably one of the best pizza I've had so we ordered a large one for supper, they aren't cheap but it's pretty darn good.  After a few more toasts with Mark we decided it was time to get set up as we all headed to our trucks and followed Russ to the magic spot for perch fishing.  It takes about an hour to set up the house, including getting my flag up and flying, by 10:30 we were fishing.  Now perch tend to be a fish of the daylight hours and though I have caught them in the night, it was more likely if we got anything it would be a walleye. We did mark a bunch of fish on the flashers, they acted like tullibees yet nothing took our lures. Setting up our bunks and the rattle reels we hit the sack with only one going off within an hour, a 10 inch walleye.  Saturday started with a clear blue sky and a rising barometer, perfect perch fishing conditions.  Steve finally caught a 9 inch perch but that was not going to be enough to even consider bringing it in as there were probably 5,000 participants.  We did get a couple of really nice tullibees and actually they were probably the largest I've seen come out of Mille Lacs.  Admittedly where we were fishing, just in front of the White Cap Inn, wouldn't be what I would call a tullibee hot spot but they were there.  I did have my camera down but forgot to hit the record button when they were around.

Nice Tullibee Ready for Pickling
The contest started at 8:00 Saturday and ended at 2:00pm.  With nothing to show for our efforts it was time to head in for the prize drawings.  To be eligible for the contest and the drawing you must purchase a $20 button with a number on it.  All the numbers are loaded into a big barrel and they are drawn one by one.  As stated they give away everything from tackle packs, flat screen TV's, depth finders, and fish houses, probably at least 100 different prizes.  Well, like years past I walked away with only my button but it's fun.  The drawing last for about 1 1/2 hours then the party begins as they have a big tent set on the ice with a DJ and a bar set up.  For us it's a little to crazy and after standing on the ice for over 2 hours it's was time to find something a lot warmer so we got it the trucks and drove down the lake to the White Cap Inn.  There we found a table to relax, had a couple of beers while spending some money on the Meat Raffle, a popular event in these places up north.  Russ ended up with a couple of flank steaks and the rest of us struck out so we headed back to our ice houses just a half mile out on the lake.  The weather forecast was saying that Saturday night could be the coldest night of the winter as the temperature had been dropping all day with a very brisk Northwest wind.  It was very nice in the Salem as the temperature eventually hit -20F by the time we got up in the morning.  At 7:30 I walked outside and to my surprise everyone was ready to leave, and they all did by 8:00.  With the cold predicted to last all day and the fact that Steve and Kevin had a 4 hour trip back to LaCrosse, WI we decided to pack it up and go have breakfast somewhere.  I was surprised that a number of places were not open yet but we finally ended up at Bay View on the east end of Cove Bay and had a great walleye breakfast.  With the boys on their way home I cleaned the tullibees and started preparing them to pickle.

Hopefully this was the last cold stretch of the year and we can start warming up a little.  Inland walleye season closed on February 21st so the only options are heading to Devils Lake, North Dakota or Lake of the Woods, 6 hours north.  There is still plenty of time and ice to fish crappies and I am looking forward to maybe heading back up into the Detroit Lakes, MN area is see if I can repeat my catch of a few weeks ago.  I might even decide to take out the wheel house one last time and do an overnight on Mille Lacs to get some more tullibees as they are very good smoked and fun to catch.
I just put the finishing touches on a trip to Charleston, SC in March.  For the last few years a couple of my friends from Texas, Joe Stanfield and Matt Davis have been fishing the weekend before our annual APEC conference.  This year its in Charlotte, NC so we decided to spend the weekend in Charleston and  charter a boat out to the inshore reefs as it's prime time for sheepshead.  They are an interesting fish as they have teeth like a human.  The last time I fished these was in 2008 out of Jacksonville, FL as my previous post reported.  Our captain states they are bigger than this and I am looking forward to getting away and fishing somewhere warm.  In the meantime.........

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Not Much to Report

Shimano Butteryfly Jigs
As stated last week, I spent most of my time in California.  One of the cool things I came back with was some fishing gear given to me by my good friend Joseph who works for a supplier of mine, Micrometals. A fishing hat, Tee Shirt from the shop, and a really cool Shimano Butterfly Jig (pictured) jigging spoon from Longfin's Sports Shop in Anaheim, California.  I love saltwater fishing and I have always wanted to fish tuna off the coast of California with Joseph and Jim Cox however it tends to be a spur of the moment situation.  The tuna can come in anytime so they watch the reports and when they are on fish, you go.  These trips are usually 1 1/2 day trips where you leave in the evening and steam towards the fishing grounds arriving in the morning.  One fishes all day before heading back that night arriving the next morning at port.  They really get a lot of fish sometimes up to a few hundred pounds per guy, that's a lot of yellow fin tuna steaks for sure. The best time is usually in August and one of these days I'll definitely be on that boat with them. The Butterfly jigs work really well as they have 2 ultra sharp hooks that are attached to the bottom of the main lure body and are deadly on fish.  I don't think it will work very good on Mille Lacs but who knows, may it would be a great norther pike bait.

2015 Perch Extravaganza 
This weekend was spent at the neighbors and to be honest with you it didn't go very well.  I am not sure if was the fact that I was exhausted from only 3 hours of sleep the night before or what but put it this way, I wasn't very proud of myself and I'll leave it at that.  This week is the annual Johnson's Portside Perch Extravaganza, one of the largest fishing tournaments at Hunter's Point Resort on Mille Lacs Lake. Joining me will be my brother Steve and his son Kevin.  Last year my brother Steve, neighbor Pete, and I took my new Salem Ice Cabin arrived at Hunter' Point however they had virtually no spots plowed for the contest members.  Promising that trucks would be working all night, it was snowing and by morning nothing happened.  Along with my friend Russ and Mark, we were stuck a few miles out just off the road with some very heavy snow cover.  The fishing was terrible and with the snow it eventually flooded our spots bad enough that by 6:00 in the morning we were packed up and gone.  This year there is little snow on the ice and with my chains, we should be able to get out to the flats for some serious perch fishing and a chance to turn in a winner! Besides some nice prizes for the largest perch caught they have a ton of door prizes that they give away which is always a lot of fun.  I am looking forward to finally fishing with my nephew as he was supposed to go with us to Red Lake a couple of times but at the last minute had issues that kept him home.  He's a great fisherman and often reminds me of myself when I was his age.  Unfortunately he's a big northern pike guy while I like to chase walleyes so we are bound to have a few discussions.  Our plan is to get set up by 9:00 Friday night as the Tournament starts at 8:00 Saturday morning.  The weather is looking okay until Saturday night when the bottom drops out and the forecast is for -16F over night.  Hopefully that will be the last really cold spell of the year but we'll see.

Inland walleye fishing season ends on Sunday, February 22nd so after that either one needs to go down to the Mississippi River or Lake of the Woods.  I am not ruling out either however it hasn't been to bad of a season with my 4 trips to Red Lake, one can't complain.  Wish us luck and I'll report in next week.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Last Minute Invite

Nice Collection of Fish
After picking up my friend Lory Brasel at the airport on Friday night as he was returning from China, we decided to stop at our neighbor Tim's to have a cocktail before dropping him off at his house.  My other neighbor Pete showed up and after a couple of hours we decided to go ice fishing on Saturday, sometime after noon.  Finally getting to bed and waking up around 9:00, it was time to get a few things done before we took off.  At 11:00 I got a call from my other Pete friend and the message was clear, I got a hot tip on a spot they are getting 12 inch crappies and 9 1/2 inch sunnies, be at my house a noon.  Now what??? My neighbor Pete and I had plans but my friend Pete was a very good friend of Dave Genz, legendary ice fisherman had a pretty good offer, one I may never get again.  In the meantime neighbor Pete just sent me a text, are you ready to go?  Damned if you do and damned if you don't.  Neighbor Pete would probably understand my dilemma so I confessed that I had a better offer and then followed up with a call declaring I am going to stand him up, this was once in a winter opportunity.  The other problem was that I was sworn to secrecy as these spots are held very sacred.  As I expected neighbor Pete said, take advantage and by noon I was in Monticello.  It was a 2 hour drive at 75 miles per hour we were drilling holes by 2:30 and fishing 5 minutes later.  Within 5 minutes I pulled up a 12 inch crappie, the biggest crappie I had caught in years.  A minute later another come came up through my hole.....holy moly!!!  The fish were biting very light and after a couple of easy fish it became more challenging.  Sometimes that's half the fun, figuring out what one needs to do to make the adjustment.  We were fishing from 11 to 14 feet and most of what we caught were coming from the deeper water.  A couple of guys were fishing close to us and they fished in that 11 foot area and started to pile the fish on the ice.  My Clam was set up in 11 feet and I decided to see if I could convince a few to hit my lure, nothing.  Time for Plan B as I got out the Aqua Vu and dropped the camera down.  There they were, 11 - 12 inch crappies, 9 - 9 1/2 inch sunnies swimming by, inhaling my bite yet you could not ever feel or sense them.  Like the previous week the camera gave me the feedback I needed as I stopped working my line but rather simply checked the screen and when a fish inhaled the bait, I set the hook.  This was a huge advantage as I put another 5 nice crappies on the ice and 5 beautiful sunfish.  One problem was that my lure's hook size was too small. Normally I like a #6 hook for crappies but my lure had a #10, a little small which resulted in every other fish I hooked came off at the top of the hole.  The action was so good that I simply didn't have time to change, a big mistake as I lost over 7 nice crappies that came unhooked.  It was pretty obvious who had the advantage, my camera made the difference as Pete only has 3 nice crappies to my 7.  Combined we had 10 crappies, 8 sunnies, and as many that got off, a pretty good afternoon.  As darkness approached the bite slowed and at 6:00 we headed out.   It was interesting, drive 5 hours to fish for 4 hours, it was the best crappie fishing I have had in years.  On the way home I stopped by neighbor Pete's and he seemed to be both impressed and not upset with me....that was a relief.  I am not sure I will get back there soon but it certainly was fun.

Santa Barbara Harbor Sunset.
This weeks post is late because I was in California till Friday morning and forget my adapter to transfer last weeks fish pictures to finish this post.  It was a whirlwind trip as I left on Monday morning landing at LAX around 11:30 AM before getting picked up by our West Coast Salesman, Shahab as we headed north to both Agoura Hills then on to Santa Barbara.  Both are beautiful areas as we decided that when once our business for the day was done, we'd have dinner on the Santa Barbara Pier for a little seafood.  With allergies to shellfish, I had the snapper on a bead of rice, unfortunately I wasn't impressed.  Maybe it was the way it was cooked but it just didn't have much flavor.  On Tuesday night we at with the boys from Triad and the menu items were much better with the exception of the raw oysters.  At $3.00 each they were pretty small and tasted old, yuck.   I had the grilled tuna and it was fabulous but as what seems to be in style, was served on a bead of rice. Not bad and the company was pretty good so no complaints.  Wednesday night saw me being accompanied by my good friends at Micrometals and Rubadue as we ate at the Orange County Mining Company.  A spectacular view of Orange County, it was time for a steak, pretty good! Thursday was pack up night as my good friend Mike Schubert and I, along with Shahab packed up our booth as we were done with the show.  Shahab headed south while we stopped by Mike's house to change, had a beer at one of the local watering holes, visited the American Legion where Mike is the Adjutant and downed another refreshment before heading over to our traditional hang out, Longboards.  My flight was the Red eye leaving at 1:00 in the morning and arriving at 6:30 in Minneapolis. I never sleep very well on airplanes but after being up for 20 hours the next thing I knew we were landing!  It was at least 85 degrees each day, a far cry from the -10F temperatures we have had in Minnesota, so it was pretty nice.  It was nice to see everyone but all good things had to end.

Looking forward to maybe getting out on Sunday to catch some fish.  We have a big deal going on for Valentines day at the neighbor's as Tim is cooking a big prime rib and the gals are bringing the rest of the courses.  Off to get a little sleep and figure out the rest of the weekend.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Lot's Going On!

Boris With a Beautiful Walleye
With the warmer than usual weather and the desire to try and catch some respectable crappies, I decided to head up north on Saturday and fish with my friend Jack and Ben.  Although they haven't had much luck finding the crappies on their lake, he stated that the plan was to move his ice shack closer to the island to see if we could locate a few there as all he has been getting are northern pike.  I had a few chores to do before I could meet those guys, first was to stop at Bill's to get bait and the second was to deliver a bottle of TX Whiskey to my friend Dewey.  Last week I spent some time on Mille Lacs with Dewey and the conversation of whiskey came up.  I challenged his normal perception of what quality whiskey really is and after a few one upmanship I committed to sharing one of my previous weeks winnings with him.   He was working on his bridge a couple miles out on the lake when I stopped by and handed him the bottle.  Totally surprised he offered to pay but as I promised, I would give him it with the statement, I don't just talk the talk but walk the walk!  Dewey was pretty impressed as he once drove to Tennessee to pick up a special bottle of Jack Daniels at the distillery.  I hope he enjoys it as I told him, if he mixes it with anything other than ice, I'm going to be pissed!  Leaving the lake for Jack's place, it would take 20 minutes to meet him out in front of his cabin on Platte Lake.  The first thing I noticed was Jack's brother-in-law, Boris Swanson's tracked ATV and what a machine.  Each wheel is replaced with a track that had studs embedded and that thing would go anywhere.  Apparently Boris was parked on the lake across the road, Long Lake, and had his wheel house set up for the evening. Thinking I might have a better chance at crappies there, Jack agreed and decided to meet us over there.  He was set up in 23 feet of water on an inside turn.  After checking out his house (I call it the walkin cooler on wheels!) I started the auger and drilled a number of holes from 21 - 25 feet, cleaned them out and started fishing. Nothing was showing up at the 21 foot depth, nothing at 22 feet, however the next hole had some significant marks at the 18 foot level in 23 feet of water.  Sometime there is algae suspended, sometimes it's minnows, sometimes it's fish so I lowered my tungsten jig with a waxie and although convinced they were fish, they weren't very aggressive at all.  Hole hopping a few more I decided to
5 Nice Crappies
come back to where I marked the fish, set  up my one man house with a heater as it was getting colder out and I wanted to be more comfortable.  After setting up and the marks still there, the next tool to come out was my AquaView hand held underwater video camera/recorder to see exactly what kind of fish were suspended.  Often times on these lakes it's nothing but a school of 3 - 4 inch perch however the minute the camera obtained the same depth as the marks it was confirmed, they were crappies, and a lot of them.  They were very finicky and would just come up and simply inhale the bait, often exhaling it in a split second.  With the camera you could see the action and pretty soon I was hauling fish up.  As stated the camera has a record button and while the bite was getting better I started recording the action.  Here is the link to about 14 minutes of ice fishing action on Youtube: Long Lake Crappies  During this video I did catch 6 fish which occur at 2:59, 3:26, 4:50, 5:45, 10:33, and 13:37 as you can see some of them quickly disappear from the camera.  Some of the fish look to be of decent size yet I only kept 5 of them ranging from 9 to 10.5 inches long out of about 16 or so that I caught.  There were a few nicer ones that came off at the top of the hole but with steady action it was better than sitting there wondering why I was sitting on the ice.  It's nothing like the action I used to have a Pelican Lake yet the winter is only half over and plenty of time to try a few other lakes in the area.  Just before Jack, Ben, and I left, one of Boris's rattle reels went off, he set the hook on this beautiful 25 inch walleye.  He was pretty excited however I did have to coach him somewhat on the finer points of taking fish pictures like cleaning off the snow, getting your hand in the right position yet I could not get him to take off that goofy Kosack hat, oh well!

Birthday Gifts Galore!
So today is my birthday, the big 6 - 0, sixty.  I'm never one to get too spaced out about birthdays and growing older however this one has got me thinking a lot more than the previous milestone celebrations at 30, 40, and 50.  I know, they say that 60 is the new 50.....well I understand but the truth is that I'm still 60!  It's not a negative but considering that the males on my dad's side lasted till about 82, it means 75% of my life is over.  If one discounts the first 10 years of your life as pretty much under the care of someone, you could discount the last 10 years of having the potential of being the same.  The way I look at it there's about 10 - 15 good years left, assuming my health holds out, the time is ticking away.  Now it's always ticked away but you know, it's never seemed so fast.  Oh well, all that means is it's extremely important to take care of those things that you want to do, the people you want to do them with, and make sure you have fun doing it.  I guess this year Red Lake was a good example as we went there 4 times since Thanksgiving and had a blast doing it.  There is still Lake of the Woods to visit, maybe Leech Lake and Mille Lacs before the ice goes out.  Maybe a trip in March to Charleston, SC to fish.  Minnesota Fishing Opener in May, maybe Lac Seul in June, Lake Oahe in July, back to Lac Seul in September...uffda, the year is filling up fast. I guess you are the only one that can keep yourself young and it's becoming an everyday job!  So Sunday night was the Annual Superbowl party at our neighbor Tim Kuntz's place, it's tradition.  Most of the neighbors stop by and watch it in the heated garage and with a keg of beer and food to pass, everyone has a great time. Well this year one of the guys I work with, Welly, his wife and daughter stopped in.  That was great to see him, I do remember telling him to come up if he wanted, but that's a long way from Bloomington.  Next to show up was Jason and his boy.  Interesting as I figured he was in the neighborhood coming home from Isanti and decided to stop by, that was nice.  A few minutes later my good friend Mark Taylor and his family stopped by.........still didn't get it until my wife had Tim's wife Connie bring out the special birthday cake............DUH, a surprise birthday party at halftime.  It was pretty cool as I got a number of nice gifts with a few gag gifts thrown in.  Some of the more interesting items was a Granicrete Cocktail table that Tim made that has the Green Bay Packer logo on it, absolutely fabulous!  Next was a a laser cut G with my neighborhood nickname, Super Dave cut into it.  I definitely will need to paint that with the appropriate colors.  Next my wife gave me a mug with bunch of stuff in it to round out the display and a beautiful cake with a picture of me in my original birthday suit along with one of my heros, Aaron Rodgers.  Of course everyone in the neighborhood knows I am a diehard Packer fan so it certainly became the theme of the night, especially since the Packer's should have been in the SuperBowl.  As a side note I was glad to see Seattle lose because of stupid coaching, there is justice in the world!  Among other things I got a nice Cabela's gift certificate, some more Packer stuff, a few bottles of nice wine, and the most important, a lot of love from my neighbors, friends, and everyone attending, what more does a guy need?  Everything was done before Katy Perry started the show, it was a great night for sure.  Among the guests were Welly Chou, an engineer from my work.  Welly is quite savoy with the electronics and took this video of the whole deal so I put it on Youtube as well.  If your interested here is the link:My 60th Birthday Party at Tim's.

I might find a chance to see if I can nail a few more crappies this weekend before flying to California on Monday morning for 4 days of non-stop work.  I usually stay over on Thursday night but this time I decided to take the redeye back rather than spend $140 for a hotel room only to get up at 4:00AM to catch the first flight.  Heck, I can sleep at work on Friday.