Thursday, March 26, 2015

Charleston Fishing, Part 2.

A Nice Sheepshead
Admittedly I was in a hurry last week and skipped some of the details of my arrival in Charlotte.  With the opportunity to spend time with Matt and Joe in North Carolina a couple of weeks ago I dropped my wife off in Menominee, Wisconsin and headed out to pick up some special treats to bring along on our fishing trip.  Packing my things so I could check them for may flight it included a cooler with my Walter's Beer and about $100 of Wisconsin's finest cheese.  Taped up well, I knew the TSA would probably unwrap, check out what's inside, reseal then let it go.  Upon arrival guess what didn't show cooler.  A discussion with the Delta Baggage Representative confirmed it was still in Minneapolis, held up by the TSA, dang it.  Our engineer from work was scheduled to board the 3:30 flight to Charlotte and after a few calls confirmed it would be on that flight and he could pick it up.  That was fine but frustrating because we were well on our way to Charleston, oh well.   So continuing were I left off last week, fishing was very good.  The second reef we fished was much more productive and after 4 hours of fishing and a live well full of fish we headed back for the 45 minute ride to the dock.  On our way out we cruised the inside channels but on the way home the ocean was quite calm so we took traveled offshore for most of the trip.  Arriving back on the dock with a bunch of fish I was anxious to help clean the fish.  I made a couple of mistakes, which I seem to make with more frequency these days, I forgot my memory chip in my camera and I forgot my fillet knives. So, like the pictures that were taken with our phones, I grabbed the rusty fillet knife the guide had and asked if I could help. I was sort of surprised how dull the knife was but he did have a stone and a few licks made a big improvement.  I've watched a number of guides fillet fish and for the most part they don't waste any time.  A clean cut behind the gills, they turn the knife and cut straight through the rib bones and then
Black Sea BAss
simply cut away the rib and pin bones what in my mind wastes a lot of meat.  I understand, these guys are in a hurry and one could argue that the amount of meat wasted is minimal.  Never the less my "Minnesota" filleting method brought a generic comment that I was wasting fish until he really paid attention.....never mind, you definitely know what you're doing.  Every fish has it nuances in filleting but these were nothing more than saltwater versions of what I am comfortable with.  Paying him for a successful trip with a nice tip to boot, we asked about where we could get the fish fried up.  Asking the cook at the restaurant on the dock, he agreed and we had fresh fish and chips....absolutely fabulous!!!  The sheepshead and black sea bass is delicious, firm and white and very flavorful.  There is something about saltwater fish that I really like.  With a confirmation that there was no other place in town that would prepare our fish we handed the cook the rest of our catch and thanked him. Once back at the hotel I suddenly realized that the bag with my pullover shirt and GoPro camera was missing, where was the last time I REMEMBER I had it, sitting in the restaurant waiting for our fish.  When must I have FORGOTTEN it, when we bought a beer that had to be drank outside the building so I simply got up with my friends and walked outside and sat on the deck.  While Joe and Chris stayed back Matt drove me 20 minutes back to the marina store but I didn't see it anywhere.  Coming to the counter and asking the guy if anyone turned a bag in he responded, what color is it.  Next was what was the color of the pullover, what kind of orange, then what was my name which I replied, David Anderson.  Is this it Mr. Anderson, whew.  I tell you getting older sucks for sure as I dang near need to tie everything to my belt to assure that I won't leave anything anywhere.   The problem seems that what I leave isn't cheap either.  Maybe it's time for some memory exercises!  As stated earlier I bring my GoPro Camera with, the one mounted to my head in the top picture.  Taking a number of videos to record our trip I did get some interesting ones (so may call them boring!) that are of us fishing and run about 8 - 10 minutes long.  The videos give a great feel for the boat, sea conditions, the method of fishing, our catch rate, and how my friends did.  Here are the links: Charleston Fishing, Part 1Chris gets a nice SheepsheadI finally land a sheepshead!  I enjoy taking video's as they are a nice addition to the pictures and with Youtube, everyone can see them.

Chris Davis With 2 Nice Sheepshead
Back whole again we decided to go downtown Charleston for a late dinner and called a cab.  We had a few recommendations to eat at Hyman's Seafood in downtown so we directed our driver to drop us off especially after he recommended it.  It's pretty interesting, a 4th generation business that started in 1890, there was still a waiting list to be served at 8:00.  One thing I like to do is wear my Green Bay Packer hat wherever I go as I always met interesting people who appreciate being from Wisconsin.  Sure enough a couple waiting for a table recognized my loyalty and we struck up a nice conversation.  Finally getting seated upstairs, the walls were full of celebrity pictures of past patrons that read like some big hall of fame.  At my seat at the table was a small plaque with the name, Lynyrd Skinner as every chair position had a similar plaque.  Almost immediately after we ordered our dinner a guy came by and introduced himself, Eli Hyman, owner of Hyman's then asked about us.  We explained where we were from, why we were here, and about the recommendations we got.  I complained that one of the items on the menu was that you could bring your own fish in and they would cook it for you, add their sides for a reasonable $12.  This was great but it would have been nice if our guide would have known this as we gave away the balance of our fish after lunch because we didn't know what to do with them.  Eli got out his notebook and wrote a task to visit the area guides and let them know their clients could cook up their fish and for that idea his response was to order an appetizer for us on the house, fried green tomatoes on grits with a southern sauce then gave us a card assuring each a small gift from the gift shop which was strategically located on the way out.  The fish dinners were great, the atmosphere was fabulous, and the southern hospitality was first class.   Hyman's has many interesting aspects and none is more visible than their attitude toward attitude and you can see it here Hyman's Seafood's Attitude.  Full and satisfied we headed back to the hotel for one last nightcap before heading out in the morning, back to Charlotte.  Another great trip and another wonderful time spent with my friends Joe, Matt, and a new friend his brother Chris.  I promised them an ice fishing trip next winter, we'll see how those Texas boys can handle the cold!

With all the snow gone and the ice becoming unstable it's time to put the ice fishing gear away and get ready for open water.  Starting the year by driving on Red Lake on the Friday after Thanksgiving I guess there's little to complain about.  The cushions in my Salem Ice Cabin are too soft so my neighbor Gary, an upholsterer, has agreed to replace the foam to make them more comfortable.  Sunday was a time to head over to my friend Ricky to finish trimming his apple trees and it is the Northwest Sportsman Show this weekend, lots to look at.  I do have an important change for this year but I think it will just have to wait until I'm ready to spill the beans.  Until then 6 weeks to opener with a lot of stuff to do in between.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Charleston Fishing At It's Finest. Part 1.

Isle of Palms Marina
The long awaited reunion with my friends Matt Davis and Joe Stanfield finally happened as planned last weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. For a number of reasons my brother Steve failed to make this trip but luckily Matt's brother Chris filled in perfectly.  Matt informally introduced us to Chris as his Baptist Preacher brother from Kansas, sure now Joe and I were expecting to be on our best behavior! We'll it turns out Chris is really works in the 911 system and I suppose it probably entails the same issues, dealing with people in trouble for one reason or another, but it had me fooled.  Either way it turned out to be a great substitute as we all met around noon on Saturday in the Charlotte, North Carolina airport.  With Matt being the last to show up we got our bags and headed to the car rental area, picked up a van and headed towards Charleston, South Carolina which was about 3.5 hours away.  With plenty of things to catch up on and a few stops along the way we finally pulled into the Charleston area with our first destination, Isle of Palms where our booked charter fishing trip was booked.  Locating the exact boat and instructions for the morning we headed back towards the city to check into the Holiday Inn then go find something to eat.  Deciding to stay fairly close to the hotel we got a cab and headed to an entertainment area called Shems Creek, along a waterway near the coast.  Being somewhat of a yuppie place it was crowded and I wasn't too impressed with the food although we did have some great raw oysters in one spot.  We ended up at a seafood place and again, I wasn't too impressed there either yet it was getting late and we needed to have an early start in the morning.

Getting up early we had breakfast in the hotel before heading back to the marina before 7:30.   Our first mistake was to take a right turn that meant we had to drive almost 5 miles across a huge bridge into Charleston before heading back the other way.  Luckily traffic on Sunday morning isn't too bad and we lost little time getting to the boat.  After getting our parking pass and loading up with a few refreshments we headed out with Captain Chuck Griffin of Aqua Adventures Sport Charters in his 28 foot center console boat with a 250 hp Yamaha.  Our morning route took us through the inside channels that lead to a cut to the ocean about 10 miles from the harbor.  We were just at low tide and as the waves were breaking off the sand bar, it was obvious that we would have to work our way through the area as the water was only 3 feet deep verses probably around 8 feet at high tide.  Inching our way through we finally hit deeper water and headed for a small reef area which in itself was interesting.  Apparently when they were building the harbor in Charleston with granite from up north which was hauled in by barge.  One of the barges sunk with all the granite and created a small "barge" shaped reef in about 15 feet of water.  This was our first place to fish and although we did catch a number of different small fish, our main target was salt water sheepshead and black sea bass yet they were no where to be found.  It was interesting to fish this small area as one had to deal with both the wind and the tide currents making it very challenging to stay on top of the small reef using an anchor.  After about 30 minutes the Captain decided that we needed to move to the next reef, another 10 miles away up the coast. This reef was in deeper water and was again man made but was done on purpose rather that being because of an unfortunate accident.  Apparently when they made the new bridge connecting Mount Pleasant to Charleston they shipped all of the concrete rubble from the old bridge and dumped in the ocean making a very nice fishing reef that topped out at around 40 feet.   Our bait of choice was fiddler crabs, the kind that are found on beaches.  Although only a few had claws as big as this one you had to be careful as those things can
Fiddler Crab on a hook
really pinch as Matt and I found out!  Getting these on the hook took some challenges and if you weren't careful that claw would clamp down on your finger and even when it came off the crab, it's muscles continued to dig it into your skin.  It's a lot funnier after the fact but in Matt's case the crab claw actually broke his skin.  Either way they were pretty effective as we started catching both Sheepshead and Black Sea Bass almost immediately.  I guess the interesting thing is these are land crabs and not found in the water yet it's no different that catching walleyes with nightcrawlers, they aren't found in Lake Mille Lacs either.  A picture of a sheepshead was featured in a December 4, 2008 post when we fished in Jacksonville Florida that year but these were much larger and I the video I inserted makes for a pretty impressive set of teeth on this fish.  These things are made for eating crab, clams, anything with a hard shell as they have all the equipment needed.   No wonder we had a hard time hooking these fish as it would take almost 6 crabs to catch one fish.  The black bass were easier to catch and had to be over 13 inches to keep them and we caught plenty.

I am still waiting for pictures from the guys and hopefully will get them for next weeks post as I am going to take it easy for the weekend.  There still might be some fishable ice around, quite the opposite of the 80 degree weather we experienced in Charleston.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Trimming the Orchard

Pruned to Perfection!
With the rapid warmup of the weather all of our snow has done a  nice disappearing act which forces a person to just do more work!  Spring is the time to trim my apple trees and usually the earlier the better so it became my project for the weekend.  Apples love to be trimmed as it helps in preventing diseases by opening up the inside of the tree for better air circulation, helps in turning the apples read as they receive more sunlight, and it makes spraying and harvesting the apples much easier.  If you look at the orchards, they really trim the trees down for exactly the same reasons. Last year's late snow cover and very wet spring was hard on the trees as the are in low spot by the pole shed.  I had 2 full grown Fireside trees that I left planted close to each other to the point where it was getting difficult to deal with them.  Never wanting to cut anything living down, one of them slowly wilted until all the leaves were gone, I guess Mother Nature did what I couldn't do until the tree was dead!  I do think the other tree is happier now, we will see.  The other thing that pruning the tree accomplishes is it helps to even out the every other year cycle of lot's of apples, not so many apples.  2013 was a banner year for my trees with more apples than I knew what to do with.  Combined with the wet spring and a cold start to May, 2014 was a total bust for apples, enough to stop spraying them, it just wasn't worth the time.  This year should be a great one as we are back on the good side of the cycle.  One other thing that I did was finally cut off any branches that interfered with my head while mowing.  Sometimes I'd go along on my mower, not thinking then WHACK, sometimes almost getting thrown from the lawn mower, and I can guarantee that it doesn't feel very good at all.  Those bottom branches never produce much anyway!  I have 12 full grown apple and pear trees and it takes about 45 minutes to complete one tree.   Our friend, Bruce Amundson's daughters have been putting honey bees in the back of our property for years and I was glad to hear they called and asked if we were interested again.  Not only are we interested but for years I have been offering to pay for the bees as I know they are not cheap and I really get the benefit.  This year they agreed to allow me to help which I think is perfect.  With all of the trees pruned and the bees verified, all we need now is the weather to keep moving in the right direction.  As for Dewey Ness, my friend in NW Wisconsin, I will make sure there are enough apples for you!

Fort Sumter Cannon
My friend Pete wanted me to take him on the Mississippi River on Sunday but even with the 55 degree weather the ice was still pretty thick and besides, it would take me a day to get the boat ready anyway.  I was thinking about going ice fishing but instead spent most of the day doing a few minor repairs to my Salem like fixing the electrical access cable hatch then insulating it from the inside, replacing the removable shackle pins with stainless steel ones, and thinking about putting mud flaps on the fenders to prevent so much salt from hitting the lifting jacks.  As well, there is a lot of things to get packed before this weekend's trip to Charleston, especially finding everything.  Cleaning the coolers to bring my Walter's beer and cheese with to digging up my summer fishing clothes as the forecast for Sunday is 75 and sunny.   Charleston is a very historic city and is where the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter which started the Civil War.  We arrive about 4:00 in the afternoon on Saturday and leave on Monday morning with an 8:00AM - 4:00PM charter on Sunday.  This should leave some time to visit some of the historical sites around town and enjoy a little southern hospitality.  I am planning on taking my GoPro camera and hopefully get some good action shots of our fishing trip on the inshore reefs.  It is interesting that our fishing license is covered by the captains charter license so it's great that we don't have to spend any more money on that.  We all have to be back in Charlotte, North Carolina for our annual APEC conference which is the premier event for our company.  It's a good opportunity to see all of my friends in the business, both competitors and our raw material suppliers.  I have only been to Charlotte once in my life, it was in the 90's and I spent a July weekend with my good friend Rick Semingson at his place in Blue Ridge, Georgia.  Flying into Atlanta, he picked me up and toured the countryside as we made our way north.  The next day we headed across the Blue Ridge Mountains through Highlands before heading to Charlotte.   Having never been to this area of the country it was beautiful to say the least.  Although very hot in Atlanta, Rick's place was 2000 feet higher and cooled down at night very well.  I was really taken back by the Cicada's at night as the noise was deafening yet charming.  Rick's retired now and maybe with a little luck we can get together again sometime.
Hopefully next weeks adventure lives up to my expectation, which is nothing more than to have a little fun.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

In Between Time

Cady Cheese Factory
With walleye season done on February 22nd and as stated last week unless one heads 6 hours away, the ice fishing is relegated to panfish, which is just fine with me.  I did forget about fishing the Mississippi River in St. Paul but it's pretty locked up until we get warmer weather, which BTW is on it's way.  This week should see that last of the below zero weather for the year as next week is projected to be in the 50's, perfect for clearing out the river and it will sure make the maple sap run like crazy.  Saturday was my day to kill 2 birds with one stone, take the wife to Menominee, WI to spend time with her cousins while I headed to Eau Claire to the Sheel's Store to buy some new pants, stop at the Northwoods Brewpub to get some Walter's Beer then on to a couple of Cheese Factories to get some hard to find 10 and 15 year old cheddar cheese for my trip on March 14th.  Arriving at Sheel's they had exactly what I was looking for, a couple pairs of Kuhl brand men's pant.  They are super comfortable and can be worn for either causal or be a little more dressy.  Next was a stop at the Northwoods where they make Walter's beer.  Walter's was my beer of choice 42 years ago when I could go in the bars legally at 18 years old and order a tap for $0.15 each.  Like a lot of local beers, they succumb to the move towards beers like Miller Lite and faded a slow and sad demise. Northwoods started brewing it again for the locals in small batches and I heard it's not the original recipe but close.  I guess it's been too long to remember anyway but the packaging sure looks good! The Norske Nook from Osseo has taken over the kitchen as I noticed they had Lefse Wraps.  That's a tough combination, a glass of Walter's and a Lefse Wrap so I ordered both, the later being salmon.  It was excellent as I paid the bill and headed back west to my next stop, Cady Cheese Factory in Wilson, WI.  I took the back roads off from the I94 through downtown Menominee and up the valley to the intersection of Wisconsin Highway 29 and 128, about 3.5 miles south of the interstate.  This is a great place to buy cheese as it's reasonably priced and they have yellow cheese curds as opposed to the white ones we get at Ellsworth Creamery.  I love the way the white curds squeak as you eat them but honestly the yellow ones from Cady have more flavor.  In addition to a couple of pounds of curds I bought 2 pounds of 10 year old cheddar, 1 pound of 15 year old cheddar, and some horseradish jack which I am bringing with me to Charleston, SC on our fishing trip.  The southern boys enjoy the boutique cheeses as they are significantly better than what they get in Dallas and besides, a little once in a lifetime taste for our guide, he won't be able to help but get us all the fish we need!  I did manage to spend some time with my brother-in-law, Walter (no relation to Walter's Beer, BTW) and we did go to the Bass Lake Cheese Factory but I think they are pretty expensive, maybe at least $5 - 6/pound more.  I suspect because they are close to Stillwater, MN they can simply get more while places like Cady and Ellsworth are were the common folk shop.

Sunset at the White Cap Inn
I did get out on Sunday with my neighbor Tom Olson to do a little ice fishing while the weather was still somewhat nice out.  Because it was March 1st, our fishing licenses were expired so a quick stop at Cabela's took care of that problem.  Reading the fishing report board, I noticed that Indian Lake was mentioned so I asked Tom if he'd like to change strategies and skip Lake John to go back to Indian.  After agreeing we headed to the lake arriving about 3:00 or so.  It's nice when there is little snow on the lake as it's pretty easy to drive anywhere, so we headed to the area where we did catch a number of crappies this fall.  There were a few in the area however most were parked off the point in the middle of the lake.  Actually there were a number of holes drilled so we simply settled down, cleaned off the ice that had skimmed over and started fishing.  Although the temperature was reasonable the wind was pretty strong yet we managed without putting up the house.  By 5:30 we had only caught a few fish so we packed it up.  You could see where someone had fished walleyes earlier in the week as the top of the ice had a nice layer of large fathead minnows littering the surface, they must be in there.  Putting everything back in the truck we headed back home to the pole shed.  Upon arriving home and getting out of the truck, I walked back and the dang tailgate was down.  My 1995 Chevrolet has a hard plastic box liner and things slid around pretty darn easy.  Not knowing how long it had been down, maybe the whole way, who knows so we started to take inventory.  I had a pail with my Vexilar FLX 28 inside and that was still there.....unbelievable.  The only thing missing was my Clam Minnow Bucket with a brand new minnow scoop, and quite honestly I hated the thing anyway.  I guess we were awfully luck that's all we lost as if the Vexilar would have disappeared, that would have been a disaster for sure.  I guess I need to check things better.  My second picture is always my go to scene when I forgot to take something from the existing week, it's from last week's Perch Extravaganza as the sun went down over Mille Lacs Lac from the White Cap Inn.  Cold and crisp, it only lasts a few minutes but as you know I love these shots!

As stated earlier, this weekend should see temperatures pushing the 40's.  With my schedule for the following weekend full, I am going to try and get my apple trees trimmed for the growing season as this is very important to get good apples.  Daylight Savings Time starts on Saturday night, that will help for sure.  I am definitely anxious to get out and do some saltwater fishing soon as this below zero weather has taken it's toll!