Thursday, April 30, 2015

Moving Right Along

Wrigley Field
As stated last week, this was the weekend to plant my onions and potatoes yet nothing is ever that easy.  Deciding that the garden was still not as level as it could be I pulled out my tractor with the blade to pull a little more dirt back towards the middle and back of the garden.  Well, good intentions created a worse mess than I started with so I went over to Ricky's to see if he'd let me use his Harley Rake again.  He had the rotor tiller on his tractor and would have easily let me use it yet this would be a good time to see how it world work on my tractor. Driving home then back with my Ferguson TO35, I hooked it up, drove back to the garden and in no time had it back to being flat and ready to plant.  As stated earlier, it really works great and by Sunday night had accomplished my goal. Tuesday morning I left for Chicago for our annual Spring Meeting of the TTA with the highlight coming later that evening when we attended a Wrigley Field Rooftop baseball game between the Chicago Cubs vs the Pittsburgh Pirates.  We were not in the stadium itself rather on top of the apartment building overlooking left field.  Complete with dinner and beer we watched the Cubs win 6 - 2, it was a lot of fun.  Because of the meetings and not getting home till Thursday evening, it's my excuse for a Friday post!

Cool Cash!
Saturday I drove up to Frankie's to discuss my lack of a boat for opener situation and I wasn't very encouraged.  If push comes to shove, yeah he has a smaller rental boat I could take but in the end I wasn't to excited.  We both felt comfortable that my Ranger would have been in the end of this week but that's not going to happen. Well Mark Applen decided that I should use his boat, a 19 foot Monarch with a 135 Merc Optimax, so he brought it down to my pole shed Sunday night.  I have been in that boat before however I didn't realize how big it really is and it will be perfect for Leech Lake.  I will probably change out his depth finder with my color HDS7 Touch which has my map chips loaded into it.  It should work perfect for trolling shad raps as well and I am lucky to have such great friends.  At the Northwest Sportsman Show in March I bought a new Stowmaster Folding landing net with the promise of a $10 rebate from the factory.  A few days ago I got a letter from Norsemen Outdoors hand addressed to me and inside was a letter of congratulations along with a $10 bill.  It definitely got my attention as the usual way these rebates work is they are administered by a third party fulfillment company.  It was nice not to have to go to the bank and get my money, sort of the old fashioned way to do business.  It's been pretty dry around here lately and the word is that Leech Lake is down about a foot from last year.  Some guys are worried yet last year was about a 8 inches higher than normal so we should be OK.  With 70's scheduled for the rest of the week I might even get the rest of the garden planted before fishing.

This is my last post for the year.  I started posting in May of 2008 and decided that a year of Fishin' with Dave was basically from May 1st to April 31st.  Next week's post starts my 8th year of writing and I hope everyone has enjoyed.  Trust me, it's gets better once the season starts, other wise it's Fishin' for Topics!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

And The List Goes On

Ready to be planted!
Man, there's a lot to do before opener, both the Minnesota and the Ontario.  We are 2 weeks away from our annual Leech Lake event and the lake finally became ice free early last week.  This never assures how the fishing will turn out but the spawn should be well over with and the fish should just start to be recovering and hopefully HUNGRY!  I did call Frankie's last week to get the final word on my boat delivery as things are much more sophisticated than they were years ago when it was just an educated guess.  Well the confirmation date is May 20th, I guess I was sort of expecting it but one can never discount miracles.  The bad thing is that I did turn in my old boat to take advantage of the market based on what we figured would be an easy delivery before opener. Well the flood of orders coming in and you know Ranger's motto....We Build Them One at a Time, means a few weeks delay. Fortunately I have experience in manufacturing and age has taught me to be more patience, I know they are doing the best they can.  Never the less it has force me to go to plan's B for both the Minnesota Opener on May 9th and the Ontario Opener on May 16th.  This isn't the end of the world and I am hoping that Frankie will come up with a loaner for the weekend, we'll see.  If that doesn't work it's simply amazing that my friends have offered the use of their boats so if push comes to shove, I'm covered.  On the Ontario trip it looks like we will be taking Garith's float plane up again. He just had the engine overhauled and we should be in good shape as the trip only takes about 5 hours vs the 10 to drive there. In the meantime it's been perfect for getting out in the garden and preparing it for the growing season.  Just like last year my good friend Ricky Shermer brought over his Kabota tractor along with his 3 point rotor tiller and powered harley rake for preparing my garden.  The first thing he did was use the harley rake to go over my asparagus beds and loosen the soil and level it out.  That thing works great for soil preparation and leveling.  Next was to hook up the rototiller and run over the areas that I did last fall to get the ground pulverized. One problem with the tiller is it piles the soil up behind it and because of the way the garden is, on end gets higher than the other.  I have used my Ferguson TO35 and the back blade to drag some of the soil back towards the other end but I have to admit, the harley rake really did a great job.

Asparagus spears pushing through.
The Spring season for 2013 and 2014 were quite cold and it was well after fishing opener before I was able to get in the garden and really work the soil.  This year it's more like normal however the last 2 years makes it feel like it's early. With little snow this winter and the fairly warm March my asparagus is waking up almost 3 weeks earlier than last year and it looks like a bumper crop. I'm not out of the woods yet as this week has lows below freezing which will destroy what has popped up but does little damage to the plants. My next job will be to take some grass clippings and put over the plants as it really helps to keep the dirt out of the top of the spears and are a lot nicer to eat without the crunch.  On Thursday we are expecting our onion plants special ordered from Texas to arrive in time for planting.  Last year we did this with great results but unfortunately some of the varieties which grew really huge were not very well rated for storage, some only 4 weeks after the tops died.  Nice to look at when they were in the ground but I was surprised how easy they rotted on me.  This year I paid more attention to the storage times and bought only the varieties that would last 4 - 6 months.  Along with the onions I have a special mixture of volcanic ground elements that "enhance" the soils that are perfect for onions.  Mixing it with a balanced fertilizer, it will help the plants get started before pouring the nitrogen to the plants.  The onion itself is a bulb and not considered a root an therefore loves nitrogen based fertilizers and are very heavy feeders.  I have 46-0-0 for them and hopefully by getting them in early, I'll have 2 pound onions by August!  Beyond that I have potatoes to plant then probably nothing till Memorial Day which is the earliest it can be this year.

In the meantime I have been getting ready for opener.  I picked up a different 2 piece spinning rod for Canada, have replenished the empty spaces in my jig box with a couple of interesting and new type jigs.  Line needs replacements on all of my spinning reels and this year I'm going to try P-Line CX Premium Fluorocarbon Coated 8# test Monofilament.  Usually Stren Magnathin is my line of choice however the CX has the same diameter and is rated very high for both strength and limpness, which is important.  We'll see how it works this year as I bought a 3000 yard spool for about 1/2 what the Stren would cost.  My initial tests are impressive.  My friend Keith Holtan and his wife Jane are already back in Alaska, although with the Minnesota Wild doing well, I'm sure he wishes there was a little more time to spend with his hockey friends watching the games.  Beyond that it's simply waiting for opener in about 2 weeks yet there's still a lot to do.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Everyone's Fishing but Me!

Nice mess of perch
One nice thing about friends is you can always count on them sending me the latest and greatest pictures of their fishing adventures.  In the meantime I am stuck without a boat and scrambling to get my spring yard work done by fishing opener, which leaves little leisure time.  Because I worked all weekend I thought this would be a great time to share some of those pictures.  The first picture is a dandy mess of jumbo perch that my friend Kevin and his son caught a few days ago, somewhere on the Mississippi River.  I don't ever remember getting perch this big, or for that matter any perch at all.  Maybe it was the fact that all we fished for were the walleyes and these perch have been there all along. I don't really know but there are ones here that exceed 1.5 #'s which is pretty good.  I often associate good perch fishing with Devil's Lake, North Dakota, Mille Lac's Lake, Winnibigoshish, Late of the Woods here in Minnesota but never in the ol' Muddy Mississip.  I have promised my confidence as always as revealing a secret spot it's a good way to end a friendship!  Last year Ben did really well on Devil's Lake however with the early spring, there wasn't really a chance to get out there and take advantage of the early spring ice fishing so maybe next year.  The second picture is of my nephew John Larsen and his buddies in Ft. Myers, Florida.  Apparently away for the weekend 5 of them went out last weekend for a day of fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.  After spending a bunch of time catching their bait they headed out about 35 miles to some offshore ledges in 100 feet of water they started catching Red Grouper.  The limit is 2 each and apparently they caught their 10 fish plus a couple of sharks before heading to a wreck to dive.  Their Captain donned his diving gear and with a spear had brought up 5 more snapper and claims to have seen a several hundred pound jewfish, that
Nephew John (on the right) with a limit of Red Grouper
was probably exciting.  John is stationed in Colorado Springs with a special unit of the Army and is thinking he will be transferred to Savannah, Georgia at some point, an excellent excuse to go visit him. Lucky for me I have taken John on a number of fishing trips and it appears as though his interest has some staying power so hopefully he will take me sometime soon! To me there is nothing better than fresh cooked saltwater fish, something about the texture and flavor of the fish I have caught.  So far I've had fresh halibut, black sea bass, sheepshead, dorado (mahi mahi), sea trout, redfish, silver salmon, flounder, and yellowfin tuna that I have caught while on trips. I am not sure how the red grouper taste but I can only imagine that on the grill along with a few beers, they are equally as fantastic.

Yard work made easy
As I stated in the beginning, while others are out enjoying the fishing I am taking advantage of the early spring this year, something that hasn't happened since 2012.  At this time last year and the year before we still had snow on the ground and the everything was running way behind.  This year is completely different as the lilacs buds are really starting to swell and turn green as we've had an 80 degree day already.  Last year I used my friend Ricky Shermer's mower mounted dethatcher with his vacuum attachment and it worked so slick that it forced me to buy the same for my John Deere X724 lawn tractor.  Actually the vacuum bagger attachment was purchased last fall to expedite picking up my leaves and last week I put on the front dethatcher assembly.  It works pretty slick as the front tines loosen the dead grass and leaves and the vacuum pushes 14 bushels into the hopper, it's pretty efficient.  Sunday was my day to do the lawn as it had to dry somewhat from the rains of last Thursday as it can dig up the grass easier.  One of the problems to deal with is the dead grass is everywhere, on top of the mower deck, in the air intakes, your hair, you name it and it's there.  Well, I was almost finished with my 1 1/2 acres and moved to clean up on the other side of my pole shed driveway when I smelled something burning.  I looked down and the flames were coming out of both sides of the tractor above the deck.  Somehow the grass had caught fire and with the wind as strong as it was, it was like a blast furnace.  My first thought was to pull it down to the shed where I had water but panic soon ensued as the visual of the gas lines igniting put a more immediate urgency to putting it out.  Stopping the engine I jumped off and started an attempt to put the fire by pulling out the flaming grass (I had leather gloves on).  This just exposed more grass to the flames and the grass I did pull out now started a grass fire on the ground.  Back to the original plan, drive it to my water hose and put it out like a real fireman would do, I jumped on but the engine wouldn't start.  Actually it takes about 3 seconds for the controls to prepare the engine to start, 3 seconds I didn't have but it did manage to start.  About 100 feet to the garden hose the flames kept growing bigger as I sped down then for some reason stopped short.  Turning on the water the hose was caught in the reel and had to be untangled, with superhuman strength I managed to pull the hose to the tractor and dosed the fire......relief!  Checking everything out, it looked ok but then suddenly noticed there was still smoke coming from the end of the driveway where I had shut it down before, the grass fire was going strong.  I was able to drag the water and put it out as if it would have gotten in my field, all bets were off.  I am not sure what started the fire but it sure got me scrabbling.  After settling down my neighbor Todd came over to use the tractor for his lawn as it came with a stern warning, watch for smoke!  After he finished I drove over to my other neighbor Lory's and did his before the rain came. On the positive side the whole unit does do a nice job of cleaning up the yard.

We are 3 weeks from our Leech Lake opener and no word from Frankies yet.  As they say, patience is a virtue.  I did update all of my Lowrance electronics but not without problems there as well. Downloading the updates onto a 64 GB SD card the units did not recognize it as they have in the past. Come to find out that the max card size is 32 GB, go figure.  I also had problems after the updates with the units responding to my touch commands which was resolved by calibrating the screen. Things just don't seem to get easier!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Time for a Change

Saying Goodbye to an Era
This time of year brings me back to my days growing up in Eleva, Wisconsin.  The first part of April meant the suckers were biting and at 10 years old my friend Kevin and I would be the first to dig worms in the newly thawed soil and head down behind Bud Tollefson's to catch them from the bank.  A simple hook and sinker along with a branch stuck in the ground, we would catch fish there as well as our other typical haunts on the Buffalo River such as Trix's, The Culvert, The Trestle, The Buffalo Bridge, and Catfish.  As soon as we secured our driver's license it was off to rent a row boat at Wilbur's, located just up river from Alma, Wisconsin in the back sloughs of the Mississippi River to catch the northern pike that had just got done spawning.  We didn't travel very far in those boats but we sure caught fish.  Soon Kevin secured a 14 foot aluminum boat from Ray Filla of Independence, who's wife was Ardis Bue, daughter of our good friend Claude and Ardelene Bue. Finding a 1950's vintage 10 hp direct drive Merc outboard, the kind that turned the prop the second the motor ran and reverse was turning the motor 180 degrees, we were in seventh heaven.  A couple of years later in 1980 Kevin noticed a boat that was in Paul Wichmann's pasture so for $200 and using a trailer that my brother Steve had, I bought it. All the wood was rotted so I replaced the seat and the transom, threw a 15 hp Evinrude tiller on it and was in business.  2 years later I sold the motor to Tom McAtee, the boat to another guy and bought a new 1982 Lund S14 DLX with a 25 hp Evinrude tiller.  In 1986 my next boat was a 1985 Lund Pro Angler with a 50 hp Mercury tiller followed in 1988 with a 16 foot Lund Nisswa Guide, both bought from my good friend Chuck Teasley.  On the Nisswa Guide I eventually swapped out the 45 hp tiller for a 55 hp Suzuki tiller as it was simply too heavy for that Merc.  By 1990 I upgraded to a 1989 Ranger 680T with the same Suzuki, in 1993 a 17 foot Skeeter S135 and a 75 hp Mariner tiller.  In 2001 I traded it for a 20 foot Ranger 620T with a 4 stroke Suzuki 115 hp tiller and in 2009 I did the same again.  All of my fishing boats for the last 40 years have had one thing in common, a tiller controlled motor, it's a matter of convenience and fishing style.  Last year's fishing opener found me in a concerning situation as I hit another boat while cruising towards Pine Point.  Although no one was hurt it really got me thinking about the events that lead up to this, my lack of visibility, and letting myself fall into the scenario of not being in total control.  As well, it was getting harder to turn the 115 tiller and yes, I understand one can get a power assist for it, but at 60 years old I finally decided that after over 50 years of fishing, it was time for a change.

Ranger 620 FS with the New Evinrude G2, 250 hp HO
At this year's St. Paul Sport Show my first stop was Frankie's Marine display, just as you come in.  I have been doing business with him since 1989 and have never looked back.  We discussed my thoughts and concerns and of course he had the solution I should consider.  A couple more visits and I pulled the trigger on a new Ranger 620 FS with a full walk thru windshield and steering wheel. Hanging on the back I decided to go back to Evinrude with their newly designed from scratch E-Tec G2, 250 hp HO model that really has a lot of nice features.  In addition, Ranger's come with the best trailer in the business and I have never had a bit of trouble with them.  After running 4 stroke Suzuki's for 14 years it will be interesting to see the changes in these new 2 stroke engines.  Not wanting to give up either back or forward trolling, the boat will come with a 9.9hp 4 stroke kicker motor to meet the slower speeds and boat control needed, I just won't be able to control it from the back anymore. The other interesting thing is the new Motorguide bow mounted trolling motor which communicates with my Lowrance electronics.  The old 620T had the Minnkota I-pilot with the anchor lock position and although it worked well the accuracy of staying in one position was about +/- 30 feet whereas the new Motorguide reports verify a +/- 5 feet, which is significantly better when holding on a structure. Because of the communication with the Lowrance electronics one can now simply control the trolling motor through the screen on my depthfinder, something the Minnkota would only work with a Humminbird since Johnson Fishing acquired both (I think this is a big mistake but....).  Some of my friends have stated, sure Dave now you can go even faster but all reports state that the ideal cruising speed for the best economy is around 30 mph, at about half throttle where the fuel usage is not much different that my Suzuki at 30 mph.  The other thing that's nice is Ranger offer's a limited edition color with matching engine panels as shown above.  One of the nice things about dealing with Frankie is he knows my boats pretty well and without even seeing my 620T we agreed on a price knowing it would be in excellent shape.  It sold pretty fast which is good and bad, good for Frankie but bad if my boat doesn't get here in time for opener!  Part of the fun will be organizing my gear, thinking about the best fishability for my style, where am I going to put what, and just getting to know all of the nuances of the new rig.

The ice is going out pretty early this year as most of the lakes south of Brainerd Minnesota are now open.  The extended forecast looks like Leech will be prime for our 42nd annual Team Walleye event and the following weekend should find me back at Lac Seul for the Canadian opener.  Trying to get all of my chores done prior to fishing season I took off the snow blower and cab off the lawn tractor assuming it doesn't snow anymore and installed a front mounted dethatcher and the lawn vacuum. It should make short work of the spring lawn work and help the spring green up.  With a nice weekend forecasted it will be a good time to burn my garden and get the asparagus beds ready, I have over 100 plants and there is nothing better than fresh asparagus coated with olive oil and thrown on the grill.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Northwest Sportshow

Sports Show Prize!
So everyone knows I'm a Sport show  junkie and the granddaddy of them all is the Minneapolis Northwest Sportshow which was held at the Convention Center last week.  Unlike some of the smaller shows like the St. Paul Ice Fishing Show, St. Paul Sports Show, St. Cloud Sports Show, the Minneapolis show pretty much has everything you need to see under 1 huge roof.  From boats and motors to vacation destinations, equipment manufacturers, lure manufactures, and the latest and greatest of inventions, I could spend days there.  This year I made it down last Wednesday evening then again on Sunday afternoon.  Wednesday was the first day of the show and a great time to visit as everyone is fresh and it's not so crowded.  My main goal was to visit 3 specific vendors and attend a seminar.  The vendors included Frankie's Live Bait and Marine (my boat dealer), the Lowrance Electronics booth and the Motorguide booth.  The new Motorguide will talk to my Lowrance Electronics with the right adaptor and significantly increase the options for using the trolling motor. The other purpose for Wednesday night was to attend Lowrance University, a 2 hour seminar on using the advanced HDS Gen 3 products.  I should have known better.  Having used the Lowrance HDS platforms for over 5 years my knowledge is probably more than the average user so I was looking for the next level of understanding.  Although the instructor was very good, most of the participants were at a basic level of understanding or for that matter, didn't even own any Lowrance HDS products.  Getting a few of my questions answered, I left 30 minutes early and met up with my 2 friends Mark and Lory, who rode down with me.  Although they were "showed out", I had barely scratched the surface but it was time to head over to Britt's Pub for a Guinness and some Fish and Chips.  On Sunday afternoon I went back down with my neighbor Tom Olson as he was interested in looking at what's new from the boat manufacturers.  This is a great time to go as there are deals to be had for sure.  I did find a nice landing net called a Stowmaster KVD (Kevin Van Dam) edition at a real good price.  It folds up nice and will fit in my storage space in the boat.  Besides buying a ticket to support one of my political organizations, PERM, I did manage to buy a metal laser cutout of a 30 inch walleye that now adorns my Salem Ice Castle.  It's pretty cool and I got it half price after the guy asked me what I'd give him for it.  There was a guys selling a special jig with at small spinner blade claiming they were hot on Lac Seul Lake in Canada..........Ok I bought 10.   Finally I was able to return the favor to my friends Ken and Judy Marlow from Soldotna, Alaska.  We have stayed with them in the past and each year I get to see them at the show. They always have a jar of canned smoked Red Salmon for me so this year I returned with a pound of Lundeen's Wild Rice and a 12 oz bottle of fresh maple syrup made from the sap of the neighborhood maple trees during the last few weeks.  We all walked away happy!

View from Twin Pines Resort, Mille Lacs
Although I haven't had a chance to get out fishing around home lately, it looks like ice out is going to happen early this year.  The winter wasn't that cold and we certainly didn't have the snow cover we have had in the last 2 years. Looking back to 2013, we still had substantial ice on the lakes on May 1st and last year wasn't any better. This year we have already hit the earliest 80 degree day ever and with the mild end to the winter and no snow, it's not going to be long. Looking at the ice pulling away from Twin Pines Resort Web Cam on the northwest side of Mille Lacs, I predict that it will all be gone in about 2 weeks.  This should bode well for Minnesota's fishing opener scheduled to open on May 9th.  In addition to the Minnesota opener I have also been invited back to Lac Seul Lake for the Canadian Fishing Opener. Last year was my first spring trip to Lac Seul and it was delayed by the late ice out conditions however this year it's looking like that won't be an issue.  There is still a lot of things to be done as April is a big transition month for me.  With the snow gone I will be able to get into the garden faster, the lawn needs a lot of work which means I need to figure out how to take off my lawn tractor cab and store it, take off the snowblower and chains, attach the mower and get it ready for warmer weather.  I hate to do all of this before April 15th but the long term forecast says I'll be safe.  With the warmer weather upon us I can turn on the water to the pole shed as my Salem needs a good cleaning along with the wheel bearings greased and the roof scrubbed clean.  Easter is this weekend, next weekend we have been invited to an appreciation dinner, the following weekend is Mom's 81st birthday, it doesn't leave a lot of time to get ready for opener.  Oh well!