Thursday, August 27, 2015

Taking The Weekend Off

At the Races
With severe storms, high winds, and colder weather scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday of last week I decided to go up with my friend Kevin Sonsalla and Lory to BIR (Brainerd International Raceway) on Friday instead of picking up my boat at Frankie's. The GPS board in the Motorguide needed replacing so I dropped it off on Monday but they still had some stuff to do and it wasn't going to be fully done so it worked out well.  The NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) has their annual race week at BIR and all the big boys are there for this national event.  Although there are many classes of drag racers, the stars of the show were the Top Fuel Dragsters and the Funny Cars.  Kevin always get's tickets to the events as he has his contacts with Don Schumacher Racing so we get right in and have special hospitality passes to DSR's area's which is pretty cool.  The races are amazing as both the Top Fuel's and Funny Car's cross the finish lines in under 4 seconds, often at speeds over 320 miles per hour. That's damn fast when you consider they start from a dead stop and race to the 1000 foot mark, which is less than 1/5th of a mile.  They moved the finish line back from a 1/4 mile when the speeds started getting unsafe.  It seems like they have caught up to those old times again.  One interesting thing we saw was 2 Funny Cars that had lined up and both crossed the finish line in under 4.0 seconds.  The track announcer stated that this was only the 3rd time in NHRA history that both cars lined up broke the 4 second mark.  Even more interesting was the next 2 drivers that lined up and they also broke the 4 second mark...2 in a row.  The sound is deafening as you can feel the speed as they go by.  It's quite interesting for sure and with the cool weather coming in, things were bound to get faster, which they did!  Sunday's high was only around 60 degrees F and with the cloud cover the track was insanely fast.  Checking the results on Sunday night 4 NHRA speed and time records were broke including a 3.68 ET for top fuel, the fastest time ever recorded at 332.75 mph in Top Fuel, a 329.58 mph fastest Funny Car time ever, and a record setting 3.664 ET but could not be verified via NHRA rules.  When we were there the announcer gave a update on one run, at 660 feet the Funny Car had accelerated from a dead stop to 288 mph in less than 3 seconds while covering the last 340 feet in another second. Uffda!!!

It's really getting to be garden time and although the corn and pickles are done, the tomatoes, peppers, carrots, squash, raspberries, onions, are in full harvest mode. This is the first year that I have raised grapes and with the help of Lory we actually got a few this year. They are pretty flavorful, have seeds in them, and are probably pretty useless for wine but it's sure cool to see them hanging on the vines.  I have to take care of them this winter, making sure the roots get covered an protected from a hard cold January.  That should be pretty easy as I have lot's of leaves and a good system to pick them up with.   My carrots are really doing well this year.  Usually I dread planting them then having to thin them out to assure they have room to grow then I never do. This year I bought the coated seeds, they are about the size of a BB and really easy to plant. Not crowding allows then to grow nice and big so everyone is amazed at my carrots this year.  I love carrots and eat them raw right out of the garden.  My dad always said they were good for your eyes and to this day I still have 20/15 vision, not bad for an old guy!  Somewhere I read that you can also cover any carrots left in the garden with leaves such that the ground doesn't freeze and you can harvest them all winter long, I don't really know about that but it might be worth a try.  As well the tomatoes are really
Nice Looking Carrots 
starting to ripen.  I've canned tomatoes in the past however it seems like all they do is sit in the jars for years until they rot, I clean out the jars and repeat the process.  Well a few years ago I decided that the tomatoes are best use to make salsa and quite honestly I seem to be getting better at it every year.  I hate soupy salsa's preferring the thicker, cling to your chip type and have perfected my process.  There are a couple of secrets and I know many simple don't want to take the time but first is after peeling the tomatoes I squeeze out the juice then put them in a pot to boil it down.  The second secret is towards the end add a large can of tomato paste, it's like adding cornstarch to gravy. Anyway the batch I made the other day was excellent with a lot of garlic, lime juice for increasing the acidity, and 6 different peppers from the garden.  I also have about 6 different varieties of tomatoes, most of them heirloom type as I think they have considerably more flavor.  One of the other items in the garden that are huge this year are the potatoes.  I dug one hill up the other day and I swear it yielded 5 pounds of huge tubers.  I like to leave them in the ground and use them as needed because they stay fresher that way.  I might have to take some to Canada with me next month.  I hear that potatoes have to be in a commercial bag that they come in from the store, that wouldn't be hard to do, we'll see.

Picking up the boat before the weekend as I just got my snaps for the new replaceable carpet and can get them installed.  The new GPS board on the Motorguide needs calibrating so there's a great excuse to get out on the water this weekend.  It's easy to do just press a couple of buttons and drive in circles, something I do very well.  Countdown to Lac Seul is now 3 weeks away, I'm getting excited!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Back to Lake Osakis again

Nice Bass, my only fish
First of all it can be challenging to come up with a topic every week, especially if you've taken the weekend off from fishing to work on other less important things such as mowing or getting stuff done around the house.  When I ran across my old picture album last week it brought back memories of 1997 when fishing in Cabo San Lucas and it's funny, the pictures took my memory back to that time but it seemed to skip 2008 when I first posted the very exact same story and pictures on my October 6th post, amazing!  Oh well today is a new day and what I know is a new post. Because it was forecasted to rain on Sunday, Lory and I decided to try Lake Osakis again on Saturday to see if we can run into some of those nice crappies and maybe a walleye or two. With the temperatures predicted in the 90's and strong south winds, a day on the water might feel good.  Osakis is straight up Interstate 94 about 105 miles northwest of the house.  It's an hour and 45 minute drive, about 30 minutes further than Mille Lacs but it does seem longer.  Arriving around 1:00 Lory backed the trailer into the water as I started the outboard to back it off the trailer. The minute I hit reverse the motor came to an abrupt halt, not thinking about the bungee cord around the prop to prevent it from spinning while towing was still attached. A second time did the same thing before the realization hit me, the strap is still on.  Lory pulled the boat up carefully enough to jump out and remove the strap that was now wrapped tight around the lower housing, back it in again and this time it worked. life sure gets frustrating sometimes!  Our first stop was a nice hump that seemed to have walleye written all over it.  After 5 drifts across we changed our minds and headed to the area where we caught a few crappies the last time.  Almost immediately we marked schools of fish that were in 16 - 18 feet of water and they seemed to be stationary.  Our first thought, this should be pretty easy, like spearing fish in a barrel.

2 nice Crappies
Lory quickly caught the first crappie, a very nice 12 inch fish, seems like we were in for a great session!  We stayed on the school as well as others but those fish were not much in the mood to bite as Lory nailed another one and that was about it. It's pretty frustrating for sure as you know they are down there, you know they are nice fish, and you know you're not that bad of a fisherman. Oh well, maybe we are when it comes to mid season crappies.  I know from my ice fishing experiences that crappies can be finicky with needing just the right presentation.  Maybe we should have had minnows with slip bobber to be more effective, who knows.  It is definitely worth trying again as one can see that there are a lot of nice fish in Lake Osakis and it is worth doing some more exploring for sure.  It is a fairly large lake and this time of year it has quite a few weeds along with that slimy clumps of algae near the shorelines.  We did enjoy watching the western grebes work the depths with their young.  Usually there were two dull colored almost grown grebes with their parents swimming in the open water.  The hen would dive down and 15 - 30 seconds later would surface with a minnow in her bill as the young would race to see who get's the newly caught morsel. It was easy to watch this over and over again but we were the ones needing to catch the fish!  If you think about it, there had to be a ton of baitfish in the lake as the surface was covered with groups of 3 and 4 grebes all feeding on minnows and usually where there are minnows there are larger fish as well.  Actually there are so many grebes that you really need to be careful when you drive across the lake as they don't move very fast and one would hate to hit any my mistake.

It is a really busy time of the year as the personal stuff has accumulated to be a crazy last part of August through September.  With reunions, weddings, Labor day, and fishing trips it will be a challenge to get everything done in time.  The good news is that Bruce has set our fall trip to Lac Seul for September 21 - 25th and I will be bringing the new boat along.  My good friend Mark Taylor set me up with a friend of his that runs a company called Mat Crafters, which makes custom floor mats for businesses.  Mark had given me a large heavy duty floor mat and this guy would cut if for me however we decided it was too heavy so he picked a lighter, more flexible material.  Using my existing removeable carpet as a pattern he cut it perfectly.  I did order snaps and an installation tool to add the snaps to secure to the floor which will be really nice.  Now I have a heavy duty carpet to use in the boat when we are at Lac Seul, it holds sand really well and should help to keep the boat properly clean which means I won't have to yell at Pete as much!  This trip my brother Steve is going with which I after he invited me to go with him to Canada a few years ago, is a great payback.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Blast from the Past, La Palmas de Cortez, 1997

Nice Bull Dorado
Saturday was spent running back to Wisconsin to attend a wedding party in Mondovi with my wife and her relatives.  Here I thought it was an outside affair but it turned out to be simply a party as they did the ceremonial stuff on Friday which means I dressed up for nothing!  I did met a gentleman by the name of Steve that after a few questions determined that he enjoyed fishing as much as I did. He lives in Durand so I explained the time when I was about 16 and I got the royal crap beat out of me by a guy in Durand and it expanded from there.  Today he fishes Lake Pepin, something I am anxious to try and hopefully he will contact me sometime to let me tag along.  With little opportunity to go fishing last week last week I was looking for something interesting and ran across a small photo album with some great past fishing pictures, including some from my trip to Cabo San Lucas.  In April of 1997 I was invited to go fishing with a business associate, Walt Benecki of Arnold Engineering.  For a number of years only his company would produce a special part needed in an implantable application which made us successful.  Walt had learned I love to fish and over the years we had talked about fishing the Sea of Cortez and that year it finally happened.  As a note, Walt wrote a book about his fishing adventures and it's still available on Amazon HERE.  His book was the influence for me to start my blog to document my fishing experiences.  So, getting back to the story all I needed to do was get to LAX by 6:00 AM on April 25th and he would take care of everything else.  What was interesting is Paul Wenaas had a round trip travel voucher that was due to expire on April 30th so we he heard I was going offered me a really good deal, $125, I was set. The flight was due in at around 10:00 the evening before however we sat on the runway till 11:00 and it was midnight before I got to my hotel.  Unfortunately the person who booked my room at $69 had done it for Friday instead of Thursday and of course there were no rooms left at "that price" and the
First Days catch, 3 nice Dorado's.
hotel was full.  After some checking they miraculously fine one room left at $149, it was now almost 1:00 and I had to get up at 5:00, I'll take it.  I supposed the right thing might have been to just wait at the airport, I could hardly sleep anyway but the little sleep I got helped.  At 6:00 I met Walt, Fred, and Shok as we boarded for Los Cabos Airport at the tip of the Baja Peninsula.  Arriving at around 10:30 we loaded into a van and headed northeast, not before stopping at a little shack and getting a Pacifico for the ride to La Palmas de Cortez, our destination.  It was really cool driving through the desert then coming over the hill to see the Sea of Cortez, it's aqua blue color and the white sands of the beaches below.  We arrived at the resort and it certainly was the most impressive place I'd ever been to.  Unpacking in a gorgeous room overlooking the ocean we headed to the beach to sit at the veranda just in time to watch the boats come in.  I'll never forget that afternoon when we met some guys from Intel Corporation, Portland Oregon.  After a few introductions and where we were from (Eleva, Wisconsin) the head guy looks at me and says, that explains it.  Explains what? I asked.  Well it's not pronounced Oregon (last syllable sounds like on) the way you midwestern guys say it but rather Oregon (las syllable sounds like gun).  I explained that it has an O in it and not a U, still he insisted.  Ok, then tell me if you are from Oregun, are you an Oregunian or an Oregonian? FU was his answer, you can't outsmart an Eleva boy as he bought margaretta's the rest of the night.  The next morning we woke up at 6:00 to have breakfast in the dining area before boarding our fishing vessel for the day, a 26 foot with a single engine and a fly bridge for spotting marlin.  Our first stop was at a small boat just off shore where they purchased bait, maybe a few hundred minnows about 5 - 6 inches.  We headed out about 5 miles into the deeper waters and started looking around anything floating whether it be net buoys, vegetation or garbage in the water as you could easily see 40 feet or more down, they would look for fish, especially dorado.  Often the captain's mate would throw a few minnows in the water and with no cover they swam for their lives.  If there were any fish in the area they would definitely make themselves known.  The second they saw something they'd rig a pole up with a hook and a minnow and toss it overboard trying to get it to hit.  Usually they were successful and as soon as the fish was on they handed you the pole.  Because there were 2 of us fishing, we flipped for the first fish then it was every other hookup meaning if you a pole was handed to you, that was your turn regardless if you landed it or not.

Neon colors at their finest
I was first and immediately fought and landed a huge bull dorado that you see in the first picture. Pictures and words can not describe both how beautiful these fish are in the water and how awesome they fight.  Many saltwater fish light up like a neon sign when under stress and the dorado is the king. Bright neon blues, greens, and yellows it's a sight to see for sure.  Not only are these fish fun to catch but they are fabulous to eat, which I will get into later.
The next hookup was another dorado and it was up to Fred to land the fish which he did perfectly.  I was 52 at the time and Fred was around 62 but not as good of shape as I was. These fish took a lot of effort to land them as you needed a break after your turn was complete.  The next fish hooked was nice 9 1/2 foot striped marlin and it was my turn!  I have never experienced what I was about to embark as this thing used all it's power to shake the hook.  Of course being an avid fan of the Sunday morning fishing shows on cable, I was familiar with the antics of a marlin however experiencing it was a whole new deal.  After a number of crazy runs and leaps out of the water, it's final strategy was to go deep directly under the boat.  Man, it was like reeling in a big rock. 30 minutes later the marlin was along side the boat with it's pectoral fins lit up in a neon blue.  I have to admit I needed a break.  We snapped a few pictures and released the fish to fight another day.  The next couple fish were hooked and release then Fred hooked a very nice dorado. Besides having fun, the other thing going on was Walt's annual Cabo Fishing Tournament.  Each fisherman was assessed points based on type of fish and its rarity along with other factors such as total catch in your boat as well as bonus sizes for trophy sized fish, say a 500 pound billfish.  Black Marlin were worth 40 points, blue marlin 30, striped marlin 25, sailfish 20, wahoo 15, dorado 3, and tuna 2.  These are pretty much based on how common those fish are.  The other qualifier is each rod has a leader connected to a swivel and a "caught fish" was awarded when the swivel passed the rod tip, regardless if it got off after that.  Well Fred was battling this dorado and the swivel was about a foot from the tip when all of a sudden the boat surges forward as the captain cranked on the throttle, he had seen a marlin in front of the boat and marlins = tips.  Poor Fred was hanging on for dear life (as well as shouting a few expletives) as the line was peeling off the reel.  About 100 yards later no sign of the marlin and Fred was stuck reeling that fish back in again, I thought he was going to have a heart attack.  Later that night Fred demanded that he should be awarded double the points for having had to reel it in twice.  No such luck but we did end the day with 3 dorado caught and a striped marlin.

Ready to Land a Striped Marlin, notice the blue fin.
What was fabulous about La Palmas de Cortez is they kept the dorado, often known as Mahi Mahi, and serve it each night for dinner.  It's absolutely fabulous and I really made a pig of myself, so much that the older Mexican lady serving it told me "Senor, you will get ill eating like you do!" The next day was my turn to be with Walt in his boat as we changed strategy for the morning bite and went for yellowfin tuna. Even though they are the least amount of points, you can usually catch quite a few if you get into them.  Unfortunately most of what I caught were bonita, basically a trash member of the tuna family.  They did fight excellent and I did finally catch a yellowfin and the rest of the day was pretty slow.  In then end my score was 63 which puts me in the middle of the list of guys that fished during the 13 years that Walt held this contest.  It was a great time, I met a lot of great people and there is nothing better than relaxing on the veranda on the beach drinking a Negra Modelo, which unfortunately by Saturday night had cleaned out the resort of this great beer.  I have it on my bucket list to get back to La Palmas de Cortez, it's still relatively inexpensive place to go and hopefully my brother Steve and I can make it someday.  That trip ranks in the top 5 of my lifetime fishing experiences for sure.

The Mille Lacs situation continues to play itself out and I will definitely have more to say on that later. This week we have finalized the dates for our September Lac Seul trip as we will leave on the 21st and return on the 25th.  This time my brother Steve is coming with and I am really excited to return the favor from him inviting me on his trip a couple years ago to Burrows Lake, east of Lake Nipigon, Ontario.  Lots to do!!!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Walleye Fishing Over on Mille Lacs for 2015

Charlie and the last walleye caught in my boat legally on Mille Lacs
It finally happened, 15 years of total mismanagement by both the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the State of Minnesota have resulted in the closure for all walleye fishing on Lake Mille Lacs starting August 4th to December 1, 2015  After pre spawn netting by the tribes and targeting those same size fish that are netted, the allocation of walleyes to the public have been reduced to 28,000 pounds for the 2015 fishing season on Mille Lacs. I would love to go ballistic regarding this terrible political situation (IMHO) however I am bound to keep my mouth shut and not pollute my post with anything but fishing yet it's difficult because it affects both my favorite fishing destination as well as my friends that are severely impacted by this ineptness.  What makes matters worse is sitting on the side watching the slow and inevitable decline of the lake and there is little you can do about it.  So, I have decided to provide links to articles that better explain the situation and the Princeton Union-Eagle is a small town newspaper which does an excellent job and probably best leans towards my political views regarding this.  My first link HERE is the announcement of the closure of the walleye season on Mille Lacs on August 3rd. The second link HERE really does a nice job of documenting the latest issue regarding the Governor's visit to Isle, MN and the local reaction to the situation.  HERE really says it all in regards to my feelings about the situation and whole hardily agree with Joe Ward as I am a member of PERM and fully support their charter in dealing with this problem.  So the closure of walleye season really had no restrictions which is interesting.  I suspect I can troll for northerns or muskies this fall on the reefs with large stick baits like a Rattlin Rouge, or fish smallies on the deep reefs with leeches, I'm not even sure what this all means and if I catch a walleye it certainly must be released.  Ridiculous is all I have to say about it.  I have 2 friends in Alaska, Jeff King and Keith Holtan, both run salmon fishing guide service on the Kenai.  This year because of declining populations, the first salmon run which occurs in late May thru June was cancelled which quite frankly affects their income.  I would bet that if you did some research you would fine that the same issues that plague Mille Lacs are eerily similar to those that shut down the fisheries on the Kenai.  The more things change the more they stay the same. I am in constant communications with my friend Bill Lundeen, I feel bad for him and I wish I could do something as I am helpless other than keep pressuring our government to make changes in the way they approach the problem.  Good Luck!

The star of the show!
So my last official walleye trip was last Wednesday when I had the pleasure of taking both Chuck Teasley and Dan Hoene in my new boat.  Charlie is a friend from way back and Dan is his buddy from high school. Each year Chuck comes to Minnesota with his family to visit a camp on Lake Carlos near Alexandria.  We try to get away during that week and this year it worked out that both he and Dan could make it.  The plan was to meet at the pole shed, drive north to Mark Applens place, go out to dinner, then fish the big lake.  When I showed up at the pole shed both guys were there but to my surprise Chuck had a new addition to his right leg as it now was aluminum and Dan was hobbling around on a cane that Chuck had made for him.  Quickly loading up the boat we headed north as I got the story.  Chuck had a serious motorcycle accident years before I met him and his leg was mangled up pretty bad.  Over the years it became worse and eventually it needed to be removed below the knew.  Dan was a star college hockey player for Michigan but degenerative arthritis has blessed him with 3 hip transplants, the third was recent and he still needs some rehab.  I was glad I had the new boat as it would be much more comfortable for them as I felt fortunate to be able to spend some time with these 2 great guys.  After dinner at Hunter's we headed to Mark;s place at Fisherman's Wharf, settled in then sat outside on the picnic table enjoying a few cocktails, a nice cigar that Dan brought, and the beautiful full moon.  Unfortunately the wind had picked up from the west and although it made the evening mosquito free, it wasn't looking good for tomorrow's wave action.  Waking up to 30 mph winds, we decided to head to the west side and launch where it would be so windy.  After stopping at Bills to get bait we arrived at the landing only to be greeted by the DNR's AIS (Aquatic Invasive Species) unit and trust me, with the walleye closure upon us, I was in no mood to be hassled by these guys.  I know it's not their fault and most are simply interns doing a job but they need to know how screwed up their future employer really is.  As well, we were the only boat in the landing, another waste of tax payer dollars, oh well.  The waves were terrible and 1/4 mile out from shore they 2 feet and breaking.  It really forced us to simply drift the rock humps south of Sherman's point where we did get some fish including my first walleye on Mille Lacs for the year, a 11 incher.  Chuck ended up catching the 2 largest fish for the trip, a 16 inch walleye and a nice 17 inch smallie.  As for Dan and I, there were no pictures worth sharing as we stayed in that 9 - 12 inch walleye range.  Because of the wind it was really hard to fish so our pattern was a simple nightcrawler rig  pulled along the bottom as we drifted out until it becam uncomfortable then repeated that pattern.  Being pretty beat up by the wind and waves we headed back to the landing where in an attempt to secure the boat I fell off the front step and landed back first in the water but not before my side hit the step and caused a huge bruise.  Thank God there was water to break my fall.  Now with 3 of us "crippled" up we headed down the road for dinner at the Long Siding Bar, it was pretty good.  Arriving back to the pole shed we said our goodbyes to another year, another good time with friends, and the reality that we are not getting any younger.  I am already looking forward to our trip next year.

Lory's Golden Redhorse
Saturday gave me an opportunity to finally get the jon boat out and start fishing the river.  After cleaning it out, hooking up the electronics, and starting the motor (3 pulls BTW) I was ready for a planned trip up the river with Lory Brasel on Sunday.  After getting a few things done we headed to Blair's landing and up passed old town where the Crow River joins the Mississippi.  It's amazing how dirty the Crow river is and how it affects the water clarity down stream.  Because it joins from the south, the north side of the river stays much more clear until it gets close Blair's.  Fishing wasn't very good as I only got one 8 inch smallmouth and had a few strikes but no hookups.  We decided to anchor on the downstream side of Cloquet Island however when I dropped the anchor it didn't hold very well, probably because it came untied from my anchor rope and is now sitting on the bottom in 10 feet of water.  With no means to hold us in the current we decided to go down to our neighbors dock, tie up and fish the flat area in front of his property as the fish tend to feed in those areas. With a glob of nightcrawlers we casted into the current and it wasn't long before a fish grabbed Lory's and started running up against the current.  We landed a nice 6 pound golden Redhorse, took a couple of pictures and let it go.  Overall the fishing is bound to get better on the river and luckily I have another anchor to through on the boat so I should be back in business.  On interesting thing, when I pulled the boat out of the river something looked funny and sure enough, I had left the "earmuffs" on the motor that garden hose attaches to for running it out of water.  The prop had torn it up pretty bad and to be honest, I am lucky that it didn't interrupt the normal flow of the water to cool the engine.  Just another thing to replace.  I am not sure if I'll get out this weekend as we have a wedding in Mondovi, WI and it's fall fest time in Independence, my wife's home town.  Either way it's like every weekend, busier than a one legged man in a butt kicking contest!