Thursday, October 22, 2015

Time For Trout

Absolutely Gorgeous 23" Rainbow
During the last couple of years mid October has been the time where I take a day of vacation, drive up to my friend Bill Lundeen's and head up to our secret lake to go trout fishing.  There are actually a lot of lakes within 2 hours that the DNR stocks with rainbow and brown trout, especially the old iron ore pits north of Aitkin, MN.  These lakes are usually spring fed, clear, and deep and are perfect for sustaining trout.  This Monday was my third trout fishing trip with Bill and I have to admit that it is a unique experience to say the least.  Bill had everything loaded up in his truck so all I needed to do was pack my fishing rod, a few lures that I thought might be useful, and a camera.  The lake that we fish does not have a boat landing and is only accessible to the public via a canoe.  It's quite a trek downhill to the small canoe landing and I can attest that going down is a lot easier than going up. The morning started out literally on the wrong foot as I opened the back door of the truck to get the trolling motor battery out, it had shifted and upon opening the door it fell out directly on my right foot. The same foot that got crunched when I tipped my motorcycle, the same foot that has some arthritis in it, there were a few choice words with an accompanying dance to express my pleasure. We used to have a saying "It'll feel better when it stops hurting" so we loaded the canoe up onto a nice wheeled bracket and in 10 minutes we were ready to fish.  I used a simple spinning rod rigged up with a small spinner rig with a single hook, a 3/8 ounce bell sinker, and a half a worm.  Bill had the same rig however he was using a bubble gum colored Gulp trout worm.  It was a gorgeous day as the lake was like a mirror, much different than the 20 mph winds predicted.  Within 2 minutes I had the first fish, a nice 12 inch rainbow trout and by the first hour we had 6 of our total limit of 10.  The next fish was a monster as Bill hooked what he thought was a nice largemouth bass however it definitely felt different.  As it came to the surface he had hooked the largest trout he had ever had so now the pressure was on me to make sure I would land it successfully with the net.  Fishing in a canoe is quite interesting as I was sitting in the front and can't turn around other than twist my body.  My feet are stuck facing forward with the fish bucket between them and the net in my left hand.  This fish wasn't too interested in getting into the net and I wanted to make sure and scoop it head first.  After a few tries I finally was able to get the fish in the net after about a 5 minute battle.  This was too good a fish to simply put it in the bucket and I was concerned that it could flop out of my grip so it stayed in the net.  Luckily we were close to the landing and decided to head back and get a few pictures to savor the moment and recover from all the excitement.   After settling down we headed back out in the lake to see if we could get 3 more trout to fill out our limit. Up to this point Bill had the hot fishing pole however I tend to be the late bloomer and actually caught the last 3 fish including a nice one of my own. We headed back to the bait shop with a nice mess of trout and the plan was to clean them, get something to eat before heading out back again to catch some crappies.

9.25 - 10.25 inch Crappies
Back at the shop we measured the 2 biggest trout,  Bill's went 23 inches and weighed 3 pounds 13 ounces, not bad.  I put my largest on the scale and announce 21 inches!  Bill looked at me and said "Dave, you have to start at the 0 inches end, not the 36 inch end!"..............damn, only 15 inches.  Still a nice fish. After a hot bowl of soup we loaded up his 16 foot Lund and headed to a small lake west of Mille Lacs Lake to try for suspended crappies.  In the fall when the water cools down the crappies tend to suspend over the deep water.  On lakes were the deepest part is 30 - 35 feet, its fairly easy to motor around until you mark them on the depth finder and mark them we did.  Hovering 10 to 15 feet about above the bottom it seemed as though wherever you went in the basin, crappies were there.  It did take a while to find the larger ones as we did catch a number of small fish in that 5 - 7 inch range.  Using the trolling motor to hover on a position we were able to drop our jigs as we watched them fall to the correct depth on the depth finder then work the magic till we get a hit.  Bill had us pull those fish up very slowly as if you bring them to the surface too fast and you release them, their air bladder will keep the fish floating and most tend to die.  Although the eagles like this, we were careful making sure our fish survived the release.  The other thing that I learned is Gulp minnows work very well for this, unfortunately it was somewhat too late as Bill out fished me 3:1.  By the time I figured it out it was time to leave with our 11 fish in ranging from 9.25 to 10.25 inches.  Not monsters by any means but they are nice fish.

Mirror image!
Saturday was spent picking apples and in the afternoon I decided to take the boat out and see if the trolling motor still works.  Because I hit the rocks the week before it would also be a good time to check for any vibrations cause by a possible bend prop shaft.  I decided to try Lake John, just southwest of Annandale, maybe a little far but it has a nice landing and I know the lake pretty well. I will admit that the new boat is taking a while to get used to as it's quite a bit bigger than my old 620T and can be a hand full by myself.  Arriving at the lake it was as I expected, empty landing with the dock still in, perfect for a one man show.  Coming off the trailer nice, I secured the boat, parked the truck, and was ready to go.  Earlier I had set the shallow water alarm on the Evinrude display to 3 feet thinking that would be a great idea yet it's sort of a pain in the butt as I motored out of the landing area into the main lake.  Although it was plenty deep enough the weed tops kept sounding the alarm, I finally shut it off.  With the lake calm and about a mile long I decided to open it up and see what it would do.  With the colder and dense air the motors tend to run faster and I hit a new high in RPM's, 6050 with the fastest MPH at about 60.5.  In the warmer weather and with 2 guys it falls back to about 5850 RPM's and 58 mph.  I suspect that the reports of 62 MPH with one guy and a half tank of fuel (200 pounds lighter) is more than possible.  Like we did on Monday I searched the deeper basin's for crappies but did not have much luck. On the other hand the trolling motor worked perfectly AGAIN!  This time the water was calm and with no wind to set the direction of travel needed to stay in one spot, nevertheless it's performance was fabulous.  No twisting of the cords as the motor only traveled about 300 degrees before reversing itself to change directions.  Previous issues would have the motor just keep rotating until the cords were completely wrapped around the main shaft.  Working different areas, different heading lock modes, and trying the jog functions, everything seemed to be perfect let's hope all of the problems have been solved.

Time is running out as I need to start putting things away for the winter.  The boat heads back to Frankie's on Monday to fix a few things left that need to be addressed.  I've started pressing apple cider and am thinking about trying to make hard cider this year, we'll see.  The mid term weather forecast shows above normal temperatures thru the middle of November, I might just keep the boat available for one more crappie fishing trip yet deer hunting is right around the corner and I need to get ready for that.  For the most part I have finished the work on my Salem Ice Cabin, replaced all the screws with Stainless Steel and finally installed my wheel skirts which should keep things warmer when on the ice.  So much to do, so little time!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Perching, Twice the Fun?!?!

Mississippi River Perch
Hopefully this post keeps me back on schedule but unfortunately the older I get the busier I seem to be, especially this year.  The last 2 weekends have been focused on perch fishing, the first time on October 3rd on Mille Lacs and the second trip was last Sunday with my friend Kevin.  My reasons for going to Mille Lacs were two fold, obviously catching some fish would be nice and I needed to try my reprogramming that I discussed last week.  The unfortunate part of that trip was at the end of the day we were in Vineland Bay and with 4 foot rollers coming in I hit a small rock reef that is tucked back in the bay which did a number on my stainless steel prop and did some minor damage to the edge of my skeg.  I'm really careful but this time I was concentrating on my trolling motor accuracy and had left the GPS scale zoomed in way too much and was on the reef before I even realized it.  It never helps that I was in the tough of the wave as well.  We limped back to the landing and I dropped the prop off at the repair shop to be fixed.  All of this and we didn't catch a single fish.  Looking back at this year, Mille Lacs has been a total disaster in regards to fishing.  I never caught a keeper walleye in fact I never caught a respectable walleye for that matter.  Usually it isn't too hard to find perch in the fall, even if they are in the 6 to 7 inch range, they are still there.  We are waiting for the DNR to determine what the fishing regulations for ice fishing will be for this winter.  The official fishing season for the sake of walleye harvest quotas starts on December 1st and rumors are indicating that there could be a limited harvest for ice fishing, one can only hope. Red lake has turned into my go to walleye spot but it sure would be nice to not drive so far to fish! My next opportunity was last Sunday with my great friend Kevin Aiona.  My wife had a girl's event in Eau Claire and when talking to Kevin about it he suggested I meet him in the morning and we head to Alma to fish above the dam.

Back Channel of the Mississippi Above Alma, WI
That is an offer I simply couldn't refuse and although it would be difficult to launch the boat early in the morning, he accommodated my schedule and by noon we were trolling shad raps on the first wing dam.  It is interesting as it's been about 6 years since I have been fishing in the river above the dam and the river has definitely changed over the years yet there was no doubt I was in good hands.  Our plan was to work our way up to the perch hole by fishing the wing dams along the river.  It was almost like fishing Mille Lacs in the old days, there was a plan and we simply continued to fish spots until we found active fish.  After catching a number of smaller walleyes under 12 inches and losing a couple nicer ones we headed into the calmer water to try for perch.  If you've read my previous report you can see a picture of Kevin with a 14 inch perch, respectable for anywhere and we were ready to catch a few.  The perch were definitely biting however the average size was about 7 inches and there was a lot of them.  A simple small jig under a slip bobber set about 5 feet and it was nonstop action. We did manage to get 4 very nice perch in the 11 - 13 inch range but it took a lot of sorting.  I estimate we probably caught well over 200, along with one mooneye and a number of 5 inch largemouth bass.  Getting tired of the constant action of small fish we headed back out to the wing dams to see if the walleyes were going again. The wind was blowing pretty good up river and Kevin claims this isn't the best for walleyes which proved to be correct.  Surprisingly Kevin caught 2 nice sunfish trolling one of the wing dams with a #4 Salmo crankbait, go figure.  I did take a few pictures of some of the channels that we boated through, it's simply beautiful.

Loaded with Apples
It's definitely apple picking time and I am having a bumper crop of fruit this year.  The McIntosh apples were done a month ago but the Firesides, Harrelson's, and Honeygolds are in their prime right now. Saturday was spent trying to get everything harvested before we get our first hard frost, which looks to be this weekend. The Harrelson tree has always been the most prolific of the 10 or so that I have and there had to be over 8 bushels of nice apples that were picked.  Considering that I probably threw away another 2 bushels that had dropped to the ground over the last month, it's pretty incredible.  They are nice and crisp with few blemishes or worms to worry about.  My plans are to press some fresh cider this weekend while it's still nice out as the apple press is out and ready to go. My neighbor Lory pressed cider last week with it as we have made a few adjustments to the press to make it easier and faster.  He makes wine out of the cider, I simply like drinking it straight however it would be fun to try and make some hard cider out of it, hopefully it doesn't turn to vinegar.  We'll see how much time is left before deer hunting.  I need to get the boat out one more time to test the trolling motor and having added Sea Foam to the gas for storage, it would be good to get it distributed through the system.  My other issue is getting the boat into the dealer and have the few things left that needs to be fixed before storing it for the winter.  As well, I have been putting the finishing touches on the Salem Ice Cabin anticipating another great winter of ice fishing.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Lac Seul, Part 2.

Beautiful Walleye
OK, so I need to get back into my standard routine however being out during the week of fishing on Lac Seul and the fact that I really seem crazy busy these days, It's hard to find any time.  Oh well it doesn't pay to whine does it!  I am still winding down from our trip of 2 weeks ago as it seems like not too long ago the time would never come.  One thing that I love about Lac Seul is the dark stained water produces some really nice looking fish ranging from a bright golden color to dark brown to having a teal colored hue to them. Depending on where you catch them the fish in Wapesi are different than the fish in Tuk Bay verses the ones coming out of the main channel in front of the resort.  Some say that the genetics are different for each area, this might be true and as well I am sure the bottom structures have something to do with it as well.  Bruce claims that the walleyes in Wapesi never leave that bay which is an interesting thought.  Speaking of Wapesi, we did spend the last 2 days fishing Bruce's favorite bay which is about a 15 mile run from the cabin.  So the second real day of fishing was different than the first day as the wind had calmed down somewhat.  There are a couple of spots way back in the bay that we tried and for the most part caught fish however we had to go looking for them.  Now the original plan was to eat fish on Tuesday night, which we did, have steak on Wednesday night then have walleye again on Thursday before we left.  I was somewhat concerned that because we could only have a limit (4 walleyes) each in possession, eating fish on Thursday would leave us short of fillets to bring home as we couldn't have our limit + dinner.  Luckily they saw my Norwegian logic and agreed to have fish on Wednesday then steak on Thursday which left us the need to get 19 walleyes for Thursday.  Fishing was tough but Pete had the secret hole which allowed us to get our limit and the other guys only had to pony up 7 fish, which they did!

Another great Sunset on Thursday night
With a freezer full of fresh walleyes I made Steak ala Kienitz, the same way I did this spring however I used ribeye's instead which are much better.  Leaving Friday morning meant trying to pack up everything early so we could get back to the boat landing and home at a reasonable time.  One of the interesting features on my new Evinrude Etec G2 is the trip computer and because of the distances, gas usage, and price of gas at the resort, it would be really nice to accurately understand your situation.  It actually has 2 separate trip recording modes so I reset the one on Monday prior to leaving the boat landing and heading to camp. On Thursday night it said we had gone 142 total miles and used 39.9 gallons of gas.  The tank holds 51 gallons and not being sure how full it gets plus not knowing the accuracy of the trip computer I decided to put in enough gas (10.5 gallons) to get back to the landing with at worse case about 6 gallons minimum to spare if the fuel usage is +/- 10%.  Arriving at the landing the computer said 177 miles, 49.9 gallons used.  When we finally got back to Pete's I filled up the boat and it took 39.5 gallons which means if you consider the 10.5 gallons in the tank proves that the computer is extremely accurate.  This will help with future trips to better manage my fuel consumption and with high dollar gas purchase it is nice to have the confidence that you know exactly what's in the gas tank.  One other thing it tells me is we sure travel a lot during the trip as it's 35 miles in, 35 out, and interesting that we averaged about 35 miles each day heading to and from our fishing destinations.

Precise anchor control
I have been having issues with my Motorguide front trolling motor and it's ability to successfully hold a position in the anchor mode. Sometimes it works great then the next day it acts as though it loses where it at and goes totally stupid and damn near twisting off all the cords. The picture to the left is a screen shot of our anchoring positions on Lac Seul on Tuesday afternoon on Dan's Hole.  The trolling motor has a jog feature that allows you to move over in 5 foot increments and each spot represents a 15 - 20 foot moves to the right or left, up or back.  By the way, we really did well moving around the point and catching fish, what a great feature. The next day the trolling motor went crazy in anchor mode and started spinning the shaft looking for a position to the point of wrapping the cords up so tight it pulled one out of its exit location. It was very frustrating especially considering how well it worked the day before. Upon returning I called Motorguide to discuss the issue of losing it's place and twisting to the point where a cable had pulled out of the plastic housing.  They suggested I do an upgrade on the software and Ok'd me messing with the cable to reinstall.  Lucky I had to take the brackets apart as the main pivot shaft was missing it's end clips and had come out one side which caused all sorts of issues as well. Actually I am pretty good with all of this and actually fixed the trolling motor better than when it came from the factory.  After upgrading the software with the dongle MG sent me earlier in the week, Lory and I went to Mille Lacs to try it out on Saturday.  Once we calibrated the position and compass functions the motor worked beautifully. Unfortunately it's history has been to work great the first day and not so hot the next so we'll have to try it again next Saturday.