Thursday, February 25, 2016

That Time of Year

Water covering the ice.
It's that time of year where one day it can be 10 degrees out and the next it can be 50.  Because of the late ice cover and the relatively mild temperatures, the ice thickness on Mille Lacs is about 24 inches.  This is pretty light as normally we would have around 30 - 36 inches.  Last Saturday was very nice out and we had .5 inches of rain around home which along with the warm weather basically melted all of what little snow we had on the ice and polled about 2 - 5 inches of water on top of the ice.  I met Mark Applen who had his house out a couple of miles out of Hunter's Point then because the road was open to the flats I decided to drive the extra 10 miles or so out to Sliver again.  This time I had my Lowrance HDS 9 with me which has the accurate map and it was pretty easy.  Mark's son-in-law, Brandon was interested in coming with so we headed off.  Hunter's stated that the road to the flats was ok however they were going to remove the bridges Sunday Morning so if I had a wheel house I needed to get off before 9 or I'd be stuck.  We were just going out for the day so that wasn't an issue however it was pretty sloppy all the way to the flats however the bridges were in pretty good shape. With all the water on the ice it was interesting to drill a few holes as the water could drain through those holes.  The action wasn't as hot as last week but we did get some fish, a lot of those 13-15 inch walleyes again, it was fun.  I am sure that this was my last trip out to the flats but at least I got to fish them a couple of times.

Hand Carved Birthday Present from my Cousin Paul
Tuesday saw me head back to Mille Lacs to help Bill prefish an area with his friend Don,  as he had a number of clients he was taking out on Wednesday and wanted to see if we could identify a bite.  We drove out of Mac's Twin Bay and fished around Hennepin Island in the 30 - 33 feet of water.  Bill must have drilled about 100 holes and all three of us basically skipped from hole to hole looking for active fish.  Unfortunately we didn't find many.  No small walleyes and I did hook a nice tullibee but it came off.  I did get a nice perch and Bill nailed a couple of tullibee's and a smaller perch but fishing was spotty for sure.  A cold front had come through and the ice had solidified pretty well.   Getting back to work, on Wednesday my cousin Paul Anderson stopped by to give me a birthday present that he made for me.  I was absolutely shocked at how nice of a job he had done on this, hand carving it from a pine board, adding a fly to the second hand, and the nice touch a Cabela's Mean Eye crankbait on the pendulum!   Wow, Paul and I were best friend growing up and his dad (my uncle) was really special.  I am really speechless and excited about my special gift that Paul has given me!!

Friday my brother Steve and I head to meet Mark Applen, Russ Praught, and his brothers to fish the Johnson Portside Perch Extravaganza.  It's a perch contest but rally it turns into a button drawing and they have some really nice prizes.  This is usually the last time I get out my wheel house as it's suppose to be 50 on Saturday.  I really love staying on the ice and my brother Steve enjoys going with me.  Too bad his son Kevin isn't around as I know he'd be with us.  Either way with the relatively warm winter and the unusually thin ice, ice out should be quite early this year and provide a fantastic opener.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Walleyes are biting on Mille Lacs!

15 inch Mille Lacs Walleye
Saturday morning I got a text from my friend Mark Applen asking if I was going to Mille Lacs.  I told him I was interested in fishing the flats so he said pick him up at 11:00AM.  It was a perfect excuse to leave.  It was about zero out and we knew it would be cold however I wanted to move around a little so we decided that we could both base ourselves out of my larger Clam insulated portable.  It's not that portable however I do have a trailer that makes it easy to load and unload so I hooked it up, loaded my auger, heater, propane tank, poles and Vexilar and picked up Mark.  Our first stop was Bill's to pick up minnows and get the latest information.  Our plan was to head over to Hunter's point Resort where they have a road plowed out to the flats, then find Sliver Flat, set up on the top (it's a very small flat) then fish the edges both the top edge and bottom edge.  Years ago I used to go out of Liberty Beach Resort, they would have a road out to 3 mile reef then extend it northwest right to Sliver Flat, you could turn south to 9 mile or turn north to Boot Flat.   I always like Sliver Flat however, there I go, fishing memories again!  Anyway, I forgot my trusted Lowrance HDS 9 Chart/sonar unit as it has the most accurate map and Sliver is funny, small and narrow.  I had the Navionics app on my phone and unfortunately it shows sliver as a round structure, not exactly correct.  Well, Mark had his handheld GPS but it had the Navionics map so we had a difficult time pinpointing the accurate depth.. As well there was a portable parked right on top of the flat and he had tip ups scattered up and down the top.  We ended up fishing the south edge and had to encroach on him only because he pretty much hogged the whole flat.  If I would have had my Lowrance Map with is based on the Lakemaster data, we probably could have successfully fished the north side but there was little I could do.  Either way we set up and Mark immediately caught a 15 inch walleye. Unfortunately Mille Lacs has a restricted harvest and one is only allowed a single fish that has to measure between 19 and 21 inches, not impossible but damn difficult at best.  To be frank, the tribal harvest and subsequent restrictions have really screwed up the lake. It is full of 13 to 15 inch walleyes and reports of 50 fish per day
Another small Walleye.
catches are not uncommon but you can't keep anything. People forget that mIlle Lacs was often called the "Dead Sea" or a current well deserved name "Home of the quarter pounder!" I had a blast as it's been a long time since I ice fished Mille Lacs, maybe a year ago.  I had fish constantly on my Vexilar and ended up with 7 walleyes in that 13 to 15 inch range.  In addition I lost a couple and had 2 really big ones on.  The story on Mille Lacs is the light bite so I switched to a Hawger Spoon with a single hook, my go to perch bait.  While sitting there talking to Mark all of a sudden a fish slammed my bait and the fight was on.  It had the classic walleye head shake and about halfway she came off.  Uffda!!! that was a nice fish and of course to speculate, maybe in that 24 - 28 inch range, I guess I'll never know.  The action was fast with some fish hitting the bait sand some just floating up to look at it and going back down. Either way it was enough to keep your interest as the ones that hit were aggressive and the one that just looked at it took some more finessing.  I sure would have liked to see those larger fish but maybe next week.  I definitely was cold out and for sure I will not forget my GPS mapping system next time. It's pretty accurate and is a big help to find that out of the way point of edge that can hold fish!

It's been pretty incredible what we have been paying for gas these days.  Never getting used to the $3.80/gallon price, on the other extreme I filled up on the way home (Saturday) in Princeton for $1.39/gallon.  25 gallons was $35.00.   Amazing. It's interesting that the pundits are saying that these low gas prices are not helping the economy, I guess everyone is used to paying high prices, go figure!  Anyway I am sure that places like Costco and Sam's club are 10 to 15 cents cheaper than this and I suspect it won't last long so stock up!  I have a 51 gallon tank in my boat so it would be nice if this stayed around the same price for at least 6 months.  I only would love to see the lower gas prices override the ethanol mandates but that's a whole nother discussion. My neighbor and friend, "Buck a Gallon Pete" says that we should see it go up and like clockwork it went up by $0.30 on Tuesday.  It would be nice to be able to stock up but that is somewhat impractical.  I am going to try to get back up to Mille Lacs this weekend and maybe even take a day off and help Bill do some pre-fishing next week for his clients.  The ice was not very thick for this time of year and with the forecast in the 50's for this Friday, it feels like ice out could be pretty early this year.  With MN fishing opener on the latest day possible, May 14th, it could be very good, especially if the water temperatures get into the high 50's, low 60's.  Time will tell, that's for sure.  With the mild weather I have been working on my boat and in addition to the new Ezee Steps on my trailer, Mark from Ezze Steps made me a special step to replace the one that was on my RangerTrail, ,mounted to the winch post.  It makes it much easier to climb in and out of the boat and when I get some more time I'll post a picture.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Working For Bill

On my home from Red Lake last week we stopped at Bills to say hi.  He was pretty busy and commented how next Saturday was going to be considering the the number of fishing contests going on.  I told him that I would come up on Saturday and help him so I got up extra early and was at the shop by 7:00 AM.  Bill get's up and starts to work around 5:00 so he already had a good head start as the people began coming in.  A scoop of fats, a dozen shiners, some decoy suckers for pike.  It took me a couple of hours to get in the swing of things and the biggest problem I had was using the license machine.  I managed pretty well and by 2:00 the rush had subsided enough to take a break and help tie up some rattle reels, getting them rigged for the evening rush.  My original plan was to work till noon them head out to the lake but a late rush kept me around longer than I had planned and by the time I felt it was okay, it was getting late.  I really didn't want to spend and hour getting set up for an hour's worth of fishing so I headed home.  I am sure there will be time this weekend but again I don't like to be rushed.  I am sure Bill and Kathy appreciated the help as it got pretty crazy a couple of times. Considering the current situation on Mille Lacs, a few good days sure don't hurt!  Actually it's pretty interesting the people you met, a lot of local celebrities tend to stop in and it's kind of cool to say hi to them.  I ended up getting another 5 pounds of Bill's famous and delicious Wild Rice and headed home around 4:30.  It was a good workout but it always feels good when you can help someone out like that, not that working a bait shop is that difficult for me, actually I'm sort of a natural for it.  It definitely brings me back 45 years ago when I worked for Vic at the Mobil Station in Eleva.  Same thing, need to balance the work, figure out how to be efficient and handle the money.  I would have to admit that the best part is that I have friends that trust me enough for me to help them.  That's something you just can't buy!

Working the Booth!
Unfortunately for the most of the week starting on Monday, I have been in Anaheim, California at the MD and M (Medical Device and Manufacturing) Show at the convention center close to Disneyland. They are having record heat here, highs in the upper 80's and lower 90's, when I arrived it was 92, 117 degrees warmer than it was on the morning of January 17th on Red L
ake when it was -25.3 degrees. These people out here can not even fathom that cold.  It has been a very busy show as we are a leader in ultra fine wire winding technology and have a lots of things going on in California.   It's also a great place to touch base with our vendors who support us in those products as they are usually at the show.  One such guy is John Ness, son of an old business relationship, Dewey Ness.  It was fun to see him as we always have a lot to catch up on, how was deer hunting, how's the old man, how's life treating you!!!  Anyway I get to see him maybe 4 times a year and this is one of them, half way across the country I'll take it.  I head back to the cold on Thursday afternoon, I usually stay till Friday but there is too much to do these days, besides the fishing isn't very good in California this time of year.  Maybe head up to Mille Lacs on Saturday or Sunday to take advantage of the great walleye bit that is suppose to be happening. Also I have a couple of crappie lakes in mind that nee to be explored.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Last Trip to Red for this Winter

Paul outside the Salem
Last weekend was my 4th trip to Red this year and the latest I have ever fished Red.  Last year we got out just after Thanksgiving and fished till the middle of January however this year the ice was late and we brought our houses up after Christmas and still had to stay on shore the first trip.  Fishing slows down in January and although we did catch enough fish to have a dinner at JR's, the action was spooty at best.  Although I did catch a few fish myself I would have to say that the total for the house was less than 15 for the weekend.  This week my guest were my brother Steve and our cousin Paul Anderson, from Hudson, Wisconsin.  Paul saw my last Red Lake post and e-mailed me to let him know when we were going again so I asked him if he wanted to go and of course he did.  Paul has been to Alaska with me and we did some snowmobiling in the Snowy Range of Wyoming a few times together but never ice fishing.  Steve usually stays at mom's in Eleva the night before and heads up in the morning.  Because he goes right by Paul's place Paul had to do little but to pack and jump in the truck as I had everything else that he needed to stay out on the ice.  It was significantly warmer this weekend than 2 weeks ago when we woke up to -25 below, so it was a lot nicer.  JR had open a new road northeast of the Center Bar and both Mark and Russ were already set up, it took a long time to get out there as it had to be at least 10 miles, 6 miles to Center Bar then north almost 2 miles then off to the east another 2 miles and at 10 - 15 mph, it was almost an hour drive.   It was nice as we were pretty much off to ourselves but a I said earlier, the fishing usually slows down after New Years Day.

Biggest  this weekend
We had enough fish to enjoy a fish fry on Friday night but thing definitely slowed after Friday.  We decided to keep our fish we caught so Paul and Steve would have some to bring home and by Sunday morning we only had 6 walleyes and a few perch.  Mark Applen had a couple so he gave them to us gving us 8 fish for the trip home.  Deciding that filleting them at JR's would be easier than at home we quickly cleaned them up including this nice 19 inch walleye that I had caught the evening before.   JR really improved the cleaning area of his place, with easy to clean stainless steel counters, fillet boards and a sink, it makes it much better.  Because I have enough fish in the freezer I let Paul and steve load up on the walleye this trip as I still have plenty of fishing to do. It was interesting as we came off the ice about 10:00 AM and was greeting at the access by JR.  With the amount of vehicles coming off the ice and the heave and cracks near the access, we just got accross the last bridge when someone summoned JR, there's a problem with the first bridge as you have to go over 2 bridges to get in.  I am glad we made it over because what happens is the the weight of the moving vehicles causes a wave of water to develope in front of the vehicle, under the ice.  That wave if it hits a weak spot of crack can blow a hole in the ice and form a very dangerous situation on the ice.  this is why there is a 10 - 15 mPH speed limit on the ice, it's not thick enough to sustain a lot of traffic, especially us guys pulling houses and maintaining the integrity of the ice.  Lord knows how long it may have taken to get off the lake after the bridge blew out.  So we got our fish cleaned and headed south with my wheel house in tow.  It was nice to get it home as I needed to get a lot of things done to it, rugs washed, get it heated up in the inside and dried out, cooking pans washed, and stuff put back away where it belongs.

Fishing is reported to be good on Mille Lacs so I will probably head up this weekend.  As well my friend Bill Lundeen could use some help on Saturday because all of the fishing contests start this weekend so I am getting up early.  It should be done by 10:00 so maybe I can sneak out on the lake and fish the afternoon.  Although I don't believe people are catching anything in the tight 19 - 21 inch slot, I do know they are getting them bigger than that as well, tons of those 13 - 15 inch fish from the great year class of a couple years ago.  It should be interesting for sure.  If nothing else I am looking forward to trying some crappie fishing soon.  I am going to be in California next week till Thursday, hopefully it don't get too used to the warm weather!!!