Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter with Mom

Myself, brother Jon, Mom, Sister Beth and brothers Steve and Blake
My mother has been going through a lot of issues lately as about 2 weeks ago she was hospitalized with pneumonia then let out to recover in a Rehab center only to see her heart rate skyrocket, a definite sign of Atrial Fibrillation, which is a dangerous stroke risk.  She went back into the hospital then was sent back to the rehab center on Easter Morning. Our plans were to have Easter dinner there with her and it worked out perfectly.  For $5.00 each we could enjoy a nice dinner, nothing to cook, no dishes to clean up, easy.  My wife Lyn and I drove down on Sunday morning and arrived around noon, just in time to fill out the menu.  Mom will be 82 this April 18th and despite having smoked all her life, deals with type 1 diabetes, and has had heart surgery, she has outlived all of her siblings.  We sat with her till around 7:00 that evening when the nurse came in to take some vitals.  Her blood sugar was really high and her heart rate was over 125, both triggered a call to the doctor.  They gave her some more insulin however the heart rate issue was serious enough to have her transferred back to the hospital.  So away we went, I could have drove her but concerned about the stroke risk she went via a non emergency ambulance which could cope with any issue that might arise.  I sort of think they probably let her out too fast without getting her heart rate under control but who knows.  Sometimes I think insurance and Medicare determines this stuff and it ends up costing more unless of course you die in between things.  She is feeling much better and because fishing is essential non existent for now, we will probably go this weekend and spend some quality time with her again.  I know she appreciates it and it probably isn't going to get any easier for her.

Northwest Sportsman Show
It's Sportshow time and the Annual Northwest Sportsman Show is this weekend at the Minneapolis Convention Center. I really like attending this show as I get to see all the major fishing guys, boats, and "what's new" out there.  My dealer, Frankie's Marine will be there and I know that those guys catch all the fish that's in the big fish tank where they hold seminars.  A couple of weeks ago Joe, Fankie son, showed me a huge northern that they caught for the tank and I am looking forward to seeing it.  The DNR will be there and it will give me a good chance to bitch about their current Mille Lacs decision, which is crazy.  One booth I am looking forward to is the Lowrance one as I just got done upgrading my own electronics and have some serious questions for them on configuring my units.  As well, I upgraded to a new sonic hub and that thing is not as good as my previous one for sure.   I am slowly but surely working on getting the boat ready and even though I could get out on the water in the next few weeks, I still have lot's of stuff to do around the house.  My friend Jim Cox did send me my fish from the week before and I am anxious to have a meal of California Rockfish.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Fishing in Long Beach

California Whitefish
My long awaited fishing trip out of Long Beach, California happened last Sunday.  Our original plans included up to 6 guys, Jim Cox, Joe Stanfield, the Professor, Matt Davis, Mike Schubert and Myself, enough to consider hiring a private charter we often call a 6 pack.  In the end there were only 3 of us as the Professor was busy at our APEC conference, Mike's wife schedule him to be on a cruise boat, and Matt stayed home in Texas.  This left only Jim, Joe, and myself so we decided to go out of PierPoint Landing and take a 1/2 day charter on one of their party fishing boats.  Although crowded it was reasonable and it fit our schedule very well.  Basically it was $60/guy, I needed to have a fishing rod that Jim was able to furnish (otherwise you can rent one), a Non resident California fishing license, and some 8 - 12 oz sinkers that we got in the bait shop.  The charters load at 5:30 in the morning so we had to be there by around 4:30, they run about an hour out of the harbor towards the oil derricks, where we would fish the bottom for resident rock fish. Interesting as there must be at least 30 species of rockfish available in the waters off the California coast and I am sure there were at least 20 different ones caught on the boat.  We even caught something called a whitefish, nothing like I figured but it was fun for sure.  Before leaving the harbor I suspect at least 35 guys got on board so fishing was going to be tight.  There were assigned spots along the rail with a number each 2 feet of so.  You got a Tag with that number and a gunny sack to put your fish in, the tag had a wire attached so you could attach it to the gunny sack. Everyone had a chance for $5.00 to get in the big fish pool, what the heck.  I was in California for our annual APEC conference and every year we have tried to go fishing (look back in the archives, it was Charleston last year, Louisiana in 2011).  The fishing was very interesting
as the rods were very stiff and had open spool reels with about 150 feet of Mono tied to a base of braided line, maybe more than we needed however we did have 10 oz weights on to get it down fast
Our boat
and to help keep the lines from tangling into the next guys.  I watched how the helpers on the boat rigged everyone.  The sinker would go at the end of the line then they would tie a couple of loops were about a foot long and 18 inches apart.  they would then sort of loop the hooks on by passing the looped end through the eye and simply looping that so the line would secure the hook through the loop and not a knot.  Therefore you would add either a piece of sinky cut bait, usually sardines, or a piece of squid to the 2 hooks and drop it down.  Fishing in 160 feet of water it still took about 20 seconds to get to the bottom and you'd better have the ability to keep in in "your" zone or you will end up getting tangled.  I now know why they looped the hooks on, it was easier to take them off when getting untangled from the next guy as it happened to me about 4 times.  The boat hands are really good at helping because when you get a fish, they often twist around the next guy's line.  Once they got to the tangle off came the sinker and hooks and it was pretty easy. These guys definitey had patience as someone was always untangling someone.  We mostly drift fished, maybe drifting a half mile or so before turning back upwind.

Joe's Monster Fish!
I thought the fish were surprisingly small with the majority in the 12 - 15 inch range.   In addition, they have swim bladders so once you caught them and brought them to the surface they were all but dead.  Hanging around the boat were always a couple of pelicans to take advantage of the easy meals. As well we saw a number of sea lions and they didn't bother to grab anyone's fish, I am sure they are well fed however.  Also when you brought  up some of the fish their eyes would almost pop out of their heads!  We all did OK but Jim did the best of us 3. It really takes a lot to get used to fishing that deep and dealing with the line stretch.  The picture on the left is Joe with a Vermillion Rockfish about 8 or 9 inches long.  They are going to die anyway to we kept him, sort of like what we do ice fishing.........we call them Hate to's.  Hate to keep'em, hate to throw'em back!  That one went into the gunny sack.  Although it didn't matter Joe kept throwing his fish in my sack so in the end I had a pretty good haul.  We fished till about 11:00 making 4 drifts before heading back to the dock.  A couple of the deckhands started cleaning fish, $1.00 each, which wasn't to bad.  They sure had a process, slab each side as they cut through the rib bones, flip it and do the same.  Once slabbed they literally cut off the rib bones, flesh, everything leaving a slab of boneless meat.  Me, I would have taken the time to cut around the rib bones however their way was very fast and with a few hundred fish to clean they needed to get done in a hurry.  The sea gulls that followed up sure like the methodology and were quite content following the boat.  I had them clean all of our fish and they had a lot of extra fish that people didn't want so I had them throw about 5 more in our pile.  I suppose I ended up with about 8 pounds of fillets and Jim was going to vacuum pack in dinner sized portions, freeze them,  and overnight them to me next week.  I am really anxious to try them out as they will be great deep fried.  The deckhands leave the skin on so if a game warden stops them, they can prove what kind of fish it was, just like here.  On of the more interesting things about the trip was a Japanese man we met, Mr. Suzuki.  He was here from Japan to attend the same conference so we looked him up on Monday.  It is always nice to meet different people and I have to give him credit for going out on the boat on his own.

This week is Easter Sunday and my wife and I are going to have Easter Dinner with my almost 82 year old mother who is at a rehab center after being in the hospital for about a week.  She had Pneumonia and her heart was screwed up somewhat.  It's time to seriously get the boat ready and this weekend is suppose to warm up so that's good.  Most of the lakes are ice free around home so it might be a great excuse to get out.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

That Time of Year

New steps
Living up north we have to deal with 2 times of the year that keep us grounded!  The time from about October 15th to December 1st and from the middle of March to May 1st.   Well unfortunately we got hit on both end this year with ice fishing.  We didn't have solid ice until after Christmas (usually after Thanksgiving) and at this time the ice is coming off the lakes pretty fast.  This is because of the relatively warm winter, there wasn't much ice thickness and the weather has really warmed up early this year.  With what I see, it looks like most of the big lakes will be ice free by April 10th and looking at the latest date opener can be, it should make for a fabulous fishing opener.  That's ok because it should give me time to get everything ready as I am a pretty fussy when it comes to my boat.  I just picked it up from Frankie's on Wednesday as it had a couple of recalls related to the motor. My previous post of January 27th showed a new set of trailer steps that I got to make it easier to get in and out of the boat. Well, Mark from Ezee Steps looked at the pictures I sent of the original installation and decided that he should redesign the middle step which originally was a step that the Rangertrail already had come with.  He had been thinking about this for a while and after some discussion he made it and sent it to me.  What an improvement, it looks great and it definitely helps in the getting in and out of the boat.  I did run into a problem a week ago Saturday when I dropped my boat off at Frankie's, on my way to Birchwood, WI.  If you see to the left off the top step there is a rather tall grab pole attached, which really makes it easy to get in and out.  However before one pulls the boat out of the garage, one has to make sure that the garage door is high enough, unfortunately I did not do this when I left for Frankie's and the top of the grab pole hit the door.  Of course I didn't even notice ti until I heard the pole hit the floor when the force broke off the u bolts holding it to the trailer.........Uffda!!  Anyway I did order new stainless U bolts and got it fixed, had to bend the garage door back so it would shut, no worse for wear but still reminds me of all the stupid stuff I do!  I do love the steps however and it should make life easier, now I just have to find someone who can tighten my door lift assist springs so the door goes all the way up when I open it.  I am lucky I didn't cause anymore damage than I did.

Party fishing boat.
On Saturday I head to Long Beach, California to attend the annual APEC conference which usually occurs in March.  For the last 4 years there is a group of us that usually gets together to fish on the saturday or Sunday before the conference starts on Monday.  It all started in 2011 when we had a APEC in Fort Worth, Texas, I met Joe Stanfield, Jim Cox in Corpus Christi, Texas to fish reds in the saltwater marshes.  That was a blast and in 2014 we followed that up with our trip to Louisiana then last year in Charleston, South Carolina.  Although the Gulf and Atlantic coast fishing is better this time of year than in Southern California, that isn't the point.  It's to get out with my friends and do something different!  Looking at the various websites what seems to be hitting is mostly bottom fish, Rockfish, Red Snapper, and I see a few lingcod mixed it.   Because of our late start and location, we are down a few guys so instead of doing a 6 pack charter it's easier and cheaper to just do a 3/4 day party fishing boat.  At $60/guy we'll see how it goes but it is something I have never done before so that in itself will be fun!  This year it will be Joe, Jim, and I again and hopefully I will have some pictures and big fish tales to report.

Lake Minnetonka's ice officially went out today, the second earliest in since they kept records.  This should bode well for the rest of the lakes in Minnesota, Mille Lacs is starting to pull away from the edges although the cooler weather predicted for this weekend should slow things down however the ice fishing is about finished.  I have already put my stuff away for the year and as you see am working on the boat as I have about 6 weeks to get everything ready.  That sounds like a long time but  I can assure you it dissappears fast!  The Northwest Sportsshow begins in 2 weeks and I am really like going to that show.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Fishing Crappies on Big Chetac Lake

Louie's Finer Meats, Cumberland, Wisconsin.
So Saturday I finally got out to fish with my wife's cousin Jason and his dad Andrew as well as his brother-in-law George Wimmer, the honorable mayor of Isanti, MN.  Jason's wife, Abby's parents have a cabin on the channel between Chetac Lake and Birch Lake in Birchwood, WI, just northwest of Rice Lake.  The plan was to leave about 8:00, drop my boat off at Frankie's Marine as my new Evinrude had a couple of recalls that needed attention, then head over to Turtle Lake before turning northeast to Cumberland, Wisconsin with a planned stop at Louie's Finer meats on the north side of town to pick up their "World Famous" home made bratwurst. One of my favorites is their Packer Brats' a bratwurst loaded with sauerkraut and cheddar cheese and because we are very close to St. Patrick's day they had some fresh Ruben Brats, excellent!!  I ended up gettting a dozen brats, some fabulous brat buns, and some great beef sticks for munching on.  I tell you nothing beats Wisconsin meat markets for the best beef sticks, they add that cured sour taste to them, just like a the old Slim Jim's.  Here in Minnesota the meat sticks are OK but rather bland in comparison.   My stops made me think that I was going to be late however I arrived at the cabin at least a half hour before George and Andy so I didn't feel so bad.  I was surprised at the amount of snow on the ground as it's been fairly warm but I would say there was around a foot of so still in the woods.  The lakes were covered as well but not enough to be a problem.  George brought his ATV up as he didn't trust the ice but heck, if someone is already out there with the same size truck I have, I'm usually good to go.

Jason's Bass
Our intent was to fish Chetac lake, part of the Red Cedar River chain of lakes and is a fairly shallow lake with a few well marked 25 foot basins which are perfect for Crappies.  We started on the northeast side around 1:00 but it was pretty dead.  There were some nice areas between the islands on the south end and gradually we ended up there.  At the access point there looked like a lot of cars and trucks where my map showed the basins but as we got out there the people were more spread out than it looked. Finding a spot on the other end of the crowd, I started catching sunfish.  There were not terribly big however they had a lot of black spots which I have been told don't hurt you but they still look unappetizing.  Towards late afternoon I had caught a nice crappie, maybe 11 inches and it was looking like it would get better.  In the meantime Jason really hooked onto something big which turned out to be a 2.5 pound largemouth bass., some excitement!!  Anyway just as the Crappies started hitting George and Andy decided they had better get back to George's place and see if his son Alex and the dogs were OK.  By that time I had my limit Ok sunfish and 4 nice crappies in the bucket.  Well, I could have stayed but it wasn't in the cards so we headed back to the cabin to cook some of those great bratwursts.  After finishing up I was looking forward to the 2 1/2 hour drive back home and was thinking of maybe stopping at the Black Bear Outdoors shop however it was closed so I continued back over to Highway 8 then west to home. Andy got all of my fish and the way the week has been it looks like ice fishing is on it's last legs.  On Saturday March 18th I fly to California and have a fishing trip planned on the Ocean out of Newport Beach on Sunday.  We'll have to see who shows up. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday is our annual industry APEC conference and we always try to schedule something interesting on a boat around that time.  Last year we went to Charleston, South Carolina to fish Sheepshead, that was amazing.

I wanted to point out that  I have linked to a couple of new blogs this month on the left side of the page. I am a big fishing forum junkie and I found both of these while searching articles. The first one is The Stream in Time, I ran across Len before as he has that northwoods look that I have seen on some of the forum posts, as well he has 2 things going for him, 1 he's from Sconny and he's got a great beard. I ran into his blog the other day and I see a lot of similarities, he started when I did, in 2008 and he uses Google's blogspot as his host.   As I stated my blog is basically my diary of my fishing adventures and my dad really like to read the books I printed from that.  I love his title because it really does say it all.  The second blog I added was Wild Smallie.  I discovered his blog when I ran across his post on Mille Lacs, which I thought was excellent!!.  I did ask permission to link as that's only right but I encourage you to check both of them out as Len from The Stream of Time and Chris from Wild Smallie are excellent writers and both have the ability to take you away from the daily grind.  Enjoy, I certainly have!  Pick the boat up tonight, maybe fishing Pool 2 before long with this 60 degree weather.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

33rd Annual Johnson Portside Perch Extravaganza

2016 Official Logo
My brother Steve decided to join me along with Mark and Jan Applen, Brian and Lee Bak, Russ and his brother Randy Praught, and their friend Scott Anderson from Onamia for the 33rd Annual Johnson Portside Perch Extravaganza.  We all pulled our wheel houses to Hunter's Point resort on Friday and set up in a good looking spot not too far offshore.  The contest is more like a huge button drawing whereas you buy a button with numbers on it, they write that number on a tag then it goes into a huge hopper and at 3:00 Saturday afternoon they start drawing numbers and if it matches yours, you win! They really give out a lot of prizes and some real nice ones such as 2 Ice Castle wheel houses, a 4 wheeler (UTV), a bunch of ice augers both gas and electric, TV's, tackle packages and this year they had some drones in the drawing.  The buttons are $20 each and I suspect there were around 3000 people there to claim at least 100 different prizes. There were some nice perch entered however most everyone thinks that they could have come from anytime, any place so nobody seems to get too excited about the perch part of this.  Either way the third place winner was by us at the drawing with his 1.57# fish and Wow, it was a beautiful perch, about 15 inches in length and personally I have never seen one this big in all the years I have been fishing Mille Lacs and that one was only third place with 2 bigger than this.  Uffda.  Only one person in our group, Lee Bak, won something at the drawing, a cooler stuffed full of ice fishing lures, gadgets, and summer baits as well as a ice fishing rod case with 5 nice rods, some reels and a bunch of baits.  I'd say it was worth at least $300, not a bad haul.  Everyone is hoping to get in on the big drawing but I would be happy to simply get my money back.

View from the fire pit to my house on the ice
As stated we set up camp about a mile northwest of the resort and about a quarter mile off the road. Ice conditions were pretty bad last week and the cool weather during last week refroze the ice back up good and solid but it was awfully rough driving.  We set up our 5 houses in an area about half the size of a football field and in the middle we set up our patio.  Russ has a cast iron fire "pit" where we started nice camp fire.  We then have a nice tripod grill that we can suspend over the fire and cook on it.  Brats, marinaded steaks, beans, burgers, along with some chile and a large bean casserole, with enough beer to wash it down, we were set.    It a very nice and relaxing setup as we enjoyed a camp style dinner and watched the sun go down.  Fishing wasn't very good and most of us were in bed by 9:00.  Steve and I were set up in the deepest end of our camp, about 20 feet of water with a real sandy bottom.  Steve put the camera down and stated that it did look like a desert down there, little structure and sand in every direction.  We did see a small walleye swim by but that was about it.  Our plan was to stay until early Sunday morning when I had to be in Eau Claire by 11:00.  The ice stayed pretty solid considering it was almost 52 degrees on Saturday.  I had trouble with my Directv hookup and ended going to the hardware store in Isle to get a new antenna cable.  I got the cable connection working however my receiver needed to be reactivated so I called work to get the 1-800 number.  I did get a hold of the right person and they sent down a satellite signal to reactivate it, it started working.  As well, both Steve and I met our friend Bruce Wiley in Lundeen's and went to the Walkon Inn for lunch.  Unfortunately I had left my good coat in there, forcing me to drive back after sunset to get my coat on Friday night as I knew we would be going by there before they opened on Sunday morning.  Because the ice conditions were unpredictable, Hunter's decided to only allow ATV's to park close to the drawing area and everyone else was scattered out 400 feet from shore.  Things held up fine but it obvious that with the warm weather predicted for this weekend and all of next week that the ice isn't going to last that long.  Already all the snow is gone except in the woods and my neighbor Brandon has started tapping the maple trees in the neighborhood.  So the Extravaganza represents the last trip on the ice for my wheel house until next winter.  Sort of sad to see it end but it can only mean open water soon!  I have lots of things to do to get the boat ready for opener which is on May 14th this year.