Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Fishing the Walleye Capital of Wisconsin

First Walleye, 13.5 incher
Last weekend was spent with my wife's uncle Andrew and his son Jason fishing the area near Birchwood, Wisconsin, just northeast of Rice Lake.  Our plan was to fish Long Lake first on Saturday then hit the lake the cabin was on Sunday.  Long Lake claims to be the Walleye Capital of Wisconsin, near Birchwood and a dubious honor so we were excited to try it out.  I decided to pull my boat over there, I figured it would be more comfortable for 3 of us as well, I have the electronics which would enable us to search the underwater haunts better, as well if there were crappies around, maybe we could reenact our success from last Wednesday, looking for suspended crappies over the deeper basins.  Admittedly I am used to lakes like Mille Lacs or Leech that have specific structures and known walleye haunts where it isn't too difficult to locate them however Long Lake is a large 3000 acre lake and the reports are that the walleyes can be found along the steep deep dropoffs.  Sure, the whole frickin lake is one steep dropoff! Well we looked for underwater points next to a steep dropoff, there were plenty of them.  We decided it would be easier to simply vertical jig them with rainbows as we could stay connected with the bottom better with less tangles.  After about 2 hours of nothing we headed towards and sunken island that had a 25 foot point/flat area that went into deep water.  We were marking fish on the depthfinder however it was a different story to get them to hit.  Using the trolling motor and the anchor function we would simply find and area then I would move the boat in 10 to 15 foot increments, working the point very slowly.  I had just put my line down when I felt a faint thump on the jig.  I feed it line and waited to feel for the telltale tap tap, then set the hook.  After a few hours of nothing, it felt pretty good and I just had the feeling it was a walleye.  Sure enough it was, 13.5 inches long.  Long Lake has a 15 inch minimum so back it went, it was nice to catch something however it took a long time to connect to a fish.  We worked that area pretty good as walleyes tend to be schooling fish, especially of this size yet nothing was hitting.  Time to move again.

Jason's 19 inch keeper Walleye
We headed up the east arm of the lake by the Boy Scout Camp.   Basically we simply fished along the drop off along the shoreline but all we did was waste more time.  Our next stop was a point off the southeast side, it was a nice flat area and we were marking quite a few fish so we slowly meandered around the area.  There was a guy fishing just south of us who was getting fish, it appeared to be crappies. We drove around him and it looked like he was anchored just on the weed edge where it started to drop to the 25 foot level. There wasn't much so we left him alone and continued to fish the area.  All of a sudden Jason was reeling in a nice fish.  I grabbed the net and voila, we landed our first keeper walleye, a 19 inch beauty.  It hit his jig pretty hard which is a good indication that maybe the bite was on.  Also the area was perfect for fall walleyes (In my mind), 25 foot deep, some scattered weeds, I figured we would maybe get a few. Unfortunately we only managed to drowned a few minnows as the bite certainly did not materialize as we had planned as the only other fish we caught was a 20 inch northern pike that I reeled in. After saturating the area for another hour we decided it was time to move again and went back up between an island were we had marked a lot of suspended fish, maybe this late in the day we could hit some crappies.  Unfortunately that didn't happen either as I caught another 13.5 inch walleye and Jason nailed a real nice 3.5 pound smallmouth bass, definitely and nice fish but not what we were looking for.  So much for the Walleye Capital of Wisconsin.   One of my goals was to use the winterizing function on my outboard as I wasn't sure I'd be getting the boat out again this season.  While on the trailer and still in the lake at the landing the control screen has a winterizing function, you just push the touch screen and it is programed to speed up the idle then inject extra oil in the cylinders to fog them, pretty slick and only takes about 2 minutes.  We ended the day with 1 keeper walleye which according to my friends who have fished this lake, was pretty good.  We headed back to Jason's in law's cabin before driving to Makini for supper.  I was surprised, they had a pretty good wine list at a reasonable price so we had a bottle of Rombauer Zinfandel along with Prime Rib.  To be honest the Prime Rib wasn't very good as I suspect it was Friday's Prime Rib reheated as it was quite dry and tough.  Oh well, we were hungry and decided it was good enough to eat so we finished up and headed back to the cabin to watch the Cubs win their game to go to the World Series.  It was a long day and we decided to hit the sack early, which seems like my MO these days.

Andy finally got a Walleye
While Saturday was about as picture perfect as one can get with temperatures in the low 70's and no wind, we woke up to a different story on Sunday with cool temps and the wind coming in from the northwest.  The plan was to winterize Jason's brother-in-law's boat, take the cover off the boat lift, take their boat out and do some fishing, then load it up on the trailer and put it away in the garage for the winter.  The first task was to head into Birchwood and have breakfast.  I love these small town restaurants as the breakfasts are usually very good and cheap.  This was no exception for I had coffee and a Mexican omelet for less than $8.00 and it was delicious.  After breakfast we headed to the hardware store to buy a outboard flushing muffs and picked up a battery tender.  The next task was challenging at best as the garage door was 9 feet and the boat must have been 8 feet 11 inches wide. We eventually got it out, added the gas conditioner, shook the boat somewhat to mix it in and did the usual stuff to winterize it.  Getting it back in the garage was the worst challenge but with a little ingenuity we managed.  Next we went out on Big Chetac Lake, supposed to be a great crappie lake with the occasional walleye to be had.  We tried our strategy from last week looking for suspended fish however the depth finder was not very good and the wind really put a damper on things as none of us were dressed for the conditions on the lake.  We decided it would be easier and warmer to tuck behind an island and fish the deep weedline, which we did with limited success.  Andy finally got a walleye, another 13.5 inches, to small to keep but at least he did catch something!  On Big Chetac the minimum size is 18 inches so we threw it back.  Another 45 minutes and we decided it was too cold to fish comfortably so we headed back to the cabin, just in time to watch the Minnesota Vikings lose to the Eagles, I guess our day was complete!!!  Loading the boat up and putting it away for the winter we cleaned up everything, locked it up, said goodbye to Andy and headed toward Cumberland.  About 10 miles from the cabin Jason figured out we forgot his walleye in the fridge.  It was worth driving back and according to the website, Louies Meats in Cumberland was open till 6:00 so we had plenty of time to stop as our goal was to pick up their world famous Packer Brats, bratwurst with cheese and sauerkraut mixed in, they are fabulous.  Unfortunately their website was wrong and were closed at 4:00, we would have never made it anyway.  Oh well, seems like a good excuse for another road trip. We got my boat in the pole shed about 7:00, 2 1/2 hours, not a bad drive.  It was fun being with Jason and his dad Andy and I promised them an ice fishing trip to Red this year, stating that the walleye fishing will be much better!

I have just finished the final arrangements for our annual TTA meeting which is going to be held in Naples Florida this fall.  It's always the first Thursday/Friday after Thanksgiving and this year a bunch of us guys are planning on staying over the weekend and going grouper fishing, something I have never done.  Last time it was in Florida they went out without me, caught a lot of fish, brought them to a restaurant which cooked them and had a great time.  I am really looking forward to this as I am staying with a friend who has a beach house in Naples, it should be fun.  Deer Hunting time is in a 1 1/2 weeks so this week I will go put my stand up with my friend Jack and his son Ben on Saturday then on Sunday we will drive home for my niece's daughters confirmation and check on Mom.  It's getting colder as last Saturday it was in the 70's which is probably the last we'll see of that temperature till April.  Oh well, hopefully making ice soon!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Back on The Water!!!

10 Beautiful Rainbow Trout
Well, it's been dang near a month since I have been out fishing, for a lot of reasons, or so I say.  The rivers too high, it's raining, Mille Lacs is closed, all great excuses however they don't do much for my reputation!  I do have to admit that I really miss the September/October night pulling cranks on Mille Lacs for those shallow hogs that come onto the reefs at night, maybe next year. Anyway the trhird week in October usually signals it's time for my annual fishing outing with my good friend, Bill Lundeen.  He has a couple of very special lakes that we have gone to each year for the last couple and they have yet to disappoint.  One of the reasons I get invited back is my vow of silence on the specific lakes that we fish.  Not that they are that far from his place but it probably would not take too much to fish them out and it is nice to be the only one's on the lake, especially when it's so beautiful out.  Wednesday, October 19th was our set time so I took the day off and drove up to his shop on Mille Lacs.  From there we had to load up the canoe, trolling motor batteries, trolling motor, depth finders, and equipment like nets, rods, ice, and bait.  While I used plain old worms, Bill likes to experiment with Gulp, which does work quite well.  After getting the canoe launched and set up we headed out on the lake with a pretty simple setup.  3 foot, 2 hook small spinner snell for the worms and a 1 1/4 ounce bell sinker to act like a small downrigger ball to get our bait down 25 to 30 feet below the surface.  It was crazy as I got a hit right away.  These trout are quite aggresive and put up a good fight, often breaking the surface, they can actually be hard to get in.
Beautiful spot to fish
 Also with the big sinker sometimes they leverage themselves against it and actually free themselves. The other issue is when in the net they flop around such that it can break off the hooks that are snagged in the net and break.  That is not fun as rerigging in the canoe is somewhat difficult and takes time away from the true fishing.  Never the less in 3 hours we had our 10 trout, 5 each.  We would have ended 20 minutes earlier however yours truly was in charge of netting and making sure the trout got put in the cooler however our 10th one flopped out of the canoe so we were relegated to another 15 minutes of trolling before we got the last fish.  In addition to the trout we also got some real nice 9.5 inch sunfish, definitely a bonus.  I am looking forward to trout on the grill as well my friend Mark Applen makes an awesome pickled fish and last year I gave him a few fish to pickle and they were amazing!  The lake sits down into a ravine so even if it's windy, it's quite fishable.

12 inch Crappie.
With all of our trout caught by noon the plan was to load up Bill's 16 foot Lund and go out for some of those late fall crappies.   This is a lot of fun and represents the classic fall pattern where you cruise the 25 - 35 foot holes looking for suspended school of fish on your depth finder.  It actually works pretty well as we located a number of schools out in the middle of nowhere, no structure around, quite textbook for sure.  Bill had bought a Motorguide i5 front controlled trolling motor like I have on my boat, the one with the fabulous anchor function.  You can anchor within 5 feet of your anchor point so when we found fish we simple hit the button and stayed right on top of them.  Our bait of choice was Gulp again, the small 1 inch minnows. I was surprised how aggressive they hit them but who's complaining, I caught a number of 12+ inch crappies on them, WOW!  Also you could catch 5 or 10 fish on the same bait before you had to replace.  I know that Bill is hot on his Gulp and we never opened the real minnows that we took along just in case.  The strategy was quite simple, just drop your 1/32 oz jig off the side of the boat to the bottom then reel it up 5 feet or so and basically vertical jig.  Often the problem with a light jig like that and how deep you are fishing is that the fish can hit the jig on the way up, you feel the hit but it is hard to hook them.  Never the less it's fun and we ended up with about 15crappies for the afternoon, as as stated some real nice ones at that.  Admittedly it got pretty cold when we were out there.  Fished till about 5:45 and I would say it was at least 43 degrees with a north wind taking the heat away.  I have to admit that I was getting pretty cold but it was hard to leave.  It was getting dark anyway so when Bill declared the day over, I was definitely ready.  We put the boat away then got back to the shop where Kathy had steaks prepared for us along with grilled cabbage, wild rice, Spaghetti squash, and mushrooms.  It was delicious and a perfect way to end the day.  After supper we cleaned the fish and I headed home, a very successful day of fishing and a nice day off in the middle of the week.

Saturday night was a tough for me as I ate a chicken sandwich on a croissant and ended up staying overnight in Mercy Hospital for anaphylactic shock do to a severe allergy reaction.  This time it appeared to be caused by wheat, just another thing to deal with.  I am ok now but it's not a lot of fun wheezing and breaking out in full body hives, 3 different times that night.  Maybe it's just the problem of getting old, who knows.  Saturday I will be heading to Wisconsin to fish with my wife's cousin Jason Rombalski and  his dad Andrew.  Both are great guys and maybe we can find some crappies similar to yesterday's trip with Bill, I am sure the opportunity should exist.  We are going to fish Long Lake, north of Rice Lake, Wi and the weather looks to be beautiful.  This also gives me a chance to take my boat out for the last time and winterize it as my motor has a feature that does this for you automatically.  This will probably be the last trip of the season with the boat and before ice fishing as deer hunting is coming up.  Hopefully we will make ice quickly as I am getting the Ice Cabin ready to head to Red Lake as soon as we can.  here hoping for a similar report next week.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Fall is Finally here

This weekend was the first hard frost of the year.  This usually means no more mosquitos, all the weeds in the garden are dead, and it's time to mow the field behind the house.  My plan was to try and get out on the river this weekend however the water is still ridiculously high for this time of year.  I generally like to follow my friend Pete's strategy and get some small 4 to 5 inch sucker minnows and hang them under a bobber and fish the shore edges on the river.  With the high water, it makes it almost impossible.  Also another good method is simply using a 3 way rig and work the bottom of the holes as the cold water should be helping to concentrate the fish.  I would say the water needs to be down at least another 2 feet before the "ideal" fall conditions exist.  Oh well, plenty to do around the house!  Last Thursday at a social event for the show in Chicago my friend Glen Collins insisted that I meet a friend of his, Gary Smith, he was 78 years old and had been in the business for many years.  What was special about Gary was he really loved walleye fishing, especially in Quebec, Canada.  He had a business and in the 70's bought a fishing lodge in Quebec, and took his good customers their.  At the same time my friend Matt Davis had brought some TX whiskey from Texas and gave a bottle each to myself and Glen.  Well Glen had his with him so we poured a glass for Gary and rightfully so, he proclaimed it as the best Whiskey he had ever had.  I know I talked to him for at least 2 hours, what a delight!  Actually got to see him on Thursday as we made plans for the next time we meet each other, maybe fishing or something related. On Monday Glen sent me and e-mail and a link to the Chicago Sun Times, Gary was killed as he was driving home after the show, he had lost control and entered the opposite lane before rolling over in the ditch.  That was a big shock, just met this wonderful man who had so much in common with myself and the next day...........gone.  It really puts things in perspective, one really never knows.  Hopefully I'll met Gary again but not too soon.  God Bless you Mr. Smith.

Gift from Milan
The other thing about last weeks show is seeing all of my good friends and industry associates, including Milan Grove from Thomson Laminations in New Jersey, right across from Philadelphia.  Milan has also been a mentor of mine especially when it comes to fine red wine.  I was telling him about the Merlot I like from Carlos Creek Winery in Alexandria, MN, enough to send him a bottle as he really knows his stuff.  In return he promised to send me a favorite wine of his and a nice Washington State Merlot, which I received this morning via UPS.  Anything Milan recommends must be pretty good as we both have the same tastes.  I am looking forward to trying a bottle and reporting back to him what I think of it. It's a fun hobby and it's also very interesting to experiment and try new things.  Milan's company makes some products for us so we have always have some interesting things to discuss, this just adds to the conversation.  My neighbor Lory, who works for us just left for 3 weeks in our facility in China so I will probably save it and share it with him, which is the fun aspect of wine, to share with your friends.  In the beginning of the week I flew to Denver for a meeting with some potential business partners.  It was a quick meeting as we were in and out.  It has been a while since I was in Denver and I didn't even get a chance to stop at the Bass Pro Shop, maybe next time! Either way you can be almost guaranteed that the flight out of Denver will be very rough and this time did not disappoint as we got tossed around pretty good in the first 20 minutes of our flight home.  Rather than go fish I decided that it's been a while since I have seen my mother in Eleva so we drove down on Sunday afternoon then spent the first half of the Sunday Night football game at Kevin's house before we left.  Driving down Highway 93 we stopped at the Bemis Bluff winery, just a few miles north of Eleva.  There we bought some of his Cranberry wine called Cranbernet, not too bad, a little on the sweet side but drinkable.

I am hoping to get out this weekend as it's supposed to be really nice.  I still have my trout trip with Bill scheduled for the 19th of this month and the 22 should be at Long Lake in Wisconsin.  Maybe I'll take the boat out and get it ready for that trip as it is likely to be the last on before deer hunting.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Long Week

My friend Keith is still catching Silvers!
With the high water, no walleye fishing on Mille Lacs, and the constant rain last weekend was spend getting ready for the winter than any relaxing fishing I should have done.  I also needed to get ready for my trip to Chicago to attend the North American Coil Winding show, which I did on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of last week.  Hence forth the late posting.........oh well. At least some of my friends are still fishing as proof of this nice Silver that Keith Holtan, my friend from Alaska caught on the Kenai River.  Along with my Brother and cousins, I have been fishing the early run of Silvers on the Kenai many times but it's usually in August when the weather is still somewhat nice, however Keith says the the late run of Silvers in September have larger fish.  This seems true with the late run of King Salmon as well, the late run produces those monster fish in the 60 - 90 pound range.  This picture of Keith is proof that those late runs silvers are pretty big, maybe someday I'll have to fly up and have him take me out.  He claims that the temperature was 22 the other morning, uffda!  Of course we had our first frost Friday night and the grass was pretty frosty this morning, a goo killing frost for sure. hopefully this is a signal for early freeze up this year!

Pan Fried Yellow Lake Perch, $17.75
Spending time in Chicago was interesting as I got to see all of our suppliers and some customers as
well as potential customers.  My company has been a survivor in the world of Chinese competitors and changing electronics industry.  We are definitely a player in the industry these days and it's fun to finally get some respect!  The show was at the Rosemount Center, just a mile or so from Chicago Ohare airport so it's and easy in and out.  The Double Tree Hotel has a nice restaurant called Gibson's Steakhouse and they are a really high end place but everything is very good.  On Thursday I was out of the show early so I decided to have lunch there before I headed to the airport and my flight.  On the menu they had Pan Fried Yellow Lake Perch in Lemon Butter and although the broiled halibut looked good, the waiter suggested that the perch was a guest favorite so I ordered it.  Totally unbelievable is the only way I can describe how well it was!   The perch fillets were not the big however whatever they coated it with then drizzled the lemon butter on them, I have had lot's of fish and definitely this has to top on of the best, including all of the fresh caught saltwater fish I have had the good fortune of eating.  It would be interesting to see if I could get the recipe for both the lemon butter and the coating but............if you are ever in Chicago and have a chance to eat lunch at Gibson's, I highly recommend it and it was definitely worth every penny!

I am off to Denver on Monday, hopefully get a chance to stop at the Bass Pro Shop as I like the variety.  It was confirmed this week that Bass Pro bought Cabela's.  They bought Ranger Boats last year and are definitely now the largest outdoor sports retailer in the United States.  I am not sure if that's good or bad, I guess time will tell.  My experiences is that it will not be good as the lack of choices is not that available anymore as companies chose to continue to buy each other out and look for ways to make more money.  It is sad because some of my favorite brands no longer exist, Falls Tackle, Beckman Nets are just 2 of them, I guess maybe consolidation is the only way but it doesn't mean it's good.  I have been working on my Salem Ice Cabin and getting it ready for the winter.  JR (From JR's on Red Lake) called me when I was in Chicago, just to see how I was doing and to give me some crap!  He has remodeled the place somewhat so I am excited to get up there!  He is super nice to both myself and Mark Applen and hopefully we can get up there early this year again.  I did check my tires as they were supposed to be filled with nitrogen so they don't lose air but I think that's a crock.  One was almost flat and the other was low so I took them off and brought them to Pete's to have the beads broke, cleaned, and resealed.  We one of the tires was quite wore out on one side and after some discussion about cracks in the other tire I decided to simply put new ones on.  The are 15 inch, 8 ply, load range D, and take 65 pounds of air.   I think that the low air pressure didn't help the old tires as I figures there was probably less than 4000 miles on them however, the last thing I want to be doing is changing a tire, 10 miles from JR's in 20 below weather........not!!!  I have a few things to fix and I should be set for the winter.  I have been invited to fish Long lake in Wisconsin in a  coupel of weeks with my wife's uncle and cousin Andrew and Jason.  It will be a good excuse to get the boat out one last time and winterize it.  Also I have a trout fishing date with my good friend Bill Lundeen, we have been doing this each year, maybe sometime next week.  Deer Hunting is coming up, lot's of stuff to do before then.