Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Fishing with Glen!

Glen's first fish, 26 inches
Thursday afternoon I invited my friend Glen Collins, a work associate from Chicago, to go fishing on Mille Lacs Lake for walleye.  Glen is a good long time friend as I have known him for more than 25 years.  He is a fixture in the transformer industry and I have fished with him during one of our meeting in Jacksonville, FL.  Glen had some appointments in the area and I figured it was a good idea to take him up to Mille Lacs as the big fish were biting.  He took care of his appointments in the morning and by 1:00 he showed up at work.  We drove to my pole shed, hooked the boat up and headed north with our first stop at Lundeen's to get bait and a license.  I had bait left over from Sunday's trip and the weather was looking beautiful so we got what we needed from Bill's and headed for the landing.  The water was dead calm with an occasional ripple area but for the most part no wind.  Wanting to try the flats again I headed right to Sherman's and my dilemma with my new boat becomes obvious.  With my previous tiller boats it was easy to follow the break line at the top of the flats, where the big walleyes hang out.  Now it's really hard to do that, I simply create a route on the map then have my front trolling motor follow it up and down the contours on the map portion of the chart on the depthfinder however it is difficult to make adjustments.  I am sure at some point I will figure it out but for now it is what it is! I rigged up a couple of poles with spinner/crawler rigs and set them in the rod holders, not a bad way to fish.  I tie my own spinner rigs and use TruTurn hooks.  If a walleye hits the rig the hooks simply turn and they hook themselves quite easily.  When the rods are in the holders, if a walleye hits the rod buckles over and is generally hooked quite well.  It wasn't about 15 minutes after we started that one of the rods was bent over, I grabbed it and gave it to Glen...after all he was my guest.  This fish was a real fighter and after a courageous battle, Glen finally got it to the boat where I netted this beautiful 26 inch walleye.  A few pictures and we let her back into the water as she bolted away.   What I like about the Tru Turns also is the fish are generally hooked in the front of the jaw making for a safe successful release possible.  As you can see in the picture, it was pretty calm, as compared to last weeks outing, a nice change of pace for sure!

Glen's 2nd fish, a 27 incher
Replacing the crawler and resetting it wasn't long before Glen's rod was bent over and he had a nice fish on.  It fun fishing the calm and deep water as you can generally see the fish as it is getting near the boat.  It was another really nice fish and actually looked bigger than the first one he caught.  After netting the walleye and measuring it, this one topped 27 inches, another dandy walleye.  I was trying to get him to hold the fish right however I don't like to keep them out of the water too long so this pose will have to do.  It still is an impressive fish for sure.  We spent another hour on Sherman's and got another nice walleye however I decided to try something else that we do on Mille Lacs, Bobber fish.  My rods were all set up for 23 feet of water to we went back to where we were last Sunday and tried some bobbering there. We did get a couple of smaller walleyes and it was good to show Glen this different type of fishing.  We did miss a number of fish as maybe we were using too big a leech for the size of fish that we were hitting.  After an hour it was time to go as Glen asked about the Rock Hump to the east.  With the calm water and warm temperatures it was nice to just cruise for a while so we headed to Spirit Island.  As we rounded the island Glen was taken back by the half dozen or so white pelicans hanging around the rocks.  Being used to Florida, it is uncommon to see pelicans this far north, or so he thought.  He took a few pictures to send and we turned south to Anderson Reef to cast for smallies.  That wasn't too productive for sure.  After about 30 minutes of that we headed back to Indian Point to troll the long reef that extends out into the lake.  It was getting late anyway and it would be smart to be back close to the landing so I rigged 2 rods with shad raps and we trolled.  It was a good chance to try and see how the kicker worked in conjunction with using the front trolling motor to steer the boat.  This seems to be the acceptable way to do this but for me everything's a learning experience with this boat.  Some of my friends say that I will figure it out but as stated in the past, going from a tiller to a wheel has it's challenges.  Anyway I was able to stay in the "magic" 6 foot depth and man did something slam my shad rap.  It hit hard and was obviously a nice fish so I handed the rod to Glen while I got organized.  A couple minutes later I netted a nice plump 22 inch walleye, which was really nice to see.  I had assumed that this fish was a big Smallmouth bass but it didn't jump at all.  We let it go and continued on where I nailed 2 smaller smallies, in the 14 inch range.  It was 8:30 so we decided to head out, another very successful day on Mille Lacs.  Glen was very satisfied and I was happy that he had a good time as it get's hard to schedule things that work out great.  We are talking about chartering a grouper fishing trip during our TTA meetings at the first of December in Florida.  Glen's cousin Tim has a nice place on Marco Island we can stay so I am definitely going to figure that one out!

Last Monday I met with my friend Bruce Wiley for a discussion about a few things as he was heading up to Lac Seul on Friday.  Because a few guys were leaving early and he was staying till Saturday, July 2nd, he invited me to come up and fish Wed thru Friday (June 28 - July 1) and leave with him on Saturday.  He said I could bring someone so I called my brother Steve knowing full well he would not let this opportunity go unfilled.  Our plans are to head up on Tuesday and stay overnight, meeting Bruce at the landing at 7:30 on Wednesday morning, We should be in camp by 10:00 and fishing by 10:30 so hopefully I will have some great pictures next week.  My friend Paul Wenaas just got back and sent me some areas he thought would be good for bigger fish.  I have been getting ready all weekend and am excited to take advantage of Bruce's hospitality for sure.  Steve is going to pull my boat up and I plan on taking the time to get reacquainted with my GoPro Camera system.  Funny but this will be the 3rd trip to Lac Seul with my boat and interesting enough, most of the hours on the boat will be from there, not that I am complaining!!!  I have a list of stuff to bring including Large Curd Cottage Cheese, which Ken and Brenda, the camp owners love.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Mille Lacs Lake on Fire

Kam's 26" walleye
Sunday proved to be the first trip to Mille Lacs this year.  With me was Lory Brasel, Kam Chen (a Chinese engineer from work), and Chad Gao (Our new manufacturing engineer from our Chinese plant, over to the US for training).  We decided to show Chad some of the things we do in Minnesota and Kam was nice enough to go with, so we headed out by 9:00 and was fully on the water by 11:30. Boy was it rough as we had 20 mph winds out of the south and whitecaps were in full force. Usually I have a strategy but Sunday's wind was going to make it difficult but what the heck, it was worth a try. Besides that a Skeeter just arrived at the landing while we were taking off and a few quick questions verified my suspicion, Sherman's flat was hot however the wind was building, not dying down and I suspect he left because of that. Never the less I decided that we could drift the edge and it would give me a good opportunity to hone my less than stellar boat control skills with a wheel boat.  It didn't take long to figure out that it was going to be a challenge out there, I've had these experiences before but quite honestly I am getting a little older, maybe wiser, and don't have that burning desire to pound the heck out of my body these days.  Never the less our first stop was the rock humps just south of Sherman's Point.   Getting the crawler rigs set up we did 2 drifts without any luck so it was off to Sherman's flat. Uffda!!!  Using the same crawler rig setups I was able to work the edge running my kicker motor perpendicular to the wind and it moved us perfectly along the edge.  I was pretty proud of accomplishing that however it did not produce any fish so that wasn't to productive except for the boat control lesson.  In the meantime our guest from China was starting to look a little green around the ears.  It wasn't long before he was chumming off the side of the boat.  I am not a complete unsympathetic guy so we ended the drift at the tip, no fish to be had anyway, so we headed to calmer waters, the small 3 lobed flat just out from the landing and somewhat protected from the South gale force winds by Indian Point.  There we saw a number of fish caught and we tried bobbering before starting to drift.  Managing to only catch 2 I decided to head to Anderson's reef on the south end. Hopefully the wind would be more tolerable and we could get into the great smallmouth bite.

Chad's walleye
Unfortunately it wasn't much better so admittedly I was at a loss for strategy.  We headed back towards Indian Point along the calmer shoreline and I could tell the nicer ride at 55 mph made both of the guys smile.   Going that fast in a boat is something they never experienced before.  As I passed Eddy's Resort I had remembered an area just out from there, a small hump in 25 feet of water that comes up to about 20 feet.  Years ago we did well there so it was worth a try.  The waves weren't that bad and it was a good opportunity to try bobber fishing with leeches.  After getting squared away and the trolling motor down in the anchor mode we set our bobber depth and hooked on a leech. With 3 rods out for 4 guys it didn't take long before one of the corks went down.  I set the hook then handed the Rod to Chad, who reeled in his first walleye.  It wasn't so rough there and he was doing pretty well.  Next Kam's bobber went down and he set the hook on a beautiful 26 in walleye shown above.  Both guys were pretty excited as we really started to get into the fish. Deciding to leave at about 7:00, we had caught and released about 20 walleyes, not bad for a couple of hours.  It was good that our guests had an opportunity to reel in a number of fish and of course I was more successful helping Kam to pose for his fish than I was with Chad.   The wind really takes it out of you and Sunday was no exception as we relaxed at the Long Siding Bar and Grill for a hamburger and beer, another great American tradition!!  My next rip is Thursday with Glen Collins, a friend from Chicago as we are planning on going back up.  As well I have an invite to go back up to Lac Seul next week which is looking like it will happen.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Nothing's working!

Ben with 2 nice crappies
Fairly unbelievable however this is the best time of the year to be out fishing and I have been relegated to sitting looking at my boat, watching it rain.  Sunday was my day to head to Mille Lacs and fish with my friend Bill Lundeen.  Fishing on Mille Lacs has been phenomenal, or so they say as you definitely couldn't prove it by me.  Even though you legally cannot keep a walleye on Mille Lacs, the bite is reported to be very good as there are few boats on the lake.  This should be Bill's peak time at the bait shop however with few people coming to the lake to fish and the fact that you can't even keep one fish has really put a damper on needing to be at the store 100% of the time as his wife, Kathy can handle it for a few hours.   Our plans were made mid last week and I worked hard to put my boat back together, unfortunately on Friday my mother went back into the hospital so Sunday's plan was abandoned as my wife and I decided to drive to Eau Claire and see how well she was doing. So, no fishing last weekend but my buddy Kevin and his son Ben did call me as they went to Devil's Lake, North Dakota and I am anxiously waiting a report. Thank God somebody is thinking as I always like to have some pictures for the posts and pictures I got, first of my neighbor Brandon and the 14 inch Crappie he caught at his lake while trolling a rapala for walleyes then this one of Ben Taylor holding to nice crappies that him and his dad got at their lake, west of Mille Lacs.  Unfortunately the good crappie bite is close to being done but we might be able to find a few before the 4th of July, we will have to see.  We have one of our employees, Chad from China here in Minneapolis and the plan is to take him to Mille Lacs with my neighbor Lory and see if we can't get some nice walleyes.  I have taken our visitors to the big pond before and they always tend to be somewhat intimidated by the big water but we have caught some nice fish and here's hoping we give Chad an experience that he could never have in China.  I am sure he will be amaze at the water clarity, freedom to go anywhere on the lake, and just the simple overwhelming size of the lake as there are not many large lakes in China.

Brandon's 14 inch crappie!
So I mentioned earlier the fact that I got the boat together.  Well I didn't do too much stuff to it yet
there were some things that drove me nuts so I fixed them. First was to complete the installation of  a remote plug in for my Sonic Hub USB connections.  Because my Sonic Hub is tucked way under my dash it is all but impossible to plug in a auxiliary source into the USB ports.  Therefore I bought a dual USB socket that mounts into a panel, then plugs into the USB ports on the Sonic Hub.  I am pretty impressed as both ports work and the installation makes everything very clean for sure. The second thing I did was to put a similar panel mount socket that has 2 USB plugins but is a fast charge port for a cell phone.  I don't like those standard cigarette lighter socket plug ins as the plug in chargers tend to fall out.  With the new plug in situation I now have a secure place to plug in my phone to charge it and it is certified as a "fast charge" technology and can really recover a discharged phone quickly.  Also it is almost impossible for the plug in cable to become dislodged, which is very nice.  I also got a few types of charging cables in case my guests need a cell phone charged and because my Sonic Hub has bluetooth, I can run my phone as an audio source and be able to safely power it so the battery doesn't drain.  The third thing I got done was to finish installing my RAM trolling motor stabilizer.  After returning from Canada last month I noticed that my bow mounted trolling motor head was hitting against the gunnel of my boat.  the only way to secure this was to physically secure it without letting it travel to the boat.  I ordered on and mounted it, SWEET is all I can say.  I have a few more things to do to the boat this season, most are small cosmetic or ...Geez, it would be nice to have..........stuff.
I put my 22" pitch prop back on for this spring based on the performance of my motor last fall, after what I figured was a breakin period.  Although it does give better mileage I am probably going back to my 20" prop to get the RPM's back up to where they should be.  I wish they made a 21" prop!!!  I am still working on getting my Structure Scan 3D hooked up to see how that works.

Mom is doing OK but at her age it's going to be time to start making some life changing decisions on where she should live, how much assistance she needs, all that fun stuff.  The sad part is that I'm not that far behind her!  We did have our 14th annual ENA Golf Tourney last Friday and it looks like we will have another successful fund raiser.  In the mean time we are starting to discuss the location of our annual Jul fishing trip which the last few years has been at Lake Oahe in South Dakota.  I have been lobbying for either Upper Red Lake (Where we ice fish) or Devil's Lake, North Dakota.  Lake of the Woods has been kicked around but that might put some pressure on the boat situation because that is such big water.  I am sure we'll end up figuring something out!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Getting Caught Up

Kou's huge 45" northern pike

After a hectic fishing schedule for both the Minnesota Fishing Opener and then immediately off to Lac Seul, it's been time to get caught up on a lot of things around the house.  Besides, the weather has not been very good with wind and rain so I don't feel too bad.  Of course that doesn't stop anyone else from fishing and one of the things I really enjoy is when one of our employees comes up and shares one of their fishing experiences, I am fortunate that they feel comfortable doing that. Last week one of the gentlemen, Kou (pronounced Koo) that works on our manufacturing floor stopped by to show me a picture of a huge 45 inch northern he caught on Devil's Lake, North Dakota.  What a beautiful fish!  Definitely worth posting on my blog seeings I didn't catch anything last week! A lot of the guys that work on our floor are great fisherman and one of these days we need to have an informal contest, maybe fishing rough fish on the river.  Kou caught this while fishing from shore by a submerged road.  Using sucker minnows and a bobber, it proves that you don't need a boat to get the big ones!  It also is a good reminder that I need to get out and fish Devil's Lake this year, maybe in July when we normally go out to Oahe, it would be a great change in pace. I checked the water levels at Devil's lake and it looks like it is down almost 4 feet from it's peak.  I do remember going out ice fishing one year, maybe 10 years ago or so and the lake had come up enough to flood into Stump Lake.  Stump Lake was previously so salty that only brine shrimp would live in it's waters however the influx of fresh water from the rising levels of Devil's lake made it habitable for perch, and we really hammered them.  I remember fishing next to trees sticking out of the ice with heron's nest within reach.  That was pretty incredible.

High Water in Austin Texas and Unwelcomed Guests
So getting caught up means a lot of things, getting the boat cleaned from the last trip, planting the garden, and helping my brother Steve, which is what I did on Saturday.  To date everything is planted and coming up.  The potatoes are growing like crazy but so are the potato bugs.  We are going to have a bumper crop of raspberries this year as the plants are loaded with them and the bees have been doing their job.  I sent my old Lowrance Sonic Hub to Steve and he was having a hard time getting it working so I had the opportunity to be in the area on Saturday and decided to drive down to Onalaska and get it working.  Upon arriving at his house, he had the boat in the garage, ready to be worked on.  I was concerned about the NMEA 2000 network and how it was being powered however we ended up assuming a certain way would work, which it did.  After 2 hours of looking at it I noticed there was a fuse missing.  A quick trip to the automotive store for 15A mini fuses and once installed, VOILA, music!!!  I connected my extra Ipod and we were in business.  We had everything simply laid out on the floor and Steve would put it all together another day.  In addition to the sound system I fixed his 24 volt battery setup for his trolling motor, which was really hosed up.  I guess this is what brothers are for!  I did get a picture from a friend of mine in Austin, Texas where they've had a crazy amount of rain this spring.  2 years ago the reservoir, Lake Travis, was down 70 feet below normal. Now the lake is flooding many of the houses around it.  He sent me this picture of a boat docked at the lake with the back end full of Water Moccasins, a poisonous water snake that luckily doesn't survive our winters!  That certainly doesn't look like an appropriate welcoming committee!  With a little luck I would like to get to Mille Lacs this weekend as the fishing reports have been outstanding and no one is on the lake because of the stupid regulations.  Hopefully the weather will decide to cooperate as this is prime time for sure!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Back from Lac Seul

Typical walleye, 18 - 22 inches
Last Monday, May 23rd, I left with my neighbor Pete Sipe and a new guy, John Loeffler to meet Bruce at Lac Seul Outposts on Lac Seul.  The last 2 years I had the luxury of flying up however this year we decided to take my boat and dispense with the flying.  The drive really isn't too bad, about 470 miles to the Deception Bay boat landing where we launch the boats and head out to the outpost camp, 36 miles by water.  Because of the strong US Dollar we decided it was easier to shop in Canada for both out food and refreshments.  Unfortunately because Monday the 23rd was a National Holiday, Victoria Day, a celebration of England's Queen Victoria, prior to Canada's independence from Britain, Lots of stores were closed.  It is somewhat like our Memorial Day here in the US as it signals the start of Summer.  Although the grocery stores were open till 6:00 pm, the Government run liquor stores, LCBO were closed and we were relegated to whatever was left over at camp.  Luckily there always seems to be plenty and I had included a few bottles from home that helped!  We did stop at the Ojibway Outfitters Bait shop in Sioux Lookout to get our parking permit and a couple dozen really large (3-5 inch) rainbow minnows which hopefully would attract larger walleyes.  After leaving home at around 5:00 AM we finally reached the landing at 3:30.  It was interesting as we were stopped by the police just outside of Sioux Lookout, it was a holiday and they were looking for drivers drinking and driving. We told the officer that we were heading for Lac Seul and he mentioned that he was fishing there yesterday.  I asked him if he went through the Rags, a short cut to the outpost but with the low water levels it was questionable if one could get a boat through.  He said......."No problem, went through there yesterday with our pontoon!"  I thanked him and appreciated his time and work as well as the tip on the Rags.  You see, bypassing the Rags means going around another 8 miles which means more gas.  We idled through the Rags as my depth finder showed 1 1/2 feet at it's shallowest.  One good thing is that it is a muck bottom and not rock so even if you hit the bottom with the propeller, little damage will be done.  It was interesting as I didn't kick up an mud or sand going through.  Lac Seul can be very challenging to drive and this would be my first time solo from the landing to camp.  The map I have has the houseboat routes and I have the trails from Bruce's old GPS as well, Pete isn't shy to add his 2 cents on which way to go. Nevertheless it's somewhat nerve racking to be cruising in 40 feet of water then all of a sudden the bottom comes up to 5 feet and back down to 40 in an instant. Even though our routes are tested and true, it gives one a bit of pause to think about what you just went over.   Oh well, we made it to the outpost successfully without an incident!

Another gorgeous Lac Seul Sunset
One of the nice things about going with Bruce is meeting new friends. This was my 6th trip to the video! Either way camp and each trip in itself is quite an adventure.  This year I met a new guy, John Loeffler, friends of the rest of the crew however new to me.  He was quite an interesting guy, was retired at a relatively young age and he had pretty much the same personality as I have, which made for some amazing moments!  John and Pete fished in my boat which always presents a problem because I can be quite anal in my care of the boat, for instance, everyone has to wash the sand off their shoes before entering, no feet on the gunnels, stuff like that.  Well luckily both my crew members understood, or should I say know that they are going to fish in comfort so no use rocking the boat! Now fish slime is another issue and is welcome because in the end it washes off with water. Speaking of fish slime, I did catch John in one of his more graceful moments in the boat, spreading fish slime all over the place.  Check out this Youtube Link of that exciting moment!  Like last spring because of the low water, just north of the camp is a sand bar sticking out into the channel.  I had done quite well last year catching a walleye every cast however this time I only caught 2 and they were quite small. It's a great advantage point to watch the sun go down and this time was no exception.

We fished 3 main areas, across the channel, Tom's Point, and we tried going south to Tuk bay.  The best was around camp as the water was 60 degrees and the spawn had been over with for a number of weeks.  Fishing wasn't as good as it was in previous years yet my estimates were I had caught over 200 walleyes for the 3 days we were fishing, not bad.  We really didn't land any big walleyes with the largest about 24.5 inches, never the less we caught plenty of those 21 - 24 inch fish and they were all plump and healthy.  I had gotten some good tips from my friend Paul Wenaas, who fishes that area quite a bit yet the low water really spooked us from going into some of those back bays that he had clearly marked.  Maybe next year.  The original plan was to stay until Saturday yet somewhere the wires got crossed and we headed home on Friday morning.  Beggars can't be choosers and I simply just appreciate the opportunity to fish with the boys.  We ate fish Monday night, Tuesday, and Thursday with my famous Steak a la Kienitz on Wednesday.  Anticipating that we were going to stay another day it was a scramble on Thursday, catch enough fish to take home but make sure everything in camp got cooked.  Because I enjoy filleting the fish, I cleaned 28 walleyes on Thursday afternoon, enough for each of us to take 4 fish home.  One has to leave the skin on and package them 1 fish to a bag.  I definitely look forward to getting back up there again as Lac Seul is fishing paradise less than 10 hours away!