Wednesday, January 25, 2017

First Trip to Mille Lacs

First Walleye on Mille Lacs this year
Being in between trips to Red, I decided to try my luck at Mille Lacs on Saturday.  I know the warm weather has caused some serious ice heaves so it would be interesting.  You see water is at it's greatest volume at 32 degrees, or just when it freezes.  Even though it still makes ice as the temperatures drop, the ice will shrink which causes cracks to open up as it shrinks and leaves dangerous situations until the water freezes and seals these cracks up.  However the opposite happens when the temperatures warm towards 32, the ice expands to it's greatest volume again and the ice pushes against the shore and will start piling up against each other causing some serious heaves. Saturday was no exception as the weather had been warming all week and these heave raise havoc with the bridges the resorts use to span cracks in the ice so people can drive across to safe ice. Actually on the east side of Mille Lacs I saw pictures of these ice heaves over 10 feet high, and of course they take out any bridge that is spanning the heave.  On the west side it wasn't so bad so after stopping by Bill's to get minnows, I went out of KJ's ice road, just about a mile up from Lundeen's. His road was in pretty good shape and he had been working on the bridge so it was pretty easy to get across the crack and head towards Spirit Island.  Bill had stated that Mike Schneppenhelm was just in and got minnows and he was out of KJ's, so as I crossed the bridge I asked KJ where Mike was, just west of Spirit Island.  The road was pretty good however it had a lot of water on it.  I found Mike as he with with his wife Judy exactly where KJ said he was, so I got a handle on what was underneath us and started drilling holes.  It was 38 degrees out so no need for a shelter, I drilled about 10 holes up and down the edge and started fishing.  I like a Jigging Rap so I started with that as I was fishing about 26 feet of water and it would go down fast.  Immediately a fish came on my Vexilar FLX28 but only came up about 6 inches off the bottom then quickly disappeared, usually a sign that they were finicky.  After a couple of these events I decided to go with a less aggressive bait, a Hawger Spoon but with the same result, they'd slowly come up and look at the bait then disappear.  At this point I changed up a lot of baits going less and less aggressive, ending up with a Swedish Pimple and a whole minnow.  About 5:00 the fish got a lot more aggressive.  I had been hole hopping and marked fish in each hole however I headed back to where I started and as my lure dropped down a mark came towards the bait very quickly, a sign to get ready.  As expected the fish hit my lure decisively and I hooked my first walleye on Mille Lacs this ice fishing season.  Mille Lacs has a limit of 1 fish between 19 and 21 inches, a difficult size to find yet it was still fun catching as this first one was about 16 inches.  I quickly re baited and dropped it again only to see the same thing happen.  This time the fish headed back down however came right back up and slammed the bait.  Not as big as the first one, say maybe 14 inches, never the less it felt pretty good as my walleye catching hasn't been that great this year.  With 2 fish caught it was getting pretty dark and difficult to fish in the open so being satisfied with getting something, I packed it up and walked over to Mike house.

Judy's 26.5 inch walleye
There in Mike's house we were sitting and discussing the latest and greatest about Mille Lacs when a rattle reel went off. Judy carefully grabbed the line, felt the fish, and set the hook.  The battle was on as she exclaimed......This is a nice fish!  We got it up to the hole and she was right, a beautiful 26.5 inch walleye. It had swallowed the hook completely so we cut the line and released it back down the hole.   Pretty nice as it was fun to see a bigger walleye caught.  Although we reset the lines, it was pretty dead after that fish and I haven't talked to them since I've been back to see how they did through the night however I hear that Mille Lac's night bite has been pretty good.  My plan for this weekend is to go back up to JR's and fish the weekend with my friend Mark Applen.  We plan on doing a guided trip for Trout on the Red Lake Indian Reservation, Mark did this a few years back and totally had a fantastic time.  The plan is to fish the weekend then pull our fish houses home and try to fish Mille Lacs on night before the season closes. Red hasn't been very good this year and it's at least 5 hour drive to get there so with the fishing so good on Mille Lacs, it only makes sense.

Lots of stuff going on with the Salem Ice cabin.  I have panelling that is coming loose so I got a battery operated brad nailer to bring with me to repair.  My access door to the upper bunk compartment broke so I had my neighbor Tim professionally glue it back together for me, he states it will not break again at the joint.  Last time I was up my electric Strikemaster Big Volt connector broke.  It was hard to figure out the problem however I did order a couple of replacement connectors and it was easy to see what the problem was once I got a good look at them.  It's like new now but I cannot figure out how it got like it did, it makes no sense.  On our first trip to Red my 12 cup stainless steel percolator got knocked off the stove and it fell top first into the hole.  We were able to get it before it sank however not fast enough to save the basket cover off the inside.  Well I searched hard on the internet for replacement parts and finally gave up.  In a desperate move I e-mailed a company called CSI outdoors that look like they sell the same coffee pot (many seem to) as the one I have and asked them if they had parts.  Didn't hear from them until last Thursday, a guy called and said yes, we have parts and after explaining my dilemma he said he has them for $6.95 each.  I exclaimed how impressed I was that he called me back, I'll take 2!  He said that he'd give me a deal on 2 for $10 plus shipping so I hope they are the same as I have made some assumptions based on the pictures I saw. Another issue is my stove top range in the house, there are silicon rubber grommets that keep the top burner grate in place.  Somehow I am missing a couple of them.  On my way to Mille Lacs on Saturday I called Andy Achman to see where he was and his answer was at Milaca Unclaimed Freight picking up his new Ice Castle.  I was only about 5 minutes away and stopped.  He has got a nice house and as long as I was there I thought I would check to see if they had any of the grommets. Nope but I did find them on E-Bay and ordered 8 of them.  By the time I get my house back she'll be just like new.  Amazing how these little things add up!


Beaver Creek Cabins & Guide Service said...

I bet it felt good to be fishing your home away from home again.

Dave Anderson said...

No kidding!