Thursday, February 23, 2017

First Panfish Trip of the Season

Ice from the auger was chunky, not shaven
Temperatures have been crazy warm the last week or so which has really changed the landscape of ice fishing from essentially Leech Lake and south.  With various reports of trucks going through the ice and open water, I decided to head to a little lake west of town and try my luck for the afternoon crappie bite.  I have not been out at all this year for panfish and with the ice conditions I needed to go somewhere that it was easy to park and walk out, Little Pulaski Lake by Buffalo is a good spot for sure.  There is a nice parking area at the lakes edge and it's about a 100 yard walk to the "crappie" spot, at least that is where I have done ok in the past.  The problem is that it might be a little late for this specific spot as it's generally better around first ice.  With not too many options, and close enough to home, it was worth a try.  The Ace Hardware in St. Michael is a convenient place to stop for bait and get the low down on the local lakes.  Admittedly they confirmed that there was not much going on but considering the perceived and real ice conditions, it wasn't surprising.  Arriving at the parking area I was surprised by the few amount of people there were, I suppose at this time of year, if you can't drive out people get lazy.  The ice was darker than normal and the shoreline was somewhat deteriorated however it wasn't too hard to get onto the main ice.  A short walk and I was at where it was about 12 feet deep so I punched about 7 holes perpendicular to the shoreline as I like to hole hop. As I drilled the holes it became obvious that the ice was starting to "Candle" meaning that water had penetrated the ice and started to form small columns within it, definitely an advanced sign of deterioration.   See how the ice was chunked and not shaven, like an auger blade normally does. Although it was definitely strong enough to support myself and if you had an ATV, that would be OK however I another surprise was it's thickness.  Less than 14 inches, this ice was pretty thin and even
First Sunnie of the season!
with the warm weather was an indication that it never really got that thick this year as in a normal year it should be about 24 inches or so.  The temperature was 58 so fishing outside was very comfortable however not typical of the third week in February, that's for sure!  Although I was looking for crappies, my suspicions were that they probably would not show up until around sunset, which was at 5:47 PM.  I did catch my first sunfish of the season, nothing big but the way my fishing has been going this winter, a welcome change.  I unhooked the fish and let it back down the hole, then proceeded to catch about 10 more around the same size.  the fish quit biting for a while then a small northern pike slammed my waxie an sort of made a mess out of everything!  No wonder the fish disappeared.  Unhooking it and letting it back down the hole I continued to move to the consecutive holes that were drilled.  A few more fish hit the waxie before the sun finally went down without much fanfare.  No crappies showed up and to be honest, I wasn't too surprised.  I think I need to head further west and north to find any decent crappies this time of the year.

This weekend is normally the weekend for Johnson's Portside Perch Extravaganza out of Hunter's
Point on the east side of Mille Lacs.  This is a very large perch fishing contest where they also give away a ton of good door prizes including a couple of Ice Castle wheel houses.  In the past I usually go up with my friends that have wheel houses, we park in a general good spot to fish, forming our own little group of houses.  It's a good time, we set up a bar, an off the ice fire pit and cook up a meal for Saturday then hopefully catch something to enter yet we are not very good at that part.  At 3:00 they hold the main event and drawing which in order to be eligible you need to purchase a button with a number.  If they draw your number, voila, but you must be present to win.  3 hours later it's done, we may have a few beers in the resort but usually head back to the wheel houses for a couple games of Farkle, the official game of my group of guys before heading to bed.  3 years ago when I first bought my wheel house, there was so much snow that we could not get out on the ice on Friday and Saturday was not much better.  We simply backed into the snow off a main road and stayed there.  There was so much snow and with us parked in one area, the ice started to sag. Although we were in no danger of breaking through, the water came through our holes and started flooding our houses.  It provided for a nice fire drill at 6:00 in the morning on Sunday.  We did get off safely but certainly provided for some entertainment for a while.  This year because of the recent warm weather, we will not be able to get our houses out on the lake.  I may actually drive up Saturday afternoon for the drawing but it's really put a damper on our groups activities for this week.  Also, Sunday is the official day that walleye fishing season ends in Minnesota inland lakes so except for crappies or fishing walleyes in the Mississippi River south of Redwing, fishing season is done.

Mark's book.
Lowrance came out with an update to their HDS Gen 3 units last week which will allow a program called SonarCharts Live to operate on these units.   Essentially it creates a map of an area of the lake that you are slowly driving over.  This is pretty exciting as I am anxious to try this on Lac Seul, the ability to make my own maps of the bottom structure of the areas we fish.  As always there are some issues that go along with this such as having an updated Navionics chip in your unit.  I have loaded the upgrade, updated my current Navionics Chip, and am ready to learn about using this new technology.  To be honest, it seems like I can barely keep up with my cellphone but this seems like a great feature to learn to use.  Secondly I am a frequent visitor to Walleye Central and on their Canada Forum there was a gentlemen selling a book he wrote, Secrets of the Canadian Shield.  I e-mailed him as I am always interested in guys that do this, write about their experiences and ordered a book from him.  Received it last weekend and am pretty impressed as it is totally applicable for Lac Seul and the fishing we do.  If for nothing else it validates my own observations of fishing in these waters and found it quite useful.  I am definitely planning on bringing it up with me to Bruce's cabin this year, it will be a great addition to our knowledge base.  If anyone is interested in ordering a book he has a few left and they are $20, not bad for a nicely written book, drop me a line and I will send you the contact information.  Admittedly it also serves to get those juices flowing as open water is only about 6 weeks away!

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Week Off

Ardent Tournament APEX Reel
Last week's trip to Anaheim was long and really didn't do my weekend well for fishing.  I did get a few things done around the house however no fishing.  One of the things I have been dealing with is helping my friend Mike Grant's son David, on getting ready for the upcoming fishing season, one where he has joined the High School Fishing League and was looking for advice on rods and reels.  I have been talking to him a lot lately and been pushing his need to get a real man's casting rod and reel for pitching those worms and heavy plugs for bass.  Besides they also make a great walleye trolling rig that tends not to tire one out so fast.  He has already bought a spinning outfit yet I have been pushing him  hard to join the ranks of the professionals and be a real fisherman so I checked out my collection to see what I had extra.  Sure enough, I had one of these laying around that I picked up on a fabulous sale a few years back.  It's really a pretty good reel and matched up with a 6"6" medium heavy fast tipped graphite rod, this should last him a lifetime.  Now the only issue is me teaching him the nuances of setting the right tension for the lure, the right spool brake needed in combination with his ability to "thumb" the spool when casting.  This takes practice as lighter baits or lighter line can be problematic!  I know, as there have been many a reel that had to have the line cut off and replaced. Casting a reel like this can be easy with the right line, lure, rod, settings, and feel yet if one of those isn't exactly in the plan, here comes the bird's nest. These newer reels really help by adding sophisticated centrifugal brakes to help slow everything down in a logical matter yet about the minute you get cocky, away goes the spool and one starts over again.  Bottom line is once a guy get's the hang of it, it becomes second nature and under the right conditions, you can look like a pro! I use these for casting heavier rattling crankbaits on the river for Smallies and heavy plastics for largemouth.  As stated earlier, they work perfect for long line trolling walleyes with shad raps or fishing catfish on the bottom in the River.  I already have about 6 of these rigs so it will be good to see this reel get some real workout!

Sonar Chart Live Function for Lowrance HDS Units
There has been some interesting events that have happened this week.  One of the more exciting things was the much anticipated software release of the Lowrance operating system, version 4.5. These are applicable to my HDS Gen 3 units that are currently in my boat and really adds some great features.  The one I am looking forward to is the Navionic's SonarChart Live, which allows the ability to make real life depth maps of a specific areas under your boat.  Like the picture to the right, one can see the contour lines being drawn as the boat goes over a specific area. This function should be very useful when I go to Canada, especially some of the points that I like to fish, it will be interesting to look at the areas that we fish and try to look for other like areas.  It would also be nice for mapping the River for smallies.  There were some other interesting updates like a lot of them in the past, they enhance some of the features shown on the screen.  There is a lot of work to do before one get's proficient at running this new software however one has to start somewhere. Apparently Lowrance have improved their StructureScan 3D however I have not tried very hard to learn how to use it, time always seems too short to spend time on the water learning a systems verses time fishing.  It is probably a useful tool and this year I am going to try to understand it more.  Maybe this weekend I can get out and try to catch some panfish, something I haven't done yet this year.  Next Friday is the Perch extravaganza which should be the last wheel house event of the year.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Little Late But............

13", 1.5 pound Mille Lacs Perch
Last week I was in Anaheim Claifornia attending the MD and M West medical Device show. Admittedly I could have written the post from there but for some stupid reason my pictures on my phone did not transfer very well.....ugh!!  Anyway better late than never.  So my birthday was on February 4th and I decided to head up to Mille Lacs and try to catch some tullibees for my friend Mark Applen, who makes the best pickled fish ever, and tullibees are excellent to pickle.  Mark had gone up to Mille Lacs the night before and I knew he had gone out of Hunter's Point Resort. My plan was to head out of a resort that had a good bridge across the cracks that form near shore then once over, one can travel almost anywhere as long as you know where to return safely.  Midget Flat was my destination, a small flat south of 9 mile that tops out at around 30 feet, deeper than most which top out around 24 feet, yet I have done well with Tullibees out there so it seemed like the place to go.  Once on the ice I called Mark to see where he was, about 3 miles out towards the end of the line of houses, 15 minutes later I spotted him off to my right.  One thing nice about both Mark and I's ice houses, they are Salem's and you don't see very many of them.  Once you spot it, you can be pretty sure of your destination, especially when Mark's white pickup is parked next to it. Heading over, Mark was outside with his grandson Beckett, so I stopped to discuss my strategy.  "Well, no need to go out there, I have been seeing tullibees on the camera right here.  He was parked off a break in 32 feet of water so I decided to give it a try.  Tullibees are notorious for following your lure off the bottom and will travel quite high.  In fact, in the past I have almost pulled them to the surface, actually to where I could see them hit my lure.  At Lundeens I stopped to get some bait and I bought what I feel is the ideal tullibee lure, a spoon with about a 4 inch drop line off the bottom with a panfish type jig on it. The spoon attracts them and the lure below is tipped with a waxie and they hit that.  Well I went into Mark's house and immediately started marking fish.  I jigged on up about 5 feet off the bottom, definitely a tullibee when it hit the lure.   Tullibees fight really good and this one was no exception, however when it got close to the hole it was orange colored, not your typical silver.  Finally getting it to the top of the hole it was this huge perch, actually the biggest I have ever caught.  You can imagine my surprise when I brought it in, too bad it wasn't the Perch Extravaganza as I am sure I would have placed.

2 nice tullibees
After I got the perch in, I was still bound and determined to catch a tullibee.  It wasn't long before I hooked one and got it up, man they fight good, almost like those trout we got a couple weeks ago.  Tullibees are related to the whitefish, cisco, and herring family, a bony and oily fish that people usually smoke.  They have a texture when pickled like commercial pickled herring and are delicious.  I sat in Mark's house and managed to catch 6 of them, not a bad take for a couple hours of fishing.  I am sure that had I gone out to the Midget Flat there might have been more fish yet here I was fishing in a warm place sitting on a comfortable couch, not hard to take at all.  Beckett (Mark's 5 year old grandson) was watching me so the last 3 fish I gave him the rod to reel in the fish, he really got a kick out of that.  Not one to let a good opportunity slip by I made sure Beckett asked Grandpa why we were getting all the fish!  It's good to involve the kids in some light humor, and of course they really don't understand what your asking them but Grandpa Mark does!  You might as well get the little ones trained right and to make sure they know who is the master of the bite!  It was a good time as Mark cooked up some pork loins, fried up some sliced potatoes, it doesn't get any better than this for sure.  Getting home the job of cleaning the fish was done and because it's been fairly warm, I did this down by my pole shed.  Enough fillets for Mark to do his magic, I might have to go and get some more soon.  I did end up catching a 15 inch walleye as well, a nice bonus to a day's fishing.  With only 2 weekends left for the walleye season and the last being the Hunter's Point Perch Extravaganza, winter is ticking away.  I have yet to catch a sunfish or crappie this year, maybe in March, if there is even any ice left as we have no snow left with this weekend being in the upper 40's and next claims a 50 might show it's presence.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Fishing With Daris Rosebear

Mark, Ben, myself, and Jack with our 15 trout.
With the bite on Red Lake winding down (actually it never wound up for me!) and having left my fish house at JR's for a month, it was time to head up to Red Lake and drag it home.  My guests this week were Jack and his son, Ben Taylor.  My friend Mark Applen's January travels were done so we had planned on heading up to JR's to fish, attend Redfest, and we decided to book a trip with Daris Rosebear and his on Red Lake Reservation guide trip.  Mark had been fishing with him in the past and highly recommended it as a good time.  We agreed so he contacted Daris and we had a time, meet him at the Seven Clan's Casino at 6:00AM on Saturday morning and we'd go from there.  Ben had no idea what we were doing but was pretty excited about going.   Picking both Jack and Ben up at the their house, we got going a little later but we still managed to make it in 4.5 hours and had the house hooked up by 8:00 and on the ice by 9:00.  Because the casino is an hour away, we had to get up at 4:30  to leave by 5:00, damn early for a Saturday morning! The plan was to meet Daris at the casino, drive to the city of Red Lake and stop at the Sheriff's office to get our daily Reservation fishing permit ($10) then head to one of the small lakes (Smith Lake) south of the main highway to fish trout. He had 14 clients this morning, a larger bunch than usual however it worked out pretty well.  The lake was pretty small but just full of Rainbow and Brook trout.  Daris had the equipment, all we brought was our depthfinders and warm clothes.  He and the other guides he had with drilled a bunch of holes and we spread out on the lake quite well, we were never crowded.  Mark, Jack, Ben, and I pretty much took one end of the lake while the other guys stayed in the middle and off to one island.   I started in 40 feet of water and marked fish halfway up and I finally nailed one 20 feet off the bottom.  I have to admit, these fish fight like crazy and when it finally came out of the hole I could not believe it was only about 15 inches in length. In the meantime Ben was fishing more towards shore and finally caught one in about 22 feet of water.  He was just besides himself for sure as this was his first trout through the ice.  We all began moving a little shallower, 24 feet or less and started catching fish fairly consistently.   Although Mark claimed his last trip was much more productive, no one was complaining about the time we were having.  By 11:00 the bite was improving however by 12:00 we had to go.  Never the less both Ben and I had caught our 5 fish and were pretty satisfied!

2 of our Nicest Trout
It was quite interesting to go with Daris Rosebear. He is a Red Lake Guide who definitely knows the in's and out of fishing on the Reservation.  It was fun to talk to his helpers as they came over to check up on us.  The Red Lake Indian Reservation is a tough place to live and it was good to see Daris taking advantage of his knowledge to be successful.  It is the only reservation that never ceded it's lands to the Federal Government and has been totally in it's resident's control and is very unique in it's position.  Because of this, they are allowed to restrict outsiders and even have the ability to issue their own license plates.  Hench forth we had to first purchase our single day Reservation Fishing Permit. The permit allows a non-resident to fish for 1 day as long as one is on a number of lakes on the Reservation that do not include Lower and Upper Red Lake.  Another condition is that the permit holder is only allowed to fish if there is an Indian Guide (Daris Rosebear) during the fishing hours. The Red Lake Band uses the large Lower and half of Upper Red Lake as a source for their Fisheries business where they sell fish caught out of their tribal waters to the open market.  Most restaurants in Minneapolis/St. Paul that serve walleye get them from Red Lake.  They get about $2.50/pound with a daily limit of 50 fish under 22 inches or about 3 pounds.  I would admit that this is probably pretty hard work day in and day out but one can make a fairly relative living by fishing.  I would hate to tell you what I paid per pound for the walleyes I caught on the state side of Upper Red Lake this year but it would be embarrassing for sure!  Although it seems as though it would make sense to charge us "Non Resident" money to fish the tribal portion of Red Lake, it's pretty complicated and the answers are not that easy.  Either way it was a great time fishing with Daris and both Mark and I are looking into an open water trip sometime this year with him.  I'd definitely do this again as it definitely is a distraction from the slow fishing on Red this year.  The other thing is I would have brought my own fishing rig and smaller baits as he was still set up for larger fish.

The strategy for fishing from this point on will be Mille Lacs and or the local lakes for Crappies and Sunnies.  I sure miss Pelican Lake by St. Michael, MN as it was close to home, had some nice fish in it, and fairly productive so what you caught was above average.  There are some good lakes west of Mille Lacs I'd love to try as we did in the fall.  We really only have about 60 days left of ice fishing, boy time flies!