Thursday, March 30, 2017

Back From Naples

Successful Day on the Gulf
Well, I finally returned from my weekend in Naples Florida last night.  Every year our industry has a conference called APEC (Applied Power Electronics Conference) somewhere interesting.  Because some of my best fishing friends attend the conference and if it is in a convenient location, we try to arrange a fishing trip prior to the show.  I have done a trips to Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, and this year we went back to Naples, Florida, where we fished after another industry event in early December, just a few months ago. We enjoyed our Captain on the Sea Legs from the previous trip however He recommended using A and B Charters out of Naples, it ended up being a great reference as we had a very good time.  On this trip were my good friends Glen Collins (Illinois), Bill Hardt (Wisconsin), Matt Davis(Texas), and Phil Gordon(Colorado). Our target species was Red Grouper as well as a number of snapper fish such as Gray Snapper (often called Mangrove), Lane Snapper, Porgy fish.  Starting at 7:00AM and running straight west out of Naples for an hour and a half we hit 60 feet of water and anchored on a reef.  Using what I call 3 way rigs, about a 1 1/2 ounce sinker at the bottom of the line then a hook about a foot up, we baited with cut fish and squid as bait and dropped them down.  It was an immediate bite and within minutes Phil landed his first ever legal (20 inch minimum) red grouper. We were surprised at the strength of the tide, I have experienced this before in Alaska were the tides get to 16 feet but these are relatively small, 2.5 feet.  Never the less the tide current had an effect on our presentation as well, the Captain stated that the grouper stay tight in their
Left to Right, Matt, Myself, Phil, Glen, and Bill
holes and crevices during the peak tides, which explained why we were mostly catching snapper.  And catch snapper we did!  Literally  as soon as you hit the bottom something was chomping on your bait.  Because of this, we caught mostly the snappers however by 12:30 the tide had diminished enough to entice the groupers to come out and join the action, which they did.  It was easy to determine if you had a larger grouper hitting your bait, it was much more solid and not so peck/peck of the smaller fish.  Once you hooked one the battle was on to try and keep the fish out of the rocks. Although we did have nice equipment, a 22 inch grouper can really bulldog itself to the bottom unless you really try and show him who's boss.  We ended the day about 2:00 as we had an hours run back to the dock. Although I am never ready to leave, I was getting wore out with reeling in fish as my left hand was starting to form a blister where it clinched around the reel handle.  Arriving at the dock we put the fish on a picture board, we had 8 nice grouper, a couple of nicer snappers as well about 50 or so of the smaller 12 to 16 inch which we were told are the best eaters! One of the things I wanted to do was to help clean the fish however I got ridiculed for my Minnesota method........while I wanted to make sure I did a good job, they simply cut the fillet diagonally from the top to the front of the rear fin, which basically eliminates any rib meat and a little of the top portion of the fish.  Not being used to that method it took me a lot longer to clean on but eventually got the hang of it.  I took a lot of ribbing however if my knife was sharper, it would have been a lot better, oh well.  We got quite a few more fish on this trip which some of them we dropped off at the restaurant we use last time and had them cook a bunch up for Sunday night dinner.  The rest of the fish I brought home and am hoping I can get my friend Mark Applen to pickle up a bunch of them snappers and I am betting they'd be excellent.

Grouper Bilbao
Next weeks post will cover the opulence that I had the pleasure of hanging around this weekend however I am really getting to like that area of Florida.  The restaurants are excellent especially the one we went to in downtown Tampa on Tuesday night.  Called the Colombia, it is the oldest operating restaurant in Florida and is the largest Spanish restaurant in the world.  I love fresh fish as I stated, we took our fish to the Boathouse near the docks and they took our Grouper and Snapper then we had it Blackened, grilled, and fried.  It was excellent with my favorite being grilled grouper.  Monday night I had grouper again then on Tuesday night at the Columbian, I had their special Grouper Bilbao, as the menu describes: Traditional Basque preparation of fillet of Red Grouper, baked in a clay casserole, layered with sliced tomatoes, potatoes, onions, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and lemon.  It was absolutely delicious, the fish was snow white and flakey, the serving was fabulous and the ambiance of the place was incredible.  I would like to try making this at home as I do have a lot of grouper fillets.

So things will be settling down again for a while as I have a ton of work to get done around the house and my boat has to be brought into Frankie's to have a remote tiller steering attached to my rig.  So many things, so little time!

Thursday, March 23, 2017


Lowrance HDS 9, Gen 3
We are in the "Inbetween" time that begs you to get some things done around the house before everything starts opening up in April.  The garden needs to be cleaned up, the apple trees need pruning, the accumulation of the winter junk around the yard needs to be picked up. it's a perfect time to start working on the boat as the temperatures are not that bad out.  As well, ice fishing season is done and it's time to put all of that stuff away in it's proper place and get my Salem wheel house cleaned up and ready for storage.  Mark Mayerich and I are tasked to get our Team Walleye hats on order so we have them in time for the May 13 Minnesota Fishing opener, I guess there is no end to the list.  One of the nice things is that we did not have much snow this year so the ground isn't so sloppy.  I hate to take the snowblower off the lawn tractor quite yet, I remember a few 12 inch April snowfalls but the long term forecast looks pretty good.  Having worked my deal with the electronics on my boat I successfully got my old Lowrance HDS9, Gen 3 installed in Bruce's boat, a nice upgrade from his older HDS7, Gen 2 that I fixed him up with a few years ago.  Bruce and I fish Lac Seul quite a bit and I enjoy helping him to upgrade his systems for a more enjoyable experience.  The map chips of Lac Seul and the integration of his trolling motor to the depth finder really makes for a safer trip as one has a better reference for the routes and hazards of the lake.  In addition, the Gen 3's latest upgrade allows one to make your own maps of the lake via the Navionics Chip and it's SonarChart Live feature. This will be really nice for making your own 1 foot contour maps of our favorite fishing areas on Lac Seul.

Panther Martin Electro-steer with Remote
Tonight I am heading to the Northwest Sportshow to get a number of things taken care of.  Frankie's Marine is my boat dealer and I need to see him about getting my rig in to fix the kicker motor starting issues and to schedule a Bimini top installation.   Also my 9.8 hp kicker motor is tied to my big motor for steering and it can be difficult to steer it without the big motor turned on.  The big motor has power steering to make it easier to turn the wheel, and if you simply turn the key on, it will engage the power steering however because the ECM (Electronic Control Module) is water cooled, if you don't have the motor running and pumping water, it can overheat the ECM and burn it out.  Instead I am going to do is have installed a Panther Martin Electro-Steering device on the boat with a remote control so I can steer my kicker a lot easier.  I really like to troll crankbaits and up to this time it's been difficult at best as my 250HP runs at 3mph and my kicker runs OK but it is awfully hard to steer.  Many guys on the forums state that one should steer with your front trolling motor but I've tried that with little success unless you have a big radius to turn, it's pretty slow to react.  As stated in previous posts I head to Naples to Grouper fish on Sunday, which should be fun.  Hopefully I bring some fish home and now that I've caught a 200 pounder in December, I don't really need to do that again!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Fishin' With Dave!!

Beautiful Saturday afternoon on the ice
Last Saturday I had the pleasure of fishing with the son of a dear friend of mine.  David is 151/2 years old, is really getting into fishing, and his dad Mike told him to e-mail me if he had any questions.  Well, to my pleasure he actually did and we have been solving all the latest fishing dilemmas of which reel to get, best line to use, bass fishing strategies and all sorts of things.  Dave is in high school and has just joined the school fishing team which sounds like fun.  We had planned to go ice fishing in March, as soon as his wrestling season was finished and March 11 was the designated day.  Well apparently Mike and his wife had also planned a trip to Florida that weekend so it would be just Dave and Dave, which suited me just fine.  Finalizing our plan the day would start out in the morning with a stop at Cabela's first the maybe Scheels in St. Cloud before heading to the northwest. Our destination was near Battle Lake, MN where I knew there would be safe ice for both of us.  I assured Dave's folks that I was much fatter than their son, if the ice was unsafe, I'd be the guy in peril as I will definitely take care of their son.  Picking Dave up at 8:30 on Saturday, we headed for Cabela's to check out the Spring Sale. After loading up on series 3700 tackle totes we stopped at McDonalds for breakfast then on to Scheels, one of my favorite stores.  Dave was looking for a fishing Rod and I gave some suggestions however it was time to head north as we had another hour and a half drive.  Buying some minnows and waxies, we headed to this "secret" lake where I had done well a few years before............yeah, I know....Fishing Memories!  The recent warm weather had me concerned about getting out on the lake.  I knew we were not going to drive however this lake had a road along the north side of the lake and it was an easy walk to where I wanted to go.  Generally the north shoreline is the first to soften and open up yet the near 0 temperatures of the last few days solidified the shore ice quite well and we were pretty safe.  The ice was not exactly as rough as I have experienced in the past however it showed the results from the previous warm spell, no snow and evidence of a lot of water that was on the ice.  I drilled a number of holes and by 1;30 we were fishing, by 4:30 we still were fishing.

Moon over Highway 210
Notice I said fishing.  Although I marked a few fish that had come through they were awfully finicky and did not seem to be interested in what we had to offer.  The last time I was at this lake it took watching my camera and actually seeing the crappies inhale the bait as it was almost impossible to tell otherwise.  Even though it was nice out, I set Dave up in my single place Clam and got the camera running.  Unfortunately neither one of us saw any more fish or experienced any bite.  By 5:00 I had decided to head out as it wasn't looking that good.  We packed up the equipment and walked back to the truck and headed back towards home.  Having never really traveled Minnesota Highway 210, we decided to take the scenic route home through Staples/Motley then on to St. Cloud then Hwy 10 to Elk River.  It was a beautiful drive as we watched the moon come up over the horizon into the deep blue sky.  Not to be totally skunked we stopped at Morey's Fish House in Motley and at least bought some fresh fish for supper!  My new found wheat allergy was attended to by Dave when he suggested we stop at Culver's and get a burger with a gluten free bun, as his parents do this.  A stop at Culver's in St. Cloud proved to be just the ticket as I ordered their butter burger with a Gluten Free bun, absolutely delicious as I have not had a real hamburger in about 3 months.  Finally getting to my place around 8:30 we unloaded all of our stuff before heading back to drop Dave off at home.  It was a wonderful experience for me.  It was like being with myself 47 years ago as my guest was a great conversationalist, very intelligent, and had a great sense of humor.  As we walked off the ice a big flock of geese flew by and a asked Dave if he knew why they fly in a V pattern.  Yes, he exclaimed, the flock can fly more efficiently that way.  Right on the money, this kid is smart.  Well then I asked him if he knew why one side of the V is usually longer than the other side, he exclaimed no he did not.  Well, I let him on to the real answer......that's because there are more geese on that side, We had a good laugh, now he has a story for life!  I'd post a picture but I'd hate to see all the girls begging me for his contact information.

Ice fishing is about finished and it's time to get the boat up and going.  I have all the replacement electronics taken care of and am waiting to get it to Frankies to have a Bimini Top added, to have a remote control steering added to the kicker motor, and hopefully get my kicker motor fixed so it's not so blessed hard to start, what a beast!  I have read about drilling out a jet to make it start easier, anything would be better than it is now.Hopefully I can get all of this done before opener.  Next week is the Sportsman Show and there is a number of people that want to go with on Thursday.  Our return Grouper fishing trip is set for March 26th again in Naples.  This weekend might just be a get caught up on things like putting the ice fishing stuff away!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Open Water is Just Around the Corner!

Collecting Maple sap
With some of the lakes around home already ice free, and the temperatures in the 60's last weekend, fishing was not in the cards.  I spent the weekend helping my friend John Matthews help rewire my sister -in-laws house as I figured he may have bit off more than he could chew! She lives in Hudson, WI so both Saturday and Sunday were spent pulling wires.  We must be at least 3 weeks ahead of what I would call a normal weather schedule as my neighbor Brandon Larsen is already been tapping the trees for maple syruping,  I have a couple of nice maples in my yard so I let him tap them and in return I get a nice bottle of homemade Maple Syrup which is exceptionally good!  The sap has been really flowing lately because of the warm days and nights below freezing, I have to believe that he has collected over 500 gallons to date from the neighbors and I.  Brandon also has an osmosis filter that essentially removes 1/2 the water when ran through the filter, making it so it does not take forever to boil off the water to get the syrup to the right stage.  Apparently he can run it through up to 4 times so 400 gallons of sap at 2% sugar content get reduced to  50 gallons at about 16%.  This saves boiling away 350 gallons of water in the original sap, a huge reduction in wood needed to fuel the boiler.  It still takes a fair amount of processing to get real Maple Syrup but the end product is definitely worth it!  Brandon has a large tray that is separated into a number of compartments.  By magic the finished syrup makes it's way to one end with a spigot and thermometer to monitor the whether it is ready.  For all practical purposes finished maple syrup boils at 219F give or take a few adjustments for altitude.  Once it hit that temperature it can be drawn off as syrup.  Brandon's neighbor Jake was over helping on Monday night as they were boiling and I stopped over.  We poured a little brandy into a cup then added some hot syrup from the spigot.....Uffda that was good, (not particularly good for my diabetes!)  One interesting thing the Brandon has been doing is finishing his syrup off in used bourbon barrels.  Het reheats the syrup then pours it in the barrel and let's it sit for 8 weeks.  the syrup picks up the bourbon flavor and it's pretty good.  The used barrels are expensive so he obviously gets more for it but it is definitely an interesting twist to his craft.

Wild Turkeys in the Garden
So this warm weather has me thinking about the garden this year.  I have quite a bit of work to do however I did order my onion sets from Dixondale Farms out of Texas again with my friend Andy.  They are great onions and much better than the ones one buys up north.  Onions are classified by Long Day, Moderate Day, and Short Day onions, a term that describes their bulbing properties.  Long day Onions need more than 15 hours of daylight to trigger them to start growing the onion.  It definitely makes a big difference as I get larger onions that last a lot longer.  One thing that has hung around my property this year has been wild Turkeys.  At some time there can be as many as 18 in a bunch and trust me, they can eat! If you look closely at the picture of them you will see a white bucket that I fill with corn. They can really clean it out and I am not sure who's worse.....the deer of the turkeys.  I compare them to a good vacuum cleaner as nothing in their path is safe.  If there is no more for them in the garden they will strut up to my deck and eat all the bird seed out of my ground feeder.  Never the less they are an impressive bird for sure and I am half tempted to enjoy a wild turkey dinner some day but that would not be the nicest thing to do and could end me up in trouble!

I have promised to take my friends the Grants out ice fishing this weekend, I am planning on heading up to the Battle Lake area and try for some crappies.  If there is any issue in walking out I have plan B, we will hit the outdoor stores of Scheels and Cabela's for David Grant, a new up and coming fisherman!  Hopefully I will have something to report next week.  I am definitely afraid this will probably be my last adventure on the ice for this year.  The next big trip is back to Naples for some great grouper fishing on March 26th.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Johnson's Perch Extravaganza

Button Drawing
Well, this year has certainly been a challenge when it comes to ice fishing.  Even northern Minnesota experienced a relatively late freeze as you can go back to my earlier Red Lake Posts, not much going on.  Usually the last "wheel house" event occurs during the last weekend in February, just before the Walleye season closes on Mille Lacs Lake, Johnson's Perch Extravaganza held at Nitti's Hunters Point Resort about halfway up the East side of Mille Lacs Lake.  A group of us including Mark, Russ, Randy, and Mike find an area out on the lake where we can park our houses on Friday night, we set up our Perch Camp. We have a lot of fun cooking, playing the the official game of us "Wheel Houser's"....Farkle, having a few cocktails and trying to catch a perch large enough to enter the contest.  This year the weather has been quite mild and although the ice on the lake is solid enough, the warm weather has caused a substantial heave near the shore as well, the shoreline ice has deteriorated significantly.  The week before saw rain fall on Mille Lacs and any hole through the ice acts as a drain with the water that's on top of the ice makes an effort to get below the ice.  These older holes from ice houses and or fisherman allows this to happen and there were reports of holes that had grown to 3 feet in diameter.  To further complicate things it got cold on Thursday night and it actually refroze the surface including lightly freezing over any of these drain holes creating a dangerous situation if a person happen to go over one.  Therefore for the most part all of the accesses on the East side were closed and not letting anyone on the ice.  Of course that didn't stop some people from showing off their stupid quotient as we stood there for the button drawing a guy in a Ford Pickup and pulling an ATV on a trailer tried to cross the crack and ended up dropping the front end down into the ice.  Luckily he only dropped to the frame and the ice held him up otherwise it would have been a lot more entertainment.  I have no idea what this guy was thinking but what ever it was he got a big surprise. The west side was letting people on but who the heck wanted to travel 12 miles over the ice with zero guarantee's one would get off in a couple of days.  Therefore we all decided to skip putting our whell houses on the ice and just attend the Button Drawing.  They sell buttons with numbers on them for $20 each,  then starting at 3:00PM the drawing begins, and of course if your number is drawn you win something.  They always have great prizes such as a couple of wheel houses, a 4 X 4 UTV side by side, as well as a bunch of new augers, tackle packages and quite a bit of pretty good stuff. Unfortunately even though I bought 2 buttons, those numbers failed to be announced.  Originally because of the ice conditions it was planned to have the drawing in the parking lot of Hunter's but boy, would that have been a mess.  Thursday and Friday saw temperatures drop into the mid teens and solidifying the shore ice so they moved the drawing onto the ice where it normally is held.   Mark found a spot up on the shore that was elevated above most people making it easy to hear the numbers called.  As well the shore tended to be warmer than standing on the ice which was a lot nicer.  After having a couple for the road I met Russ and Randy at Bayside for a burger then headed back to Dayton.  The forecast for this weekend is in the upper 50's so we are getting really close to the end of ice fishing.  Maybe 1 more time next week when I promised a friend I'd take him and his son out for crappies,  Hopefully the ice will be good!

Hand tied jigs
One of the employees at my work stopped by the office a few days ago to show me his latest hobby, tying jigs for walleye fishing.  I was impressed by his craftsmanship, attention to detail, and of course his interest in fishing.  It reminded me of 40 years ago I used to tie my own jigs using dyed fake fur as the main body.  Kevin Aiona and I used to really catch the walleyes down in Catfish Slough on the Mississippi River north of Alma (Pool 4) Wisconsin.  We would simply drift with the slow current in the channel of the slough and catch all the walleyes we wanted in a few hours.  Since then it's been told to me that the slough has filled in and is quite shallow as the walleyes are no longer in that area. It still brings back good memories as Catfish was one of our favorite places to fish.  One of these days  I will get Kevin to bring me back down on the river for a nice day of fishing, maybe we can catch some old memories!  With the early ice out maybe the river will be good this year.  At this time there isn't much of a snow pack here or  around the upper Mississippi to melt and the river level should stay reasonable for the next month or so.  I do remember taking my good friend Leon Lambert fishing below the Alma dam on April 5th of that year, it was warm and we did catch some fish.  He offered me my choice of jigs and I decided to take the middle one with the promise of a picture of me with the walleye I will catch on it in May when I head to Lac Seul.