Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Ontario Walleye Opener, Lac Seul 2017

Beautiful Lake Whitefish on Lac Seul
I was graciously invited to join my friends to experience Ontario's 2017 walleye opener at Lac Seul Outpost on Chamberlain Narrows, Lac Seul Lake, out of Sioux Lookout again.  Admittedly there wasn't much time between getting home from Leech Lake (Minnesota Fishing Opener), meeting with our Taiwanese business partners on the 2 days between trips, getting the boat cleaned and ready to go but miraculously I managed!  Getting up at 5:00 on Friday morning my neighbor Pete Sipe helped hook up the boat and north we headed, to meet  Wayne, Gary, and Tom at the restaurant in Orr, MN for breakfast before pushing across the border.  There was quite a line of boats crossing at International Falls to Fort Francis but our wait was surprisingly short.  Both Pete and I have got this border crossing down pretty well, take off your hat and sunglasses, always address the border agent with quick and firm answers, look him in the eye, and always tell the truth, not trying to hide anything.  We carefully pack our things and the only issue we had was that our liquor volumes were over what is allowed for 2 guys.  It seems as though we tell them exactly what we have and they hand the passports back and tell us to enjoy and be careful.  Only once did we have to pay extra duty but the last 6 times we were able to enter with a tad more than allowed.  I think the honesty and not trying to weasel our way out of duties, which BTW I am perfectly happy to pay, works in our favor.  The next big question is whether we can get our boats through the "rags" a short cut that cuts a few miles on the trip in.  We had been in contact with our fearless leader, Bruce however he had mentioned nothing about getting through the rags. This time of year the water is pretty low and it may only be a foot or so of water through the cut.  We launched the boat then headed around the island deciding not to test the shallow water as it was pretty low.  There were a couple of Ranger boats that had just put in and I learned they were boating into Lac Seul Outpost as well.  After accepting my offer to follow us, 4 boats headed out.  It wasn't that bad as my map was very good at keeping us on course and 75 minutes later we pulled into camp without any issues. As always it was great to see Ken and Brenda, the owners as well he had some new staff people that were very good. After settling into the cabin, the weather was forecasted to be great on Saturday then rain both Sunday and Monday.  Opener was as projected, the walleyes would be fairly shallow, 8 - 12 feet and plastics worked great.  I was determined to catch a walleye on one of my ice fishing blade baits as vertical jigging was the norm.  Something really hit it and pulling it up it was a very nice large Lake Whitefish, I would estimate around 5 - 6 pounds.  The lure came loose in the net so really, I am not sure it actually hit the lure or I simply snagged it.  Officially it hit the lure so it's at Osseo Meats, in Osseo, MN as those guys really do a nice job smoking it.

River entering Scaler Lake
On Sunday we were able to fish a new area (to me) and an area that my friend, Paul Wenaas is very familiar with, Scaler Lake where the river runs into it.  Paul gave me some of his trails into the lake a couple of years back and both myself and Bruce commented how well Paul had it marked on the GPS as with the low water levels it was important to make sure you stayed in the old (Now flooded) river channel.  Anywhere there is water flowing in the lake tends to be a fish magnet and this spot was no exception as we hammered the walleyes and had a few large northern pike.   Bruce commented that this area usually has a lot of boats in the area however we were the only 2 there.  If you click on the picture you will see 2 eagles perched on the dead tree tops as there were plenty of eagles around this area.  I suspect that the fishing is pretty good for them as well.  After a couple hours of reeling in walleyes, and the rain getting heavier, we decided to head on back a little closer to camp.  Scaler Lake was the farthest we traveled to fish as it is very good fishing just across the channel from Camp.  We did run up to Birch Narrows which is north of the camp and there were 4 houseboats parked along the route including one parked right off a point that can be quite good this time of year.  While we were fishing another boat came in and got a little too close to the houseboat and some words where exchanged.  We just looked on shaking our heads as it was hard to tell who was in the wrong.  Oh well, it's a big lake but some people get pretty defensive.  I rained both Sunday and Monday so we ended back at camp maybe earlier than usual, which was fine with me!

Monday evening's dinner was Steak night again as we diligently make sure that we have enough fish to take home, 4 walleyes each.  After dinner we did a final count and I was 3 fish short of my limit.  I grabbed my spinning rod and walked down to the dock where it is pretty easy to catch a walleye and within 10 minutes I had my 3 walleyes, nice ones in the 16.5 inch range.  Of course Tuesday morning was pretty nice considering the rain which fell on Sunday and Monday, typical for the day you leave. Either way it was a great time and I look forward to my next return to Lac Seul.  My boat went in the shop on Thursday as I have some ongoing issues that need to be addressed.  I am anxious to get it on Mille Lacs as the reports coming in is that the walleyes are practically jumping in the boat.  As well, I definitely need to start looking at my river boat as I anticipate a great season of fishing on the River.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Uffda.......Busy Schedule...............But....Fishing Opener!

My gift from Jeffrey
Wow,  Last week was a whirlwind of activity, too much to even take the time to report in on the Fishing opener.  Adding to the craziness was the fact that upon returning from Leech I ended up taking my nephew to the airport then getting everything ready for my guests that were arriving from Taiwan the next day.  I spent the next Wednesday and Thursday with my "Golden" Brother CK, then a mad scrabble to get a few things done around the house, pack as we headed for Lac Seul, Canada on Friday.  It was great to see my friends from Taiwan, CK, Jeffrey, Serena, and May.  Although I usually get to see Jeffrey at least once a year, I haven't seen CK or Serena in a number of years. Jeffrey has been extremely generous and the last couple of times he brought me some Single Malt Whiskey from Taiwan's famous distillery, Kavalan.  It is ranked as one of the best whiskey distillers in the world and he went all out this time bringing me a bottle of Solist Whiskey, aged in Sherry Wine barrels, and is cast strength (meaning it's alcohol content is as it is right out of the barrel, about 57%).  It is very good and I am sure it  deserves it's world ranking as whiskey's go.  It's definitely a treat and I appreciate their generosity for sure.  It was great to see CK again, he calls me his Golden Brother because I understand the business that we are in similar to him, we see eye to eye on a lot of things.  They have been our business partners of ours for overseas manufacturing and we have done business with them for almost 20 years now.  Interesting as I told them I only have a few days between Minnesota Opener and my trip to Lac Seul and they graciously fit it into that time frame.

Ben's eelpout
So why talk about Whiskey than the Minnesota Walleye Opener, frankly because it was probably the worst opener for catching fish on Leech Lake that I have experienced since starting to go there in 1990.  Not that there are few if any fish in the lake, quite contrary, however I believe that unusual spring and a huge baitfish situation lead me to catch only 4 walleyes for 3 days of fishing, maybe I am just getting old but all the other guys didn't do so well either!!  I did get to fish with my friend Ben Taylor and we headed out to Annex Reef where he nailed this beautiful eelpout, definitely a great fish and they are absolutely delicious to eat.  Besides that I think that my boat caught a total of 10 walleyes, not many for each session and as well we only brought in 2 keeper fish (between 14 and 20 inches), pretty slow.  I even tried trolling shad raps along Ottertail point and although we did get a few fish they were all in that 10 - 12 inch range. The word was that the walleyes were very shallow, in the 4 - 6 foot range however we had water temps in the high 50's so this didn't make a lot of sense.  Usually I like the deeper structures when the water temps are up there like this however that wasn't the case as my go to spots were not very good and I didn't mark many fish on those 12 foot humps that are located off a few midlake reefs.  In the end we got enough walleyes for everyone to take a couple home plus we had our fish fry on Sunday night.  Luckily the group caught a lot of northern pike and the resort does an excellent job of cleaning out the Y bones so they deep fried just perfectly and to be honest, Northerns are a great tasting fish, firmer than walleye and they seem to have a little more flavor.  Catching isn't the most important thing about Walleye Opener however it certainly helps.  This year was Team Walleye's 44th year opening on Leech Lake and my 27th year with the group.  Time certainly flies and it seems like just yesterday when I started going with these guys in 1990.  Although it wasn't our best year of catching fish, it certainly was a good year to get the group together again, I guess as we get older this is quite a bit more important!

Stay tuned my report from last weekends Canadian Fishing Opener at Lac Seul should prove to be more positive on that elusive catching side!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Things Coming Together

Nicely tilled Garden
It's been a mad rush to get all of the "critical" things done around the house before I head out for 2 weekends in a row fishing.  Because my weekends are going to be away from home, the critical issues include getting the garden tilled, the yard cleaned up and fertilized, the fruit trees taken care of, and getting the lawn mower ready to go.  Last weekend most of the big things did get taken care of, starting with tilling the garden.  Being smart about this I took up my friend Ricky Shermer's offer to use his 6 foot tiller mounted on the back of his Kubota tractor, taking a huge amount of work and compressing it into a few hours. The tiller I have been using was my dad's yet that only does about an 18 inch swath and it requires you to go over it twice.  With Ricky's setup a single run is worth 4 times with the hand tiller and all I really need to do is sit on my butt and steer the tractor.  It does have one disadvantage, it has a tendency to pile the dirt behind the tiller but luckily I manged to work that out.  At a PTO (Power Take Off) speed of 540 RPM's the actual tiller shaft is spinning quite fast and really pulverizes the dirt nicely.  One does need to do a few passes but as stated, it's easy when the only thing is driving the tractor.  I really like how it chops up the old corn stalks and other debris from last year's garden planting.  With the tilling behind me the onions got planted and by the time I leave on Friday the potatoes will be in.  Thanks Ricky!!!

The yard needed a good mowing and picking up the stuff left over from the winter.  That got done
Apple tree in full bloom.
and with rain specified for next Monday and Tuesday the fertilizer will go down soon.  The raspberry patch is all cleaned up, it's kind of a pain removing all of the old dead canes and trimming them up but admittedly I do get a great berry crop.  Maybe my neighbor Lory will turn some of them into a nice wine this fall.  The apples and pear trees look good this year.  Last year we got a late freeze while the blossoms were in full grandeur resulting in a failure of the fruit crop however this year it looks like the weather will hold and we should have a bumper crop of apples and pears.  A good friend Eric Hayes gave me some important information on the proper apple tree spray and my goal is to locate all the ingredients to make this happen.  Our friends still have bees on the property and the trees are simply full of them, perfect addition to having all the right things come together.  What is frustrating is the boat hasn't even been in the water to test out everything.  Hopefully one nigh here I can put some muffs on the water intakes and at least start the motors to make sure at least they run. The boat is otherwise pretty much ready to go and come Friday morning it will be heading north!

All indications point to a great walleye opener as the water temps at Leech Lake are in the 50's already.  Hopefully the big hawgs are on the bite and we get a few.  I have my strategies all mapped out including a run into Walker and visiting the new brewpub in town on Sunday between fishing sessions.  There is still a lot to do and the schedule doesn't get any easier with my returning next Tuesday, our Chinese visitors here next Wednesday and Thursday, then off to Lac Seul on Friday morning to participate in the Ontario Fishing Opener.  Uffda!

Friday, May 5, 2017

One week and Counting

Panther Martin Remote Tiller Steering
The end of April has been a whirlwind of activity but admittedly it does make the time fly.  With about a week to go before we head up north for opener there is still a lot to do around the house, heck the boat hasn't even been in the water yet, maybe this weekend.  While getting things ready I noticed that the sticker on the license plate attached to the boat trailer still had 16 on it, not good.  the assumption was that somewhere I renewed it on or near the expiration date and simply misplaced the new sticker, a very plausible scenario.  Attempting to renew it online only met with a reject which was strange because the plate number and VIN number was correct.  Calling the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles provideded me with the answer.........Sir, your trailer was not registered for the year 2016 and has been removed from the data base.  In order to get your renewal, you need to go to a nearby Deputy Registrar's office and sign an affidavit certifying that the said trailer in question has not been used since December 31, 2015.  Apparently I did not renew it last year and the 16 designation means that the plates expired January 1, 2016 and not December 31, 2016.  Therefore I have been pulling my boat trailer all of last year on expired plates.  So I go in and sign a document that the last time I used the boat trailer was in October of 2015, that satisfied the agent and I was able to secure new tabs for this season.  It sure would be convenient to issue boat trailer license renewals similar to the boat itself, a 3 year sticker and do it at the same time. Oh well, one more thing out of the way!! This weeks picture is of the Panther Martin Remote Tiller Steering module they added to the boat.  It is quite compact and works really good, at least in the garage.  Note the heat gun on the floor for removing my old plate sticker.  As stated in the past, I really enjoy trolling Shad Raps along the shorelines on Leech Lake and this should make it quite a bit easier to control the boat while trolling. The boat is pretty well put back together with the right strategic rod/reel combos that are best suited for walleyes on Leech as most of our strategy is slow drifting with a jig and minnow combination, as well the trolling rods are ready to go!

Plano deep 3700 Series Storage Boxes
This year I intend on using plastics more.  One of the things to make storage easier was purchasing a few of the Deep Plano 3700 plastic boxes to store all of my plastics in, as they generally are kept in their original packaging bags.  Using 3 boxes I can sort them by scented ones such as Gulp and PowerBait, BFishN type baits like the Pulse X featured last week, and plain 3 - 4 inch curly tail grubs in a number of pretty wild colors. I like to be organized in the boat and these boxes really do an excellent job of storing these lures and the Ranger's compartments were specifically made to hold this size so it really makes it nice. Last year I keep them in a soft sided tackle box but it proved to be extremely difficult to access everything and this really make it easy.  One of my goal is to commit to teaching my friend Bruce the art of fishing plastics on Lac Seul this year and will probably even set up one of my jigging rods for him so he doesn't have to switch his own lures.  I have been very successful in getting him in my train of thoughts on equipment such as depth finders and trolling motors, now it's time to introduce a new method he can use when the walleye bite slows down, or to really take advantage of it when the bite is hot.  Either way both the Minnesota Opener and the Canadian Opener should be in prime!

I did pick up our Team Walleye hats and the honorary shirts for those who bring their boats.  They are pretty sharp and I will guarantee that we will be noticed on the lake!  pretty much everything is a go as my friend has confirmed our annual bait situation, so we are set there.  Lot's of stuff to get caught up on, the garden needs tilling, the lawn needs mowing and fertilizing, boat need to be checked out. The list never ends.