Friday, July 28, 2017

Wiring the Lund

Blue Sea Power Center
Instead of fishing this weekend I spent a day helping my friend Bill Lundeen in hooking up his Lowrance HDS units and rewiring his older Lund boat to clean up the mess left by the last guy that owned it.  We did some preliminary work a few weeks ago however I felt that we needed something more substantial to distribute our power to the new installs which included a couple of Lowrance HDS units, Structure Scan 3D, a NMEA 2000 network, and a lot of odds and ends that needed to be addressed.  We ended up putting in a Blue Sea power distribution center, complete with the appropriate fuse holders for easy identification and servicing.  Admittedly it was tough working under the dash as my head sometimes feels like it's going to explode when it is lower than the rest of my body however I got through it pretty well and got it all installed.  Compared to what was there, it turned out really nice yet later in the week Bill tried his structure scan and eventually discovered that I had forgot to add that power cord to the fuse box.  Oh well, at least it was in and of course ready to easily be added to the panel for power. Admittedly (and you could not tell from my pole shed!) that I like things neat and right.  I was so impressed with this that I ended up buying another one of these for my boat as I have an add on panel for all my accessories and this is pretty slick.  The other thing that is going to get added is something called a Boost Converter.  Years ago i used to run Genetron's in the boat as my main depthfinder/sonar unit.  It was amazing as the unit could mark fish better than anything on the market at the time.  Unfortunately the display was an old CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) similar to the way televisions were 20 years ago!  These display's drew a lot of electrical current and were susceptible to shutting down if the voltage on the battery got to low, which would happen when I started my motor, causing the unit to shut off.   My old and late friend Tom Emmons was a super design engineer and he designed a boost converter that would take any battery voltage from 8 - 14 volts and convert it to 14.4 volts.  The Genetron loved to operate at the slightly higher voltage so Tom and I made one, stuck it in the boat and never had an issue again with low voltage causing problems. Well fast forward to today and with the new bigger outboard, I still have issues with low voltage so at the same time I will install a newer Boost Converter, hopefully I can get it done before next Friday when we head back to Canada.

Nice Green Bay walleye
So there are some people that have been fishing and one of those guys is my godchild, Ben Aiona. Ben has been fishing Lake Michigan quite a bit these last few months and in fact I gave him some of my equipment that I have from when his dad, Kevin and I used to fish with Gary Barneson, in my 1985 16 foot Lund boat.  He had een getting some nice salmon and this last trip he was up near Green Bay fishing for a combination of salmon and walleyes.  He claims all of the locals are complaining that the fish are not biting very well however from the pictures he has sent, you could have fooled me!  Ben is a very good fisherman and is quick to adapt to whatever the conditions are and is usually successful.  I am glad that he got some use out of my equipment and was successful.  This walleye looks fantastic, has great color and is nice and plump.  As for Ben, well you can see for yourself!!

Well, the Mille Lacs situation, or drama, continues to dominate the walleye fishing here in Minnesota.  Despite near record catches, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources continues to tow the line about the messed up walleye population on Mille Lacs.  After years of culling out the normal 16 - 20 inch walleyes, what we have left is a lake full of 20 plus inch fish and a ton of 14 - 16 inch fish from the 2013 year class.  This has resulted in a catch and release only season for walleyes on Mille Lacs with the original intention of closing the fishing for walleye between July 7 - 27, an it was supposed to open back up to catch and release walleye fishing last Thursday. Well, Mr. Lundeen and I speculated that it would not open back up at all, seeings how fishing was soo good in June. This week they delayed the reopening of walleye fishing till August 11th where it will again be legal to fish for walleyes, but not harvest any.  It will stay open until September 4th, or labor day then close again until December 1st, the start of the new harvest season.  I don't see an end in sight as it is sad, I have fished in Canada this year more than I have fished on Mille Lacs.  Although there are other reasons for this, I used to fish Mille Lacs almost every weekend in June and July.  Oh well, nothing ever stays the same.  I am not sure I will be getting out this weekend as I have a lot to do before heading back up to Lac Seul for a week of fishing.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Quiet Week

Holcombe's dock, looking up River
Well this last weekend was pretty quiet as Mille Lacs is shut down and the trip to Lac Seul is fresh in the bullseye for the next trip. That's OK as there is plenty to do around the house, grass to be mowed, garden to be weeded, stuff to be cleaned, it never ends!  I did take the opportunity to get down to the River and fish off my neighbors dock on Saturday night, a place where I have always enjoyed to relax and besides, I have gotten some nice fish off the dock in the past.  The strategy is simple and it's pretty easy to fish, just load up a hook with a couple of nightcrawlers and toss it out.  It is not very deep out from the dock, maybe 5 feet however the river basically forms a shelf where the fish come up into this shallow flat to feed.  Most of the current is on the other side of the river so it's a nice relaxing place to soak a crawler.  After getting set up this boat came towards me, I am really careful to say "an old man" because it is starting to hit home, yet this guy was probably in his 70's and had a jon boat just like mine with a 25hp Suzuki tiller on the back.  He asked if he could pull up to the dock and of course I obliged him.  Careful not to interfere with my line, he pulled up and asked if I owned the property. Nope, but the guy that does, Brian, is a really good guy and I am sure you can talk to him anytime. He commented how nice his light looked from across the river and only wanted permission to take a picture.  Well, we talked for almost 45 minutes, everything from the river to his boat, his Suzuki motor, my boats, and what I was fishing for!  It was a lot of fun as most of you know that I like to talk o people!  After he went back I checked the line and the entire glob of crawlers was stripped off the hook.  The river is full of small catfish and maybe that's what happened as I didn't see any of the classic Tap Tap.  Oh well I loaded the hook back up and casted it out but it soon was dark and whatever had stripped me did it again without even a tell tale sign of it's presence.  I did get a picture looking up river as it was a nice evening, few mosquito's and the fish were elusive at best.

Eric with a nice Largemouth
This week the Mille Lacs saga will continue to play out as we will see if our DNR will open fishing back up for walleyes on July 27th as the original plan had stated.  There are so many variables to this that I am afraid the Minnesota DNR is playing it too cautious, but as I have stated many times, I try not to come across too political.  If it does open on the 27th it will be for Catch and Release only, something I am fine with, however the use of live bait is still in limbo until next week so we'll see. This is usually the time of year my friend Chuck Teasley comes up from the St. Louis area and we fish Mille Lacs.  Looks like I won't know anything until next week sometime!  So there are others catching fish, including my friend Eric Hayes who was fishing with his son Carter.  As you can see the bluffs in the background, they are on the Mississippi River down by LaCrosse.  Eric is a damn good "River Rat" and someday I need to get down there and do two things....Fish with him and teach him how to smile!  I suspect Carter took this picture and is not very likely to ride his dad on the finer points of fish photography.  Either way it's a nice Largemouth Bass and certainly puts to shame anything I caught last weekend, which was only a picture of the river.   It does however get me thinking about maybe doing some bass fishing around the area as it is a fish that is present in most lakes around here.   Speaking of the Mississippi River it is  time for my friend Kevin to have their annual Catfish Tournament down by Trempealeau with his guys from the Sheriff's Department.  It reminds me of my late brother-in-laws sheephead (freshwater drum) tournament that they had every year.  Eric (the guy  pictured) and I fished that during on of the last years that my brother-in-law, Mike Rombalski was still with us.  Eric and I teamed up in his boat and we did pretty good, I thought as we had about 20 sheephead coming close to 30 pounds of fish. The other veterans of the contest had cut off blue barrels for their fish and we were pretty humbled by the 100# weights of the guys who had started this!  All the sheephead were eventually fed to the pigs and we finished the tourney at the local establishments around Trempealeau, Wisconsin.  I only wish that I would have had a chance to participate early, at least we could have gotten some quality practice time in!

Barb's nice Reindeer Lake grayling
Last but not least, I am including a picture that my good friend Bruce Wiley sent of his sister Barb holding a nice grayling she caught at Reindeer Lake in northern Canada. Bard is a retired commercial airline pilot who first worked flying guest to the northern areas of Canada in a DC-3. Later she piloted for Northwest Airlines and more recently Delta.  Her and Bruce have a float plane and she decided to visit the old lodges she had flown to over 30 years ago, flying there with her husband in their Cessna 172.  Seems like I need to convince Bruce that we need to do this one time!  Anyway it's nice to see people you know having a good time fishing and that is a very nice grayling.  One year in Alaska my brother Steve and Cousin Greg decided to walk  up to Crescent Lake on the Kenai Peninsula, a glacier feed lake 7 miles from the road.  It was interesting for sure as I wasn't sure I was going to make it but we got there after a 3 hour hike, uphill.  We were a funny bunch as we heard you should make noise in case a bear was around, so we were singing all the way up.  I am sure if there were any bear, they were long gone after hearing us!  The stream coming out of the lake is where the trail followed and at where it exited the lake was some current and a ton of small grayling.  This one Barb is holding was somewhere around 15 inches but the ones we were getting were more like 6 inches.  Never the less they were a very beautiful fish and at least I can say that I have caught one!  Getting ready for my next trip to Canada, to Fisherman's Cove with my cousin Paul and brother Steve.  I am anxious to fish the other end of Lac Seul to see if it is any different.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

First Trip on the River

Nice 16 inch River Walleye
My neighbor Tom Olson stopped by the pole shed on Saturday night and we struck up a conversation regarding the river, it's water levels and the potential to catch a fish or two.  Within 5 minutes we had decided that Sunday afternoon would be a great time to spend a few hours casting for smallmouth bass or what ever was hitting and he volunteered to take his boat.  That was fine with me as I had not been able to get my jon boat out and running yet and it would be nice to be able to sit back and have someone else control the boat.  There are 2 basic methods I like to fish the Mississippi River, drift with the current while casting crankbaits up to the shore and the other is anchoring in a deeper pool and soaking a nightcrawler.  My favorite crankbaits are the Bomber type with rattles which run 3-5 feet deep and are bright colored orange, red, chartreuse, or brown.   Because smallmouth feed on crawfish, these colors work quite well.  Launching across the river in the new park in Ramsey, we headed up river, the water levels were about a foot lower than we expected and it probably would have been better to have my jon boat rather than Toms 16 foot Lund with a 50 hp Merc but we did ok once we got into the main river channel.  Heading upstream we almost got to the City of Dayton before shutting the motor down and starting to drift with the current.  It always takes about 10 minutes to get back in the swing of using a casting rod again and after a few backlashes things were going well as we started catching fish right away.  I would not say the action was fast and furious however it was quite steady.  About 15 minutes into our drift a nice walleye surprised me at the end of my line.  The river has a lot of walleyes in it and someday I need to figure out how to specifically target them but we do get them occasionally casting the shorelines and structures on cranks.  It had been a few years since a walleye graced my drift so it was a welcome site for sure.  Now I have plenty of walleye fillets in my freezer from Canada so I let this one go.  We continued our trek downstream when withing the next half hour I had caught another walleye, two in a day, WOW.  Tom was fishing with a spinner bait and changed to a Shad Rap when he nailed a nice walleye, they looked like they all came out of the same mold!  That was a record for me, 3 walleyes on the River in one trip, it would be nice to be able to do that again sometime.

Biggest of the Day, 18.5 Inches
Did I say the smallies were hitting pretty well?.  Most of our fish were under 12 inches but those smallmouth bass really hit the lure hard.  Actually Tom caught an 11 incher that struck at the lure so hard the hook went through the top of it's head and threw it's brain, killing it instantly.  To be honest we didn't realize it until we released it and it floated belly up, didn't even make a ripple.  Tom scooped it out and along with the walleye he kept, it would go in the frying pan.  Not that it would have gone to waste as there are plenty of Bald Eagles on the river and an easy meal probably would have been appreciated.  Either way it was the right size for the frying pan, that's for sure.   The biggest bass of the trip was caught by Tom towards the end of our day on the river.  It was a nice 18.5 inch smallie, definitely a nice fish.  Although we don't keep an accurate count I would say that we ended the day with 3 nice walleyes and about 20 smallmouth landed and at least 8 others that either threw the hook or missed the lure on a retrieve.  So given that I would say that we had plenty of action all day.  The water was pretty nice and it wasn't too muddy either as usually the Crow Rive which enters the Mississippi in Dayton is quite brown and influences the rive below for a good 5 miles, with the south side of the river bearing the brunt of most of this water, so we almost alway fish the north shore side.  I did get Tom to agree to take a break as casting crankbaits all for 4 hours can take a toll on a guy.  He agreed and we anchored below Cloquet Island to soak a crawler.  I like fishing on the bottom with a crawler, one never knows what will show up at the end of the line, maybe a big catfish or Carp, a pretty redhorse sucker, a walleye, maybe even a sturgeon.  Within minutes of casting out the tip of my pole was bouncing.  I like to use circle hooks however they make it harder to catch fish and can prove frustrating if you don't exactly change your hook setting techniques.  If done right the fish are lip hooked or in the side of it's mouth whereas the fish would simple be gut hooked.  Within 5 minutes the rod tip was bouncing and a small catfish had become impaled on the hook.  After letting it go we headed back in for the evening,  Certainly a fun day on the water with a good friend.

Putting the final touches on the plan to go to the west end of Lac Seul in August so I'm going to meet with the guy who has organized it this week.  It should be fun.  Also it looks like another tip to Lac Seul Outpost is beginning to come together for September.  Mille Lacs shut down last Friday and my friend Bill Lundeen and I have resigned to believe that it will not open up again until Dec 1, when the new "season" starts, or the day the quota system resets,  It's not a lot of fun for guys like Bill yet he is doing OK.  Stop up and say high the next time you drive buy...........and of course buy some minnows!!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Mille Lacs On the 4th of July

Kam first Walleye, a 26 inch beauty
With everything seemingly taken care of with the boat, the 4th of July has been a traditional day for spending on Mille Lacs Lake.  Actually it was the day I always had a standing reservation to fish with my good friend Tom Emmons, we would fish Mille Lacs for the day then stay long enough to watch some of the fireworks that are held in Garrison, MN.  Admittedly I sure do miss my friend.  Well life goes on and with July 4th being on a Tuesday, the passenger in the boat this day was an engineer from work, Kam Chen.  Kam's brother is traveling so it was a good opportunity to get him out fishing on such a beautiful day.  And fish we did!   Kam is from Hong Kong, is a brilliant engineer and is getting into fishing.  The other goal was to try and learn all of the new additions to the boat including I troll, the remote Panther Steering system on the kicker motor, as well to check out the newly repaired main motor steering and does the kicker motor even run!  Leaving at 9:00, a quick stop at McDonalds for breakfast before stopping in to see Bill at Lundeens Tackle Castle.  There I went over my strategy with Bill before stocking up on some leeches and crawlers.  Having let him know I was planning on some lead line trolling to test some of the additions, he gave me a suggestion on where to fish as he had been doing well out there and he believes that the gravel held some big fish!  A few weeks ago Bill gave me some Jointed Salmo's and asked if I would try them.  Unfortunately I left them on my bench back in the pole shed....pretty stupid!  Once we launched the boat and idled into the bay I opened the throttle and voila, the steering worked perfect!  We headed to the humps just at the edge of the bay but did not do very well.  Next stop was the rocks on Sherman's Point but there again nothing.  I headed to Sherman's Flat and began trolling up and down the edge, something that was a lot easier with my old tiller controlled boat however I wasn't getting too bad at following the contour with my front trolling motor.  This was really a trip to test out my accessories and to help Kam catch some fish.

Kam's 28 inch Walleye
Trolling crawlers on spinner rigs Kam looked at me and exclaimed he had a snag.  Of course I knew that was almost impossible as we were on a mud flat.  Anyway I took the rod, felt a big head shake then handed it back and told him, no this is a fish!  Kam reeled in a very nice 26 inch walleye, nice and fat, probably over 6 pounds.  A few pictures and back in the water she went.  We continued up the cut and back  finally catching 4 walleyes, not exactly on fire but the mayfly carcasses tell the story as walleyes will gorge themselves during a mayfly hatch.   The next strategy was to head to a gravel area and lead line troll some #5 Shad Raps.  This also gave me the opportunity to get more familiar with my kicker motor trolling set up.  I worked pretty nice.  My lead core setup includes Suffix 832 line, it sinks 30% more than standard lead core, instead of 5 feet/color it sinks at 7 feet/color.  We put 3 colors out to take everything down to 21 feet and the #5 shad rap would do the rest and rest it did! It wasn't long before the rods which were sitting in the rod holders went off and we had our first walleye trolling.  Minutes later Kam's trolling rod bent over and he reeled in a nice 28 inch walleye. It was pretty big and he was a little scared of it so I posed for the picture!  We ended up catching 5 nice walleyes on the shad raps before moving to our next stop, a deep rock reef for bobber/leech fishing.  No one was there at the deep water reef so we set up using the i5 trolling motor as our anchor, I have to tell you this is one of the nicest things I have on the boat.  Holds great and it is simple to move around to help locate fish.  Well before you know it Kam's bobber went down.  Telling him to reel up till he feels pressure then set the hook, which he did!  His first walleye caught bobber fishing where he hooked it himself.  It's a  lot of fun to help someone catch there own fish and this time Kam had a triple going, pulling crawlers, Lead Lining Shad Raps, and now Bobber fishing leeches.

We ended up with 4 fish there before we decided to head back.  With 13 fish caught it wasn't the hottest day of catching however I was very happy with the results.  With the crawler rigs I use #6 Tru-Turn hooks and every walleye that grabs the crawler is immediately hooked in the mouth area. Trolling Raps produces minimally hooked fish, and a quick set on the bobber fish meant lip hooked fish.  I know hooking mortality numbers are going to play an important role as the walleye fishing shuts down on July 7th and supposedly scheduled to open back up by July 27th however I don't have much faith in our Department of Natural Resources to do this.  Every fish we brought into the boat was lipped hooked and successfully released with minimal stress.  The amazing bite on Mille Lacs this year will likely result in a total closure for the rest of the open water bite which ends December 1st, 2017.  As stated before, politics is no place in this blog yet affects so many things!  This may have been my only trip to Mille Lacs this year, time will tell.  In the meantime it's time to get the Jon Boat out and start hitting the Mississippi River behind the house.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Fishing At Last!

Nice walleye
Well, despite all the issues that have been dealt with in the last few weeks, we finally made it back to Lac Seul for 3 days of non stop walleye fishing.  My friend and neighbor Pete Sipe was gracious enough to drive making it a pretty relaxing trip for me, as well he took some great pictures.  Getting up at 4:30 last Saturday Morning we were hooked up and on the road around 5:30.  I barely had a chance to make sure everything on the boat was fine but we took off anyway with our first stop in Orr Minnesota to fill up the truck and boat, as well to have breakfast at the T Pattenn Cafe, usually our breakfast spot in the past.  A quick topping off the gas in International Falls then across the border.  This time, as usual we did not have any issues and after a few questions about my Chinese Visa that was in my passport, the gentleman let us on our way.  We made it to Dryden where a quick stop at the Safeway to pick up onions and potatoes before heading up to Sioux Lookout's Ojibway Baits to pick up some larger minnows then off to the Deception Bay landing.  It started to rain pretty good so Pete and I put up the new Bimini top on the boat, WOW, is that nice.  It was raining quite hard and we were nice and comfortable in our new protection against the weather.  It was impressive that we could drive 30 mph and except for some rain coming through where the windshield meets the top, it was quite comfortable, I should have had this years ago!  Our first day's fishing was in one of Bruce's favorite locations, Wapesi Bay.  Pictured is a nice 22 inch walleye that definitely went back into the water.  For the day Pete and I ended up with 46 walleyes caught and released except enough for supper as we never like to load up on walleyes too early in the trip.  On Monday Bruce asked me where I would like to go and of course my favorite place to fish in Lac Seul is Tuk Bay.  I have some fabulous spots to fish and have named them, Pete's Point, Dan's Hole, Dave's Luck Would Have It Point, and Baboon Ass Point. They are a sure bet as I have had my absolute best days of fishing in Tuk, and his trip was no exception as Pete and I ended up with 95 walleyes for the day.  We could have stayed for another 5 but we were always careful how the other boats would feel about our success of passing 100 fish for the day.  We try to be considerate, ya know.

Sunset looking north at Chamberlain Narrows
Tuesday was our last day of fishing and the group decided to explore some new areas that were marked with trails into the bays by my friend Paul Wenaas.  They were straight south of camp and we did get some nice fish, it certainly wasn't on fire. Bruce's family was coming in that evening so he left about 2:00 in the afternoon after dropping off his son Michael in our boat.  Because we were basically straight east of Tuk, I decided that would be a great place to finish the day and our trip. Coming out of the channel into the main bigger water I had to cross a wake that was in front of us so I turned the steering into the wave to cut it a a 45 degree angle.  Unfortunately there was no response to my turning and we hit the wave almost parallel and at 30 MPH it almost threw me out of the boat.  Now this is a good time to remind everyone why it's important to wear your life vest and to make sure your cutoff tether  is properly connected every time you are under power.  I have stated this before that for the last 6 years or so I wear my automatic inflatable life vest 100% of the time and hook up the tether.  I am getting to old to expect myself to tread water for any length of time and even though I have had this boat for 2 years now, I am still learning the nuances of running a wheel boat after running tillers for the last 35 years. I have no desire to be thrown out of the boat then watch the dreaded "Circle of Death" take me out. We barely made it to a point in Tuk where we fished the day before and ended up with 78 walleyes for the day.  It is absolutely beautiful at camp so I decided to post a sunset picture.

So, just my luck, the power steering went out on my Evinrude outboard and because it is the latest technology, there is no quick fix to provide emergency steering.  We limped back to camp as I could steer it a little, turn the wheel fast and after about 5 revolutions it would make it's way in the direction you wanted to go.  Once in camp we were able to call my dealer Frankie to see if there were any options, nope it appears as though the power steering fluid leaked out somehow.  With 37 miles to go in the morning we took off very carefully controlling our speed and slowing down when we met another boat and it's wake.  It felt as though the longer we used it the worse it got and by the time we got to the landing, it was almost impossible to get the boat aligned with the trailer and loaded however, we managed!  On the way home I called Frankie's and although it was too late by the time we drove by the exit to get there, I got up early and dropped it off on Thursday.  Friday morning they called me and said that Joe had got it fixed, geez I was expecting at least a week!  I think they are about a tired of seeing my boat as much as I am not seeing it!  Talking to Joe, Frankie's son who by the way, is absolutely amazing and treats me like I am his best customer, we discussed what went wrong.  Apparently Evinrude had a recall on the caps that hold the power steering fluid and the last time I was in they changed them out to the new ones.  He stated that he was really surprised that my new cap had cracked and leaked fluid, the first one of the "new" replacements out there.  Either way I am going to send a note to Evinrude.  The good news is I have my boat and pending any bad weather I am going to try to get up to Mille Lacs before July 7th when it closes to walleye fishing for 3 weeks.....that's a whole new post for later!