Wednesday, December 27, 2017

In the Deep Freeze

Ben Aiona's LOTW haul!
The predicted chunk of cold air that "broke" off from Siberia finally arrived in full force this weekend with temperatures of -16 this morning with highs of just below zero for daytime temperatures, the good news is it's making ice like crazy.  5 hours north of here at Red Lake and Lake of the Woods (LOTW) the nighttime temperatures are reaching the -25 to -30 range.  My friend Ben Aiona decided to go to LOTW on Monday with his family with only his Polaris Ranger and some thermal portables.  Dang lucky he's young because I would have second thoughts about being in a portable at -25F, although it's not to say that I haven't been, just age has made me a lot smarter! Anyway, on Tuesday Ben texted me a picture of their catch, a nice mess of saugers, they kept 24 (their leagal limit) and caught over 55 for the day.  This is not a bad haul, especially considering the temperature.  LOTW has a nice population of nice sized saugers and walleyes, I will call him later to see how him and his family are doing.  Ben is a good fisherman so if the fish are there, he'll get them for sure.  Personally I really enjoy renting a heated house up there, I will never forget the time my good friend Mark and I rented a house out of Wigwam on LOTW, that was 5 years ago and the highlight was the sturgeon that Mark had caught.  You can see that post Here if you want.  Frankly it doesn't seem like 6 years ago but it was.  One day I would like to bring the wheel house up and stay for a few days of fishing, LOTW is a fabulous fishery and you can get some really nice walleyes there as well and the limits are 8 fish in which only 4 can be walleyes, which is more than enough fish.

Cousin Julie
On Christmas Eve my cousin Julie passed away.  Julie had just turned 61 but had some health issues that she simply couldn't shake.  Both her and her brother Paul were our best friends when we were young and without saying Paul and I are still quite close.  Julie's dad was my dad's brother "Uncle Keith" and growing up, their family was an important part of our family as we tended to do a lot of things together.  Julie eventually married Clint Eide and resided on a farm between Eleva and Strum.  Our paths didn't cross much these last few years however we often had some interesting discussions on Facebook that kept us ever close in our minds.  Her obituary is Here and she will be missed.  It is a difficult time of the year as my brother Jon died on New Years Eve last winter so I understand what my cousin's are going through.  Never the less I will be heading back down to Eleva on Thursday to say good bye but to also see my surviving cousins and her mother, Aunt Dorothy.  It seems like it's the old adage, you only see your relatives at weddings and funerals, rings true however I did send in my deposit for fishing with Paul next August, it is important to make sure those friendships stay alive.  Paul was the only boy in the family of 4 children so often times my brother Steve and I look at Paul as our brother as well.  You can't have too many of those.  God Bless you Julie and our prayers are with you.

So back to reality, after (like right after) the funeral Steve, my neighbor Lory Brasel, and myself will be driving up to Red lake to fish the weekend.  As stated, it's cold up there but it will be snug and warm in the house.  The usual suspects will be there, Mark Applen and his son-in-law and grandson, Russ Praught and his crew.  Russ has given me an ETA at JR's of around 9:00 PM on Thursday and with some pushing we should be there about the same time and be able to follow him out to where Mark is parked.  I do enjoy fishing together as it's easier to coordinate when we go in to eat, as well, often a good break from your existing company!  Hopefully the fish are still biting, at least enough to eat something each night.  I am sure we will go through plenty of propane this trip.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Ice Fishing at last!

My First Walleye of the Season
This weekend was my official start to the ice fishing season.  Red Lake is located  5 hours north of my home and as stated the last couple of weeks, we were finally waiting for the ice thickness to develop enough to allow vehicles and wheel houses on the ice.  Last Thursday the resorts deemed it safe enough to drive 1/2 ton pickups with single axle wheel houses, the perfect description of my rig.  My friend Mark Applen had left on Tuesday afternoon with Russ being a day behind him, both pulled their rigs out on Thursday and had our location pretty well set before I got up there.  In my house were my 2 good friends, Kevin Aiona from Eleva and Keith Holtan, my Alaskan Guide friend who spends his winters in Brainerd.  It was great to see both of them and even better to have them in my house for a few days.  Kevin Drove up from Eleva Friday morning while I finished packing and hooking up the fish house.  With the new pickup and 10 months behind me in exactly what it was that is needed to make sure the house sits correctly on the hitch, my initial assumptions did not work out well as I assumed from the measurements that the new truck sat 2 inches higher at the hitch than my old on did.  Upon hooking up the house it was apparent that it wasn't the case and it took some scrambling to get the proper fit, luckily I had earlier ordered a different receiver hitch that is quite adjustable and once that was changed out, it was easy to get it right.  Kevin showed up and we were on our way to Lundeen's to get the "now needed" State of Minnesota ice shelter license.  A couple of dozen minnows packed in oxygen and we were off to pick up Keith in Brainerd.  Arriving at JR's around 2:30, Russ just happened to be in the bar and they had finished eating a walleye lunch. Checking the propane in the house, one of the 30 pounders looked like it needed to be filled so we got that taken care of and we followed Russ to our destination on the lake.  Mark had his fish already so he came by to help set up.  Setting up includes unhooking the house from the truck, drilling the holes through the ice, with the electric jacks by the wheels lift the weight off the tires and pull the pins that secure the main springs to the shackles, retract the shafts to set the house on the ice.  I have curtains that go over the wheel wells, snow has to be packed along the edge to keep out the wind.  Furnace is on, generator needs to have the extended run auxiliary tank connected, hooked up and started.
My Friend Kevin with a nice fish.
DirecTV antenna needs to be plugged in and hooked up as well the receiver needs to be installed inside.  The last thing to be done is setting up my flagpole so we can display the Stars and Stripes, the Green Bay Packer flag, as well there is a strobing light that only operates when it's dark, which helps us relocate the house after dark. All of this takes about an hour, even with 2 people extra, but when you are finally ready, it's wonderful to sit down in a warm house, mix a congratulatory cocktail and get down to the business of catching fish!  And catch we did, enough to provide a walleye dinner a few hours later at JR's.  The regulations this year on Red Lake ar 4 fish total with only 1 allowed over 17 inches.  The fish were absolutely beautiful with most of them being in the 15 to 17 inch range, as well we had a number of them in the 17 to 19 inch range.  Nothing huge but definitely a lot of nice fish and great eating size.  Friday night was an absolute zoo in the house as the rattle wheels we set just kept going off every 45 minutes or so.  I could hear Keith get up to tend to the job of catching these fish and catch he did.  Waking  up on Saturday morning there  was7 in the pail and as I stated, some real nice fish.  Seeings how these guys were my guests I felt obligated to make sure they caught the fish while I stayed comfortably in my sleeping bag, just proving what a good friend I really am, guys like me are hard to find!!!

JR's Airplane
The fishing slowed down a little on Saturday however we did manage to catch our allotted 12 fish for the day and took 6 of them in to clean and eat.  JR's does a great job as he has a nice cleaning area, you simply filet your walleyes and bring them into the bar where they take them and deep fry along with some French Fries, all for $5.00 each, a bargain.  The people at JR's including JR himself and his son Adam along with everyone else really do a spectacular job.  Heck, they even let me bring in my own corn based fish coating as I am allergic to wheat, and make sure that I get the right fish back.  As well, on Saturday morning my friend Andy Achmann called to see how we were doing.........apparently better than they were.  Asking if I minded if he moved by us....No problem, just stay 100 feet away from everybody.  Andy showed up and joined our little "camp" out on the ice.  The first thing Andy told me was he felt the ice was thicker where we were than his previous spot.  We absolutely had zero issues with the ice thickness, in fact the buoyancy of the ice sheet was excellent as sometimes the weight of the house and truck will cause the ice to bow, causing water to sit on the ice.  At the end of the weekend we each ate 2 meals of walleyes, took home our limit of 4, and probably caught and released 20 more fish.  Personally it wasn't my best trip as I did not catch a fish until Saturday night but it was still a blast being with my friends.  It is always good to see JR as he was flying around the lake to get a handle on the conditions.  Luckily he landed just as we got there and had a chance to talk to him.

Monday and Tuesday was spent in Chicago on business.  Always one to mix business with pleasure, we were able to get to the Bass Pro Shop in Gurnee, Illinois.  Although we have Cabela's there are some things I like about Bass Pro.  It's a pretty large store and has a lot of fishing stuff.  I simply love their Redhead crew socks and buy many pair the same type, it's easier to match them then.  They had a pretty good deal on a 1/4 zip pull over and when I held it up the XL seemed too large and the large seemed just right,  Not the case.  I called them and because Bass Pro bought Cabela's, I can take the pullover back to Cabela's for a refund....interesting.  I did get a couple of little single LED lights like Keith had for charging his glo baits, maybe that's why he caught more walleyes than me!  The next trip looks like it will be after Christmas, unfortunately the cold weather is supposed to arrive at the same time with -12 predicted for the high on Tuesday and -22 for the low.  Uffda is all I can say, other than it will be making ice for sure!!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Red Lake, Here we come

JR's on Red Lake
After much anticipation and juggling of guest, Friday my friends Kevin Aiona and Keith Holtan will be joining me for the first excursion of the year to JR's and Red Lake.  Mark Applen drove his house up on Tuesday night and called with a report last night, the bite was fabulous, he had fished in one of JR's Rentals and did pretty well.  As well here is JR's fishing report from this Wednesday : 12-13-17. Well that time of year is here that we have all been waiting for.... 1/2 ton trucks and single axle houses are good to go
starting tomorrow Thursday. We have some of our sleeper houses still available for this weekend, Friday and Saturday. Please call to book one now as the bite is very strong. As for the ice conditions we are at 12 to 15 inches of ice In the areas we are allowing the traffic, but we are still asking you to use caution and be careful. The trucks will be limited to west to the rockpile and North to 14 feet of water, this depth seems to be very key right now to get on the hot bite.    Mark is going to put his wheel house out on the ice today, as well our mutual friend Russ Praught was heading up this morning and will join Mark out on the ice.                 
2018 GMC 1/2 ton truck.

Last week I indicated that I had been negotiating on a new pickup truck.  Well on Friday I took delivery of a 2018 GMC 1/2 ton Sierra XLT with a heavy duty towing package.  I still need to get a few things put on like the tonneau cover but after only a few days I can see how much nicer this is as it has a 6.2 engine which is bigger than the 5.3 I have had in my other trucks.  The side mirrors are great, they pull out to extend, which will be nice for towing my wheel house.  The mirrors also have a great LED lighting system for backing up as well as they are 2 section and the bottom mirror really gives you visibility along side the truck. The rear has heavy duty springs which are nice but required me to reset all of my reciever hitches as the heights are all hosed up for each of my trailers, especially the Salem Ice Cabin.  It required a 4 inch rise on the hitch but now the receiver is 2 inches higher so it needed to be lowered by 2 inches.  I am sure I will need to redo the one I use for the boat but admittedly this isn't much of a problem.  Another thing I like is the fact that when I have the cell phone bluetoothed to the audio system, when a text message comes in
there is an option to listen to it, which is nice.  The dealer is scrambling to get the tonneau cover on today and stated it might take till tomorrow so we need to give you a rental car.  I told her as long as the rental is a 1/2 or 3/4 ton truck so I can pull my wheel house to Red on Friday morning, trust me, if I go through the ice I'd rather it be your vehicle then mine!  They did not find it very funny and said they would have mine done today!

TX Bourdon
For Christmas my good friend Matt Davis from Texas sent me a bottle of TX Bourbon.  This stuff is super popular and must be really good as the first batch that the distillery released sold out in less than 6 hours.  It is made in Fort Worth, TX and is only available in Texas, as is their other product, TX Blended Whiskey.  Matt tested me as to whether I liked it or not however he was informed that the official opening would only be after I caught my first walleye on Red Lake, it just seemed fitting!  Because my friend Mark Applen is a bourbon fan, I will definitely use the occasion to get his input as to the validity of this product.  Something tells me it's going to be pretty smooth! Besides this, I have some Gluten Free Waffle mix and corn based fish breading, which the cooks at JR's accommodates me very well!  The plan is to have Kevin meet me around 8 AM tomorrow, we will stop at Lundeens to pick up my now needed ice shelter license as well as some minnows.  Head to Brainerd and pick up Kieth before beelining it for Red Lake.  My last fishing trip was in September so I am really looking forward to wetting a line!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Waiting for Ice

Special Ice Lures from JR's
The warm weather has finally left us and we have returned to much better conditions, at normal or below!  With near zero or below temperatures at Red Lake, we should be making at least and inch a day of ice an if it continues we should have enough ice to pull out the wheel houses next week, which would be nice! Last week the topic was the Ice Fishing show in St. Paul and of course one could not leave without buying a few lures to add to the collection.  My friend Keith Holtan was looking for some bubblegum colored jigs with a gold back, the best I could find were these glow Pink/red with gold glitter on the back.  Not exactly what he was looking for however they are dang close!  I have offered him these but he stated he will hold off.  That's OK, when I am slaying them on Red Lake next week with them he will definitely be rethinking his decision!  These lure are made by JR's in Brooklyn Park, MN and are featured across the Midwest.  I drive by their shop every night going home from work and have spent a lot of time talking with it's owner, Duane, regarding the current stat of the wholesale fishing business.  He is quite interesting to talk to as both of us have been to China and share our stories!

Air boat for fishing the shallow saltwater sloughs
We have our annual APEC conference in San Antonio, TX this year in March and I have got my friends fired up to maybe spend the weekend before the conference fishing down along the Texas coast near Corpus Christi.  We have done this a couple of times like last year when the conference was in Tampa, FL or a few years back when it was in Charlotte, NC and we drove to Charleston to fish for sheepshead.  I have fished in Texas a few times with my friend Joe and Matt with the first time fishing out of a high powered air boat like the one pictured here.  This matches the one we fished out of a few years ago, it has a big block GM engine with 2 counter-rotating 8 bladed propellers.  Sitting on the top seat, high up off the water is quite the thrill for sure as being from Minnesota this is an absolute blast and I'll be the first to sign up.  Looks like we can round up three or four guys, at minimum my friends Matt and Joe, staying at a nice resort along the inter-coastal and fish for red fish, black drum, sea trout and flounder.  My assumption is that the resort will cook our fish and there is nothing better than fresh red fish or sea trout with a nice glass of TX Whiskey to wash it down.  I should have more information by next week, it will depend on how many guys we can get lined up.  I might even get the opportunity to bring home some fish.

Brandon's Walleye's
My neighbor Brandon Larson stopped by the house on Thursday night with his newer 2017 GMC 1 ton diesel pickup truck. I am looking at something somewhat similar so we took a ride as he explained he was heading to Red Lake in the morning with a friend.  I asked him to text me a report, which I received a few hours ago.  They have about 12 inches of ice for about a mile out and they pulled their wheelhouse out with an ATV.  Brandon claims that this afternoon they nailed 7 keeper walleyes, most on the rattle reels.  It matches a lot of reports that I have seen today and I am looking forward to talking to him on Monday when he returns.  He is out of Greater Minnesota Rentals which is a few miles East of JR's, our preferred outpost, on the south shore.  I am sure that the ice is better there than by JR's.  As I stated, I have been negotiating on a different pickup truck and should have most of it done by next week.   

Monday, December 4, 2017

Better Late Than Never

Phoenix from the plane
It has been a whirl wind of events in the last 5 days.  Last Wednesday thru Friday was spent in warm Phoenix Arizona for our annual fall TTA meeting at the Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch.  It was very nice there although there was little time to do anything interesting and little water to plan a fishing trip with my friends like previous years.  It was interesting as the weather was somewhat cooler than normal in Scottsdale and back home the weather was warmer than normal however we had a number of interesting speakers and learning sessions.  The most interesting topic came on Friday morning when the gentleman from ITR gave his annual economic forecast and it certainly didn't look good for 2030.  Hopefully I will be retired by then!  Phoenix is quite dry and unless you are on a golf course or irrigated farm land it pretty brown.  Some people claim the bass fishing is quite good in some of the reservoirs however when I travel my intent is to fish for something I cannot catch in my backyard, like last year's Goliath Grouper.  In March we have our annual APEC conference in San Antonio, TX and we were talking about seeing if we can get back to the fish camp in Cameron, Louisiana.  Now that was a fabulous trip and amongst our friends, we all would love to get back there to catch some nice redfish, I guess we will have to see if we can get our friend Joe to set it up again.

Pistol gripped Ice Rod
As stated last week, myself and neighbor Lory headed to the Ice Fishing show on Sunday.  It was packed but is well worth the time and effort to spend it with the various vendors and resorts.  One area that caught my eye was ice fishing in Door County, Wisconsin in March for both large walleyes staging to spawn and also fish whitefish in the deeper waters.  I really enjoy catching tullibee in Mille Lacs, which are technically cisco's, a member of the whitefish family.  Lake whitefish are larger yet share the same traits of following your bait and fighting hard. I'll start thinking about this after the first of the year.  In the meantime I did buy some things for this years upcoming ice fishing season.  First it was an unusual ice rod with a molded handle.  It is an interesting pistol grip which affords you to hold the rod in a more natural position for your hand and arm, thus minimizing the fatigue. It feels really good and I am anxious to catch some Red Lake walleyes with this!  The other thing I bought was a pop up Eskimo insulated portable fish house, I call them hub styles.  My ground blind I use for deer hunting is made the same way, the frame is attached to a center connection point then one simply pops it out to set up.  Years ago I had bought one from Cabela's which included a sled, hand auger, the fish house, a couple of collapsable chairs and a cover for the whole thing for about $150 on clearance. I liked it however it was not built very good and after a couple of years it broke.  I told this to the guy at the show about it and he wanted to take care of me however I suggested that it was a cheap house to begin with.  I like these houses as they are fairly light, can fit inside the back of my truck very easily, big enough for 2 or 3 guys, don't take much to heat, and the quality of the frame systems looks much improved.  They had a lot of dealers selling them at the show however at this late time, no one had the one I wanted in stock.  The Eskimo guy new just what to do for me.  Normally the model I was looking at was $329.  Reeds had it in at the show for $289.  The Eskimo guy brought me to the Cabela's booth where they were simply price matching plus a discount so they signed me up for the same thing for $232, however I needed to pick it up by 7:00 at the store near my house.  Lory and I left the show and headed for the store where they gave me an extra $30 off so I ended up buying it for $202, not a bad deal at all!  I had enough Cabela points so I paid it from there, no cash out of my pocket!  While looking at some stuff my friend Ben Aiona spotted us and said hi.  His dad Kevin, my great friend from Eleva, was on his way up so we hoped we would meet him, eventually we did.  Both Lory and I had a great time, I bought a few things, got to talk to a few guys, including the owner of Vexilar, that was quite interesting.  Tom Zenanko was in the booth and I was telling him that our company was instrumental in getting his Clear Water Classic to market via designing the output transformer that drives the transducer, we ended up making 15,000 before it went to China.  It was a good conversation.

South Shore of Red Lake via JR's, lots of open water!
Well Red Lake has went backwards the last 2 weeks with the warm weather raising chaos with the ice conditions up there.  3 weeks ago it looked like we were in for an early season and I would be dragging my wheel house to JR's this coming weekend.  The opposite happened and the ice conditions deteriorated as the warm weather took it's toll.  Last weekend a young couple drove their ATV into the water and they along with their ATV were eventually found at the bottom of the lake. Sorry but I know things happen however this early in the season, there is no excuse for recklessness.  If you are going to venture on questionable ice at least wear a life jacket and have some ice picks with you.  There is no fish worth dying for.  I will simply leave it at that.  The good news is, after today the temperatures will plunge into the single to below zero range at night with highs in the mid teens during the day..........cold enough to start making an inch a day of good ice.  It is supposed to snow there and that will not help anything yet I predict that by December 16th things will be in full swing as I will haul my wheel house up for that weekend and get ready for the week after Christmas.