Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Time For Mille Lacs

Marcus with a 26.5 inch walleye
With the success of my friend Ben Aiona on Mille Lacs last week, it was time to head on up and try our luck.  My friend Greg "Bone collector" Kimblom and his 17 year old son Marcus were guests on the boat last Sunday.  Meeting at Cabela's was easy, it's on the way for me and very convenient for them as they drove up from Elk Mound, Wisconsin.  Marcus fishes in his high school fishing club and had never been to Mille Lacs, so the pressure was on!  The largest walleye he had ever caught was 17 inches, a number that I assured him we could beat.  A quick drive through for coffee at McDonalds before we headed north.  On the way we stopped for gas then onto Lundeen's for bait, licenses, and time for me to fix Bill's line counter, which took alot more thinking than one should have to do on a Sunday morning.........oh well, it's fixed.  Also I picked up my 4 bladed stainless steel prop that Ben dropped off last week.  Bill has a guy that makes the rounds picking up props, repairing them, and dropping them back off at his shop.  He does an excellent job and it looks like new again.  Even though it wasn't that bad, I am not interested in saving $200 and later watching my lower unit go bad.  Picking up crawlers and leeches, we headed to the landing, loaded up everything and motored to a spot on Sherman's Flat called the cut.  We had about a 15 MPH wind right out of the southwest and to be honest, I am not a big fan of my new wheel boat on Mille Lacs as having tiller boats for the last 35 years, admittedly I had a process.  That process has really changed and part of the problem is that I haven't fish Mille Lacs very much since being spoiled by Lac Seul, which the fishing suits my boat better.  I am getting better and  I suppose it wouldn't hurt to practice more often!  Oh well.  With the southwest wind it set up the perfect drift up the edge of the flat.  Using the trolling motor, we would edge the boat just off the flat then the wind would blow us back on the top of the flat at a gradual angle.  It wasn't back trolling but close!  We managed to get 2 walleyes off the cut before heading out to 7 Mile Flat which was suppose to be the hot spot.  We did manage another fish their however it wasn't on fire like all the reports.  Next stop was 9 mile flat where the same strategy as on the cut was implemented,  let the wind push you up the east edge as one used the trolling motor to adjust the depth and drift.  Interesting, we approached the south end of  9 mile, there was a larger Skeeter boat putting up his Bimini Top, I suppose we got within 25 feet of him.  His first words were..he didn't know this was the hot spot!  I simply asked him what direction was he heading, up the east side or West side.  With a confirmation that it was the west side, I assured him our paths will never cross!  Never the less that was slow as well.

Hey Greg, Some say I look goofy!
Next stop was 5 mile gravel, maybe they are on the gravel........ ended up at 3 Mile Reef first so we casted for smallies with zero luck before we headed more south.   5 mile gravel had fish on it but nothing was very cooperative.  With 2 more places in mind so we headed directly to the Southwest corner of the lake where the water was significantly calmer then gave the boat controls to Marcus.  Without hesitation he took the wheel and we headed up the shoreline to what I call Eddy's Reef. Admittedly it was fun to let a 17 year old drive the Ranger with a 250 hp motor, something he has never experienced.  He did a fabulous job of handling the boat and getting us to our next destination both in a timely fashion as well, we survived the trip!  Setting the Motorguide I5 as an anchor, we rigged up 3 slip bobber rigs and before long Marcus was holding his largest walleye ever, a 26.5 incher as shown in the first picture.  the fish bite soon after we got settled in yet this was our only fish, uffda.  Next taking a clue from Ben Aiona's report of last week, we finished the day bobber fishing off Indian Point.  I know we were a little early so I went a little deeper yet by 6:30 we were done as these boys had to go back to Elk Mound later in the evening.  It wasn't the best trip for catching however we did have a good time and Marcus got to see how we did it on the big lake.  The fish we got were pretty nice and after stopping to see Bill, we had dinner at Chico's just south of Onamia, a nice place to unwind after a day for hard fishing.  It was hot and windy, how is that for an excuse???  It was still nice on the lake but amazingly hot on shore.  We did run across 2 large dead floating walleyes, and a real nice tullibee, the water temperature was pretty warm. 

I use only Turn Turn baitholder hooks on my crawler rigs as the walleyes tend to hook themselves rather than having to let them take the bait and often swallow it.  Greg (pictured above in the goofy hat) is an interesting guy.  He works for a company that harvests bone, veins, and various other tissues from those who have Donor designations.  Often time people don't realize how important his work is and how one in death can make a huge difference to someone who needs these "parts".  I am always amazed at his courage and dedication to his job and what he does for all of us.  I am working on getting the Jon boat out to start fishing the river soon.  My future events include a day at the EAA in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, my good friend Bruce and another pilot friend have invited me to ride along for a day as we fly there in the morning and back in the evening.  I've already got my ticket and am looking forward to it as they have a squadron of C47 aircraft there, the same airplaine my dad flew in 1948 while he was stationed in Panama as he joined the newly formed United States Air Force.  August 3rd I head back up to the Northwest side of Lac Seul and fish with my cousin Paul, Brother Steve, Mike Worms, and the Joyce clan.  This is my longest trip of the year and I am looking forward to it again!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

4th of July Rememberance

My Good Friend, The Late Tom Emmons
My apologies however this 4th of July has got me missing my good friend Tom Emmons as this was our traditional fishing day, we usually went out every 4th of July to Mille Lacs for the day and sometimes we'd stay till dark to watch the Garrison Fireworks from the boat.  I know that this is a repeat post but sometime keeping memories alive is more important!  Tom was the perfect friend, a big mass of a person that would give you his shirt off his back if he could.  He loved going to Mille Lacs with our friend Tom McAtee and myself, the 4th of July was always good for fishing the flats with crawlers and spinner rigs.  We always good some nice fish and as stated, it became a tradition anyway so the date was automatically put in our calendars.  Tom was a Viet Nam era veteran and although did not serve in Viet  Nam, he was a dog handler/guard in the Army and was in charge of guarding the USA's nerve gas stores in Okinawa.  Military life was not too bad for Tom however it did change him for the rest of his life, unfortunately.  In the end Tom was dependent and despondent, and eventually ended his time on Earth way to early.  So I sat down on Tuesday wishing something that can never be again, Tom was going to show up tomorrow and we'd head out for our annual July 4th trip to Mille Lacs.  Instead the boat sat in the pole shed, waiting to hooked up and pulled somewhere.  I guess when you get something in your head what simply cannot be, it takes some of the wind out of your sails.  One can simply be lucky to have memories as none of us can change the past.  Anyway, to you Mr. Emmons, I miss you tremendously. 

So someone did some fishing this weekend as I still am getting caught up with my chores around the
Ben and His Son Jared.
house from being gone in Canada last month.  My good friend Kevin Aiona's son, Ben called me about Mille Lacs Lake.  The fish have really been biting and he wanted to go on up to try his luck.  Last year Ben bought a Ranger 618T with a 90 hp Merc tiller and after being in aluminum all his life, I know he's enjoying the advantages that fiberglass has on bigger water.  The fish Devils Lake alot however that is quite a ways for them, so Ben, his wife Heather, and their son Jared ended up at Eddy's resort.  They stopped by my work on the way up as I gave him my detailed map chip for his Lowrance, as well my prop was a little bit dinged up from the trip to Wapesi last month, so I had him drop it off at Lundeen's to get fixed, he has a guy that picks them up and does a nice job for quite a bit less than the prop shops in the cities charge.  I gave all of my hot spots to Ben however his complaint was they were only getting smaller fish, the 15 - 20 inch walleyes (The enormous 2013 year class).  Despite my advice, they were not getting any larger fish.  Finally on Monday and after it rained, Ben Figured it out.  He is a dang good fisherman and can generally figure out where the fish are.  Not being a regular, I applaud him for finally finding some better fish up to 28 inches. 

My plans are to head to the lake on Sunday and fish with Greg and his son Marcus.  It will be my first trip to Mille Lacs this year, hardly believable yet with 3 days of fishing on Leech then another 6 at Lac Seul this year, I have gotten my normal time of fishing in however they tend to be concentrated more.  Admittedly my boat control techniques with the wheel boat still need some refining but as they say, practice makes perfect!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Back From Lac Seul, Part 2.

Nice 24 inch Canadian Walleye
Because our trips to Lac Seul usually run 3 days then upon return it's usually a weekend to get caught up, and there is usually a lot of things to post about, I tend to take advantage and stretch it into 2 weeks.  It is interesting, before going to Lac Seul I would have at least 4 trips to Mille Lacs by now yet I am still waiting for the opportunity to get there as the reports are the bite has been short of phenomenal, maybe next weekend as there is a family get together this weekend that will put a damper on my ambitions to get to Mille Lacs.  So I did catch some fish the previous weekend.  As stated last week, the numbers were not there yet I was still impressed by the numbers of larger fish over 22 inches, clearly over 50% of our walleye's caught, including the one pictured here!  Usually we stop at the Ojibwa Baits in Sioux lookout and I buy 3 or 4 dozen large minnows specifically for these big fish.  Not that the minnows in camp are sub-par, but it's nice to have a few larger minnows to attract the larger fish.  The group ended up fishing Wapesi again on the second day as Bruce decided to do a shore lunch for our 10 year old guest, Alex.  Shore lunch is always a group event, I clean the fish, a fire needs to be built, potatoes and beans are cooked first before the old cast iron frying pan is filled with oil and put directly on the fire. We found a nice sandy area where I could park my boat without worry of scratching the bottom on the rocks.  While cleaning the walleyes I noticed a leech had attached to a sore on my foot and was having its own "shore lunch"  Leeches, especially the blood sucking kind, are opportunists and with a sore, blood vessels are just a bit away as they somehow have an analgesic effect where one doesn't feel them bite then secondly they inject and anticoagulant so as to keep the blood flowing as they feed.  I didn't take a picture unfortunately, but it did remind me of my late brother Jon, who had a tissue transplant on his face due to the horrible disease he suffered with.  In the hospital the doctors
Bruce Cooking Shore Lunch
would put on special blood sucking leeches that were bred specifically for this function.  The nurse came in and using sugar water set a leech on his cheek to entice them to bite.  Once attached to his skin, they would inject the anticoagulant into his tissue and start sucking blood.  The would literally gorge themselves and become 6 or 8 times their original size.  What this did was promote the proper blood flow into his transplanted tissue as they did this a number of times during the day.  It worked and Jon was able to have some sense of a new cheek.  When I removed the leech from my foot the sore bled for a good 10 minutes before it stopped.  I guess we all have to eat!  Well, Bruce's shore lunch was delicious as always and both Alex and his dad had a great experience.  It took about an hour before we cleaned up our mess, put everything in the "Shore lunch" box, then made triple sure the fire was put out before heading back to fish.  It was kind of nice as everyone was quite full wen getting back to the cabin so no one had to make supper that night!

Two Handsome Guys!
One of my favorite things is to meet people, especially those who have something in common with myself or a situation.  My good friend Keith Holtan, Alaskan Guide, has cabins on the Kenai River near Soldotna, and every time we tried to rent from him in August, he was already booked with a man from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Gary Blinn.  This happened for a couple of trips then one year Gary took Keith to Lac Seul Outposts with him and his crew, as Keith had worked out the time to fish with him.  Well, Keith informed me that Gary would be in Camp the same days that I would be so it turned into a goal, to go and introduce myself to Gary.  Talking to Ken, the owner of Lac Seul Outpost, and asking him which cabin Gary was in, he said Cabin 6.  And oh by the way, Gary is a great guy, you'll like him.  Well those words echoed Keith's same thoughts so I knocked on the door and introduced myself.  It was a great first meeting as I started by giving him crap for renting Keith's place when we were there! Actually not a big deal as we shared some home made core hush puppies he had made, absolutely fabulous.  Not wanting to over play my self invite, we talked about things we had in common and I promised I'd return on Tuesday night with a bottle of good Red wine and a steak that I cook every trip.  Of course I kept that promise, he enjoyed the steak and wine, and it fulfilled a desire to meet this famous man that graces a number of people I know.  We had a great time and his guest were also pretty interesting, all in the medical fields in or near Chattanooga.  One actually was very good at playing the guitar and sung pretty well.  I challenged Gary to bring himself and some of his friends to experience ice fishing this winter at JR's on Red Lake.  We'll get some houses and stay on the ice, these southern boys will be in for an experience of a lifetime, at least for them!  It is an even year on the Kenai and Gary will be at Keith's again so I told him to add to the pressure, they can fly into MSP, I'll pick them up and away we go north, first to Brainerd to pick up Keith then on to JR's, I know they would have a blast!

As stated, I have to get to Mille Lacs soon before the bite slows down.  Next week is the 4th of July and for years I fished with my good friend Tom Emmons and Tom McAtee on this day.  It's a great time to remember him.  The 4th is on a Wednesday and the plan is to go to Eau Claire and have a catfish fry, sounds good to me!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Back From Lac Seul, Part 1

Bruce with a nice walleye
Our second trip to Lac Seul this year came about a week early. Water levels were about a foot higher than in May, so we cruised through the rags without an issue however fishing was considerably different than a month ago.  My good friend Paul Wenaas was on his way back from Lac Seul the morning we left and was fortunate to have him call us when he arrived at International Falls, MN and we were in Cloquet, MN.  The report..........slow, little wind and cloud cover made for difficult fishing and their best day was their last day when it clouded over and the wind picked up.  The other thing Paul talked about was the difficulty in trying to figure out the best dept for the fish.  He felt their best success was in the 8 - 15 foot of water, pretty shallow for this time of year.  I guess the late spring has messed things up somewhat.  On this trip we had our host Bruce along with his son Michael and their guests Dave and his 10 year old son Alex.  Dave does some work for Michael and Bruce so was invited up.  Then of course their was Pete and myself.  Our plan was to get up at a reasonable hour on Saturday morning, drive to Sioux Lookout and meet Bruce, who was planning on flying his Cessna 182 to the Sioux Lookout Airport and we would pick him up and he could ride into camp with us.  Well the weather proved interesting and although it would only take about 2 hours and 40 minutes to fly from Crystal Airport to Sioux Lookout, there were thunderstorms from the Twin Cities all the way to Lac Seul.  Luckily there was a window of opportunity between fronts and he successfully slipped between them.  In the meantime Pete and I were trying to judge the right timing as we spent at least 40 minutes in line to cross into Canada at International Falls.  Tasked with buying groceries we spent a half hour at the Safeway in Dryden before deciding to have something for lunch.  Although the skies looked fine above us, the horizons all around us looked dark and intimidating.  Arriving at Sioux Lookout we stopped at the bait store that our Camp is headquartered to get a few things, the owner Vicki asked if we were going to camp and if we could bring some minnows to camp, which we have done many times.  She needed about 45 minutes so we decided to head to the airport, about 5 miles away and wait for Bruce.  Parking the boat next to the fence where Bruce parked his plane the last time, Pete went in to check and see if anyone had an ETA for Bruce's arrival.  Sure enough the guy stated, "Just talked to him, he'll be here in less than 10 minutes!"  Absolutely amazing timing, drive 11 hours, stop for gas, food, delayed at the border, and come within 10 minutes of meeting him, Pretty good if you ask me!  Bruce landed and he tied down his plane while we transferred his stuff to the truck and in 20 minutes we were back at the Ojibwa Baits to pick up the minnows for camp as well as some for ourselves, as I tend to like to have some larger minnows for the big walleyes!

A Beaver Stopped by to See Our Fish Catching Techniques
At the landing Bruce finally got to spend some time in my boat.  Actually he fished with Pete and I the entire time while Michael had Dave and Alex in Bruce's boat.  I'm sure it was interesting for him, as it is when I fish with someone in their boat.  One get's used to being in control and when you are sitting on the passenger side, you can only offer an opinion and hopefully it's a good one!  Never the less on our first day of fishing, Sunday, the weather was overcast and enough wind to keep it interesting.  One of Bruce's favorite spots was Wapesi Bay, northwest of camp.  We did alright but as Paul stated, it was somewhat difficult to nail down exactly what depth the fish were at, especially when the water temperature was already in the lower 70's.We did get a number of nice fish including the one Bruce is holding in the top picture.  I would not say the fish were exceptionally fat but like a month ago, a good proportion of the walleyes we caught were over the 22 inch length.  After fishing our typical hot spots in Wapesi we headed for the area in which the Wapesi River flows into the lake.  The river cascades down a sizable rapids before entering the lake and it creates about a 100 yard stretch of current that was full of walleyes and a few northerns.  Because of the current it was quite easy to catch them on plastic as more of the fish are grabbing anything that looks like it could be eaten as it passes by in the current.  It is one of my favorite ways to catch fish, keep the bait moving and off the bottom and smash, one never knows what's at the end of your line.  I am still waiting for additional pictures to be sent to me!  Fishing the Wapesi River got our boat count up to 77 walleyes for the day, a far cry from the 158 we caught in one day a month ago, it was still fun and provided enough action to keep things interesting for sure.  The above picture was a very large beaver that swam across the river behind us.  As it sat near the shore, and between the 2 dead tree stumps in the water, I quickly took this picture, pretty interesting. 

We again saw a few bears on this trip, one by the road on the way up and one on the shore just a quarter mile north of camp, which isn't usually a good thing for the bear.  Unfortunately I'll finish that story next week.  The lawn needed cutting real bad and the garden needs to be worked on this week, the boat is a mess, never any rest for the wicked!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Not Much to Report.

Jared with 2 of their walleyes
With the late spring and fishing 2 weekends in May, (trust me, not complaining) the things that need to get done around the house are never ending.  One of the biggest thing has been the garden, and I am not quite sure how important is it other than it's something to fill up that big brown area behind the house.  Dad was a good gardener yet even he cut back somewhat as he got older, something that should probably be taken to heart!  Never the less I got the onions in a couple of weeks ago however just got everything in by Sunday.  What really exciting happened is my good friend Kevin Aiona's son Ben and his grandson Jarred entered the Spirit Lake Walleye Classic tournament this weekend at the Spirit Lake Casino on Devil's Lake, North Dakota.  Ben and Jared are pretty good fishermen and with Ben's new Ranger boat with a fancy new to him Lowrance HDS 12, it is good to see them put all that equipment to good use!  Kevin, Ben, and their families usually go out to Devil's Lake this time of year and fish.  Knowing that the tournament is during the same time they decided to enter.  Tournament fishing is not as easy as it sounds.  You are fishing for money, recognition, and your own self pride.  It is fun but there is a lot of pressure on a number of areas, did you use the right bait, techniques, did we go to the wrong area, where is everyone else catching fish? Mark Applen and I definitely understand as we have fished the MTT walleye tournament on Mille Lacs a couple of times with our first rookie year capturing 3rd place for $1200.  Well Ben and Jared didn't do too bad at all coming in at 5th place with a $2000 prize.  That's pretty exciting, and to hear that they were just 0.04 pounds behind 4th place, Ben exclaimed that in the livewell one of the fish coughed out a 8 inch perch, that perch was probably worth a $1000 and 4th place.  Also he said that they had a nice 27 inch sized fish come off at the boat, uffda!! Oh well, I am sure it was a blast for Jared, something he'll remember for the rest of his life.  For what it's worth, Mark Applen had his Golf Tournament this weekend and his neighbor at the lake once again donated a spot on the Minnesota Tournament Trail for Mille Lacs next year.  Of course we bought it and will be back on the walleye circuit soon!
Jared and a nice Devil's Lake Walleye

Jared is quite the fisherman for his age.  Just like his dad Ben, who is was just a few months old when he was in the boat with his dad, sitting on the floor in a Infant carrier....wait, that was my boat below the dam in Alma!!! Ben sent me this picture from Monday of a nice walleye he just caught.  It's really nice to see a young man like Jared acquiring the skills needed to help guide me when I will be too old and feeble!! On a died note we are getting ready to leave for Lac Seul this Saturday.  Upon the return of my last trip, there was a steel leader and mono-filament line wrapped around the prop shaft, under the prop.  Removing the prop and getting it untangled went smoothly however it would probably a good idea to check the lower unit grease level, even though there appeared to be no leaks.  One checks the level in the engine compartment as the lower unit is vented to a small tank mounted in the compartment and serves as an expansion reservoir for the lower unit.  Basically when running the grease gets hot then expands.  by having a hose come to the compartment, any expansion fills the plastic cylinder and when it cools it get's put back in, similar to today's radiators.  Well, checking it there was absolutely no grease apparent so I am immediately thinking, OH OH, did it all leak out via the seal?  The Evinrude Etec G2 lower unit does not have any traditional lower unit drain/fill screws, rather you simply remove a screen for the water intake and the fill hole is under it.   Interesting as it is not on the bottom of the gear case like most are, rather in the front, therefore you need to tilt it up to drain out the remaining grease.  Luckily there was at least 1.5 quarts of grease that came out, so that was a relief!  I have used Amsoil lower gear lube in the past with excellent results however this time it was replace with Evinrude's own HPF PRO Gear Lube, as the motor is still under warranty, it was worth the few extra dollars to keep it to factory specs.  I have an old pump up sprayer device made specifically for dispensing lower unit grease, just pour into the sprayer, twist the top pump assembly on and pump it up to pressurize the tank.  The hose end has a rubber adapter that fits and seals into the fill hole and you just squeeze the valve as you hold it tight.  I watched it finally hit the reservoir and fill up to the proper level.  It was easy and convenient and we will be looking for any changes when we get back from Lac Seul next week to see if the prop shaft seal was damaged.  there are no leaks now and usually if they will leak, they leak!!  This trip will be an experiment by putting the original 22 pitch prop on the motor to see if it improves my gas mileage.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Lac Seul Opener, part 2.

30 inch Walleye
Admittedly it was hard having to wait a full week before the highlight of our trip to Lac Seul for the 2018 walleye fishing opener was written about but here goes!  On most walleye fisherman's bucket list is to accomplish the holy grail of fishing walleyes, a 30 incher!  Now admittedly if one lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Port Clinton, Ohio, or on the Columbia River in Washington State, this may not be such a revered goal, however for us guys stuck in the bowels of Minnesota, a 30 incher is a fish of a lifetime.  Walleye fishing for over 40 years now in Minnesota, the closest fish that I have ever come was a 28.5 inch walleye caught a in the late 1980's on Mille Lacs.  Two years ago in June, Bruce's father-in-law landed a 30 incher in my boat fishing Tuk Bay, that was a nice fish, but it wasn't on my line.  This year with Pete, RJ, and myself in the boat we were fishing on Monday, May 21st, our last day of fishing for this trip.  The fish were really on the bite and on that last day our total fish count for the day, not including northern pike, was 158 walleyes caught.  The total time fished was 7 hours and if you do the quick math it comes to a walleye caught every 2.65 minutes, all day including running time in the boat!  We were on the point just north of camp and the walleyes were stacked in the 10 - 11 foot range.  We typically use what I call the Canadian method of impaling our minnow on the jig, simply run the hood through the mouth and out the gills then rotate the hook around and stick the point through the top of the minnow, just behind the head.  The fish are so aggressive that if you simply hook the minnow through the lips, you will end up losing many fish and wasting minnows.  With the Canadian method, one can often catch 2 or 3 fish on one minnow before it needs to be replaces.  Well, I had caught a number  of fish on a minnow when it finally was about to separate into two parts, the head still on the hook, then the body.  Simply discarding the head, the remaining body was threaded on my jig, basically just a piece of meat on the hook.  Dropping it beside the boat, it hit the bottom, reeling in the slack and bam, a nice fish hit the jig.  Setting the hook revealed that there was something substantial at the end of the line.  A few head
Right on the 30 Inch Line!
shakes later Pete was summoned, get the net, this one is a dandy!  One often doesn't get a real idea until the fish is visible next to the boat, UFFDA, this was the largest walleye ever to grace the end of my line.  Carefully instructing Pete....Head first, Head first, he slipped the net under the fish and hauled her in.  She was hooked solid, so we removed the hook, took a few pictures and measured her.  Exactly on the 30 inch line with the tail squished together, that was good enough for me and we let her go.  She swam right away and I believe that she was in pretty good shape.  Her estimated weight was around 10 - 11 pounds and of course she was recently spawned out to a month from now she might have been a pound or two heavier, never the less a beautiful fish.  I don't know if I'll get a graphite reproduction of the fish or not but at over $15/inch it will take some thought.

Sunday's beautiful Sunset
So the 2108 Canadian Fishing Opener at Lac Seul Outposts is in the history books and according to Bruce it probably was the best he's ever witnessed in the 30 years they have been coming up to camp.  The fish totals for the Ranger and it's 3 occupants were 145 on Saturday, 101 on Sunday, and 158 on Monday, a total of 404 walleyes caught.  What was impressive was the total number of walleyes over 20 inches, I would say that over half of them we caught were over 20 and half of them were over 22 inches.  That is an impressive total of nice walleyes.  We did extremely well on plastics as the fish were quite aggressive.  The ride in on Friday was absolutely terrible as we got soaked however the next 4 days were beautiful, with an accompanying gorgeous sunset to finish each of the days.  One of the things I like to do is stop in at the bait shop and buy some large minnows.  It really paid off this year as the big fish loved the big minnows.  Unfortunately the bait well in the boat drained out and many of our big minnows had died on Saturday night.  It really didn't seem to matter much as the walleyes hit those as easily as if they were alive, so we cleaned them out nicely.

One of the issues was having to park my boat on the sand beach next to Bruce's boat.  One of the things that was installed on my boat from the factory was a keel guard, meant for just this.  Everything turned out OK as we were able to plug it in each night and as well, RJ was a master of tying knots and did an awesome job of securing everything in place.  It was a pain to get in the boat with getting sand in it and backing off the sand bar was challenging as there were scour holes from previous outboards trying to push their boats higher, and or trying to back off the sand.  The Ranger is pretty heavy and really doesn't move that much so it did take some addition persuasion from RJ and Pete.  So what do we do for an encore?  The fish are biting on Mille Lacs and the Smallies are just coming off their spawn so that will more than likely be the next adventure.  We are so far behind at home, the garden still needs to be planted, trees need to be moved, mowing needs to be done.  We were at my niece's daughter's graduation last weekend so not much got done this last weekend either.  Honestly it was too hot anyway as Memorial Day hit 100 degrees, almost too hot to fish!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

2018 Ontario Opener at Lac Seul, Absolutely Incredible! Part 1

Pete With a Nice Walleye
the 2018 Minnesota and Ontario Canada fishing openers are now in the history books and what a difference a week and 350 miles can make!  As the last few years, the week after Minnesota Fishing Opener is the Ontario Fishing Opener and once again I was fortunate enough to be the guest of my friend Bruce Wiley at Lac Seul Outpost located in the Chamberlain Narrows area of beautiful Lac Seul, northeast of Sioux Lookout, Ontario.  Our other guests included Pete, Wayne, Tom, Chip, and Bruce's son RJ.  The drive is 460 miles form home and by the time you stop for gas, breakfast, crossing the border and buying groceries in Dryden, getting the boat launch it's about 12 hours plus at least another hour or so to get into camp. The forecast for Sioux Lookout said rain between 6 and midnight and upon arriving at the bait shop to get our parking passes it had already started to sprinkle.  I figured we could get into camp by 6 but that didn't seem to work very well.  By the time we go to the Deception Bay boat landing it had started to rain pretty good.  Luckily last year I had a Bimini Top made for the boat and although it helped to keep us somewhat dry, with the wind and rain coming down pretty hard, it was difficult to keep anything dry during the 34 mile boat ride into camp.  Figuring it would be uncomfortable but a lot drier than what it really was, it would have been smart to put on my rain suit, lesson learned on that deal.  Taking over an hour and 45 minutes, we finally arrived at camp just as the rain lightened up somewhat.  Being  all quite soaked, and after hanging our clothes to dry, it was time for a well deserved cocktail while Chip made pork tenderloins.  A warm meal in our belly's, a relaxing couple hours reminiscing about the wet ride into camp it was time to snuggle into the warm sleeping bags, getting ready for the walleye fishing opener the next morning!

Saturday's Fish Total
The next morning proved to that in camp, if you don't like the weather just wait a day, the clouds were intertwined with blue skies with the promise of a better weekend in store.  After a great breakfast of scrambled eggs, blueberry sausage, and toast the first stop was directly across camp where Bruce, Tom, Wayne, and Chip were anchored.  With Pete and RJ in the Ranger we headed over only to see that Bruce was anchored.  Apparently there was a problem with his battery system for the trolling motor and his anchoring system and we could not fix fix it for this trip.  I'm sure he missed it yet Wayne did a fabulous job of being his anchor boy for the trip.  After catching a number of smaller walleyes in the channel we moved up to the corner and fished the 10 foot break area and the walleyes were on fire.  At the bait shop in town, we picked up 3 dozen Large Rainbow minnows and did the big walleyes love them.  Catching 3 and sometimes 4 walleyes on a single minnow, there were times when we all had a fish on at the same time.  What was really a bonus was the amount of walleyes over 22 inches, over 50% of our catch.  As you see in the first picture, each one of us caught a number of nice walleyes like this. Still had plenty of fish for dinner that night yet it was astounding the amount of nice walleyes that were landed.  Putting a counter on the dash of the boat, a simple click kept track of our total catch and as you can see by the picture above, Saturday's total landed in the boat was 145 walleyes!  That was a new record for the boat and quite an impressive one at that!  Our fishing time usually ends around 5:00 and although the day turned out pretty nice, it still was a little chilly.   With Day one under our hats, it would be exciting to see what the next few days would bring.

This year my boat was forced to be basically beached up on the sandy shore for the night.  Although not my preferred spot, never the less it would have to do.  RJ did a great job making sure it was tied up securely while Pete got the electrical extension cords ran so we would be fully charged up the next day.  Hating sand in the boat, admittedly it was a challenge to jump in off the beach, wash one's shoes off then struggle to free the boat from it's overnight resting place.   Luckily there was enough dock space by the time we departed in the morning for everyone to properly wash the sand off their shoes before entering.   My guest realize that I am pretty anal about my boat however it's pretty nice to fish out of when on the water.  As tempting as it is to make this post longer, you will have to wait until next week to hear about my biggest walleye I have ever caught, finally a 30 incher!!!                                                                             

Thursday, May 17, 2018

2018 Leech Lake Opener, In the Books

Biggest Fish Award!
Along with a lot of things going on in my life, the late spring has set back my schedule something fierce!  The ice finally went off of Leech Lake on Wednesday, May 9th, just in time for our 45th Annual Leech Lake Fishing Tournament.  This year was again a full house with 22 of us fishing the Minnesota Fishing Opener.  Without a doubt we struggled this year with almost bluebird conditions all 3 days and no wind, our group caught only 90 walleyes for the entire 3 days.  Last year we caught the same however we did manage to keep 42 fish that met the slot we impose, 12 inches to 20 inches.  This years keeper count was about half that, with only 22 fish kept.  Enough for a fish fry and only a few guys brought home fish.  Because of late ice out in most of the large lakes where shiner minnows are trapped for bait, essentially they were either not available and if they were, they became very expensive whereas one bait shop between Mille Lac Lake and Milaca, MN was selling them for $14.99/dozen.....uffda.  We loaded up on Fatheads this year yet most of our guys prefer shiners and bought them where they could. Saturday morning was our first session and it was pretty slow.  Only a few fish we caught between all of us, quite disappointing.  One group came into the resort with 3 limits of keepers, supposedly caught in Steamboat Bay, a shallow weedy bay, pitching jigs in 4 feet of water.  We knew that the fish would be shallow but pitching jigs in the weeds, it would have been better if one knew exactly where.  My boat actually tried Steamboat but with little luck.  There are channels where walleyes congregate, but apparently not this year. With evening quickly approaching, we went in and had supper before going out again.  The evening wasn't much better yet the thought of trolling number 5 shad raps in less than 6 feet of water seemed intriguing.  Some of our guys were catching a few walleyes on Ottertail Point,  yet this is a great area for evening trolling.  Setting up my crew we started trolling the east shoreline, long lining our Shad Raps till the bumped the bottom.  Just as it got dark something nice hit my lure and after reeling it in, the walleye measured 26.25 inches, a pretty nice fish.  We got another nice fish over 20 but they were the only 2 for the day.  Adam Mayerich was at Ottertail when the lunker was caught, while we headed back to the cabin he stopped at Pine Point on the way back and also caught a 26.25 inch walleye.  Because mine was caught first, my name was entered as in first place while he took second with the same sized fish.  Surprisingly that fish held till we were done on Monday night and I once again took the big fish honors for the trip! 

Beautiful Sunset on Ottertail Point.
 The weather was extremely nice for all three days of the Team Walleye event.  One has to love the Leech Lake sunsets and Saturday night was no exception.  With the sky on fire, you can see in the picture the tip of Ottertail Point on the right, the sunset is on fire with its reflection on the calm water.  There even appears to be a face looking down on us, maybe it's the Good Lord making sure all of us were safe!  Either way they are beautiful and definitely worth seeing.  Sunday was a bust as well as we tried everything, even Sucker Bay!  By Monday night and the only thing going for me was the largest fish prize, Jay and Henry, a couple of guys older than me asked to go with me.  It was great to have them in my boat as my strategy was changing.  For the last night we would fish Stoney Point and end the evening trolling Shad raps along the shoreline across from Brindley's Harbor, our host for the weekend.  We did get a few bites drifting Stoney Point but failed to capitalize on any of them.  When a boat with 4 guys chose to anchor right where we were drifting through, it was time to go to plan B, troll the shoreline.  Neither Jay or Henry had adequate trolling rods or Shad Raps, yet I was ready and rigged them up each with a good baitcaster with heavy pound line (15 lb test) so as not to lose my baits if we got snagged, that worked pretty good as no baits were lost!  We trolled at least a half mile before we hit Little Stoney Point, went around the corner and bang, a walleye hit!  After netting the walleye, it was under 20 inches and eligible for keeping.  5 minutes later we hit another walleye...25.5 inches, another  nice one.  We finally found our sweet spot trolling the west side of Little Stoney, ended up with 4 walleyes, 2 keepers, and had 3 additional fish on before they got off, which was quite good. at 10:30 we stopped to go back and enjoy our final night at camp.  It started slow but ended with quite a bang!

Ben's nice Smallie
Fishing was definitely tough.  With the water so clear and the walleyes "up shallow" we probably don't have the technique needed to look beyond what makes sense.  One good thing that came out of this was finally getting to use my 9.9 hp kicker motor effectively.  It really had been a pain during the past 3 years, didn't run right and steering was connected to the main motor which had to be running to take advantage of the power steering.  I finally had Frankie's install an I Troll Speed Controller for the Kicker as well as a Panther wireless steering unit.  They cleaned the carburetor  and did something to the jets, and this year it started right up and it took about 5 minutes to become proficient in operating the kicker motor such that it was very effective.  We had our moments but for the first time since I have had the boat that it felt as though the trolling function was in full control and worked beautifully.  Admittedly I am anxious to try this on Mille Lacs.  Sunday afternoon Ben Taylor was with me as it was decided to go out to Submarine Island to check it out.  While I threw a crankbait, Ben threw a plastic swim bait and did quite well on it.  Here he's holding an 18 inch smallie, a very nice fish, especially on Leech, which to be honest, I do not recall ever catching a smallmouth bass there.  Friday morning is our time to leave for Lac Seul and fishing opener there.  Apparently all the ice is out however the Rags, a shallow area that cuts off about 3 miles is still too shallow to get through so we'll have to go around.  It's quite easy to fish shallow on Lac Seul as the water is quite stained and about 18 inches is the max one can see down.  Here's hoping the Canadian Opener will be much more successful in the catching department, I remain optimistic!


Friday, May 4, 2018

Getting Ready for Fishing Opener

My New Weld Job on my Trailer Step
With the late spring and my previous trips to Texas, fishing opener is rushing upon us at lightening speed.  Add on top of this that the ice has not officially off of Leech Lake, things are moving fast and thankfully the weather is cooperating very well, I think things although will not be normal, will be just fine.  In fact looking back some of our best fishing it occurred when the ice went out later, in fact on of the best years in the history of Team Walleye was when there was ice on the lake until the Monday after the Saturday opener.  Never the less there is a lot of things to do before next Friday.  The boat needs to be cleaned up, all my electronics needs to be reinstalled, rods, tackle and needed equipment needs to be put away, and as you see to the picture on the left, my trailer step on the winch tower on my boat trailer actually broke the weld off after installing my Eazy Steps.  These steps are the real deal as getting older they become a real advantage and anything that makes it easier to function, I am all for it.  Unfortunately the setup was less than ideal so I asked my friend Bruce Wiley to help me fix the problem.  The other day we took my baby out of his storage and over to his shop where he fixed the broken weld on the step, and in addition welded in a triangular bracket to really shore up the mechanical strength of that step.  After mounting the step to the  post and in order to secure it, the plate needed a hole drilled through to accommodate the bolt which secures the step.  Thinking it would be easy,  the hole had to be drilled right through the weld material.........uffda! Confirming to Bruce my success in the challenge of drilling through his weld and his comment, well it was 7018 Rod, 70,000# tensile strength, You're not playing with kids here!!!  One thing about Bruce, you will never be given a half quality job, it's the best or nothing!  The drill did get through the weld but may need re-sharping, and I could gain another 70 pounds and still be good, at least for that step.   One is very lucky to have friends like Bruce to count on but as usual, there is a lot more work to now be done, the bare metal needs to be coated and cleaned up for sure.  At least that should never be a problem again!

Sky on Fire Last Night
The other disadvantage of the late spring is all the yard and garden work needs to get done.  The apple trees are trimmed but the raspberries still needs work.  Stopping at another friends house, Ricky,  we hooked up his tiller onto his Kubota tractor and is ready to till the garden this week. It really takes the grunt work out of getting the garden ready as my onions and seed potatoes are in and ready for planting.  A normal year would have seen this stuff already done yet it was only last week that the water got turned on down to the pole shed.  Even that was an issue as the water lines were still froze deep down, surprisingly how deep the frost really was.  Hopefully this weekend will get a serious hurt on all the things that need to be done.  On top of this we got a new "used" John Deere Lawn Tractor, Model 734, 27 hp All Wheel Steer last weekend and has added additional issues needing to get done before the serious fishing starts.  I guess the list goes on and on and on!  Still it's important to stop and appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature as seen here, the sky is on fire. 

May is turning to a busy month and hopefully everything will get done as needed.  As you may have read in previous posts, the bass fishing trips taken in the last few months have really set the stage for fishing bass in Minnesota this year.  Admittedly I am anxious to try wacky worming smallmouth bass on the Mississippi Rive behind the house with my new fishing buddy, David Grant or Jack's son Ben,  we'll see if he can keep up!  The last few weeks were dedicated to restocking my plastic worm selections as the Bass Pro Stik-O Worms have worked very well and the crayfish/orange colors should work well on those smallies. 


Friday, April 27, 2018

Wacky Wormin' Bass in Texas

Matt's nice bass on an orange wacky worm
Well, the time sure flies and this week was no different.  Monday morning I boarded a plane for Dallas, the main purpose was to attend the TTA meetings in Fort Worth, however one can never resist the opportunity to spend a few hours fishing, and that's exactly what we did Monday evening and Tuesday morning.  Time was tight as there were scheduled meetings on Tuesday afternoon yet we were successful in catching our share of fish in the short time that was available.  My good friend Matt agreed to pick me up at the airport and was gracious enough to make a quick stop at the Bass Pro Shop, just outside of the airport in Dallas.  Last time we were there I picked up some nice clothing and was interested in getting a few more items along with some baits to try for our fishing adventure.  Fishing with plastic worms, wacky style seemed like something we should have in our bag of tricks so in the plastic worm aisle, there was what looked like a local guy with a few packages in his hand.  Walking up to him I commented "You look like you know what the fish are hitting on...I just got into town from Minnesota and I would appreciate any advice!"  His response was what I figured after seeing what was in his hand.  Senko's is the bait right now, use them Wacky Style, my reply.........yes but that's not what's in your hand!  OK, we both knew what Gary Yamamoto Senko's cost, about $1.00 each.  Nope was his reply, the Bass Pro Stik-O Worm is just as good and quite a bit cheaper as we walked over to where they were on the rack.  Acknowledging that there are others knockoff's to Senko's how good were these.  Being assured they would work just fine the next question.....which colors are hot?  Reaching on the rack, he pulled off what he said was the best, Junebug, a dark blue with silver flecks mixed in.  That would not have been my first choice but when in Texas do what the Texan's do!  The next was a medium Green with gold flecks called Green Pumpkin Magic, then it was suggested that we get a bright Orange color.  Picking up a pack of Eagle Claw Trokar weedless Wacky Worm hooks in the 2/0 size, as well an O ring tool, we were pretty well set.  One thing I wanted to do was try for some catfish so we picked up some dip bait, dip worms, and sinkers as well.  The one thing we completely forgot was a good long nosed pliers. More to come on that topic!

Typical size bass we caught
Our fishing pond was about a 5 - 7 acre conservation Pond on our friend Joe Stanfield's farm.  He had a small plastic boat called a Pond Prowler from Bass Pro Shops.  Paired with a 12Volt 45# thrust Minnkota trolling motor, it actually worked pretty good.  Lacking any electronics, we simply followed the shorelines where the weed beds ended.  Last time we fished Joe's pond in March, the water was quite cloudy however this time it was surprising how clear it was.  Because of the weeds we started throwing spinner baits towards shore and had a few hits and a couple of fish.  As we moved down the shoreline the water was getting deeper and the deeper weed line became obvious so I decided to switch tactics.  Having another rod rigged up for wacky wormin', the green pumpkin color seemed like a great place to start based on the water clarity.  The sink rate is somewhat slow, sort of like a gentle drift downwards and being hooked in the middle created an enticing pulse when tugged on.  One could watch the baits slowly sink to about 4 feet, eventually disappearing in the depths.  A few casts later and all of a sudden one feels a tap on the line and it's moving away from you.  A sharp hook set and the battles were on!  These Trokar Hooks are amazing, strong and very sharp with an unusual point/edge that is really sticky.  One did not have to set the hook with a massive hook set and the first few bass that were caught were hooked quite deep.  Letting them take it too long resulted in the fish dang near swallowing the worm, something that surprised us.  It was these times that we wished there was a good needle nose in the boat as it took some doing to unhook the fish.  I wouldn't say we were killing the fish but catching them on somewhat of a consistent basis.  Deciding to try the Junebug color was nothing short of amazing.  It was like the fish turned on as though someone had flipped a switch.  Maybe it was the time of day, maybe there were more fish in that corner of the pond, regardless I was hooking a bass a cast.  In the end we probably caught 60 bass this weekend.  Matt had great luck on Tuesday morning with the orange color worm as well, maybe a different day.  Joe has 4 ponds on the lake with all of them in a row to conserve water and prevent erosion.  We caught fish in all 4 however the large pond at the end of his property was the best.  I can't wait to try this method for smallmouth on the river this summer.

As my plane was making it's way to the gate after landing in Dallas, it was a good time to check the e-mails and see what was missed whilst in the air and the phone shut off.  One of the first e-mails was this one: Hi Dave,  This is Bruce Buratto’s son Matt. I was just standing waiting to get on my plane to Dallas and I thought I saw you but wasn’t sure since I’ve never met you in person haha. I checked your blog and saw you’re headed to Dallas too so was like that’s definitely you. I’d love to say hi when we get to Dallas so I figured I’d send you this quick message in hopes you’ll see it so I can catch you when we get off.  Interesting as Matt is one of the followers of the blog and like he said, I know who he is but I have never met him.....I didn't even have any idea what he looked like!  Either way I stood in the concourse at the gate and sure enough, he recognized me.  I suppose my Ranger hat and Ranger/Evinrude shirt was a dead give away yet it was a very nice experience meeting Matt, especially under the circumstances.  Matt is in his early 30's and I give him a lot of credit for being on the ball like that.  One just feels like he is going to be super successful, if no other reason, he is very aware of what's going on around him.  I know he reads this as he is one of my follower's so here's a big thank you for taking your time to say hi, it really meant a lot to me, it made my day!!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Fishing for Polyps

Uffda!!
Well seeings how the fishing hasn't been in the front of my activities I though it would be a good time to discuss a very critical procedure that was endured on Wednesday of this week, my scheduled 5 year colonoscopy.  This is my 5th one since I noticed blood in my stools in 2000.  Admittedly this is an uncomfortable subject however I feel very strong about this as in 2000 they removed a polyp from my colon, which the doctors stated is a definite warning sign/risk factor for colon cancer.  No Thanks!  I know people who have survived colon cancer and those who have died, and to be honest, this is quite an easy way to screen yourself.  Yes they have less intrusive ways to screen for cancer however this is the only way to discover polyps and remove them before they become a problem.  The best prevention is to catch it early!  Actually the procedure isn't that bad, drink a gallon of what they call Golytely, trust me, it's certainly a play on words!  The best results start with a good prep and after drinking a gallon of this, I guarantee, there is nothing left to be had!!  It was a very interesting procedure this time as the doctor had some notoriety for preforming the procedure without the usual sedation.  Rather than look forward to another 6 hour recovery time I agreed to try it.  Admittedly it was different as the physician was from the Netherlands and we pretty much discussed fishing during the entire procedure.  He coined the phase of the title, fishing for polyps!  He talked  about fishing when he was young, how they would catch pike then eat them.  He didn't like the Y bones very much so we discussed  the way you can remove them in the filleting process!  His assistant was also a fisherman so it was a great way to pass the time while looking at the screen as the scope kept moving up the colon.  It is kind of funny when you really think about it, fishing in Canada as we work up 6 feet to the end.  It is also kind of fascinating, looking at the display and discussing the procedure and diagnosis of each section.  I had to laugh, the doc said that I had good storage...........I won't go into what that means, but you can guess.  In the end he gave me an excellent report and based on the current standards switched me from every 5 years to repeating this in 10 years, based on the great shape my colon was in and also past reports.  I definitely encourage all of my friends over 50 to get this done, it's relatively easy and quite painless and very important!  Some people find it uncomfortable however the doc complimented me on the ability to do this without drugs.  They had an IV in me just in case I started to get uncomfortable, an emergency dose would settle things down yet I made it just fine.  He told me that you just have to have the right attitude and that not all people can endure this procedure without some sedation.  I walked out of there and could even drive home by myself!

Bass Spawning schedule
Monday is my scheduled trip to the Dallas/ Fort Worth area to spend some time with my friends Matt Davis and Joe Stanfield as our plans are to fish his tank for Bass and hopefully try for some catfish.  Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the spring TTA meetings in Fort Worth, then I fly home on Thursday afternoon.  The plan is to experiment with a number of typical bass baits, this time of the year should be well past the post spawn stage and into the pre summer period and feeding heavily.  I am betting on some action baits like spinner baits or rattle baits.  The Solunar tables for next Monday put the peak times at just when we arrive!  In addition my friends are anxious to try Steaks a la Kienitz, a recipe from my friend Troy Kienitz that is out of this world.  Admittedly it fun to prepare this in front of people who have never had the experience to have a great steak after it been marinated in Tabasco sauce, Frank's hot Buffalo Wing sauce, and Hot Picante sauce.  It's pretty amazing as I have discussed this before.  Along with a nice bottle of red wine, it doesn't get any better.  The other thing that we are going to try and do is catch some catfish that is supposedly in the tank.   Man that's hard to say...........it's a pond stupid!!!  Anyway with 3 weeks to opener there's a lot of ice to be melted but with 70 degree weather in the forecast, it might not take too long!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Repeat of 2013!?!?!?!

New Boat for 2018 Minnesota Fishing Opener
Well last week it was complaining about the weather however this week it's getting ridiculous!  With 12 inches of snow predicted for the weekend and next weeks forecast in the mid 40's, almost 15 degrees below normal, everyone is starting to discount fishing opener because it would appear there is little time and little warmth to effectively cause the ice to go out on Leech Lake by May 12, the date for Minnesota Opener.  Even more interesting is whether or not the ice will be off of Lac Seul in time for the Ontario Fishing Opener scheduled for May 19th, the very next weekend.  Well, a lot can happen in 4 weeks as one of the best Minnesota Walleye Fishing Opener was when the ice went off the Saturday of opener, there was quite a bit of floating ice, especially off of Pine Pine, down from Brindley's.  Actually one had to stay on the main part of the lake because of the ice.  Never the less, the walleye fishing was fabulous.  It really doesn't matter if there is some ice on the lake however in 2013 the harbor at Brindley's was froze completely shut, one could not even launch a boat.  Hopefully it will turn around but to be quite honest, it's looking more desperate with every day and weather forecast!

Jerry's 20 inch Sauger
So some people are getting out on open water!  I have had the pleasure of meeting a gentleman, Jerry via  Walleye Central  where there are a number of forums that walleye fishing topics are discussed.  Most are pretty good but like a lot of things, often you have to wade through the BS!  Never the less my discussions regarding Lac Seul lead to Jerry requesting my help with an issue regarding navigation on Lac Seul.  After a number of tries, I finally managed to successfully fill his needs.  At the same time he had sent me a beautiful collection of his own hand made jigs and admittedly they are very good.  Being a fan of the B Fish N series H2O Precision Jigs, they are great for plastics as they have a wire keeper that really does a fabulous job.  Admittedly it brought me back to a time when Kevin and I made our own jigs for fishing walleyes in the backwaters of the Mississippi between Wabasha, MN and Alma, WI.  The jigs received are perfect plus the colors are excellent, he told me that he does his own epoxy powder coat on them.  Pretty impressive as we simply painted our jig heads by hand.  After he confirmed that my strategy worked he sent a picture of this beautiful 20 inch sauger that was caught on the Illinois River a few days ago.  A sauger is almost identical to the walleye however it's coloring is somewhat different and freshly caught, I think they are a stunning fish.  They tend to inhabit rivers and will tend to be in the deeper water than walleyes.  One tends to find them a little more south than walleyes, yet we have caught them on Lac Seul in Canada.  A 20 inch sauger is a really nice fish as they tend to be smaller than walleyes.  Either way it's a very nice fish and it's great to see that someone is at least enjoying the soft water.

Ben's nice Mississippi Perch
My friend Ben Aiona was out on the Mississippi River with his new Ranger on Tuesday learning to use his Lowrance HDS 12, Gen 3.  Calling me on his cell phone, it was fortunate that I had a Lowrance HDS9, Gen 3 in my office and could easily power it on and look at the menu's with him.  There were two things that he needed help with, the temperature sensor was not displaying, and his structure scan was not working right.  Because of my experience with  Ranger boats and Lowrance, the first thing is to look at the NMEA 2000 network devices listed as the temperature sensor on Ranger's is connected through the network.  Walking through the screens we found the device so then I told him to configure the network and VOILA, the temperature display came up on the screen.  The next was the structure scan and my hunch was it was still set to Structure Scan 3D.  We reset the machine and VOILA, I look like a genius and Ben was now viewing a what he was looking for.  It's kind of nice to be able to help someone yet it can be difficult as one may only need to change the settings once or twice in the life of one dealing with these machines.  It becomes more about thinking like the Lowrance software engineers would think and getting use to how the menu's are configured and the logic of it all.  Before we hung up the phone "Send me some nice fish pictures" was the last thing said.  Well, here you go, a nice picture of Ben and what looks like a 1 1/2 pound perch.   In the last few weeks I've been reading about the resurgence of the perch in the Mississippi River south of Lake Pepin.  A number of theories abound such as the Zebra Mussels have increased the water quality, that may be true but it sure hasn't done much for the perch on Mille Lacs, that's a different story!  As stated, it's nice to see someone is catching fish!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Relentless Winter!

Snow depth at the pole barn!
Well the winter of 2017-2018 is really testing one's patience these days.  With a good 8 inches of snow on the ground and for the most part, it's still snowing.  We received about 9 inches the last few days and the temperatures have been almost 20 degrees colder than normal.  With the Minnesota Fishing opener about a 5 weeks away and with most lakes up north reporting up to 36 inches of ice, it's starting to look like a repeat of 2013 when we could not get out on Leech Lake as it was totally iced up.  Although we did stay at the resort, we did so to keep the tradition going as we all headed home on Sunday.  It would appear as though the Canadian Fishing Opener might be in jeopardy as well.  A lot can happen in 5 weeks however the cold looks like it will hang on till about Tax Day, April 15th before it starts to act more like normal.  It doesn't take long as the days are longer and the sun is more intense.  My experience with late ice on fishing opener has not been that bad, actually on of the best years we experienced on Leech was when the ice officially went out on the Saturday of opening fishing, I remember scooping up ice for the cooler from the edge of the ice and open water on the lake.  We did very well and caught a lot of those big female walleyes that were in the shallows and still in prespawn.  I guess we never know what Mother Nature will throw at us but I can assure you that it is getting quite old blowing heavy wet snow this time of the year!!  Oh well, there's little we can do and you can be assured that bitching about it hasn't really solved anything.  The good news is we got our Team Walleye hats and because it's our 45th Annual this year we did embroidered hooded hockey style sweatshirts, both look really good and if nothing else, we'd be styling this year!

1/4 oz Gapen Crawfish Ugly Bug
Last week was my experience meeting Dan Gapen at the Sportsman Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  It was a great experience which lead to the ordering of some of his signature baits like the pictured Ugly Bug, as well as a number of his old DVD, Classic series on fishing walleyes and smallmouth on rivers.  Well the order came in and it's pretty exciting.  After watching the DVD's it was quite interesting.  The main purpose of getting the DVD's is to better understand how to fish the Mississippi River that runs behind the house.  Although we do catch the occasional walleye, I am interested in learning more about reading the river and walleye locations within the system.  The walleye DVD was exclusively Canadian Shield area rivers, usually fast flowing, full of boulders, and fish.  Although interesting, it did not fulfill the original intent of purchasing them.  The second DVD was filmed on the Mississippi River about 20 miles north of me and was exactly what I was looking for!  Filmed with Dan in his small jon boat, similar to the one I own, the descriptions of areas to fish and the film demonstrated the exact areas that one encounters when on the river.  I am already excited to try my new found knowledge, if it ever warms up!!  Being interested in possibly more DVD's that feature the Mississippi, a quick phone call and a followup e-mail brought the appropriate response.   Ordering three more DVD's, they might simply be repeats of what I already have but they are pretty easy to watch and hopefully they will arrive soon.  The Ugly Bug jig has been around for a long time and it was never a standard in the boat however I did pick up a good number of them.  In the DVD's, Dan shows exactly the how and why's to this bait and it seems logical.  Hopefully it may help the catch rate at both the Minnesota Opener as well as the Canadian Opener. 

We spent Easter with my wife's relative's in Eau Claire, the same guys I fished with on Palm Sunday.  We got to remiss about what we should have done as fishing wasn't very good.  Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.  Hopefully the boat will start to take shape as the step on the winch tree needs to be re-welded. the depth finders need to be installed and the rest of my gear needs to be put away.  5 weeks will come in a hurry!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Sportshow Time

Dan Gapen and I
One of the things I cannot get enough of is the Minneapolis Northwest Sportsman's Show at the Convention Center in downtown Minneapolis.  It is the largest event of this type and pretty much features everything one experiences in the course of a summer of fishing and enjoying the great outdoors.  Most years I have the opportunity to attend twice and this year was no exception.  Last Thursday I had the pleasure of having Bruce Wiley accompany me.  Thursday is senior day and those 62 and older get a $3 discount, one might as well take advantage of this.  Most people know that I like to talk a lot and at these shows it's no exception.  With everything form my boat dealer, Frankie's to the electronics on my boat, to all of the things I use and like, they are usually represented at the show and increasing one's knowledge of these products and changes is always good.  New technologies are often presented at the show and it's a great place to get caught up with the industry.  Also it's a great place to meet all of the friends you've made over the years and see those that read this blog regularly.  Bruce commented that geez Anderson, I can't take you anywhere where you don't know someone!  Of special surprise was stopping by Showalters Flyin Service, I met Denny a few years back at JR's on Red Lake while waiting to get out on the lake,  he exclaimed that JR was at the show.  I quickly texted him and made sure that we would not leave without seeing each other, which towards the end, we met him in the very first row.  He was with his Airplane sales guy and Bruce and him hit it off very well.  It is always nice to see JR outside of the zoo he operates at Red Lake and Bruce and I promised we'd fly up sometime and have lunch.  JR even threatened to fly over to our camp on Lac Seul and fish with me for a day.  I am going to try and make that happen sometime.  Sunday found me heading back to the show to follow up on the things I did not get to do on Thursday, take advantage of the deals that are posted on the last day, as they'd rather sell it then pack it up.  One of the booths I ran across was Dan Gapen's booth, and he was it it!  Dan Gapen is probably the most famous river fisherman there ever was (OK, my friend Kevin is pretty good as well!) and has written books on River fishing as well has his own bait company and is the inventor of the Ugly Bug jig.  I stopped to shake his hand and to tell him I just bought his River Walleye Fishing book on Amazon and they were surprised.  We talked about his days fishing the Nipigon River, he knew exactly where my buddy Jim Tollefson and I fished when we were in our late teems, at the old loggers camp by what Dan called Victoria Falls, the outlet of Lake Nipigon.  I ended up buying a book from him and he personally endorsed it for me, signing a nice greeting and his name.  He was still pretty sharp and I am anxious to try some of the techniques we discussed when fishing the Mississippi River this summer.  On Thursday, a new RS landing net, the Green Bay model, found it's way into my hands.  I got the bright Lime Green model, it will be easier to see when I need it.  Sunday was a little more expensive, ending up with a new storage box fro under the back seat of my truck, Reeds had 25% off of their Simms clothing so a light hooded shirt found it's way into my bag.  Leaving fully satisfied with my visits and about $200 dollars poorer, I headed home.

Last fish through the ice, of the year?
Saturday was our almost annual fishing trip with my wife's uncles Bernie and Andy, and their sons Jason and Jake.  A couple of years ago we fished at Jason's in-laws place on Chetac Lake in Birchwood, Wisconsin.  This year we headed back to Wapogasset Lake, just east of St. Croix Falls.  Fishing on the north side we could not drive on by the resort access but a mile down the lake was another access not affected by the sun, it was good enough to get on.  We headed north to fish in about 12 feet of water yet the fishing wasn't very good.  Andrew and I got a nice 10 inch perch each, but that was about it.  It was a long time between fish so at at about 3:00 we headed north to Balsam Lake, one of Andy's hot spots.  Finally figuring out where to get on the lake we drove out only to drill holes in 5 feet of water.  My Navionics App with the lake map was not working because of poor cell service.  Heading to the center of the bay we eventually found 11 feet of water.  Later it was discovered that 11 feet was about it.  Being in the basin should have been a good place to fish however the only thing that bit was this small pound and a half largemouth bass.  It put up a great fight on the 3# test line but it certainly wasn't a crappie that we were looking for.  By the end of the day this was the only fish we got on Balsam Lake, the debate about leaving Wapogasset started but what's done is done!  Either way it was my first trip to Balsam Lake and although the fishing wasn't that great it was a beautiful lake, one worth coming back to sometime.  It was just like being 200 miles north of home, I was quite impressed.  We finished the day at a local bar and grill having a great hamburger before heading home. 

There is a lot of work to do before opener.  The boat is still in storage however the front step needs welding, the depth finders need to be reinstalled and updated.  All of my equipment is at home and have been working on changing line, cleaning the reels, getting the tackle boxes reorganized.  The trip last month to Texas has changed my attitude about bass fishing and I'm getting organized to do more of bass fishing this summer.  It's Easter Weekend and we have a while before the ice goes out as the ice was at least 32 inched thick last weekend.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Maple Syrup Time in the Neighborhood

Collecting Sap in my yard.
The weather has warmed up enough to start tapping the maple trees in the neighborhood and gather enough sap to make maple syrup.  The ideal time to tap trees is when the outside temperature drops to the mid 20's at night and in the 40's during the day.  This cycle gets the sap flowing from the roots to the upper branches and depending on the weather, moisture, and temperature cycles one can harvest gallons a day from a single large maple tree.  My neighbor Brandon does the sap collecting then has quite an operation to process the sap into syrup.  As you can see in the picture, he has 5 large plastic buckets to collect sap in as I have about 7 nice maple trees in the yard that are big enough to tap.  My guess is Brandon has over 120 trees tapped in the neighborhood as the last number he texted me was at about 1000 gallons collected so far.  With another 2 weeks or so of sap collecting weather, I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up with over 3000 gallons of sap.  He has a pretty slick way of collecting, a large 150 gallon plastic tank strapped to a trailer that he can pull around.  He can dump the sap in the tank quite easily then move on to the next house.  It's sort of like a milk run as he is getting around 140 gallons a day, not too bad.

Brandon's wood fired evaporator
There's a lot of work to making maple syrup however it is well worth the trouble.  Beside tapping the trees, one has to collect the sap daily.  Then it has to get unloaded into his storage containers, he has enough in his shed to collect 300 to 600 gallons of sap.  Maple sap has a normal sugar content of about 3% but it can vary from 1 - 5%.  The process is to boil the sap, which boils the water away and the sugar content becomes concentrated.  When the boiling liquid hita a temperature of 220 degree, it's pretty much syrup at that point.  Finished syrup is approximately 66 - 68% sugar.  Any less than 66% and it may spoil, as well about 68% the natural sugars tend to settle out on the bottom of the jar.  Brandon uses a reverse osmosis machine to help concentrate the sugar levels of the sap to make it faster to cook it down.  The osmosis machine basically removes pure water out of the sap which increases it's sugar content.  If he runs 300 gallons of sap through the machine it removes about 100 gallons of water and leaves the remaining sap at 5%.  He can run it through again, up to 4 times to get the concentration up to 8%, which is about half the volume that he started with and it is much easier than trying to boil off that much water. His evaporator is quite the system, he built the wood stove underneath the Stainless Steel evaporator pan.  As you see on the left side, a hose feeds the tray with his post processed sap and it is pretty amazing how fast it drips.  It keeps feeding the tray until the entire unit reaches the temperature, then he has a hydrometer to actually read the Specific Gravity which is a more accurate way of determining the syrup sugar content.  Once it is ready he empties the tray into 5 gallon buckets and starts all over again.  This year he is getting about 1 gallon of finished syrup for every 30 gallons of sap, which means the raw sap is pretty good this year.  In the past it's taken up to 40 gallons to make 1 gallon.  It's fun stopping by and helping him, usually you are rewarded with a special treat....a coffee cup with some brandy in it then filled with hot syrup from the evaporator.  Not good for the waistline but is is pretty good tasting.  Once the syrup is done he runs it through a special filter that clarifies it.  Most will get bottled however he takes some of it and fills a used oak bourbon barrel and lets it cure for about 8 weeks, simply amazing!  Also he will make a whipped maple spread that resembles soft butter but again, simply amazing!  In 3 weeks this will be all done with but it's sure fun being part of it.

The plan for the weekend is two fold, the Minneapolis Sports Show runs till Sunday and I look forward to attending this each year.  There is a lot to discuss and learn as things continue to change fast in the industry.  Second, this is the weekend I meet my wife's uncles and cousins to go ice fishing.  We have decided to go to Lake Wapogasset near Amery Wisconsin to try our hand and find some crappies.  I am sure we'll find a place to park ourselves at sunset to have a nice dinner together, it is always a good time.  This could be my last ice fishing adventure of the year as the weather is definitely getting warmer each day.