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.