Friday, April 30, 2021


New LiFePo4 batteries in the Ranger
For the last 20 years technology has really influenced the fishing world.  In my collection of early 1980's In-fisherman magazines feature articles and ad's that seem prehistoric with flashers, Color C Lector, temperature probes, it's almost funny.  Over the years most of these devices were part of my arsenal as in the early 80's I built my first Heathkit flasher, followed up by a Humminbird Super 60, then their Super 30 model.  When the first paper graphs came out the first one on my boat was a King 1060, amazing detail.  This was replaced with a state of the art Lowrance X15B, a 4 inch paper graph that I still have remnants of some of the fish I graphed on Lake Mille Lacs.  I started working with a company called Genetron that made highly sophisticated video (CRT tube) graphs, adapted from the pacific northwest, even in the embedded software manual, it talked about it's ability to sense the air bladder of halibut.  I simply traded manufactured parts for new units and still have one on my shelf.  Even though there were LCD units out there, they paled in comparison to the detail shown on the Genetron's.  Eventually the color LCD technologies caught up with the resolution of video and with current microprocessor and memory capability the graphs today are quite sophisticated, even at the small screen level.  Well all this takes power and even with the largest AGM style batteries, it would often happen that the battery would not provide enough power and then have enough left to start my motor.  Luckily the Ranger has a battery switch in it to allow one to turn the power off and switch in a trolling motor battery giving enough power to essential jump the dead battery and start the outboard.  Well today's technology provides at least solution for this in the form of Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePo4) batteries.  Like modern devices that have lithium ion batteries, unlike lead acid type batteries such as my AGM's, they should only be discharged to 40% or it will significantly affect the battery life, their 100AH rating is more like 60.  Also AH (Amp Hour) ratings are based on a 20 hour load, so the 100 AH is based on a 5 amp load.  Well if you take all the electronics in the boat they pull around 8 amps, which effectively drops the AH reading to about 60 - 65 so the real amount of power available is maybe 35AH before you cause any premature damage to the battery.  Li FePo4 batteries however can be discharge to 10% without damage and whether it be 5 amps of 10 amps, it doesn't degrade the power ratings of the battery.  Deciding to pull the trigger on replacing all of my batteries, the cost is higher but the benefits will outweigh those costs in the long run as these batteries will last the rest of my life.  The bonus is the LiFePo4 batteries are about 50% lighter and have an 8 year warranty.  In one single move I lost 150# out of the boat, which is significant.  As well I am not worried anymore about running out of power.  In addition each battery has a built in Bluetooth communications path to a downloadable app on my phone.  It's easy to simply see each batteries condition, state of charge, and anything related to the battery.  They received their first test on Lake Erie and were very effective.  The secret is their built in Battery Management System (BMS) which allows the battery to look like a standard battery to everything that is hooked to it.  I can use my existing onboard Minnkota MK460PC charger to charge them, no need for anything special.  The real test will be in two weeks when our 48th annual Leech Lake Opener takes place.

Lowrance HDS 7
This week I helped my friend Adam Mayerich install his Lowrance HDS7 into the dash of a new to him Ranger 1850 Reata, a nice boat.  He bought it from a fellow Team Walleye guy but there was a lot to do so I decided to help.  Last week I gave him a great deal on my good but not new Interstate Series 31 AGM's that I took out of my boat.  They are definitely better than what he had in it as they were pretty well done for.  We also finished our strategy on onboard chargers and installed them.   Installing the HDS7 was interesting for sure as there was an HDS5 in the dash and there was barely room for the 7.  Deciding to make a spacer so the unit would sit into the dash better, using a 1/4 inch ABS sheet, we cut out the appropriate spacer then used it to mark the dash, the cutting began.  Using a Dremel tool we were able to make the cut large enough to allow the depthfinder to set almost flush with the dash.  There were some concerns about cutting too much from the bottom however after Adam ran to the hardware store to get 1 1/2 inch #6 stainless steel screws it came together pretty good.  The vinyl on the dash that was loose tightened right up. The gap in the bottom of the dash became solid once secured by the depthfinder.  It looked pretty good. 


One thing that I have been trying to do is replace the line counter reel that got stepped on in the boat when we were out on Erie.  The line counter broke off..  Having 2 set ups, these reels are used for lead line trolling.  The reel was a PENN 310GT2LC, one that my luck is unavailable these days.  The nice thing about this reel is that 1 complete spool of Suffix 832 lead line fits perfectly (all 10 Colors) on the reel, which is nice when having another guy in the boat, I can just tell him how much line and what color as they are both the same.  I know, you could simply just user the line counter but it is more illustrative with the exact setups.  So the manual says line capacity is 325 yards of 15# mono.  I picked up their new model that holds 320 yards of 15# mono yet it will only fit 8 colors.  I can make it work but it bothers me.  Having spook with PENN's Service department, they told me to send it in and they would take a look at it.  With a little luck they can fix it as the reel is just like new.  I guess time will tell, but it sure would be nice to be able to have matching reels again on my lead line setups.  I should know in a couple of weeks.  Leech Lake fishing opener is 2 weeks away and there is alot to do yet.  Clean the boat,  extract the carpeting, make sure all the live bait, jig, crankbaits for Leech are in the boat.  It's a busy couple of weeks for sure.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Lake Erie, Part 2

Steve First Fish, an nice walleye
The last post left off with my friend Kevin and his family leaving early Tuesday morning back to Wisconsin for his father-in-law's funeral.  In the meantime Steve, Mark, and I stayed to fish the rest of the time as we knew Ben was coming back Wednesday evening as he had left his boat behind the house.  Waking up on Tuesday the Aiona's were gone and the weather forecast  stated there predicting 25 mph by the afternoon, creating a difficult fishing situation.  We decided to head out and fish until the wind became uncomfortable.  After heading to the Muzurik Landing on Marblehead, we launched the boat and while Steve and Mark parked the car, I proceeded to input the waypoint Ben sent me via his phone, about 5 miles away through the channel between Marblehead and Kelley's Island.  We had fished a few miles north of that point on Monday so we were familiar with the location.  The wind had picked up a little but blowing from the Southeast so we positioned ourselves upwind from that waypoint and started setting up our trolling pattern.  As before we fished 3 planer boards on each side of the boat, using line counter reels to set the depths of the Bandits, we followed the advice, 70 feet back on the outside boards, 60 on the middle boards, 50 on the inside boards.  The strategy was to troll with the wind making the fishing experience easier.  Once a fish is hooked up, the real work begins, of course there is the guy fighting the fish, the second guy is responsible for the net and removing the planer board from the line.  In the meantime one guy has to stay on the steering wheel to make certain the boat stays on track so the remaining lines do not become tangled.  This was made much more difficult by two issues, first was the battery in the remote control for the kicker motor was dead.  This was checked out before we left but apparently it was just enough to work.  Secondly an attempt to engage the front electric trolling motor did not work either as the motor did not respond when deployed.  Therefore on Tuesday the only real source of steering was using the main outboard used as a rudder, steering by turning the steering wheel.. Mark had caught the first fish on Monday so it was Steve's turn and it wasn't long before one of the boards started dancing.  He reeled in our first fish of the day, a nice 24 inch walleye, into the livewell.  Resetting the boards it wasn't long before it was my turn to reel a fish in.  Steve on the motor, Mark successfully got the fish in the boat, 2 in the livewell. As the morning went on the wind shifted and as predicted started to increase.  After successfully landing 6 walleyes in the boat the waves continued to grow, enough to decide to call it quits.  It was a good move.  Although not that far from the landing the wind limited our speed to about 8 mph as we carefully negotiated the now 5 to 6 foot waves.  Finally getting back to the landing which is protected by a breaker wall, I dropped off Steve and Mark to get the truck and trailer.  There was a Coast Guard team that had just loaded their boat and once the Ranger was on the trailer they came over to do a boat inspection.  I welcomed the oportunity however the first question was to see my registration, something I never have!  Luckily Mark had come over before the trip and found it on a shelf and had me put it in the boat.  The inspection went well so we headed home to clean fish.  Admittedly it takes time to clean these big fish and Ben had brought his vacuum packer so we packaged the fish and sat down to reflect on the day.

Wednesday's catch, 14 walleyes at over 63 pounds
Wednesday proved to be a calmer day on the water.  Talking to Ben, he suggested I reset the trolling motor by disconnecting the power for 30 seconds.  I did that Tuesday afternoon and voila, the motor now responded.  As well we stopped at the Walmart to get a battery for the kicker remote steering, that now worked.  Third was a stop at Fisherman's Central, a wonderful sports shop on our way to the landing, and picked up some Bandits in blue/chrome, another Rotten Fruit pattern, an interesting blue green chrome Bandit called The Generator (later figured out you could add lighted glow stick in the bait), and an interesting color called Humble Bee ( a golden, perch type bait).  Once on the water and back to the spot the wind had changed 90 degrees from Tuesday so we did the same thing, went upwind from our previous point and started trolling downwind.  Tuesday gave us a chance to dial in our presentations and with some Bandits in new colors, we were determined to do better.  The wind was calmer, the kicker motor remote was working, the Motorguide was operating perfect, we were set up.  While Steve and Mark set up the lines, it was my job to get our navigation methodology set up.  Setting the kicker speed at 1.5 mph, I put the Motorguide down and engaged the heading lock to keep the boat on a specific track, then engaged the cruise control at 1.6 mph and amazingly the boat was now being completely controlled by the devices that should do their job.  No longer was it required to have someone always trying to steer the boat.   Looking at our tracks on the GPS, it was amazing how straight they were.  With the navigation system set we could now concentrate on fishing much more effectively.  With assuming we had 12 in the livewell, and 4 each (it was really 6 walleyes each), we  had lost 4 other fish in tangles or line failures, we finally caught one more deciding to let it go as the livewell was already ridiculously full.  Upon returning to the house, it was discovered we had 14 walleyes, still legal, but figuring the hookups and the one we released, we had 19 fish for the day.  Steve weighed the fish and it was over 63 pounds, and if you see the picture, not one was smaller than the 5 gallon pail was deep.  It took 3 trips with the pail to transfer these walleyes from the livewell to the cleaning shed.  Admittedly I've caught more walleye but never the average size as these.

From Wednesday's catch
After going to the Irish Pub downtown Port Clinton for supper, we headed back.  Ben, Heather, and Jared arrived earlier than we anticipated, about 11:30.  Thursday was supposed to be very windy with small craft warnings, so we decided to stay off the water.  Ben, on the other hand was anxious to get out after missing 2 days, they headed to the landing, noticed the waves coming over the breakwater but decided to try it anyway.  They got out about a mile before coming to their senses and headed back.  Sitting in the house drinking coffee, Ben came in admitting it was pretty rough.  After settling down, we decided to drive to the Bass Pro Shops in Toledo, 40 minutes away.  Once there Jared was looking for lure making stuff and the clerk commented that Jan's Netcraft was only 15 minutes away and they carry all sorts of these types of items.  Jan's Netcraft was around when we were kids and loved getting their catalog and buying lure making items to make our own lures.  It was interesting to find they were still in business so Jared loaded up on plastic worm and paddle tail molds along with molding plastic and an injector.  He was in business!  He really reminds me of my younger years with his grandpa.  On the way back there was a Costco so with my membership we stopped and bought some steaks for Thursday night's meal.  Friday was our last day, it actually was pretty nice but as we discussed that evening, lack of waves did not allow the baits the action that riding up and down creates.  It was pretty easy fishing as we mastered the trolling motor, lure setting functions well.  We  found an area were a number of fish that were fooled by our presentation.  We were marking fish however after reviewing the day we decided that the fish had moved.  Coming back to the landing, it was the first time in the week we were able to travel in the boat at a reasonable speed.  With 8 in the livewell we ended out trip with 29 kept walleyes, about 4.5 pounds average.  Things learned, these fish usually are staging to spawn as these fish were post spawn, and often they are in large schools of a mile or larger in diameter.  Slow down, 1.4 - 1.6 mph is a perfect speed as the water temp was never over 44 degrees.  Don't assume anything as 70 feet back with a Bandit is about 17 feet down in 40 feet of water.  These fish suspend and I believe will come up a long way to hit the slower moving, noisy and flashy bait.  I think it's also  important to have a wide spread on your planer boards to cover more area.  The charters use larger planer board tactics that put 18 lures over a 200 foot spread, that's alot of coverage.  Pay attention to where the charters are fishing as they are good at helping each other.  These fish can be fickle however once they turn on it's amazing.

Jared's 30 incher
As far as Ben and his family, they stayed through the weekend leaving Monday.  We left Saturday morning retracing our route that we followed on the way there.  Ben went fishing that day and throughout the day would phone us with updates.  They fished more east of where we fished on Friday and did well catching their limit of 18 walleyes.  I wanted to get a picture of Jared with his 30 inch fish.  I have had Jared fish with me in my wheel house earlier this year and he is definitely fishing crazy.  On Friday he caught this 30+ inch spawned out walleye, he was bound and determined to have it mounted.  I swore he was going to cry when his dad put a knife to it!  As well we got a nice spawned out female on Friday, signaling that the spawn was on.  It was a great trip, one that taught us a lot about trolling for walleyes, and one that we can only hope Ben will invite us again next spring.  Like stated earlier, unlike Canada where a good day is 80 walleyes in the boat for 3 guys, here 18 walleyes encompasses quite a bit of work and the average size is significantly larger, as we never caught a fish under 22 inches.  One definitely needs a boat to handle the water as the wind can come up pretty fast.  Also it is amazing how long it took to clean these large walleyes.  Definitely a trip of a lifetime and even if you take a charter, it was well worth it!!

Monday, April 12, 2021

Getting Caught Up, Lake Erie, Part 1

Mark with the first Lake Erie Walleye of our trip.
In January my good friend Kevin and his son Ben floated by going out to Lake Erie the end of March.  They had found a house near Port Clinton, Ohio that we could rent but they had to act upon it soon.  Our friend Gary Barneson was a district manager for Secura Insurance in Appleton Wisconsin years ago and he had an agent who's son was a Tournament Walleye fisherman.  Kevin and Gary met his son out there and the rest is history.  Ben was out last year with his Ranger 618T with a 90 hp (crazy) but now that he has purchased a new Ranger 620FS like mine, he was anxious to go.  I checked with my brother Steve and friend Mark Applen to see if they would be interested as we are all retired and have time.  Mark's first response was...."This is a bucket list trip, I'm in!!"  Steve didn't take long to commit as well so I told Ben to count on us, I'll bring my boat for us and will meet up with you and drive out.  After settling the rental property, we had our dates set, leave Saturday, March 28 and return the following Saturday, spending a week out there.  Ben stated that one needed a week as the likelihood of getting blown off the lake a couple of days was really high so staying a week would assure some quality fishing time.  He was correct as we arrived Saturday evening around 7:30, the forecast for Sunday was high winds and small craft warnings (that meant us!).  Sunday was spent going over the different landings, stopping to buy food for the week, and checking out the local sporting goods store called Fisherman's Central.  Port Clinton is definitely a tourist town as there are a great number of campgrounds and resorts to stay and enjoy the region.  We went out to Catawba Island to check out some things there and discovered a local winery.  Stopping in it was very nice and had a good process for trying their wines, unfortunately their tastes and mine didn't fit very well.  With Monday's weather looking better we got up and headed to Muzurik Public Boat Landing on Marblehead Point.  Just north of this is Kelley's Island were we intended to fish the area around there.  Although I have fished planer boards in the past on Lake Mille Lacs, because we can fish up to 3 lines each, our strategy was to fish 3 planer boars off of each side, each at varying depths to try and figure out a strategy.  The initial word is at that time of year the big females have yet to spawn and they are staged in certain areas getting ready to spawn.  The key is to find the area they are staging at then troll through these schools with deep diving crankbaits with the Bandit Walleye Deep being the bait of choice.  One soon learns why.  

Bandit Deep Walleye in Rotten Fruit color
Although we were normally fishing in 30 - 40 feet of water, these walleyes are generally suspended off the structures and these Bandits run pretty consistent.  Therefore using one type of bait, it becomes a lot easier to remember how deep you are running the lures and which ones are hot and which ones are not!  Also these baits have a nice rattle chamber in them and as they go through the water they are constantly making noise which attracts the wallleyes.  At 70 feet of line out they are running about 15 - 17 feet deep.  This one called Rotten Fruit was responsible for the first walleye caught in the boat, the largest walleye I had ever seen and because Mark had the first line, he brought in his personal best.  This walleye looked about 32 inches but it was really only about 29 and weighed over 9 pounds.  This was our only fish for the day and even though Ben had 8 for the day, we were never very far from him and kept true to what we were told, look for clear water, look for marks on you depth finder, But with only one fish, we hadn't really developed a pattern and as we soon found out, it is important to figure out where the walleyes were staging.  We also had 4 more days to go and even if we only caught one fish, that fish was absolutely the biggest walleye I'd ever seen! We figured it would take a few days to get things dialed in and that wasn't too far from reality.

Picture of my graph with all the fish
There are two interesting twists to the Lake Erie story.  The sad aspect was that Kevin's father-in-law, Richard Myren, was in put into Hospice before we left as at the age of 89 his cancer had finally taken over.  With hospice one never knows however as we drove down on Saturday Kevin received a call that Richard had died that morning.  Kevin, Ben, Heather and Jared were looking at options but in the end decided to drive home on Tuesday as the funeral was set for Wednesday.   He left his boat and they took off early Tuesday morning, an 8 hour drive back.  The second interesting aspect was in the house next door to us were a group of guys from North Dakota doing a segment for a show called Fish Addictions.  They gave us a lot of tips including a waypoint we should checkout as they stated they had found a school over a mile in length and did really well on Blue Chrome Bandits 50 - 70 feet back.  They also left Tuesday morning so Ben got the picture of the waypoint and sent it to me.  That's a great place to end part 1 and a great place to start the next post.  Fish Addictions has a website and posted this article on their blog which really says it all!  And here is the Fish Additions video that they shot a couple of days before they left  it's definitely worth watching.  Next week you can see how we did after meeting these guys!

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Getting caught up, part 1

Steve's First Nice Walleye

Well, you'd think one would have enough time to document everything however it seems that time just flies these days.  So I have 2 fishing trips under the belt and haven't reported on wither on  of them so better later than never!  On March 12th the plan was to have my brother Steve pick up my friend Bill from California, who was staying in a hotel near the airport then meet me at the p ole shed, transfer the stuff to my truck and head to Springsteel Island on Lake of the Woods for one last ice fishing trip with the wheelhouse before bringing it home.  Bill had never stayed on the ice while fishing so this was going to be a special trip, however on Thursday, March 11 Springsteel's Facebook page announced that due to the warm weather, they were no longer allowing wheel houses on the ice.  Well, I called Steve to figure out plan B, we would bring our portables with then stay in the wheelhouse that was parked in the driveway of my friend Dave Johnsons house on the resort.  Bill was OK with this so ahead we went.  Arriving at 2:30 we meet up with Mark Mayerich and his cousin Greg and brother-in-law Gary, the news about the ice made them reserve a room in Roseau.  In the meantime my friends from Eleva, Kevin, Ben, and Jared Aiona were out on the ice already so we paid the access fee and headed out.  Unlike a month ago there was no snow on the ice except for a few thin patches.  4 miles out there was a heave starting so we stayed on the west side of that.  Finding an area where it wouldn't be so slippery we drilled 6 holes and started fishing.  It was comfortable out, some wind but we sat behind the truck.  My brother Steve got the first nice fish, a 23 inch walleye, anything over 19.5 had to be let go so down the hole it went.  We got another few fish before sunset and overall it was a nice beginning to our trip.  Driving back that night to sleep in the wheel house, the ice didn't seem too bad yet the prediction was for temperatures to be in the mid 50's on Saturday and that could really cause issues on the ice.

Ben's Nice Northern
Saturday came and we decided to fish  the same area again, about as deep as we could find without going over the heave.  It was nice out so we decided to fish outside again.  Ben and Kevin had their Ranger so they were more mobile and tried a number of different spots closer in at around 18 feet.  Being a couple miles away it wasn't too easy to see them but we did get their coordinates.  Because they were closer to shore and shallower, this set up for the possibility to catch some nice northerns as there were many ice fisherman specifically targeting northern pike.  Ben hooked into this dandy jigging for walleyes.  In the mean time we stayed in that 24 feet of water and Bill caught a dandy perch, close to 14 inches.  As well my friend Bruce Wiley had planned on flying up Saturday morning.  Dave Johnson drove a truck up that he planned to leave at his cabin so Bruce volunteered to fly him back home on Sunday.  2 hours verses 6 1/2 hours driving.   Dave and Bruce found us on the ice to see what we had.  It was nothing to brag about so Dave decided to take some walleyes out of the freezer and we would have walleye at the bar later that night.  We had a couple, Ben and Kevin had a few but with 12 in our group it was good that he had some fish that he could contribute.  The resort does a great job of making a fish fry, deep fried walleye, cole slaw, beans, and fried potatoes, a regular shore lunch.  they were very accommodating for me using my gluten free fish coating, it was a lot of fun and a good experience for my friend Bill to see how we do it in Northern Minnesota. Sunday was colder and more wind so we set up out hub houses with a heater and fished inside.  It was nice and comfortable, not that it was bad outside, in the low 40's but the wind wasn't very nice.  In the meantime Mark, Gary, and Greg, who was right next to us made lunch including chili and marinated venison chops, exceptionally good.  At about 4 we packed up and headed to where Kevin and Ben were fishing in the shallower water.  Getting set up it took about an hour then the fish turned on.  bound and determined to catch a fish on a Slab Rap, my wish finally came true as I got 5 fish on that lure.  My goal is to become more proficient with it, hoping to try this type of bait on opener at Leech Lake this year.  By sundown the  bite died almost instantly so we packed up.  the plan in the morning was to hook up and head south.  Kevin and Ben decided to fish in the morning so we did not touch base before we left.  In hindsight I think they could have let houses out as the ice seemed pretty firm and even the high temperatures on Saturday had little effect on the ice.  Oh well we had fun.  with no DirecTV we watch a movie each night, Friday was The Big White, a Robin Williams movie, Saturday was The Founder, about Ray Kroch and McDonalds, a very good movie, then Sunday was The Man  Who Shot Liberty Valence, the first movie John Wayne called anyone Pilgrim (Jimmy Steward).  We enjoyed some great wine, some very nice scotch, Bill had an experience that he'll never forget and I got my wheel house home.  Lot's accomplished!  My next couple posts will be on my latest trip to Lake Erie, very interesting.  Also I installed 4 new Lithium batteries in my boat, that is another interesting story.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

February 28th, it's here already!

Sunset on Lake of the Woods
 February 28th marks one of the more interesting days of my fishing past.  In  the state of Minnesota all permanent ice houses located south of Highway 2 (which runs from Duluth to East Grand Forks) must be off the lake, period.  My CRS does not allow me the exact year however it was probably in the late 1970's or early 1980's.  My good friend Mark Taylor introduced me to his brother-in-law Tim Guzek.  He had introduced us to fishing Lake John, just west of Annandale.  I would say that it was my go to lake for many years.  Well one year Mark, Tim, Mark's brother Jack, and I decided that we would build a relatively inexpensive "permanent" ice fishing house out of simple chip board, it was pretty simple.  We all pooled our money and bought 12 pcs of 4' x 8' x 1/2 inch panels plus a few 2 x 4's and 2 x 2's for strength and build a crude but effective fish house. I don't remember who got the small barrel stove for heating it with wood but either way we were in ice fish heaven at the time, as there were no portables at the time.  We had somehow befriended a home owner on the lake who let us access the lake through his land which was very nice as our fish house was straight off his shore.  That year we had a ton of snow.  Not being smart enough to lift the house up out of the slush, it was around February 14, just 2 weeks before we needed to remove the house from the lake, when we decided to start getting ready for this event.  The rumors of what would happen if you didn't get the house off the ice ranged from revoking your fishing license to huge fines that young guys like us couldn't pay, even prison sentencing!  Upon arriving at the fish house to our horror, the entire floor had about 4 inches of ice on top of it and was frozen solid.  Now what.  Well it didn't take too long before 4 of us had the perfect solution,  went into town and bought 2 bags of water softener salt pellets.   We dumped both bags on the floor and spread them evenly thinking that the salt would eventually melt the ice and free the ice house from the lake's grip.  Of course it needed time to work so we left, coming back on the 28th to see where we were.  Opening the door we were pleasantly surprised that the ice was completely gone from the top of the floor.  this was going to be a piece of cake!  Well after chipping ice for an hour it was apparent that the ice had gripped the bottom of the floor and wasn't going to yield to our wishes.  There were a few guys in our situation, trying to get their houses off, when one walked up to us, took a look and said that he could set our house free.....just go into town and buy a box of 30-06 shells.  While we continued to chip away one of us went into town and bought the shells.  Upon returning the guy had his hunting rifle in hand as we gave him the shells.  I don't even remember if he had hearing protection, never the less went inside and proceeded to shoot the bullets through the floor, all 20 of them.  Came out and said "There you go, good luck".  The purpose made sense, the bullets would hit the ice and shatter it causing it to release it's grip on our house.  Unfortunately it didn't work as planned and with only a few hours of light left we decided to simply take apart the house piece by piece.  Having an old snowmobile trailer we piled the pieces on the trailer as we disassembled it.  At last all we had was the stuck floor.  Using ice chisels and pry bars we finally got the floor off the ice however it was not recognizable after our efforts.  Ready to go we secured our now defunct ice house, stopping in Monticello where a friend had a house an 5 acres of field, he let us drop it off as none of use really had a place to put the pile of wood.  That was our last effort in having a permanent ice house as flip over portables became readily available.  It still was pretty funny as this date brings back those struggles as young and inexperienced guys often have.  Thanks Mark, Jack, and Tim for the memories! My first picture is sunset on Lake of the Woods from 2 weeks ago.  It had to be -25F however the moon and the colors were simply stunning!

Jared's Trophy Hogfish
So the plan was to go to Lake of the Woods this weekend but a few calls about the current bite status and I decided to wait till March 12th.  Mistakenly assumed that Ben Aiona would be back from Florida by now but I was off a week and he is still there absorbing the last of the beautiful sunshine.  Ben will be back in time for our mid March trip, assuming he needs to pull his shack home, as well my wheel house.  In our talks about Florida, the idea of going out on a charter was discussed.  Ben, his wife Heather, and son Jared were scheduled for earlier this week however the weather proved to force them to move it on Friday.  I was really excited to see how Jared did as he is one dedicated fisherman!  Well to my surprise I received a number of pictures of the trip including this one of the nice Hogfish he caught.  I can just imagine the craziness on the boat when he pull this fish in sight.  Pictures say a thousand words but in this case and knowing Jared, it doesn't even come close, and the picture says a lot!!!  Apparently the captain claims this is a pretty nice sized trophy hogfish, telling Ben he should get a graphite reproduction!  In another picture Jared pulled up an octopus that he hooked.  I just can't imagine!  It looks like they got a few nice grouper, some small snappers and a number of rockfish type fish that sometimes you just never know what you'll catch.  Like a lot of gulf charters I have been on they were out 30 miles and it's still relatively shallow.  It appears to be a nice day and the waves look tame enough, it makes me want to fly down.  Anyway I am looking forward to our next trip and discussing this adventure.  Ben is planning on going to Lake Erie at the end of April and has invited us with.  It's a dream trip for me and at this time am planning to go.  We are now about 10 1/2 weeks from Fishing Opener, I am already starting to get ready.   More on that next week!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Moved to Lake Of The Woods (LOTW)

Ben's nice 26.5" Walleye
Last Friday was the time to shift gears and retrieve the Salem wheel house from it's parked location at JR's and haul it up to Springsteel Island Resort on the southwest side of LOTW's.  Knowing Ben Aiona was going up there, his dad Kevin and Kevin's friend John Felix decided to join me.  The cold weather made a point to linger into the weekend with -35F predicted for Saturday night.  Meeting me at the pole shed we left by 8:00 AM on Friday with our intent on being at JR's by 12:30.  Arriving at JR's we backed the truck up to the wheel house only to see that my propane storage doors were wide open.  Damn, someone must have gotten in and took the 2-30 pound cylinders.  Kevin got to the doors and said Oh oh!  My heart sunk but he laughed and said he was sorry!  After hooking it up and securing the doors the plan was to start the furnace and let it run the 90 minutes to Warroad.  After bidding Adam at JR's a good bye till next year, I paid the storage fee and took off.  It never got warmer than -11 F and that was near Deerwood, MN and   by the time we hooked up it was back down to -15.  Our next stop was the Warroad Cenex station to get minnows, fill up the truck, and fill up the assumed now empty propane tank.  Part of the idea to start the furnace was to get it warm but also there was still propane left in the original tank and wanted to empty it.  Everyone said I should not run the furnace while pulling the house but it seemed to work out OK.  At the Cenex they are gracious enough to only charge you for what they put in it and to my surprise it still had 5 pounds left.  That was a lot of run time on that cylinder, 2.5 days on Red and at least an hour and a half of steady running on the road.  With the propane full, the minnow bucket running, the truck full of gas we were ready for a cold adventure.  After paying the road access we called Ben who had met us 6 miles out on the road and guided us near where he was settled in.  Kevin is getting pretty good at helping to get set up and did a great job as we were fishing within 20 minutes of arriving, just in time for the evening bite.  We managed a few keepers the rest of the day however the cold weather kept the bit to a minimum.  The next day, Saturday, would prove to be more eventful.  We caught a number of nicer 15 - 16 inch saugers and walleyes while Ben, just 20 yards from us managed to bring in a nice 26.5" walleye.  It was definitely chilly out but we managed to keep more than enough fish to go in for a fish fry at the resort.  It's a pretty good deal as one gets diced fried potatoes, cole slaw, beans, and they fried my fish in the gluten free batter for me.  It was a nice change not to have to make and clean up after eating!  After a filling supper we headed back 7 miles out on the ice to turn on the television and relax for the evening.

Sunday's catch
Ben got up and left Sunday morning while our plan was to stay and leave Monday morning.  It still never got above zero with Saturday night low was -34.  By the time we got up it was already up to -28!  We stayed the rest of Sunday getting a fish here and there.  I would not say that it was on fire but it certainly was better than Red Lake was 4 weeks ago and although the numbers were not as good as fishing Lake Winnebigoshish 2 weeks earlier, the number of keepers was significantly better, as we had fairly consistent action throughout the day.  We were surprised at the clarity of the water as LOTW tends to have dingy water.  This lead to a few rattle reels going off after dark.  AT midnight on Sunday one went off and no one got up to service the line so I got out of my warm sleeping bag and found the reel that had my line marker bobber underneath the water, felt it and set the hook.  It was a nice walleye and when I got her up I was impressed, nicest one of the trip in our house.  I put it in the fish pail, reset the rattle reel and hopped back into the sleeping bag.  After about 30 seconds the thought came to me, damn that was a nice walleye, but I failed to measure it.  On LOTW all walleyes over 19.5 inches have to be released.  So, back out of the sleeping bag and over to the fish bucket, pull her out and got the measuring tape that is on the slush dipper, 21 inches, back in the hole she went.  Luckily she swam right away.  No need to get the ice house confiscated over 1.5 inches of walleye.  Again we woke up to under -20 but decided to get packed up as Keven and John had at least an 8 hour trip ahead of them.  Stopping at the Springsteel Island fish cleaning house they had made some improvements such as running water to clean up everything.  We ended up parking the Salem at my friend Dave Johnson's place at the resort, ready for the next trip.  I suppose we caught around 30 - 40 fish total with 20 keepers that we either ate or brought home.  The plan is to leave it there till the middle of March when my good friend Bill Dull from Southern California is flying up to try ice fishing.  It's too bad he didn't come this time and experience what the real cold feels like!  I am trying to arrange a big group so he will have the full feel of an ice fishing adventure in Northern Minnesota.  As a side note the road we were on is the beginning of the ice road that runs across LOTW to the Northwest Angle, an isolated part of Minnesota the is usually only accessible by going through Canada either by highways or motoring across the lake via the portion that is in the United States.  The ice road has been important for the residents of the Northwest Angle as the Covid restrictions have limited their options to return to their properties.  It's a pretty good deal as the road provides easier access to those resorts in that area for guest to get there.  Snowmobiling is an option but it limits what  you can bring.  I know last week's weather sure made ice!

Friday, February 5, 2021

Fishin' With Mark

Large crawfish Mark caught
 My good friend Mark Applen had decided to base his wheel house out of Denny's Resort on Lake Winnebigoshish, about 3 1/2 hours north of home as he lives less than a mile from me.  He was heading up last weekend and asked if I would like to join him.  Lake Winnie was the first lake that Mark introduced me to wheel house fishing when we took his older wheel house and met his friends the Praught Brothers on the lake for a weekend of fishing.  I instantly fell in love and within a year there was a Salem parked by my shed.   Winnebigoshish was part of a number of lakes in northern Minnesota that were created in the lat 1800's to serve as water storage for the Mississippi River for the summer.  Pokegama Lake, Winnebigoshish and Leech all are part of the Mississippi River watershed and are quite large lakes.  Because Mark's house was already there we simply drove my truck up to the resort, hooked up his Salem and we pulled it out on the lake.  The structure of the lake is quite interesting as the main road out from the resort basically followed a miles long edge topping out at about 12 feet then dropping to 30 in about 100 - 20 feet.  It was pretty interesting a the houses were parked along the drop off, almost in single file.  After about a 6 mile drive we were close to the end of the road and decided to pull off to the left as there was a larger space in between houses.  The trip off the plowed road started out okay but as we headed towards our destination, the snow got deeper and it was what I call sugar snow, did not pack down well and made it hard to get any traction.  That's another story!  We had the house in an ok spot along the drop but really didn't know how deep we were.  Because we were basically stuck, this would have to do.  Drilling the holes we were in about 18 feet of water, on the drop.  Because both Mark and I have the same wheel house it is pretty fast as we both work in unison and we were ready to fish in record time, set up by 3:00 PM, just in time for the evening bite.  And bite it was, as fish appeared on the screen immediately and within a few minutes a hit.  Quickly an 8 inch walleye came through the hole.  We caught many walleyes of that size as we had a self imposed limit of 13.5 inches minimum.  The lake is quite clear so Mark put down his camera and connected it to the TV.  We saw a nice northern pike swim by explaining why the bite had stopped.  There was a huge crawfish sitting just on the bottom below Mark's minnow.  He lowered the bait and it grabbed onto the minnow, he hauled it up.  The are actually a beautiful creature with bright orange with a vibrant blue claws, the picture doesn't do it justice.  Mid day tends to be slower than the morning and evening bite.

Nice pile of Walleye and Perch Fillets
Bringing my new K-drill  auger with, now that I had the right sized drill, mid afternoon on Saturday was a perfect time to try it out.  The fish house was on a north south line so east it would be shallower and west it would get deeper.  Drilling 4 holes each way I went deep and Mark went shallow.  We each did well as I nailed the largest walleye of the weekend, a 14.5 inch fish while Mark hammered the perch. It was cold out but trying something different was fun as we both saw constant action.  Finally the action cooled off and we decided to head back into the warmth of the house to finish up the weekend.  As the sun set the walleye bite picked up again and we caught quite a few, granted they were small but it's still fun to watch them come up on the depthfinder and match your skills based on what you see on the screen.  It was interesting that neither over nights produced a rattle wheel hit, or maybe we just slept through it.  Sunday morning it was time to leave.  Mark's friend Scott had came out to fish by us earlier and had parked on the path that I had made prior to shutting the truck off in order to have a clear path out.  It really didn't matter because I got stuck immediately.  Mark had commented that it almost felt like my traction control was off.  Below the radio is a set of buttons that control these things and each had a light to designate if they were on or not, at least that's what I was lead to believe.  Yet being stuck, the RPM's were 1500 yet no wheels were spinning, prompted a closer look.  Sure enough when the traction control button was pressed a light in the dash by the speedometer had the traction control icon off.  With the traction control off the truck walked right out off our spot.  Making a few loops to make sure we got out okay we hooked up the house and drove right out.  Interesting as I've never had that problem before but it's possible that I wasn't paying attention.  I am getting old you know!

Eelpout, no respect!
Back on the road it was pretty rough so we headed slowly at 5 mph.  Rough ice can cause a lot of problems in a wheel house, scattering things inside as well it's hard on everything.  Finally getting back to the resort, I took the fish to the cleaning house while Mark parked and unhooked his house, as he has kept it there all winter.  Denny's has a nice cleaning house, heated with water, perfect.  No one was in it and when I arrived there was a nice eelpout laying there, apparently someone caught it but decided to leave it for someone.  Nobody had to hit me in the  head as they are excellent eating.  Ugly but taste great.  Almost done cleaning fish, Mark came in and did the honors while I finished the walleyes and perch.  We ended up with 4 small walleyes, about 12 decent perch and a gift from someone who doesn't understand what they left.  Oh well, we got cleaned up and headed south, stopping at the Y in Garrison for something to eat.  It was a lot of fun to get back to Winnie and fish.  It is really supposed to get cold this weekend, -35 up north.  At this time the plan is to head to Red Lake and pick up my wheel house then haul it to Springsteel Island Resort, north of Warroad, MN on the southwest side of Lake of the Woods.  the plan is to leave it there for a month and try our luck there.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Fishin' With Dave

nice largemouth bass
Last Monday I had the pleasure of fishing with a good friend of mine Dave Grant.  He is the son of Mike Grant, who I worked with for many years.  My good friend Bruce Wiley has it right, you can only have so many good friends in your life and Mike is one of them.  Well Dave asked me to go fishing with me a few weeks ago but he ended up having to work.  That's OK as he is trying to work his way through college, something that will make him very successful someday.  We decided that Monday was a good day so after meeting me at the pole shed at 8:00 we loaded everything up and headed northwest about 60 miles from Alexandria, MN to a smaller lake fishing for panfish.  It's a long drive but spending quality time with Dave is as fun as fishing.  He's a bright young man and has the qualities for a very successful future.  He met me at the pole shed and we loaded up my ATV, 2 man Clam, the auger and I decided to take my new KDrill 7.5 inch auger that is powered via my M18 Milwaukee portable drill, or so I thought.  I bought it since I already had a M18 drill driver.  It says to have a drill with at least 750 inch/pounds of torque and one that has a side handle.   Charging off to find a side handle for my drill, although not expensive, I bought 2 that didn't fit before calling Milwaukee Tools customer service for help.  Giving him the model number he told me that he had some bad news, first that there were no handles for that model and second, that model only has 500 inch/pounds of torque and will burn out if you use it.  After recommending the right drill, a trip to Home Depot got me me just what I needed!  We got to the boat landing, unloaded the ATV then loaded up the shack and headed out.  The lake is a long narrow lake with a deeper basin on the west end, maybe 1/2 mile from the east shore.  Using the Navionics app on the phone we got into the 25 foot basin and drilled a bunch of holes with my 9" gas Strikemaster.  We set up the 2 man and got comfortable.  After an hour of fishless time I decided it would be nice to try the KDrill.  Heading straight north I drilled about 5 holes going shallower.  It wasn't terribly cold and fishing outside was tolerable, the second hole produced a nice mark on the Vexilar then boom, it was a nice fish, sort of felt like a northern.   Yelling at Dave to come and help with the fish as I was using 3# test and a panfish setup he got there just in time to lip this nice largemouth.  Back in the hole she went, rebaited and 5 minutes later there was another bass on the line, not as big but still fun.  All together I landed 4 bass, a small sunfish and a  hammer handle northern.  It was fun.  

Dave's one of two 8 1/2 inch sunfish
About 4:00 we decided to move in shallower for the evening bite. Back off a point there were 2 permanent shacks, a good sign that it was a consistent place to catch fish.  We set up close to the shacks, not on top of them and started fishing.  Right off the bat we started marking sunfish, then began catching them. I call them hate to's....Hate to keep em, hate to throw them back.  We were catching a fish a minute and sorting through the better ones. Dave called his dad and asked him if he wanted any fish for his grandma.....yes bring some home.   We had about 6 fish on the ice when Dave gets a nice 8 1/2 inch sunny.  Five minutes later he gets another one.  This was only after watching him with his fishing pole, I just shook my head and dug another single action light pole out of my bag and handed it to try this as I could see the set coil in his line was taking up any feel that the line gave him.  Dave started catching fish and managed to get another nice sunfish.  We were fishing waxy's on #8 frosty glow jigs.  That Vexilar Glo Ring that I picked up a few weeks ago really works slick and for that evening bite seems to keep the fish interested longer.  We ended up with about 14 sunnies, I threw in a smaller one just to make his dad clean a smaller fish, told Dave to tell your dad he's lucky we didn't save all of them.  Dave is going to St. Thomas University for Mechanical Engineering and he will do very well for himself.  He's a smart kid and utilizes every minute of our time together to ask questions, seek advice as he looks to the future.  Working his way through school he is extremely conscience of student debt and is working hard to graduate debt free, a fabulous goal.  Sometime during our trip he asked me some advice on an upcoming internship he applied for, or any opportunity that presents himself.  I told Dave...Don't let the grass grow under your feet, make sure that if you are done, go find something else and don't wait for your boss to give you something.  Companies really recognize self starters.  The other thing I like about Dave is he's a realist, not wrapped up in the what if's of the world.  Of course I am turning into an old curmudgeon however it's fun to see that there is still some common sense left...just like his dad!!

I am desperate to get caught up as I went to Lake Winnebigoshish last weekend with my friend Mark Applen so I have more fishing stories!  At least I am fishing. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

First Trip to Red

First Walleye, 20 inches
 Enough of the questionable ice reports, traffic jams, little fish, and cancelled trips.  My friend Andy Achman was heading back to Red Lake last weekend after a report that his friend got 45 walleyes the previous week.  My regular crew had moved to Lake Winnebigoshish and Ben Aiona, who did well on Lake of the Woods 2 weeks ago was staying home.  The traffic on Red had subsided quite a bit and I prefer to go with at least one other house for safety reasons, I called my brother Steve and friend Kevin to see if they wanted to go.  With the rain and very wet snow predicted for last Thursday and Friday we decided to leave on Saturday and come back on Tuesday.  Because Andy had Monday off he was going to leave Monday morning.  Steve and Kevin met me at the house as I was hooking up the Salem, once on the road we headed north for our 4 1/2 hour drive to JR's.  A quick call to Andy and he was about 90 minutes ahead of us.  A quick stop at Deer River for gas and bait and an hour later we were on Artesyn Spring road heading for JR's.  Andy called and said he had some troubles and just got on the ice, I said we will be there in 5 minutes.  He has the coordinates to the area where his friends did well so he waited.  Our destination was to the north of Center Bar, out 2 miles from JR's, take a left and go 6 miles then a right along the Reservation line, maybe 3 miles then to the right.  There was a fair amount of snow on the ice but it wasn't too bad as I got turned around making sure my truck was facing the plowed road for an easier exit.  With 3 seasoned guys it doesn't take long to get set up.  This was to be my first experience using my new Strikemaster 40V 10 inch auger.  It was pretty impressive as it cut about 4 times as fast as my old chisel bit 10 inch Big Volt auger.  It also has a reverse feature so once the hole is done, put it in reverse and push most of the slush back down the hole.  As I got done Steve and Kevin were letting the house down.  The next priority was to get the DirecTV set up to watch the Packer/Rams game.  I always have a little trouble the first time but by 3:40 we had the game on.  We started fishing and almost immediately Kevin's rod was bent down pretty good, he had a nice one on.  About 1/2 way up it came off.  Within a minute a big mark appeared on my screen and it hit like a runaway truck.  Telling Kevin this was a good fish he took out my transducer.  Got it's head to the top of the hole and the bait came flying out.  A quick reach into the hole and Kevin had the fish, a beautiful 20 inch walleye.  We thought....Here we go!!!  Well that ended up being the highlight of the trip as far as fish goes.  The master plan was to watch the games on Saturday, have chili in the house.  Sunday and Monday was hopefully having fish at JR's.  Kevin caught a 14 incher later Saturday evening and then we were skunked till Monday night when Steve got a 14 incher.  Therefore we never got the chance to have a fish dinner at JR's

Sundogs at it's finest
Time seems to go a lot faster when one is fishing.  Tuesday morning came fast as it was time to pack up.  It is always nice to have Steve and Kevin with as they are trained very well to do the things that need to be done to leave.  With the 3 of us we were cleaned and hooked up within a half an hour.  The biggest challenge was to make sure we could get back on the road, however the cold temperatures hardened the snow up somewhat and we pulled right out of our spot and back on the road.  With about 18 inches of ice the speed limit is about 15 mph.  Our route took us south to the curve then southeast to the main road from JR's.  The sun comes up in the southeast and the light cloud cover produced a beautiful picture of the sundogs on either side of the rising sun, I had to stop and take this picture.  Once at JR's I decided to leave my wheel house there and pick it up in a few weeks to go to the Lake of the Woods out of Springsteel Island Resort.  Ben just came back from the there and I am excited to get a report.  Although it was disappointing to get so few fish,  one can never replace the time spent with friends.  I have finished this sort of late and my friends Mark Mayerich, Adam Mayerich, and Gary Ullom are fishing on Red and I just called them.  They are not doing any better.  I'll have a better report for yesterday's trip but that will have to wait a few days, not this many however!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Fishin' With Pete

Our launch point before it was froze
 I've started this a number of times and hopefully it get's finished.  On December 26th my neighbor Pete invited me back to his families land north of Grand Rapids, MN to catch some nice sunfish and crappies.  Meeting me at 8:00 Saturday morning, it started on the wrong foot immediately.  We hooked up the trailer and the coupler never got latched.  When driving the ATV onto the trailer, the front of the trailer came off the ball and put a little dent in Pete's new truck.  It's a stupid mistake that I've seen before.  In my mind I thought Pete locked it but apparently I wasn't seeing things right.  Either way I got a quick scolding, we hooked it back up and proceeded to load up.  Pete kept his cool pretty well as there is little one could do now.  It's sort of like getting the first scratch on the boat, not a great event but life goes on regardless.  After stopping by his house and loading up his stuff we headed north.  We were in no particular hurry and had time to stop by Bruce's place, just east of Garrison, to get our coffee cups refilled.  A quick visit and we were back on the road. Our next stop was in Grand Rapids to get groceries and go to the L & M farm store to get a battery for the inside lights for my portable shelter.  It's the first time in that store and I was really impressed as it reminded me how these types of stores used to be like.  Picking up a 12V 9 AH gel cell, I also bought a Vexilar Glow Ring for charging up my UV coated baits.  About 40 minutes north of Grand Rapids we stopped at the Frontier store to pick up bait and a few fishing items.  Arriving at the cabin, Pete's brother Tim arrived earlier and fired up the stove and had done some scouting for the fish.  After getting everything unloaded without incident, we hooked everything to my ATV and pulled our shacks out to the lake through the cattails.  It was quite slushy on our first drive through but we made it.  After stopping to see Tim, Pete decided to head up the lake further off a point, around 19 feet of water.  Pete kept talking about all the nice fish so when I caught an 8 inch bluegill and showed it to him, there was little reaction so back it went.  Although I had caught 5 fish in the few hours left, there were fish there and fishing out in the open didn't help our concentration.  The fish stopped about 30 minutes after sunset so we headed in for a nice meal of Cheeseburger Soup Tim had brought.  Tomorrow we'd hit it hard!

Nice 8 to 9 1/2 inch bluegills
Sunday morning arrived and after breakfast we headed back out.  Tim decided to fish the 23 foot water while Pete and I decided to try the point again.  After seeing what size fish Tim had kept there was a better understanding of what a nice bluegill was.  Setting up my portable that hadn't been used in about 6 years, there were a couple of things needing readjustment.  One of the screws on the bracket that held the front vertical poll support had come out.  Luckily it fell on the bare ice and was easily found and using a larger ice jig was able to make it work for the day.  The other is I mistakenly shoveled all the snow from the floor of my shack making it very slippery.  I like using the newer direct drive single action reels with 3 pound colored monofilament line on a very soft tipped 24 - 30 inch rod.  The key to catching these fish is to pay close attention to your line and the feel of the tip as the fish were biting very soft, often just inhaling the bait.  Moving the tip softly up and down would allow you to feel if a fish was there without pulling it out of their mouths, a quick set and up they come.  I ended the day with 14 nice bluegills, a small crappie and a very nice tullibee, about 18 inches long.  They are really fun to catch.  Tim had some really nice crappies in his bucket, in that 11 to 13 inch range as he was in deeper water.  Another fisherman came out to his area and did pretty good using larger baits.  I thought the glow ring really helped in that deeper water as you could see the fish come up to the bait as it drifted down.  My friend Kevin is a really good at this kind of fishing so I called him but he didn't answer.  We used to do real good in Alma using Purist's, a small panfish lure with a hard plastic attached on the hook shank.  It has a perfect sink rate, slow and inviting.  I did put one on and caught quite a bite of fish with it.  Kevin and I finally got connected and we talked about the using the Purist.  I laughed as he said you are fishing how deep!  It does take a while for those baits to get down, they can be deadly.  We cleaned about 30 fish that evening.

Monday was our last day and we decided to fish the deeper water.  Although the good news was the crappies were there, I only kept 2 sunfish as many were too small.  Still good action, it's fun watching the fish on your Vexilar and trying to get them to hit.  The same guy came out in the early afternoon and set up right next to us.  He left early and I suspect the noise didn't help our late afternoon bite.  Never the less I ended up with 2 nice sunfish and 7 beautiful crappies.  No complaints.  Although I had many offers to head to Red Lake, Winnebigoshish, and maybe Lake of the Woods.  Not having fished nice crappies and bluegills for a while it was totally enjoyable.  Enough to maybe try and fish panfish a little bit more this year.  I've fixed up the portable, got my auger running and picked up a few new lures and tuned up my gear.  It looks like we might be on Red in a week, with LOTW's definitely in the target.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

My Fishing Buddy Kevin

Kevin on the Right and Myself on the left
 Everyone has a special friend in their lives and mine is Kevin Aiona.  We grew up together as we live right down the block from him and his family.  His mom Donna was in the same grade as my dad so we had lot's in common to begin with.  If there was anything to do with fishing, Kevin and I were inseparable.  From fishing behind Bud Tollefson's house for suckers in April to cat fishing in August, when I fished Kevin was right by my side!  The memories are so many that it's almost impossible to name them all.  Since we were about 10, we fished special places on the Buffalo River like Carp Slough, the Buffalo Bridge, the Trestle as well as Big Creek, Trout Creek, areas on the Mississippi north of Alma such as the Cut, the Wiggle Waggle and Catfish Slough.  One of our best times and an annual favorite was fishing Wilbur's in April for the northerns as they spawned in the flood waters of Big Lake.  At first we'd rent a boat from Wilbur, and row up the shoreline casting daredevils.  In the late 70's I secured an old Martin 7.5 hp outboard and we had a motor to give us the status of a couple of big shots!  I am sure that we did really well every time we fished for northerns, but admittedly it was a long time ago.  Never the less we did very well as you can see by the picture.  Kevin is about a year younger than me but he looks pretty young in this picture, I suspect this picture was about 1978, I loved wearing old army jackets and Kevin, he still looks like he was in Junior High.  I am sure he will laugh at this picture yet those were the best of times.  Kevin was my best man in my wedding and I was his. His son Ben who has appeared in the blog is my God child, quite an honor.  From the age of 10 to 25 I am sure there were a number of great pictures.  I found an old photo album and it prompted me to pay tribute to my friend, we really caught a lot of fish in the day, with minimal help other than our own knowledge.  No depth finders, GPS, heck a good rod was maybe $15.

Kevin and a nice 4 Pound Largemouth

Both Kevin and I got pretty good at fishing bass along Catfish Slough.  I had bought a boat from Paul Wichmann which was laying in one of his pastures.  I fixed it up and ended getting a 15 hp Evinrude and we were in business.  One weekend Kevin and I camped just south of the Wabasha bridge.  We would throw Moss Boss's into the pond weed along the shore, working the bait on the surface as it would leave a trail marking where you had fished.  More often the bass would explode through the pondweed to hit the plastic lure as it skipped over the weeds.  The bass we caught were 3 to 4 pounds and would leave a hole in the pond weed, leaving a clue as to the success we had.  We caught a lot of bass like the one Kevin is holding.  That weekend we got back to our campsite after dark and walked up to the tent with our flashlight.  All of a sudden we heard this sharp rattling sound and we knew exactly what that meant, a rattlesnake.  Swamp rattlesnakes were know to be in the area and we finally ran into one.  Well we found it and quickly dispatched it.  Putting it into a burlap bag we got back in the boat and headed for Slippery's on the Wabasha side of the river, just upstream from the bridge.  The legal drinking age was 19 so we decided to celebrate our adventure.  There was a guy in the bar that was interested in our now dead snake so for a couple of beers we gave it to him.  BTW Slippery's is the bar where the original Grumpy Old Men was filmed, pretty cool.  It has changed now but at the time it was the same as in the movie.  We also fished alot of walleyes in Catfish Slough.  Both Kevin and I got good at making our own standup jigs then tying fake fur on them, we hammered the walleye while we drifted with the current down the slough.  It could be the middle of July and 100 degrees out and we'd still hammer them in 5 to 7 feet of water.  It's been a while since I have fished that area but Kevin says it's all filled in now.  I guess it's tough to stop change but the river is constantly changing.  Kevin and his son Ben are still river rats and my goal this year is to try and relive the past, a pretty big task.  Maybe I'll learn a few new things.  

Anyway my intent is to not forget those that were an important part of your being.  There is a lot of guys that fit this description, Paul Wenaas, Barry Kolden, Anyway running across these old pictures brought back a lot of memories and there are a few more that will give me an excuse to elaborate on the past!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Finally Ready!

Ready to go!!
 With the nice weather we are having the ice formation has deteriorated to a slow crawl putting a lot of pressure on some of the better lakes up north like Red Lake, my usual first destination with the Salem Ice Cabin.  Last winter, our trip to Lake of the Woods proved to be difficult for moving around as my wheel stayed up when I jacked the house up.  Luckily my friend Ben had a propane torch and by heating the pivot axle it came down and we were good.  the gave enough time to get it fixed over the summer........well you know how that often goes as procrastination is one's enemy.  Having the time to fix the worst side before the October snow  yet failing to get the other side done, it was obvious that this task is too big for one guy.  My friend Bruce offered to let me pull it into his heated shop and would help me so that's what we did last Friday.  Besides breaking a tail light backing in, Mark Applen who has a house just like mine, joined in on the task of pulling the axle pivot off to clean it, grease it and put it back together.  Not that 2 of us could not have done this but it soon became obvious that the 3rd guy made it happen. With a lot of work we had the wheel assembly off in about 30 minutes, now the work began, cleaning all that hardened grease from the assembly. Having the right tools makes a huge difference as we used power brushes to clean the big stuff off, special round brushes to clean the inside, and a special saw to cut a grove from the grease zerk across the face to help channel grease to the entire length of the axle, which was the initial problem in the first place, the grease would only go one way leaving 2/3rds of the axle with no grease.  It's a heavy duty axle but the grease system is not the best.  In addition, while fixing the right side, the grease zerk fell out so I bought some replacements.  Trying to install the replacement zerk, the 1/4 inch tread just fit into the hole, in other words the factory simply drilled a smaller than the thread hole then pounded them in.  This wasn't right so it forced me to go back to the auto parts store to get the next largest threaded zerk, an 8mm x 1.0 metric.  Then to the hardware store to get a metric tap and the appropriate drill, which they didn't have. The tap needed a 7mm drill, I had something close in inches so it would have to do.  The tap was hard to get through but it worked beautifully.  At the time I didn't think about putting a second grease zerk in the middle of the axle to make sure grease gets everywhere but when we had the left side off I bought the right drill size and put in the new zerk.  Admittedly the tapping went easier now I had the right hole!  Anyway we finished the job, now just to install the new tail light lens and I am set to go!  It sure is nice to have great friends when you need them as I know it would have been difficult to do this myself.  And to send it out to get fixed would have been $500 minimum.  I can buy a lot of Crown Royal for that!!!  Thanks guys!

Milwaukee M18 grease gun.
One of the things that I make sure to do every year is to grease everything.  Adding grease to these axles can be difficult as the zerk is in an awkward place and to hold the hose and pump the gun takes a certain amount of coordination.  For this I purchased a Lock N Lube, locking grease hose tip to grab onto the xerk so your 2 hands are left to pump.  This worked OK but can prove to be a mess if it's not locked on.  Bruce had this Dewalt battery powered grease gun and it was the cat's meow!  Although most of my battery stuff is Milwaukee (must be my Wisconsin Heritage showing!) a quick search and they had one just like it for my M18 series stuff.  It's pretty good stuff as in my collection is a 1/2 inch drill, 3/8 inch impact driver, circular hand saw, brad nailer, hedge trimmer, and a hacksaw/reciprocating saw.  They all work great and it's pretty impressive the amount of time you can get off a battery.  So the grease gun comes in on Monday and of course who needs to read the instructions........right.  I pull out the plunger and lock it into place,  unscrew the cap and insert the grease cartridge.  So far so good.  The greas cartridge has a aluminum top that you pull off by the tab, got that done.  Well I could not screw the end back on.  Completely dumbfounded it sat till the morning when I called Milwaukee's techical service, of course they don't know much.  This is so frustrating as I've had grease guns forever!!  A quick call to Bruce and explained what I did, he said you have to unscrew the barrel and insert the grease tube in from the other end............DUHH.  Grease is messy to begin with but after getting reset, it works like a charm as it's supposed to, now that I have the cartridge inserted properly, it works great.  After cleaning it up it's ready to go.

So the latest situation on Red Lake is tenuous at best.  This warmer weather has slowed the ice development however the latest word is that trucks are parking on the ice along shore as well, they are allowing ATV's out to the crack that usually develops 1/2 mile out then one has to walk about 2 miles to the deeper water to find the fish.  Friends claim that last Saturday the DNR were kicking people off because they were worried there were getting to many people on the lake.  By Christmas things should be back to normal and hopefully will be getting out within the next 2 weeks.  Either way I am getting anxious to get out.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Getting Lazy!!

 Strikemaster 40V 10" electric auger 
 This covid has really affected things, especially my ambition.  There are a ton of things that need to be done before next weekend, especially making sure that the wheel house stuck axle gets done before ice fishing.   Thank the Lord I have friends like Bruce Wiley that has offered to help me in his heated workshop.  I did the worst one back before we got the 8 inches of snow in October only to discover that the worst side actually better than the "better" side so the help is greatly appreciated.  This pandemic has created a lot of disruption in what normally are events that I look forward to.  The Blaine Ice Show at the Sports center was cancelled, it's a great little show that has a lot to offer being the first show of the season.  The big Ice Fishing show at the St. Paul Civic Center which usually takes place the first weekend in December has been cancelled.  The Governor has shut down everything until December 21st but I have no hope that this will be it.  It is funny, when I was young it was interesting to see how cynical the older men like my grandpa was, now I understand!!  The big show is the Northwest Sportshow held at the Minneapolis Convention Center and is scheduled for March 25 thru the 28th.  At the present time it's not cancelled yet  don't hold your breath.  As well the "Black Friday" deals are around but most are online or run for a week, which results in simply regularly sale priced items disguised as "great" deals. Traditional Black Friday deals required a guy to get to the store before noon to take advantage of 50 - 60% off a few but nice items.  2 years ago I purchased 2 very nice Pflueger spinning reels for 50% off, which was $15 less than the standard sale price.  Last year there were some excellent deals on fishing accessories, this year....not much.  This years situation lead me to hit Cabela's last Wednesday and walked out of there with a new 10 inch Strikemaster 40V Electric Auger.  I do have a 10 inch Strikemaster Big Volt auger that is basically a 12 Volt starter motor attached to a transmission.  Rigging up a trolling motor plug inside my wheel house it works pretty good but it is slow and in the cold the chipper blade has a tendency to freeze up the cutting edge.  Although not on sale it was the last one left and with my $300 in Cabela's Points it prompted me to pick it up.  One issue these days is that many manufacturers now limit inventory.  A concern was that the existing auger bit and extension would not fit however Strikemaster did a great job and everything is interchangeable making my 9 inch bit on my gas auger useable, my extension, and the old 8 inch bit that sits in the pole shed. A quick check on Strikemaster's web site showed this item was sold out.  It was probably a good idea to get this over with.  Beyond that, this was the extent of my Black Friday week sales this year.  Now it's time to get ready to to go to Red soon!!

Jared's nice 8 point buck
Well deer hunting is over and it was pretty uneventful.  That's probably good as there is little room in the freezer.  Besides I have enough venison from last year to make another batch of summer sausage with Lory Brasel, we are getting pretty good at this.  Last spring we made 2 batches with adding Fermento, a powdered buttermilk product to add some tang to it.  Here in Minnesota there are few places that know how to make good summer sausage.   People argue with me but if your used to the bland sausage they make here, I guess ones prospective isn't developed as well.  This year we are going to add encapsulated citric acid, as the Fermento was OK, it still wasn't very tangy.  Last year my good friend Kevin Aiona and his son Ben provided me with all the venison I needed.  Ben leases some land near Eleva and do really well deer hunting.  Here is a picture of Ben's son Jared with a beautiful 8 pointer he took on the Wisconsin deer hunting opener weekend.  After hunting for 50 years, this is considerably nicer than anything I have ever shot.  To be honest it really doesn't matter anymore as getting out with my friends is more important than horns on the wall.  My friend Russ Praught and his nephew went up to Red on Thanksgiving day and was able to walk out on 6 inches of ice. He sent me a picture of some nice walleyes they got then the next day fished the morning getting a few more before parking his house at JR's, ready for the next trip.  The 10 day outlook has temperatures in the mid teens and maybe a week after my wheel house get's fixed we should be ready.  This covid has messed up the experience as one can clean your walleyes in the bar area, they will do their famous fish fry as take out so there is hope!  Either way I am excited as all of this comes together.  Our experience at Springsteel Island Resort on Lake of the Woods in Warroad was nice last winter so the plan is to fish Red a couple of times before moving it north.  Ben will bring his house there as well and in February and March we will fish there. It is a long ways but it will be a long winter.  As well my friend Dave Johnson has a cabin at the resort so we have a nice place to headquarter out of.  Hopefully my next update will include success with getting my axle loosened up.