Archive for the ‘The Hookset’ Category

For the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, we planned on doing a little fishing.  It would be Wyatt’s, my seven year-old nephew, first fishing trip with me and I had set him up with his first post-Snoopy poles for the upcoming fishing season this Christmas; a Daiwa underspin combo for panfish and jigging and rigging walleyes and a Daiwa spincast combo for trolling and casting for walleye and pike.  It brought back memories of my own Zebco 202 and 404 combos back in the day when I was just a boy, fishing sunnies, crappies and pike with my dad and brother on Otter Lake, Lake Ripley and Lake Melissa.

The challenge would be to make fishing exciting enough to hold the imagination of a seven year-old who hasn’t grown up camping and fishing every weekend of the summer like I had the good fortune of doing.  Although there are some fantastic panfish lakes in the area, I was hoping to make an unforgettable impact with this first day out with me.  When Wyatt saw pictures from last year’s fall fishing on Leech Lake, he was amazed and asked if we were fishing on the ocean!  Weighing all the factors and the area fishing reports, it was clear the decision had to be Upper Red Lake.

We made the hour drive mid-day for an afternoon and evening of fishing, hoping that the ridiculously tremendous fishing reports from the big lake held true.  A southwest wind picked up along the drive, and by 2 o’clock the five of us, Wyatt, my sister, Val, my 71 year-old mother, Lorraine, Bill, and myself, piled into the Lund and headed up the Tamarack River to join the congregation of boats along the 5-7 foot breakline just outside the mouth of the river.  Now, the trick would be holding the boat in line with countless other fishermen, occasional three-foot rollers, five lines, and two novice fishermen.  Let the circus commence!

I say two novice fishermen because, even though my mother was usually right there with us back in the day of my boyhood summer fishing, at 71 she hasn’t fished much in recent years and some of that uncanny sense of usually putting the men to shame by catching the biggest fish of the day had diminished with age.  But when she showed up for the weekend with her tackle box, life jacket, and Abu Garcia combo I had given her for Mother’s Day a few years back, I knew she was ready for some fishing.

We tried a few drifts jigging with spottails and fatheads, but with the wind pushing us too fast to hold a spot for very long and the improbability of five lines negotiating a drift sock, I decided to have Bill deploy the anchor.  I should correct myself when I say five lines because for the first two hours of the afternoon there were only four lines cast from the boat.  Between assisting Wyatt, my mother, holding the boat in line, and netting the first few fish of the day, I didn’t bother pulling my rod from the locker.

After realizing the jigging technique was not going to work for Wyatt, I switched him over to a slip-bobber and helped him work on his casting – and watching.  As Wyatt reeled in his line for another cast, the third fish of the day, Wyatt’s first, hit the spottail at the end of his line.  I’m not sure he set the hook – or if he even had to – as I turned to look when he nonchalantly said “hey, I got one….”  One look at the little guy trying to crank the reel on the jerking, doubled-over rod at the back of the boat confirmed his guess.  He fought that fish like a seasoned veteran and put the biggest fish of the day to that point, a 23 inch walleye, in the boat.  With that fish I was left to believe that maybe this was going to work after all, and with Wyatt’s success on the slip-bobber I switched his grandma over to the same rig as well.

We put a couple more fish in the boat in that spot north of the river, but we were not setting the hook as frequently as those around us.  Plus the anchor was not holding in the face of the rollers, and a thunderhead was building behind the southwest winds and looked like it was heading straight for us.  So we pulled up the anchor and tried to move out of the way of the storm into a roomier spot south of the river.  The anchor held and with the boat secure and everyone versed in the catching of a walleye, I finally had a chance to get a line wet.

The catching started to pick up pace as the storm grew nearer and a parade of boats headed up the channel for the access.  Whether we were one of the handful of boats left with dangling bait or the intensity of the fish was hastened by the storm I’m not sure, but soon we couldn’t keep the eyes off of our hooks; doubles and triples ensued.  In fact, it now became a question of who was going to be able to get the net.  There was no real strategy to the fishing at this point as I was simply dropping my line directly over the side of the boat to the frenzied eyes below.  We probably should have joined the parade of boats headed for the safety of the access, but the fishing had turned into the kind of fishing you don’t see everyday, and only then with a great deal of luck.  We kept a close watch on the storm that ended up only just clipping us with a brief shower as it passed; behind it was warm sunshine and calmer seas.

By 6 PM we were running low on bait, the parade of boats – or the evening shift – had made their way back onto the lake, Wyatt was taking breaks between putting lunker picture fish in the boat by sticking his head over the side to splash water on his face, and I had long since lost count of how many fish we had hooked into!  A livewell count left us four slot-fish short of the Upper Red Lake three fish limit per angler, so we fished on until we ran out of bait.  In the end, we were reusing salvaged minnows from previous catches as the fishing – or catching – continued to be unstoppable.  When the salvaged minnows ran out, Bill and I switched to bare jigs with twister tails and still hooked up with hungry walleyes, though my mother wasn’t having the same luck with an inanimate gummy bear below her slip-bobber….

We wrapped up at 7 PM one shy of a limit of fresh slot-fish walleye to send home with my crew and an estimate of about 80-100 walleyes caught in less than five hours!  We rolled in back at the ranch before nightfall.  It was the best day the new boat had ever seen, one of the best fishing days ever, and I’m fortunate enough to have shared it with family and friends.  An amazing day of fishing and lifetime memories for all ages. First fish of the dayDandy WalleyeFishing's CoolI got him right in the lipMom and SonMom with a beautiful picture fishNephew and UncleNo one else had free hands self portraitSister and brother double (mines bigger)The only time for action photos were after they were in the boatWyatt finally held a fish


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Well, I’ve been to a few of my early season walleye hot spots on Big Turtle Lake and Lake Bemidji, but I am sorry to report that those spots seem to be following the same theme of being late this season.  The late ice-out have left lake temperatures cooler than usual for this time of year, and, as can be expected in the lakes with deeper water, the eyes have yet to turn on.

My fishing buddy, Zack, set the hook on the only cooperating walleye we found on Big Turtle, a nice 18 incher, using a jig and golden shiner.  Zack was one of the many anglers who fished Upper Red Lake for opener, and he returned with stories of an excellent opening weekend on the big lake.  On Big Turtle, we worked the honey hole, the sunken islands and the breaks around the peninsula and island, but it was an evening of fishing rather than catching.

On Bemidji, Jake and I worked nearly the entire western shoreline.  We also zig-zagged up and down the Diamond Bar and Flats and even made a shot in the dark at the Rock Pile.  We found two eyes along the west shoreline in about eight feet of water, a 19 and a 16, and one fiesty perch on the Rock Pile, with a fireball jig and spottail shiner.  We didn’t venture into Lake Irving which connects to Lake Bemidji via the Mississippi River, but early season reports from that smaller, shallower lake have been promising.

Lake Plantaganet just south of Bemidji has been producing some nice early season action.  Trapper Marshall, a friend of mine who lives on the lake, reported he had set the hook on his 99th walleye of the season fishing exclusively on Plantaganet.

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Upper Red Lake Triple

The opening week of the Minnesota fishing season also happened to be finals week for me.  While I finished up cramming for final exams and polishing off term papers, my good friend Paul Nistler and friends Curt and Todd headed north for the warmer waters of Upper Red Lake and Lake of the Woods.  That’s right, I said headed north for warmer water.

Although some of the larger lakes in Northern and Central Minnesota were finally shedding this year’s ice pack, the shallow waters of Upper Red Lake had been ice-free and warming nicely and in fact the walleye bite had been on fire since opener.  The guys stopped off at Red on Friday morning and anchored down near the mouth of the Tamarack River and soon found themselves in the midst of unbelieveable walleye fishing that included several triples.

At Lake of the Woods, the boys found more of the same kind of action.  By late Friday the winds had kicked up to gale force, but fishing Saturday in the shelter of Pine Island produced as well as anything to be expected at the walleye capital of the world.


LOTW Sturgeon

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Walker Bay

I received this picture from a friend who was trying to fish Leech Lake on opening weekend.  This picture was taken on Mother’s Day, Sunday, and is of Walker Bay, the smaller and deeper side of legendary Leech Lake.  They were fishing in Shingobee Bay, which was open.

She also told me that apparently there were some anglers that had put in at Erickson’s Landing, near Kabekona Bay and north of Walker, on the Northwest side of the lake, and while they were out fishing the ice flow shifted and blocked the landing.  Supposedly they were able to negotiate to another landing and retrieve their vehicles and trailers from there, but it sounds like there was some scratch and dent, and gnarling of props….

I also spoke with another friend who owns a cabin at Huddle’s Resort on the Southeast side of Leech Lake, who told me he spent the weekend working on his boat because the entire south side of the main lake out to the north end of Pelican Island was still iced over.

Most of the fishermen I know from the Whipholt area skipped fishing on opening weekend, but a few did go around the ice flows to the north end of Bear Island, Sugar, and Battle Points where the cool waters left the walleyes a little sluggish and uncooperative.

The ice did finally go out from area lakes this week and the summer fishing season can begin in earnest.  I observed a dozen boats and pier fishermen on Lake Bemidji this afternoon between finals.  I didn’t see any fish caught during my brief observations today, but we’ll be an active participant this weekend instead of a casual observer.  Then we’ll have hard facts to report!

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Not completely.

The pictures of Lake Bemidji below were taken yesterday, the day before the traditional Minnesota fishing opener at 12:00AM Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend.  Many of the larger lakes in the northern third of the state were still holding ice – a lot of it – thanks to Old Man Winter’s unrelenting grasp this year.  Opening day brought 33 degree temperatures, rain, and snow in the Bemidji area.

A survey of the Lake Bemidji access parking lots this morning found only a few lonely, boatless trailers.  The north end of the lake was open and the connecting Lake Irving to the south was open as well, but for the most part this year’s opener was about ten days too early for many of the big lakes.  The cold water temperatures has also delayed spawning which will definitely affect fishing success as well.

A little farther to the south, the Minnesota Governor’s fishing opener at Pelican Lake saw Gov. Tim Pawlenty boat just one 17″ walleye.  He was bested by Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau who put a 19″ eye in the boat, MN Sen. Mary Olson, Bemidji, with a 19.5″ walleye, and Pawlenty also lost his bet with U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, MN,  who set the hook on a 21″ eye.

Mom’s Day is forecasted to bring clear skies and 57 degrees of sunshine.  Sorry moms, they might be gone fishin’ after all.

Lake Bemidji 5.9.08-1

Lake Memidji 5.9.08-2

Lake Bemidji 5.9.08-3

Lake Bemidji 5.9.08-4

Lake Bemidji 5.9.08-5

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We’re #19!

OL April ‘08 CoverThe staff at Outdoor Life magazine followed a meticulous methodology as they researched the criteria, devised a sportsmen specific ratings formula and assigned the rankings accordingly.  When the votes were tallied, 200 American towns qualified for their list of best places to live for hunters and anglers.  I, like the rest of the residents of #19 ranked Bemidji, Minnesota, am one of the lucky few living the dream in Andrew McKean’s “Paradise Found.”  Andrew McKean is Outdoor Life‘s new Hunting Editor and the article “Paradise Found” appears in the April issue of the magazine.  According to Editor-in-Chief Todd W. Smith, who profiled McKean and the article in the April issue’s Editor’s Journal,

McKean was the obvious choice to author the cover story on the best hunting and fishing towns in America since he lives in a spot where great hunting and fishing are right out his back door.

This wasn’t an easy task, since we didn’t want to just list great towns for sportsmen, we wanted to rate them.

Living in the heart of the rural West, Andrew is in touch with sportsmen and the many challenges we face with public-land access, habitat loss and conservation issues.

Andrew spent months polling colleagues, gathering information, searching databases and compiling lists.  He looked at every state and in the end came up with a list of more than 200 towns nationwide where hunting and fishing come first.

200 Towns

Executive Editor John Snow, who oversees all of our gear tests, is incredible at developing mathematical rating systems.  His challenge would be to come up with a set of criteria that takes many of the most important things hunters and fishermen value into consideration.  His system is unique and, we believe, fairly rates towns based on a number of points of concern to sportsmen.

I appreciate the efforts of the Outdoor Life staff to reinforce something that I have had the chance to personally discover and come to believe in when I relocated to Bemidji five years ago.  The LPR is my own little corner of God’s Country — #19.  I was also happy to find that I have had the chance to visit several of the other towns that made the list, and happier still to find that there are many more similar places left to explore…

Outdoor Life picks Bemidji as No. 19 on ‘Best Places to Live’ list

Molly Miron Bemidji Pioneer
Published Friday, March 28, 2008

OL Top 20The sporting opportunities provided by this area’s lakes, rivers, woods and prairies won Bemidji a spot in the top 20 best places to live as judged by Outdoor Life magazine.

For an article titled “Paradise Found” in the April issue, members of the magazine’s staff profiled every population center in the United States with more than 4,000 people. They gathered data on the overall quality of life the towns offered considering factors such as the growth rate of the local economy, the unemployment rate, the degree of taxation, the time it takes to commute to work, the crime rate, housing prices, median household income and variety of cultural opportunities within easy driving distance. They rated each of these attributes on a scale of 1-10. They also rated 1-10 the fishing and hunting opportunities each town offers, the trophy quality of the sporting opportunities, proximity to land, the restrictiveness of the gun laws and whether fishing and hunting is good year-round. To complete the survey, the researchers developed a large database, weighting the sporting opportunities 60 percent of the score and the other quality of life aspects of the towns at 40 percent.

The results put Bemidji at No. 19 among 200 towns that made the “Best Places to Live” list. The researchers rated Bemidji’s outdoor potential as follows:

  • Population — 13,291.
  • Huntable species — 6.
  • Fishable species — 8.
  • Trophy potential — 7.
  • Year-round opportunities — 5.
  • Public land access — 9.
  • Gun laws — 5.

“There are a lot of outdoorsmen looking to put down roots in an area with more campsites then condos,” said Outdoor Life Editor Todd Smith. “We went straight to facts when putting this list together to make sure we got the best options. With hard data backing our rankings I know sportsmen aren’t going to be disappointed.”

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Pro-V Year I

On March 3, 2007, I picked up my new ride:  a Lund Pro-V 1800 SE (in the classic Lund red) pushed by a Mercury Opti-Max 115 and a MinnKota 80# Power Drive Auto Pilot with Universal Sonar on the bow, all trailered by a Karavan galvanized swivel-tongue with power brakes.  I put a Lowrance X135 on the front and a Lowrance LCX-25C/LGC-2000 on the console.  With an Apelco marine radio, Sony CD stereo system, Lakemasters chip, enough storage for rods and tackle for every possible Minnesota game fish, a few sandwiches, a bag of seeds, and a few bottles of water, I can stay on the open water for days.

In case you hadn’t noticed, this is my dream boat!  I traded in the ol’ Fightin’ Jack Blue Fin Super Hawk, that had been in the family for 25 years, and returned to a Lund, the boat in which my dad first taught me to fish, but then it was a 14′ open bottom with a 9.9 Johnson on the back.

Year I with the Pro-V proved to be an excellent season.  Spike christened her with a hard hitting rainbow trout on Bad Medicine.  Then Paul and I went back to the walleye well that was Big Turtle this spring.  The walleyes of Bemidji produced all season long and this fall John and I and Kevin, Josh and I found the frenzied walleyes, perch, and pike on Leech.

Some nights I just sit in the boat in the garage playing the stereo and tinkering with tackle dreaming of open water and picture fish…..

Lund Pro-V 1800 SE  Bemidji 26er  Bemidji 25er

Mutant Perch  Leech 24  Kevin

Josh  Fall Fishing in the Rain  Cold Leech Eye

Colder Leech Eye  Nesting Loons on Big Turtle

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