Sunday, December 21, 2014

Downwind & Half an Oar Short

With the wind blowing up the lake, Nathaniel decided to get his rowing out of the way first, rowing to a downlake spot he wanted to investigate and then working one bank back toward the truck while letting the wind do most of the work.

Good plan, but things don't always go as planned.

About 100 feet shy of the spot, one of the two-piece oars came apart, and we both watched helplessly as the blade end sank out of sight. An oar with no blade is as useful as no oar, and one good oar in a oarlock is as useful as zero oars, unless you just want to spin, which we didn't. So the lone oar became a long, heavy, awkward paddle with no t-grip.

We were almost to the spot, and wind had shifted a bit and was crossing the lake, so Nathaniel decided to complete the quest. He'd still work us back along the bank and fish, just without the aid of the wind at his back.

If you fish, you might guess the next part. While we were fishing that spot, the wind finished shifting and picked up a bit, so by the time were ready to work the other way, it was blowing steadily, straight down the lake, and away from the truck.

Nathaniel soon learned just how inefficient it is to use an oar to paddle a johnboat into the wind. Each oar/paddle stroke moved the boat slightly forward but turned it more, and switching sides robbed distance back because of the wind. He eventually came up with an awkward sculling-type stroke off he back of the boat that worked a little better than traditional paddling (see video). I took the paddle once just to keep us from loosing too much while he rested momentarily, but I was even less efficient working backward from the johnboat's front seat.

We made it back to the truck in OK time, but Nathaniel only ended up fishing about 10 minutes while we were out there. Sounded like a good plan!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Good Night Walleyes

Home for tonight has holes in the floor. In fact it's where I've caught walleyes throughout the day today, in one of Red Lake Remote's sleeper fish houses.

It was tempting to just keep fishing, but tiredness won, so now I'm in a bunk, amazingly comfortable, considering that it is somewhere around zero just outside the fish house. it's my first night ever on the ice and I suspect I'll sleep very well, maybe even dreaming about walleyes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Meet You Halfway Crappie

As much as I like playing the coaxing game and trying to figure out what combination of lifts and twitches will make a fish bite, I like it even better when they are super aggressive, like they were this morning. The crappie did get fussier as the day wore on, but for the first couple of hours, if there were fish on the graph when I began lowering my bait, chances were good that at least one would start coming up before the lure got very far down, and if I just stopped it halfway down, they fish would come all the way up and attack it. It was that simple. No waiting. No coaxing. No rejection. They'd just come up and grab the bait, which is just plain fun.

I had said yesterday that we would be walleye fishing today. Plans shifted a bit, and the walleye day is now tomorrow, but Plan B, which was orchestrated by Jeff Sundin, worked out far better than most people's A plans. I really don't have any idea how many fish we caught -- most of which were released like the one in the clip above. I actually wish I'd kept a rough tally of my own fish, just to know. I only know we caught a bunch. I caught almost all my fish on a Watsit Grub body rigged on Lindy Bug or Toad jighead.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pan-Tastic Ice Season Start

Spent a mighty fun day today catching bluegills and crappie with Jeff Sundin and Jon Thelen of Lindy Fishing. We caught a lot of fish, and while the temperature was pretty low (mid teens, I think), the breeze was only slight and it was plenty comfortable fishing on the open ice. It also snowed just enough last night and today that the ice had some snow on it for traction, which is good because I forgot my cleats at home. Mighty good start for an ice season, I'd say.

I used a Lindy Fat Boys jig all afternoon and caught a nice mix of both species. The fish were in fairly deep water, but the most active ones were at least a few feet off the bottom. Through mid-afternoon, the bite got really steady, and the crappie especially were charging hard when they decided to eat. Just before dark, we had to work a little harder to persuade fish to bite.

Walleyes tomorrow and Thursday.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Travel Delay Irony

Traveling to Minnesota during December, I know travel delays are a legitimate possibility. It should be no surprise that instead of reaching my destination early in the afternoon and maybe even fishing a little, I've spent the day in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, and won't get to my hotel till nearly midnight.

The irony of it all is that the delay and a missed connection came from ice on the wings this morning in Atlanta!  It's 40 degrees and raining in Minneapolis. The other irony is that I could have driven to Minnesota in the time I'll end up traveling today.

Travel Ready

Well. The first leg went smoothly. Ninety-six miles from home to ATL, plus parking, check-in and security, and as of now flight number one appears to be ontime. I'd never flown with a fishfinder, and that was seamless in security.

In an hour or so I fly to MSP. Third leg is from Minneapolis to the Bemidji, Minn. regional airport, and then I drive another 45 minutes or so.

Travel is a bit of a task, but I do like traveling to Minnesota. I was born there, so maybe it's in my blood, but admit to being somewhat of a Northwoodsman wannabe. I can't travel north during the winter without at least starting the Viking beard and sporting the Duluth Trading Company plaid flannel.

Obviously I like the fishing itself in Minnesota. It goes well beyond that, though. I like the whole fishing culture that saturates northern Minnesota. If seems like most people there fish some, and even if they don't, they can talk fishing,.and they seem to appreciate the traveling anglers who feed the economy.

I also like cool little bait shops, woodland lakes, snow and ice.

I even like the cold, but I suppose that's easier to say when you can get on a plane and return to Georgia at the end of the week!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ice: Love It or Hate It

Like most things, fishing has it's subgroups, and many anglers I spend time with are very specialized in their interests. Some dedicated bass fishermen would just as well go grocery shopping as wade a trout stream, and the same concept applies equally in the other direction. Others, like me, enjoy a little bit of everything, while still others fall somewhere in-between.

For all the preferences of species and fishing styles that can exist, though, I don't think anything polarizes fishermen quite like ice fishing. I'd say more dedicated anglers than not want nothing to do with walking on ice in 8-degree weather and trying to pull fish through little holes. I hear that perspective a lot, especially from fisherman friends from this part of the country, when I talk about my ice fishing plans.

Those folks who like ice fishing tend to love ice fishing. Few fishermen I've met just like it OK. Even in the heart of ice country, there are basically two camps. Either you quit fishing or venture south when the lakes freeze or you spend as many days as possible ice fishing while the opportunity exists.

If you glance at this blog even occasionally, you know I fall in the "love ice fishing" school. I'm Minnesota bound on Monday and am more than a little eager to get back on the ice!