Saturday, January 9, 2010

What happened with trips East '09

Cliff and I went to fish Lake Kinkaid in southern Illinois the same week as the Musky Road Rules challenge. We obviously didn't check their tour schedule beforehand. When I was there the year before, we were the only ones on the lake two of the days (true, one day it was snowing and the other we had to break ice), and there was NO ONE else at the Murphysboro Motel. This year, the whole motel was packed with Muskie boats. Most with sponsors. Kinkaid isn't tiny, but it doesn't fish very big, either. Queueing up to head into coves isn't all that productive. I caught a 30-something and then we switched to Walleyes for a couple days. Didn't catch anything. Either they were in full spawn or we just don't know how to catch 'em (very likely). Pull in to the dock on what turned out to be our last night and got inspected by the officer. Bad extinguisher, horn broken, no whistle, no lanyard on the tiller key, something else I'm forgetting...in short, more violations than he's ever let someone off with a warning for.

My one Muskie:

Had been reading here about 80-Walleye days at Red Wing while in Illinois. So we drive all the way back to try it out (keep in mind I already flew in from Oregon for the trip in the first place). We get excited to actually catch fish and head out there for our first day and catch...wait for it...Nothing! Try again the next day, in freezing rain, again, nothing! The guide Swede asked how we were doing while we pulled out...we told him our sad story and he informed us they started spilling water over the dam the night before we got there and it put all the fish down. Typical, just typical.

I come out for three weeks in July. Bad luck started one week before even before I got there. Cliff was up on a ladder, fell off and broke his ankle. His participation was in doubt, but he wasn't about to let some doctor tell him whether he should go fishing or not. Also just before I get there, y'all had some big storm up North that turned URL and LOW (Big Traverse out of Baudette) into a big mud puddle. Again with the timing.

Cliff with the only fish we caught on Upper Red Lake, a Sheepshead (notice the walking boot on his foot...that wouldn't last much longer):


Next week head to Nestor Falls for the week. Neither Cliff nor I catch any Muskies (missed a few, painfully) until the final day, when the wind was finally going the right direction (you know, anything but out of the North) and got a couple mid-30s...so not a total waste. In the middle of the week, I went out with Bob Pieske, resident expert Muskie fisherman in Nestor Falls who gives out tons of advice on muskyhunter.com. He was a very gracious host who showed me how easy catching muskies can be. He's also a very short and accurate caster who doesn't miss a spot. If you're in the back of the boat, don't expect to catch anything, he hoovers 'em all up (as a good fisherman should).

Bob with the littlest Muskie I've ever seen:

Bob with a bigger one:

One of my Muskies:

A rather large Walleye (for me), keep in mind that net is monstrous big:

URL isn't any better on the way back. Almost capsized on Cass in the wind. Went to Little Wolf since it was tiny. I like that lake, though we burned up the Minnkota when the blade got wrapped with mono. Big motor stopped working, forgot why. Down to one kicker (glad I bought it specifically for the trip). Typical.

A Little Wolf Muskie:

How Cliff is dressed should give you an idea of the weather. Keep in mind this is JULY:

We also had an ice fishing trip on Mille Lacs ("They were really hitting before you got here and the temp dropped to -20").

Our little shack:

Cliff inside the trying to figure out the flasher:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Long time coming

I posted this to another site. It was more abbreviated than I originally wanted to be, but it's something. This is the story of a trip to Minnesota/Wisconsin in 08.

I get to MN the first week in June, to fish Muskie opener in Wisconsin, then head back to MN. We get to the Shell Lake area, to a cabin owned by my girlfriend's (her family is the reason I come to fish in your great state) sister-in-law's father. For some reason, I didn't take a shower the day I left, figuring I'd do it at the cabin. No one had been there since the previous November. We had instructions on how to turn on the water pump, water heater, etc. We found it easily enough, but when we got in we couldn't see the floor. It was covered by thousands of dead ladybugs. They filled up the Dirt Devil a few times. Of course, if they can get in, so can any number of other creepy crawlies. I ended up with a couple ticks, I think from the furniture. We couldn't get the water going because we couldn't find the valves they took out. So, still no shower. I was with my normal fishing partner, Cliff, my GF's stepdad. He got up early to go to Spooner to hit a hardware store to find valves. Eventually he did, but not soon enough to wait for the water to heat up. So, still no shower.

I had decided to try Ghost Lake first. It was small and shallow so I figured it would heat up before other lakes. Keep in mind I had never fished Wisconsin before, so I'm going by lots of hearsay. The weather hadn't warmed up yet. In fact, the weather didn't warm up in '08 until the second week in July (when I left for good). Me and timing, my persistent nemesis. This is also a new boat for us, we got a '98 Lund ProV 1775 SE tiller so we could fish bigger water this time. New boat, new season, we don't have our launch routine worked out yet. I was also a trailering noob, so another goal was to get me used to backing up the trailer and such. Well, no time like the present. We get to Ghost and get out to the greetings of thousands of mosquitoes. Like, swarms bad. So now we're in a hurry to get on the water. We launch without a hitch and get out to what seems to be a good spot (the lake is max 12' deep and max 10MPH). After a few casts I wonder why there is water in the boat. I ask Cliff, and he remembers the plug alluvasudden (this is one of his responsibilities). He feels around the back and puts the plug in a hole. Bilge running. Cast a few more times. Bilge still running. Five minutes later, bilge still running full bore. I ask Cliff "should it run that hard for that long?" "Oh, yeah, there's lots of room under the boards". "If you say so". Three minutes later "Cliff, really?" He starts the engine and goes forward, tidal wave shifts to the back. We're seriously dragging. We can't really go fast enough on this lake to drain it, both legally and because we'll just hit something anyway. He gets me to the dock, I have to back in for the first time under pressure, which I do successfully. Turns out the plug fits just perfectly into the livewell drain hole. Ah well. Too many mosquitoes, so we head to Tiger Cat Flowage.

While putting in to Tiger Cat, we realize we didn't bring anything to drink (after realizing we brought no repellent earlier). We decide put the boat back on the trailer and hit a market by Spider Lake Chain, which we decide to hit instead (third lake choice of the day). The dude at the market said we should go to Lost Land and Teal instead, so we do. I get a few follows there, but I'm noticing that Wisconsin lakes make me really nervous. Shallow with lower unit killers all over, not well mapped. I succeed in nailing something, thinking I was plenty far away from the hazard buoy. The boat jumped a bit. Was really afraid for my prop, but it didn't look too bad. Ran into the guide Scott Kieper while I was there, seemed like a good guy.

Get back to the cabin. Still no hot water. Power fuse blew (this happened often). I think I eventually take a nervous shower that night (still lots of creepy crawlies). Cliff vomits up the Prime Rib we got in Spooner. I had the same thing, only mine was Medium, his was rare.

Next day we should have just stayed in the cabin like the monster turtle blocking the road was trying to tell us. Went to Grindstone even though it was too early in the year for it (deeper, clear water was bound to be cold) because I wanted to try my new trolling setup (planers out to the sides, two more near sides, sledge in the propwash) and Grindstone was a trolling-allowed lake. We didn't have a kicker, so we were relying on the 75HP Merc (2-stroke) to go slow enough. Seemed to, until about 45 mins in we heard a whining noise coming from the motor that sounded like your car does when you accelerate from a stop with a loose fan belt. It gets louder and higher pitched when you gas it. We didn't know what it was, but figured it couldn't be good, so we headed in. We also noticed that we could no longer get above 2500 RPM.

Took it to the mechanic there and ultimately he told us we were running on only one cylinder of three. He fixed what ailed it (spark plug wire shorn in one, some sort of exhaust valve hosed in the other), but also let us know that if we had an engine alarm (what we're guessing was the original noise) that neither of the things he fixed would cause an alarm. Only lack of oil and overheating cause alarms.

Next day we pick it up and try Shell Lake, since I didn't get my trolling jones sated yet. Sure enough, 45 mins in it makes the alarm sound again. We ignore it for a while, then decide we shouldn't ignore it and head to another dealer/mechanic. He determines that maybe our impeller needs to be replaced, but that it isn't really a big deal since the the alarm will sound way before there's a real issue. He can't reproduce the problem because he's got a hose on the motor, which forces water in. He doesn't have one in stock, so we go on our merry way determined to ignore the problem as long as we can.

Next day we go back to Tiger Cat. Got a few follows, nothing big, and a few fun Pike and a big Walleye (for me, like 27") that hit an aggressively worked Husky Jerk, to my surprise. Of course, we got rained on.



Try Big McKenzie for a little while the next day. Monster lightning storm, so we're done there, too.

I decide Wisconsin lakes still freak me out, so we head back to Minnesota for Muskie opener. Heck, I wasn't enjoying the cabin anyway. If I had a tent with me, I would have put it up in the cabin and slept in there.

Fished Waconia and had a couple of low 50s on. Of course, I couldn't land them. I don't really know how to get them to the net, I determined. I'm perfectly good at fooling Muskies, just horrible at getting them hooked and played properly. One shook it in the air, the other as it passed the boat it just slipped out. Would have easily been PBs.

We head North. Hit Shamineau for a day and missed one. Stayed in Verndale with an Aunt/Uncle of the GF. Dan Narsete of Muskies Inc hooked me up with Brad Waldera to fish Big Detroit. Great guy, very helpful. We had a few follows and then saw a big cloud. Looked like it was gonna miss. We should have known better. Flash hail storm, nailed us good. Cliff went back to the dock pretty fast, which hurt like hell "Ow! Ow! Ow!" all the way back. Of course, it stopped two minutes after we get to shore. There's no way to dry out but to go back out. A few more follows, no fish. Bad lightning storms that night. Power out all over the place.



We head to the next family member that would have us, near Moorhead. The tow vehicle is starting to exhibit signs of wear. It was a late 90s Ford Explorer. They lock automatically when you go over 5MPH or so. It decided to try to lock all the time, sometimes a few times a minute. Sometimes every few seconds. Also, the Explorer decided a door was ajar, even though it wasn't. Every so often, it would tell us with a ding. It became a symphony of "ding ding kachunk" with the ajar and locking sounds. Everywhere we go is at least an hour away, so we get to hear way too much of that song.

After a few days on Detroit, all I have to show is a 20" or so Muskie, which I actually shook off and never touched. The uncle also lost a 40" or so. The weather is never good. The water is still in the low-mid 60s.

I got to fish a day with RoughFisher (Jean-Paul Lipton). We went fly fishing for rough fish in the Otter Tail river (I think?). Caught a bass, some carp and Mooneye. No Buffalo or Redhorse, sadly. Weather and water still nowhere near ideal. This was still a highlight. He is a great guy with a wonderful family. Now he guides as well. While I was doing this, Cliff got the impeller fixed.

Jean-Paul with a bass:

Tried Sallie for a day. Got some nice Pike and had another 50" or so Ski on, trolling with a Dunwright lifelike Pike. Had it on for a while, but again, gets close to net and comes right off. About to cry.

Obligatory ESOX content, my biggest fish of the trip, a Sallie Pike:

Part of my arrangement with work was that if something came up, I would fly out and take care of it. So now I gotta leave Moorhead pronto to fly to San Jose. We back the boat up to the trailer to get it hitched. Windows up, engine running. What happens? Of course..."kachunk". The Ford locked itself, even though it wasn't moving. So now we gotta break in before we run out of gas or something. Luckily the window was not tracking well (another source of constant frustration) and we clothes-hangered our way to the unlock button after a good amount of time struggling. When, after our four or five hours on the road, we got within five minutes of home base (Watertown) we looked at each other at the same time and said "combination lock", which the Ford had. We didn't have to break in, but were too stupid to realize it. Not like we remembered the combo anyway.

In the driveway, we notice splatter all over the boat and rear of the Explorer. Turns out seals were bad. By the time I got back from San Jose (one night) Cliff had gotten another, newer Explorer. After one Explorer proved itself incapable of towing the boat I wouldn't get another, but that's just me. It hasn't been an issue yet.

I get back and we set out to head North again. I'm driving. The boat was in the garage, but I didn't put it there. I pull out and hear a little "pop" sound and notice the garbage can jump. I ask Cliff if he wants to check it out, he doesn't, we start the garage door a closing, and are on our way. We hit Becker, where we turn on to 94 and open it up. I get to 70 and a 18-wheeler is passing me on the right. He honks at us and points at something in the back. I don't know what he's referring to, but I start pulling over as soon as he passes, the trucker throws his hands in the air like "oh well, I tried". No sooner had I started decelerating than I hear crashing noise from the back and see the boat leaning about 30 degrees to starboard. My trailer wheel then passes me on the right and heads down the highway, out of sight, disappearing (I thought) in the median grass.

Now, I've always had a little chuckle about the town of Becker, just because of one sign, "Bodys by Ralph". I'm a bit snobby about spelling, especially on signs. I always thought that should have been "Bodies" but I'm silly like that. Well, that's exactly where my one-wheeled trailer comes to a rest, the off ramp for the frontage road that leads to Bodys by Ralph, which I was directly in front of. Time to visit Ralph, since he was the closest thing to something automotive within walking distance. Ralph was a wonderful man who drove me a few places to help me out in getting help. Ultimately, we packed the gear in the explorer and set out on our own to find help in St Cloud. No boat dealers wanted to deal with us, since it was a few days before the July 4th weekend and they were already swamped or taking time off. We also took well over an hour finding the lost wheel, which had gone all the way across the other side of the highway, coming to rest near the railroad tracks. I got quite sunburned in the process (finally the weather started to turn). In a last-ditch effort, we talked to Royal Tire, who thought they could do something about our problem. We get a flatbed tow truck and they slid it on and dropped it off in their parking lot. We head back home to contemplate buying a totally new trailer.

Where the Wheel was:

Boat on a flatbed:

As we pull in the driveway, we notice the garage door half open. Since it had started closing when we left, we found that odd. Turns out I hadn't clipped only a plastic garbage can, I clipped the doorway and pulled it off the foundation of the garage, over a foot forward. See, when Cliff put the boat in the garage, he put it in at an angle to the rear corner. When I pulled out the boat, I pull it out straight. The wheel that fell off was the one that clipped it. He hadn't packed the bearings since he got it from the previous owner, so who knows?

The poor garage:

Royal Tire worked with some folks that rebuild axles for farm trailers and such, so they did so for us. Was ready by the next day, which I thought was wonderful. I'm not a religious man in the least (though I often think things like "if I was a Mormon, would I actually catch a fish right now?"), but if the Christian God was trying to tell me something, how much would He make the bill for the axle? That's right, $666.

Heading North, take three. On our way to the Palace Casino we have fantasies about getting there in time to actually do some fishing on the way. Silly us. I don't know what town it was, but I notice the dust cap on our shiny new hub has fallen off. Don't want to go in the water without that, I suppose. We find some tire/bait shop and the guy goes through a pile of caps and can't find one. He finally just saws off half a plastic 20oz Pepsi bottle and duct tapes it to our hub. "That'll get ya down the road." Oregon has mostly very nice people (though too many Californians are moving here), but Minnesotans really go the extra mile, doing anything within their power to improve your situation. We lucked out in Bemidji, finding an odd-sized (it didn't match the others of its supposed size) that would fit on our new hub. We're off to Plantagenette.

Not much more interesting happens. In the three days I have left I don't get a Muskie. Best chance was the end of our last day on Mantrap, we had hot follows and missed a couple swipes on the 8. Only thing I have to show for my trip was a tiny Muskie on Detroit, some holes in my hand from the White Bass spines of Lake St Croix and a much lighter wallet. I have been told that I was getting as much action as anybody in June '08, it was bad everywhere. Whatever. It was only because that's when I decided to be there. I had three fish over 50" on and didn't touch a single one. I quit Muskies for a while. My "local" Muskies, Inc. Chapter 57 had me go out and speak to an old-timers fishing club about Muskies (Washington has seven lakes with Tigers and few people in the NW know anything about them). I couldn't have sounded too encouraging. I started fishing for Sturgeon instead. Bigger fish, better fight, many times more action. Less stress.

In '07 I destroyed three cell phones and two Minnkotas.

Why do I do this, again?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sturgeon Fishin'

Long time, no post, I know. Still penning the opus re: the Minnesota trip. I've since decided to target a few other species. I went out with some iFishers to fish the estuary in Astoria. Put a few in the boat and have a few videos to post. So here you go Mike, Gallus and Ben. Thanks again for having me!

Gallus tussles with a 60"+
video

Mike hauls in another 60"+
video

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Streak #2, Tapps


So as long as I'm in the boat in Washington, a Muskie is caught. Friday the 16th we had a bunch of our Muskies Inc chapter #57 out, along with the President of Muskies Inc, Dan Narsete. I went out with Todd in his new Alumacraft. I only had a small subsection of my lures and only one rod with me, but I still had a few shots, just no takers. We saw a few fish and had a couple lazy follows. They seemed kinda lethargic, though Todd got a strike on a Double Showgirl.

I got tired of casting and I was getting hot from a lack of a decent breeze, so I convinced Todd to troll for a little while. It ultimately worked out with the above 45 incher nailing his Rapala Magnum (shout out to Kevin!). The fight was a long one, what with the stupid fish wrapping itself around a snag 25 feet down n all. Fortunately, Todd got the line free of the snag and the fish was still on, hooked quite well. So well that I had to cut three treble points out for a smoother release. I'm really happy for Todd since he hadn't caught one yet this year and it's a new personal best! Also gave me an opportunity to text a little smack to our Muskies Inc prez who couldn't seal the deal with a Ski during his day on the lake. S'OK, Dan, you'll get one next time...

It was good to meet Dan at our chapter meeting. He's got a tough job to do and it seems like he's meeting it head on and accomplishing his goals. I am certainly more excited about the organization now than I was before he talked to us. His modernization of the organization will help with recruiting new members and help existing members with much faster access to information that was pretty tough to get at all before. He's a fun guy who enjoys a good beer and can take a lot of shit without getting upset. I think the organization is in good hands for a while.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Taking Inventory

I think I'm about done purchasing rods. At least, after I get two Shimano Talora Dipsey Divers for trolling purposes (those are cheap, anyway). Now comes the fun part, figuring out what to use each of them for. Some were purchased because a good deal presented itself; half off at a factory outlet or in Cabelas bargain cove. Others were obtained to fill a need. Now I need to determine what each will be rigged with for maximum efficiency. This will allow fast lure changing as spots change, or the ability to use throwback lures, which I have never done before. I will have them hooked to the crank, Jim Saric-style, to allow for fast deployment.

6'10" H Fig Rig Muskies Inc Spec Ed (Curado 300DSV) Jerks, big jigs, small Bull Dawgs
6'10" XH Lamiglas (Calcutta 400B) Weagles, Wabulls
7'6" MH Fig Rig Muskies Inc Spec Ed (Calcutta 400TE) Double Showgirls, Jr. Double Cowgirls, DC-8
7'6" MH St Croix Premier (Luna 300) Kil'r Eels, Tiger Tubes, Med Bucktails
7'6" MH Gander Guide IM8 (Luna 300) Topwaters, Gliders, Depthraiders
8'6" M GLoomis Thorne Bros Custom (Curado 300DSV) Small-Med Bucks, baby DepthRaiders
8'6" XH Lamiglas (Red Isis 400P) Mag Bulldawgs/SuperDs, Double 10s
9'0" M Shimano Talora Dipsey Divers (ABU 6600C4, Maina) Trolling

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Streak Continues


My father and I got our third Tiger on Merwin in three trips yesterday. The water is extremely cold, like low 40s. Apparently too cold for the Kokanee to be very active, yet we still put a 46" Muskie in the boat. Same way we got all the others, and if you know me, you know how we do it. I think I may have had a hit on a crankbait, it looked like tooth marks in my lure (and it was a new one, so I notice these things). We found some areas to try next time, as we didn't discover them until it was dark. We got lucky and left the water as the security guard came to lock the gate. When is someone gonna take me to Tapps? I have a streak to continue there as well! Maybe it was only one trip, but it's still a streak...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Minnesota, here I come!

Got my tickets to Minnesota last night. Will get there the evening of May 31st and leave July 5th. This should allow for plenty of fishing, enough to seriously kill my shoulder blades. I've been reading Muskies on the Shield and Pro Tactics: Muskie and Pro Tactics: Pike pretty much non-stop for the past week. It's amazing how much you can learn about fishing from books. I've also been reading the publications from the Minnesota DNR, long range muskie and pike planning, spawning habitat studies, etc.

Now the logistics of getting all my stuff to MN is going to bog me down mentally. Frontier Airlines doesn't accept any package over 80" and my rod tube is at least 90" with the rods I want to take in it. That means I have to ship. It wasn't a problem on Northwest Airlines, so I probably should have looked into that beforehand. But tickets for NWA were around $200 more, so I don't think that would have swayed me, looks like shipping them will only cost around $20.

After reading the Pike book, I went and bought some spoons. Yes, spoons. I don't think I've ever caught something on a spoon, despite throwing them for years in the Sandy River for Steelhead and Salmon when I was a little kid. I blame my father for the frustration. Reading the book, though, I was probably reeling too fast all those years. You're only supposed to reel to the point where they weave back&forth, not spin around. That's helpful information.

I got my 9wt Winston BIIx back from Winston, who was giving me a new top section after I lost it in Canada fishing the Vedder. I'm bringing my big fly rods on this trip, just to give me another option that I probably won't take advantage of.

I'm going to read the books again, after which I will form a plan of action for most situations. I don't remember what I read so well any more, so a plan will be a good thing. I will post it when complete.

Monday, March 24, 2008

We have a winner!


I am the proud new part-owner of a 1998 Lund Pro V 1775 Tiller! Both Cliff and I are very excited and can't wait to start putting things in their places. Considering all that it came with, it was a very good deal. I already have the map chip for the GPS, though a color one would be nice. I still have a color handheld I can put near the front if I like. I probably would have preferred a Crestliner Fish Hawk 1750, but I don't think I was going to find one in the price range. If we ever decide we want bigger rod storage and a rear casting deck (the only two weaknesses this boat really has) it will be easy to sell. Lund boats seem to be a religious expression in Minnesota.

Here is the text from the original ad:

-new 24V bow mount electric motor w/ universal sonar (Minnkota Maxxum)
-new 24V stern mount electric trolling motors (Minnkota Maxxum)
-new Lowrance GPS/Graph LMS-480 (takes mapping chips)
-2 bank battery charger
-3 batteries (1 engine & 2 trolling) all three only 2 seasons old
-electronics locker
-7 ft. Rod locker (lockable)
-bow and aft livewell/baitwells w/ "Pro-long" system
-Captains chair w/ arm rests
-3 Air-ride pedestal seats
-travel cover
-bow battery gauge
-bow trim switch
-console foot trim
-Wave Wackers
-Spare Tire
-AM/FM Cassette Stereo
-VHF Marine Radio Antenna
-4 Flush Mount Quick Release Rod Holders
-Lifetime trailer registration
-Boat registered through 09'

A picture of the back:

Friday, March 14, 2008

Dreaming of Pike on the Fly


Taking off on a furious internet searching tangent inspired by a post on the fishingminnesota.com forum, I discovered an Alaska fishing "lodge" near the little Eskimo village of Aniak, Alaska. Midnight Sun Trophy Pike Adventures has a houseboat on the Innoko River, which has 50-inch-plus Pike all over the place. It appears it would be like my Pike fishing trip outside of Calgary with Josh Nugent, except I would have to add an average of 15 inches or so.

That trip was about as much fun as I've ever had fishing. It was on a 1.5 mile backeddy that drains into the Bow river. Now, the Bow river is considered one of the top five trout rivers in the world and I had never been to Calgary. Even though I grew up fishing for trout, the thought of catching 25" rainbow all day still didn't excite me. Luckily, the main river was blown out with silt, so I didn't have to feel guilty blowing the Bow off and upsetting all the trout people I talk to in Oregon. It was in early May and the Pike season didn't open for another week in Alberta, so the guide had to get creative. It turns out he is one of only a few non-First Nations folks able to fish this section of the Bow on the Siksika Nation.

Josh drove me over an hour east from Calgary, starting at 9:00 AM. He backed his Clackacraft driftboat directly down the bank into what looked like a small lake. We got in and he rowed my ass around while I casted. I saw nothing for the first 90 minutes or so. He was getting nervous that I didn't believe there were any fish in there and he hadn't been there since the previous year to keep tabs on the action. Then they started hitting. And hitting. I caught about 40 fish over the course of the day and missed at least twice that many. After a while, I was trying *not* to catch fish that were too small. The water was clear enough that I could sight cast some of the time, and watch them follow the fly. I had one fish follow for at least two minutes beside the boat before I got it to bite. I probably should have taken that one out of the gene pool. The next day, we sized up and I landed about half as many, but they were at least twice as heavy, on average. I think a couple were pretty close to 40". I even tried conventional gear for a little while, but flies were far more effective.

Unfortunately, this trip made me overconfident about catching Muskies and Pike on flies for my next trip to Minnesota. A Muskie actually hit my popper on Lake Rebecca, but that's the only action I got. I almost enticed one to hit in the shallows on Mantrap, but I probably woulda gotten it to bite if I had used a twitch like a Kill'r Eel instead. I didn't even bring my fly rod for the next trip to MN. Too frustrating to cast out of a small boat, anyway.

So now Calgary seems like a poor substitute for the Innoko. I need some rich family members to appear and start feeling really generous. Failing that, I'll just have to save my pennies.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Boats, redux

After spending some time talking to Chad Cain and others, I'm back looking at aluminum. Preferably, it will have front and rear casting decks of decent size, rod storage of (at least) 7'6", though 9' would be optimal. If I can find a used fiberglass with a deep V, I'll certainly be interested, I just don't hold out much hope I will find one at a price I want to spend.

I think 16 1/2' would be the smallest boat I'd be interested in, though 17 1/2-18' is perfect. I still haven't decided on single side-console or tiller yet. Either would work for the right price, I suppose.

So I made a list, to make it easier for myself to remember which ones would be good for Esox fishing and be able to go on big water. Many Lunds don't have a large casting deck in the front, and none at all in the back. So in many ways, I'd actually prefer an Alumacraft to a Lund. I think the Crestliner Fish Hawk 1750 SC is my current top Aluminum choice.

In any case, here is the list:

Crestliner
Tournament
Fish Hawk

Alumacraft
Dominator
Tournament Pro
Navigator
Magnum (older model)
(other models, such as Lunker and Classic, have sides that are too low)

Lund
Predator
Pro Guide
Explorer SS
Mr Pike

Tuffy
1760

MirroCraft

1875 Aggressor EXP
1751 Aggressor

Polarkraft
Kodiak

Smokercraft
ProMag
ProAngler

YarCraft
1785

Friday, February 29, 2008

Day 3, Kinkaid


Success!

Boy are we lucky Chad's Friday client canceled. If we had to trade windy, snowy Tuesday for today, well, we would have missed out on, essentially, the whole point of the trip. Ultimately, eight muskies were boated today, but I'd say only three would be considered "nettable". The queen of the bunch was the above, a 45.5 incher that had to go about 30 pounds. My pop thought he had bottom for a few seconds, then got one of the bigger shocks of his life (and his biggest muskie ever).

It's pretty cool that we went from icebreaking yesterday to 43-degree water today. Those few degrees made all the difference. Chad was probably the most relieved of any of us, since he had to worry that we didn't believe all the stories he had been telling us. Of course, my day wasn't complete until I actually caught one. All but one of the fish were caught by someone else. I finally got on the board with this little bugger, a 35 incher.


So all in all, I'd say it's much easier to catch a muskie in Illinois than it is in Minnesota :)

Possibly, having Chad Cain in the boat coulda...maybe...had a tiny bit to do with it...

video

And don't forget to do your part to keep Chad's wife busy, buy Llungen Lures, made in Carbondale, Il! Where should you buy them? Keep my muskie consultant Aaron busy at Muskytackleonline.com!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Day 2, Kinkaid



















Chad Cain, arctic explorer.

I said yesterday that ice was starting to form on the lake's surface as we were leaving. It should have been obvious to us what that would portend. It was in the 20s all night, so in the AM when we got back out there, a nice sheet had formed on much of the lake. Not believing it could possibly be all that thick, Chad decided we would bust through it since the "main lake must be open" and all we had to do was go through the thin ice to get there. Turns out, the ice wasn't all that thin. It was easily over a half inch in places. So Chad used one of his tried & true techniques, the reverse creep & gun. We would back up slowly, then gun the engine forward once we hit the ice edge to create a wake that would bust up the next 20 feet or so. Repeat.

After over an hour clearing a path to the main lake, we discovered the main lake wasn't open, either. We weren't finding bait fish where we could fish, so we went back to the coves where we were the day before that are usually so successful this time of year. Of course, they were fairly iced, too. He invented a new technique for that area, the Big Donut. He'd run 3/4 throttle in a circle to create an even bigger wake. Eventually, he created a big enough area of broken ice that what wind there was able to carry a sufficient amount away to allow us to troll a very small circle. We finally put poles in the water over three hours after we initially put in.

No muskies.

It was at least 40 degrees, so some ice was melting. We went back to the main lake and found the baitfish (gizzard shad). He told us beforehand that when we finally found the baitfish they would black out the sonar. I don't think my father believed him. There was so much shad that the sonar thought the cloud of fish was the bottom of the lake and got confused. We even "harpooned" a few with our trolled lures. You could actually feel the cranks pounding the shad by touching the rod as we plowed through the bait cloud. We saw a Bald Eagle, Osprey and many icecicles:



















But still, no muskies.

We went back to the coves and the effort Chad put in to break the ice in the area paid dividends. Much of it was gone, so we were able to cast a bit. We got about an hour of casting in before it started to rain. We were watching the radar pics on my BlackBerry and knew the storm was coming. It was turning dark anyway, so we headed out, fishless (so long as you don't count harpooned shad).

Tomorrow looks to be our best chance. It is supposed to be creeping over 50 degrees and most of the ice should have melted by then. Maybe they will be in the shallows, which would be the best possible scenario. Despite the clouds and the ice, I managed to get my face a bit sunburned, dammit. It will look like I went to the Bahamas to the uninformed. Since that's where I told my father we were going to go for this trip (I baited and switched him), I suppose that's just as well.

I will leave you with an instructional video demonstrating proper ice-breaking techniques with a Ranger. Be sure to listen for the sound of ice slushing and cracking, both against the boat and from the boat's wake. Chad explains himself (sorry about the crappy audio) at the end.

video

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Day 1, Kinkaid


Brrrrrr...

I'm not sure it ever got into the 30s, but no matter, we still got one about two hours after we started. Chad Cain is a superman for having guided us to a Muskie while it was snowing, 36 degree water, ambient temperature of about 27 or so degrees. We began casting in one of his favorite coves, but weren't seeing enough baitfish to make Chad happy. So we went of trolling in search of Shad. Not long after we started trolling, this one hit an Ernie. It went about 35 inches and had no problem swimming away quickly.

Of course, that raised our expectations for the rest of the day, to no good end. It stayed cold, the sun would peek out temporarily, then hide again. We tried casting once more, but ice forming quickly on the guides, then making the line too big in the spool pushed us back into trolling. We trolled the rest of the day, until ice started forming on the lake's surface letting us know that it was a good time to call it a day.

Went to the 17th Ave Bar & Grill in Murphysboro, which won a bunch of BBQ championships and Bon Appetit press. The hot link was good, the ribs were good, the pulled pork was below average. All of it was served barely lukewarm. Podnah's it weren't.

Tomorrow is supposed to be in the low 40s, which will be a 20 degree improvement. It's also supposed to rain, so that will make the day another fun one, I am sure.

Below is what it looked like when we left the ramp in the morning.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Which Boat?

I don't have a boat. I would really like to have a boat someday, but which? In Oregon, the selection of used boats is pretty poor, especially for Bass/Muskies. I think Minneapolis Craigslist will be the way to go. I would like something 17' or bigger, with casting decks front and rear. I'm not sure whether I want fiberglass or aluminum. I assume I could get more value from a weld and would like the ride better of glass. I also like the idea of a Tuffy boat, if only because they have an "Esox" model that appeals to my sense of aesthetics.

So do I want a used Tuffy Magnum Esox, or some sort of used Bass Tracker, Skeeter, Stratos, Ranger, etc? I'm not doing new no matter what. I'm also not sure if I want a console or a tiller. If anyone ever reads this, I would love some guidance. The closer to $5k the happier I would be, but I could see going up to $9k or so if it's an amazing deal.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cabin Fever

So I have some anxiety about now. In just over a week, I am to begin fishing on Lake Kinkaid in Murphysboro, Ill. with Chad Cain. Problem is, there are still a few inches of ice on the lake. I've been checking weather sites a few times a day, hoping to see a huge warmup. It's supposed to get up to 56 on the day before I start fishing, but I don't know if that will be enough. The next three days are pretty much staying below freezing. I would prefer to go in March, but Chad, who may be the premier Muskie guide on the planet, is all booked up in March. Aaron Heimkes of Musky Tackle Online had a buddy go out with Chad last year in March and they boated 22 Muskies in two days. I've never even thought of that many. Me and my fishing partners have only boated 11 total if you count Tigers, seven if you don't.

Even if the ice is off, there's a very good chance most of the fishing is going to be of the trolling variety. I don't know about anyone else, but I find trolling to antithetical to the whole Muskie experience. For me, it's all about The Take and if you're not actively participating in The Take, you don't really get to experience it. Personally, I don't even think Muskies fight all that hard, especially the Tigers in Lake Merwin. They feel like dead wood. The big ones in Minnesota fight fairly well, but I wouldn't confuse them with a Bonefish or Barracuda. They're more crafty than anything...wrapping themselves around motors or snags then tossing the lure.

Sitting around with no fishing readily available simply turns me into a consumer. I bought some Storm Spin Tail Shad today, both the 9" and 6" variety. I'm not sure if they catch anything, but I had to do *something* fishing-related. I already got an Okuma Red Isis a few weeks ago for pretty much the same reason. I picked up a Fig Rig 7'6" MH from Cabela's Bargain Cove when I was in Rogers, MN last. It was missing the ceramic insert for its bottom guide so it was half off. I love my 6'10" Heavy Fig Rig and can't wait to try the new one with the Okuma on it. I need to spend more time fishing and less time purchasing.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Umm...


I'm not really sure where this thing is going to go. My girlfriend's been trying to get me to start a blog for a long time. Now maybe she'll think I'm being productive. I really, really like fishing for Muskies. I'm also really, really political, opinionated and sometimes obnoxious and condescending. I guess I'm just saying this could grow from a lark into a bloodbath.

But no matter what, it will chronicle my fishing excursions. Nothing makes me feel quite like pursuing Muskies does and I've been only doing it in earnest for two years. In fact, I was hooked on Muskie fishing before I had even seen one for myself. I spent a few grand on rods and lures (to say nothing of plane tickets and gas) in the two summers and 25+ full days of fishing before I boated my first. The cute little guy (fish, that is) pictured above was my third, on Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota.

Because I live in Portland, OR, I don't have easy access to true Muskie waters. Washington's Lake Merwin is only an hour away, it contains Tiger Muskies. I've boated two Tigers in two trips to Merwin, but it's not the same as fishing in Minnesota for purebreds. Maybe I will go back and describe my previous journeys there. I will have to be careful not to give too much away. Fishermen are a secretive bunch and word tends to get out on the internet, no matter how small and insignificant one considers their patch of it to be. So I guess I can show fish porn, just not say *exactly* where or how I came across that good fortune. I will likely make exceptions for big or far away bodies of water. If I catch a sturgeon on the Columbia, it won't be too much of a secret to let out. I won't be telling anyone my favorite lure on Lake Merwin, though ;)

I hope in the coming posts I will be able to give some insight into how it feels to go after these critters. Maybe the picture will become more clear with the help of others' comments. I also enjoy the occasional Northern Pike and I will certainly relay any successes related to same.

Just to be clear, I will be using the "Muskie" spelling, since that is more consistent with Minnesota custom where I spend most of my time fishing for them. Let the cheeseheads spell it "Musky".