Issue 4 • Edition 4
Featured in this issue
AGGRESSIVE TACTICS FOR EARLY SEASON WALLEYES BY: TED TAKASAKI
• Fishing Guides By: Jim Kalkofen • Living History By: Melody & Ron Banks • Frozen Family Fun by: Sheila Helmberger • My Toughest Shots Ever By: Bill Marchel • If It Ain’t Jerkin’, It Ain’t Workin’ By: Dave Csanda PLUS MORE!
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Choosing the right ice-fishing equipment Ice-fishing equipment is now the subject. Augers, electronics, fish houses, rods and reels, tip-ups and just about everything related to the sport. There is so much out there, how does a person decide which product is best?
How do you choose one from another? Buy the one that dad used? But what if there is something better on the market? Yes, it can be tough, and I struggle with all of the choices myself and go back and forth trying to weigh all of the different features and benefits.
I guess it boils down to a number of factors - cost, features and benefits, what dad used, Most of these products will do the trick what grandpa used or what the salesperson for you, and the companies that produce says is the best. We all are different and them have been around for quite some time. we all take different paths in making that This alone should give you some comfort. important purchase. Make sure to ask about warranties. And These days, it seems that people head to customer service is a big thing, too. Shop, the Internet for their questions and answers. compare and ask your neighbor what he This can be good sometimes, but you can or she uses and if they are happy with the also get some pretty biased opinions. products they use. Augers, sonars and underwater cameras Christmas is just days away. May God are big-ticket items, and this is where a lot of bless you and your families. the questions arise. You have Strikemaster, Jiffy and Eskimo augers and they come in Walleyedan Eigen all shapes, sizes and colors. Some with one blade, some with two. Most are two-stroke motors (where you have to mix the gas and oil), but there is a four-stroke on the market and a couple of electric versions. You have Vexilars, Marcums, Humminbirds, Lowrance and many other sonar systems that will help you catch more fish through the ice. Some have 2,000 watts of peak-to-peak power, some have 400 watts. Does it really matter? Not necessarily. You have Aqua Vu, Marcum and Fish TV underwater cameras. Some are color, most are black and white. Some will reach down 50 feet, others around 100 feet.
Welcome ...................................... 3 Living the Outdoors ..................... 5 My Toughest Shots Ever .............. 8 Frozen Family Fun ...................... 11
Page 8 Page 16
Fishing Guides ............................ 13 Living History............................... 16 Aggressive Tactics ..................... 18 Recipes ....................................... 20 If It Ain’t Jerkin’ .......................... 21
506 James Street • P.O. Box 974 Brainerd, MN 56401 (218) 829-4705 www.brainerddispatch.com 4
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STAFF: Publisher .................................. Terry McCollough Advertising Director ................... Tim Bogenschutz Copy Editor ............................................Roy Miller Special Projects Coordinator ......... Meagan Matich Marketing Coordinator .................Monica Nieman Magazine Layout ................................ Tyler Nelson Ad Design .......................................... Jeff Dummer, Andy Goble, Nikki Lyter, and Tyler Nelson Sales.............................Kelly Carlson, Linda Hurst, Kristine Roberts, Glen Santi, Carla Staffon, Jill Wasson and Dave Wentzel Online Sales Manager .........................Beth Lehner Outdoor Traditions is a trademarked magazine published by the Brainerd Dispatch, P.O. Box 976, Brainerd, MN 56401. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. ®2006 Cover photo provided by Cindy Spilman
LIVING THE OUTDOORS! By Mickey O. Johnson LIVING
lem facing the future of hunting and fishing. I donâ€™t need
Well for all of my life I have tried
people to agree with me on my point of view, just donâ€™t
to live the outdoors as much as I possibly can. While grow-
hinder my right to do it and give me that chance to ex-
ing up in Illinois and eventually moving to Minnesota, the
plain or discuss our differences. Sportsmen have a far
opportunities to hunt, fish, cross-country ski and explore
greater positive impact on their environment than many
the outside world and appreciate everything in it seem-
see or hear about. Our license fees and purchases of sport-
ingly was always at the forefront of everything I did or at
ing goods fund a large percentage of state agencies that
least tried to do. My belief is that today too many are grow-
not only impact games species, but also non-game and the
ing up with the wrong picture of hunters and anglers and
environment. Our memberships in conservation organiza-
the impact that we all have on our surroundings. Instead
tions also work behind the scenes to ensure the future of
of stopping and smelling the roses, for me it is seeing the
wildlife areas and habitats for many species.
MEAN TO ANYONE?
sunrise and sunsets and listening to the sounds of a stream or an animal walking in the woods.
Recently I hunted with a good friend, Craig Purse, for ruffed grouse northwest of Brainerd. It was a glorious day
A fear of what you know little about is the biggest prob-
in the beauty of the fall-colored woods that found us enjoy-
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M i c k e y
J o h n s o n 5
ing more than harvesting birds. Purse kept saying all day
they should have been and being there for the sights,
long, ”I don’t know how anyone could not like this.” He
sounds and smells that have always struck a cord within
had his English setter, Jake, and I had my German short-
me. This whole experience wasn’t about sticking to ster-
hair, Guinness, embracing the rare warmth of that late au-
ile trails nicely groomed or having a signpost describe the
tumn day. The woods were quiet with the rustling of the
flora and fauna of the surrounding area. This was more
leaves from the pointers criss-crossing with their noses
about sharing the outdoors with a friend, our dogs and
to the ground seeking scent. The first point by the dogs
being afield as well as embracing what nature has to offer.
produced one, then two and finally a third ruffed grouse
At the end of the day Craig and I talked on our way back
hiding in a cluster of downed trees. We both were caught
to Brainerd about what we had just witnessed in the out-
off guard and were not able to get off any clear shots. It
doors. The day itself had been beautiful and beyond our
was still great to see the dogs work well together and we
expectations. The sunrise to sunset outing was one that
anyone who enjoys being in the woods or afield could
After crossing over a large hill, we dipped down into an
truly embrace. Our dogs had pointed and put us on 18
area that earlier this spring I harvested some morel mush-
flushes of grouse and had given us every opportunity they
rooms. I couldn’t help but notice that there were still
could muster. Our results were poor by some people’s
some high bush cranberries to be found here and thorn
standards when we were not able to bring down any of
apples on the other side of this small opening. These are
our flying friends, but that was the least of our concerns.
true signs for any hunter that plentiful food should still
The biggest point of the day for us was mulling over the
hold the birds here and not to have them moving on to
entire day, how well our dogs worked and not what we
other sources that they transition to later such as poplar
harvested. Craig was thrilled that this was that day that his
or alder catkins. Sure enough, on the left side of me and
Jake had pointed his first grouse. This had convinced him
in a small clump of fallen trees Craig’s dog, Jake, had one
of the direction his dog was headed in and relieved the
of those classic points. Tail arched over his back with the
anxiety he had of his dog’s ability in the woods.
white flag of it gently swaying a bit in the breeze. Every
For me this one day best tells the tale of living in the
muscle in his body was taut as he held his head low and
outdoors and having a true sense of what goes on around
pointing in the direction of the grouse he smelled.
us all. Some people never leave the path and truly explore
The bird flushed high and straight up and away from
what is around them like in Robert Frost’s poem, “The
both Craig and me. My fumbling with the safety on my
Road Not Taken.” Not all hunters and anglers are perfect
gun made me more of a witness rather than a shooter.
citizens, but neither are the people who never get out
Craig snapped around, but could not get a clear shot away
into the real world. Most of us who enjoy nature, in what-
with treetops blocking his efforts. This bird rose to catch
ever manner we choose, are concerned about its future.
the late morning sun on his breast and provided a seem-
I know that I hope for generations to come that someone
ingly slow motion film for me to observe as he flew off
is there to really appreciate and care for our surroundings.
into the woods. I know of too many times when I have
Our future of the outdoors relies on everyone’s steward-
been guiding or even hunting when the hunter is more
accurate as an observer than an actual shooter of game. There is still a sense of thrill in all of this as well and if you don’t get that, then you shouldn’t even be in the woods. The whole day ran perfect for any grouse hunter in the woods. Most of the leaves had fallen; birds were where 6
L i v i n g
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O u t d o o r s!
Mickey O. Johnson is author of “Wingshooters Guide to Minnesota.”
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MY TOUGHEST SHOTS EVER Wildlife photography is a tough undertaking
By Bill Marchel
Three white-tailed deer tiptoe through water that seeped through a crack in the ice of the frozen Mississippi River. Marchel took this image more than 20 years ago after spending countless hours in a blind. It remains one of his favorites. TO
The more intimately a photographer becomes acquainted with his or her subjects the better chance they have of getting great photographs. Also, they must endure extremes of weather, biting insects, early mornings and late nights. “It must be nice to take pictures of wildlife for a living,” people often say. “I don’t take pictures for a living, I sell pictures for a living,” I answer. “Taking good wildlife images costs money, a lot of money, and a lot of time. And dealing with photo buyers can be trying. Sometimes taking the pictures is the easy part.” Sometimes. One of my favorite images is a shot of three deer crossing the ice of the Mississippi River. I took the photograph more than 20 years ago on a February afternoon. Weeks earlier I had built a makeshift blind among some driftwood piled along the riverbank with the idea of getting a photograph of deer on the ice, a situation I felt would make a telling image. Several deer trails crossed the frozen river at that spot. Also, I noticed as the sun neared the western horizon, trees along the far bank cast shadows onto the blue ice, a scene I felt would make a great backdrop to a deer still lit by the golden rays of a setting sun. I saw deer on most afternoons from my winter blind but the great light — the time when the deer were illuminated by the low sun but the distant shoreline was not — lasted THEIR HABITS.
T o u g h e s t
S h o t s
only minutes each day. Each evening, when I left the blind and walked in the winter darkness toward my truck, my hands and feet were numb and my nose and cheeks were stinging. Then it happened. At just the right time on a perfect day, three whitetails walked into my viewfinder. Not only was the light ideal, but during the night water had seeped up through a crack onto the ice, and I watched in awe as the three deer tiptoed through the shallow water atop the frozen
E v e r
Bill Marchel spent numerous hours in a blind he built along the bank of the frozen Mississippi River to capture this adult bald eagle as it fed on a coyote-killed deer.
An intimate knowledge of the habits of his photo subject, as well as the technical aspects of nighttime photography were needed by Bill Marchel to capture on film this male woodcock as he called to attract a female.
era atop a tripod, carved an opening for the lens, and settled in. Shortly after dawn, several eagles flew in and perched in trees across the river. But, hours later I left the cramped confines of the blind without having snapped a single picture. The next day I experienced similar results. Finally, on my third try, a regal adult bald eagle landed on the carcass just after sunrise. The big raptor fed unconcerned a mere 30 feet away while I shot roll after roll of film. White-tailed deer are one of my favorite photo subjects, especially big bucks. Mature bucks are rare in this state and those that survive are extremely wary. So, I was particularly excited when one evening just after sunset I spotted a giant buck feeding on newly fallen bur oak acorns not far from my home. His velvet-covered antlers were so huge the sight nearly took my breath away. The very next day I built a crude blind downwind from where I had seen the big buck. That evening, everything came together and I was able to take several images of the huge deer as it stood between two bur oaks. Success on the first day? That doesn’t sound so tough. Well, I saw the buck for the next four years, and try as I might, in all seasons, I was unable to get another decent image of the deer. Oftentimes, the technical aspects of photography are what make a certain image difficult to obtain. I had always wanted to photograph a male woodcock during his nighttime courtship ritual. The display is often called the “sky dance” but a certain portion of the woodcocks’ wooing efforts is performed on the ground. The problem is the courtship display begins at roughly 20
river, their big white tails tipping from side to side. An added bonus was the whitetails’ near-perfect reflections on the water’s surface. “How long did I have to wait for that image,” you ask? Twenty-five years, because it remains the only photograph I have take under those just-so conditions. Along that same stretch of frozen river, coyotes sometimes took advantage of deer as they funneled across the ice. When the canines made a kill, other meat eaters would gather for a feast, among them bald eagles. One day in late winter I found a freshly killed deer, and I set a goal to photograph a bald eagle feeding on the carcass. My initial project was to build a blind, and I knew not just any blind would fool a bald eagle. I spent at least an hour weaving sticks and grass into the roots of fallen tree along the riverbank. Before I left I removed my jacket, took off my undershirt and placed it beneath the deer carcass. I knew the human scent on my shirt would prevent the coyotes — wary critters that they are — from completely consuming the deer before I could return. My plan was to allow the eagles several Look closely and you’ll see a hen ruffed grouse sitting on days to get used to the blind. her nest. She displays amazing cryptic coloration. It took A few days later I walked to the blind in preBill Marchel long hours of waiting in a hot, insect infested dawn darkness. Once inside, I fixed my camblind to acquire the image. Photos provided by Bill Marchel
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Big whitetail bucks like this are rare in Minnesota, and very wary. Bill Marchel captured this image just one day after initially spotting this giant buck, but spent the next four more years in pursuit of the deer and never again was able to match this image. minutes after sunset, too dark for photography without artificial lighting. For this photo adventure I not only had to know the biology of woodcock, but I had to study how to use complicated photography gear I normally don’t employ. I’ll spare you the technical aspects, but it involved special
flashes, infrared autofocus, extension tubes, and much trial and error, heavy on the error. But in the end, I got the image I wanted; a nearly frame-filling shot of a male woodcock with its bill open while it was “peenting” to attract a mate. Cold weather is always a problem for a wildlife photographer, but looking back I think I have complained more about summer heat and swarming insects. I especially recall long, sweaty hours I spent in a blind while photographing a hen ruffed grouse on her nest. I was hoping to get an image of her and her newly hatched young as they left the nest. At one point during my wait, a sunbeam penetrated the thick overhead canopy and landed directly on my blind. Within minutes the inside turned sauna-like. Sweat plastered my T-shirt tight to my back — much to the liking of a hoard of mosquitoes. At the same time, wood ticks and deer ticks crawled up my pant legs To pass the time during my vigil, I often surveyed the inside walls of my blind in an effort to find a mosquito that was not full of my blood. Quite frankly, it was a miserable vwait. Ultimately though, it was worth effort. I obtained some images of the hen and her brood, but the photos of the well-camouflaged hen on her nest remain my favorites from the adventure. As I finish writing this story, a brisk November breeze in is charging out of the north. The wind-chill is near zero. I could go outside and spend the last few hours of daylight in a blind, or I could confront the editor of an outdoor magazine that doesn’t know the difference between a mink and a marten, or a red squirrel and fox squirrel (no kidding). Where are my Arctic boots? I’d rather deal with Old Man Winter.
B I L L M A R C H E L is a wildlife and outdoors photographer and writer who lives near Fort Ripley. His work has appeared in many regional and national publications and he writes a monthly column for the Brainerd Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com
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T o u g h e s t
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A dozen ways to enjoy the winter together
FROZEN FAMILY FUN THE
offer families all kinds of
activities they can do together. There are ballgames to go to and bike rides in the evenings, hikes to take and afternoons spent on the boat. But when the falling of the leaves is followed by the falling of the snowflakes that doesn’t mean everyone has to retreat inside for the next four months or that every night has to be family board game night. There’s still a lot of fun to be had together – some of it just requires a little more clothing. So round up your wool mittens, slip on an extra pair of socks and swing the front door open wide. Here’s a dozen things to do together when everyone says, “I’m bored.”
Deep Portage Learning Center in Hackensack is a perfect place to dip your toes into some of this winter activity and find out which ones you like the best. The center is a non-profit residential learning center. Throughout the year the center offers camps to students of all ages, an opportunity to take classes, do a little hands-on learning and the a way to meet others who are interested in new things too. In the winter the center offers a Family Winter Weekend. Dale Yerger, director at Deep Portage said this year the center will host two family weekends. The dates are Jan. 15-17 and Feb. 26-28. “They are designed for the whole family to come up,” he said. “It’s a lot like our typical environmental education sessions. We have all sorts of winter activities from snowshoeing to ice fishing. Families are invited to cross-country ski 18 kilometers of ski trails. There are games, like Nightstalker, after it gets dark and we have a campfire.” We’ll climb the observation tower and the indoor climbing wall.” All of the equipment is included. So are meals on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday. Each family is given a private room. “We have 20 rooms available,” said Yerger, “and I would say last year and the year before, we’ve been doing this three winters, we average group sizes of about 20 – 40 people.” Cost for the weekend, with Photo provideds by Sheila Helmberger
all equipment included to participate in the activities is $100 per person. There is a cap of $300 for a family of 4. The center also offers various classes throughout the year for a nominal fee. Offerings this December include compass reading and balsam wreath making. For more information on the Deep Portage Learning Center call 218-682-2325 or log on to their Web site at http:// deep-portage.org <http://deep-portage.org> . You can also check out the center’s blog at http://deepportage. blogspot.com/.
Tubing. Who knew traveling down a hill at unthinkable speeds on various materials could be so exciting? It turns out all you need to add to the local snow hill is something to sit on and a sense of adventure. Both Ski Gull on Highway 77 and Primetime in Breezy Point offer groomed hills for sledding and a tow rope to ease the trek back to the top of the hill. If you wander a little around your own neighborhood plenty of popular local hills can provide entertainment too. The ride just might be a little more adventurous and unpredictable. If you’re looking for a day of giggles and fun this is an activity that delivers. Shop to see what kinds of sleds you like. Some are single-passenger but some styles can hold two or more for added fun.
H e l m b e r g e r 11
Snowmobiling. The lake country offers about 1,200 miles of trails to ride on and the state of Minnesota has about 20,000 miles. Snowmobiling is so popular in the state that more than 250 established clubs work to keep the trails groomed and the paths safe. You don’t have to own your own snowmobile to enjoy the sport. Many resorts and sporting good outfitters offer snowmobile rental packages for a day of riding the trails.
Parades and festivals aren’t just for summer. Many communities host special festivals in the winter season for residents. Aitkin hosts the traditional day after Thanksgiving Fish House Parade and Walker is home to the annual Eelpout Festival. Crosslake hosts a Winterfest in February. Check local event calendars to see what’s coming up in your neck of the woods.
Bird watching. Not all of our feathered friends head south for warmer weather. Chickadees and cardinals and many other varieties will tough out the Minnesota winter like the rest of us. Keep the feeders full of tasty offerings even in the winter months. Because if you feed them they will come. Keep a log of birds that visit in the winter and see which ones are the hardiest.
Ski — either cross country or downhill. In the Brainerd lakes area there are more than 240 miles of cross-country ski trails. Some of the trails are even lighted for night skiing. Many are on well kepts recreational trails.
Downhill skiing. Ski Gull, located on Highway 77 between Nisswa and Brainerd, offers 12 runs from beginner to very skilled. Ski Gull operates either a tow rope or chair lift depending on the hill to make the trip back to the top a little easier. A terrain park for snowboarders lets them hone their skills and Ski Gull offers equipment rentals. Season tickets and daily passes are both available.
F a m i l y
Rent out a theatre. Have you ever wondered what it might be like to have a private screening of a movie at the local theater? Enjoy a current movie in a private room for little more than the cost of a movie ticket in the Bear Pause Theater’s VIP Theater Lounge in Hackensack. The lounge offers a refrigerator, dining area and sofas for movie viewing and your group gets their own private bathroom. For more information on a VIP showing of a movie call 218-675-5357.
Stay at a resort. Off-season prices mean great bargains and a stay at an area resort means you can enjoy all of the amenities. Go for a swim in the resort pool. Sit in the hot tub or visit the spa. A winter stay-cation can mean a relaxing weekend for the entire family.
Snowshoeing. Remember how heavy those snowshoes used to look (and feel)? Well, that’s not the case anymore. Today’s styles are lightweight and easy to maneuver in. Often they are as easy to get around in as cross-country skis. Many resorts or sports outfitters offer snow shoe rentals. Just because the weather turns colder doesn’t mean it’s time for us to head indoors and stay there. Make this the winter your family discovers something new they love to do together.
S H E I L A H E L M B E R G E R has a jour-
Golf. (Did we say golf?) Your clubs might be in the attic for the winter but your game doesn’t have to be put in storage. The winter months in lake country offer a couple of opportunities to keep the swing in practice. A Snow Golf Tournament with nine holes of snow golf will be held Feb. 6-7 and the Gull Lake Frozen Fore is March 5-7 sponsored by area resorts and restaurants.
12 F r o z e n
Ice fishing. Just because the water freezes doesn’tt mean the lakes aren’t full of fish. Fish houses createe mini neighborhoods on the ice when the water is fro-zen and the houses range from affordable portablee houses to smaller two-person structures on up to com-plete mini-winter homes with all kinds of comforts. Iff you don’t have access to your own fish house you can n rent one from an area resort. If you have a real sense off adventure some even come with beds for spending thee night.
F u n
nalism degree. She is a mother of three, and contributes regularly to various local publications.
FISHINGA Brainerd GUIDES Tradition T H E D E C A D E S - L O N G L O V E O F F I S H I N G the Brainerd lakes area with respected and hard-working fishing guides has not changed much. Except for the gear, the techniques, the boats and the attitudes of the fishermen. Dozens of capable fishing guides work the area, many with decades of experience. They hail from all walks of life; some are full-time while others fill up their summers then return to the classroom. Some are big-name winners on the tournament trails while others quietly guide day after day. Many former guides are now icons in the fishing industry. Knowledge is the key; treating the customer is essential. Let’s take a brief walk back and examine guiding yesterday and today. Ask for a guide’s name and Marv Koep will top the Brainerd-area list. Now 67, he guided nearly 150 halfday trips in 2009. “I still fish walleyes 80 percent of the time on Whitefish, Pelican, North Long and Gull. When they’re biting, I may stay late. I love my long-time clients, and still have a ball.” Back in the 1960s when he ran his Nisswa bait shop, success was a limit. If he didn’t hear, “Got a limit,” from his guides or their clients, the trip was judged less than successful. “Back then, most people kept their limits. Today fewer than 10 percent even take fish home,” he said. “We all became educated about the resource.” The famed Nisswa Guides League started in the late 1960s when Al and Ron Lindner joined forces with Koep. “Ron even came up with the name,” Koep said. After 30 years booking trips for as many as 18 guides, he sold the business and jumped into full-time guiding.
Photos provided by Jim Kalkofen
The Nisswa Guides League is now headquartered at S & W Bait north of Brainerd. The three biggest revolutions in the fishing game occurred during his tenure. “The depth finder was the key, but Lindy rigs and light line helped people become better anglers,” he said. Koep believes in redtails, redtails and more redtails. He either hooks them in the lips or the tail, and advises fishermen switch to what the walleyes want. This past summer, a client brought some night crawlers into his boat and caught some fish. Koep bought two dozen the next day, hooked a crawler on and dragged it around for awhile. “I returned them minus one crawler. From now on it’s all redtails,” he said. Al and Ron Lindner moved to the Brainerd area in the 1960s and became guides for Koep. “We centered on the hub of walleye activity where the heart-beat was rigging and jigging for walleyes,” Al said. He quickly learned about the tremendous bass lakes. “The best mix of multi-species fishing in the country, summer and winter, is within 50 to 60 miles of Brainerd” he said. Brother Ron said the early guide-years were one of the greatest growth periods in learning, which quickly translated into publications like In-Fisherman, television, seminars and a tackle company organized on the back of the famed Lindy rig, brought to market by Al and Ron (with help from Nick Adams) who knew the tactic worked, but really shined when back-trolling a boat into the wind, a tactic learned from Harry Van Dorn (also taught Koep to fish). The guides keep pointing back to evolution or maybe “revolution,” with the advent of the depth finder. Ron
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said, “With electronic depth finders, we could fish deep- started in the 1960s by carrying his outboard in the er fish that were never touched before.” The original trunk. His prices in ‘69 were $35 per day; $135 a deNisswa Guides shared knowledge with each other. Most cade later; up to $180 in 1989; and about $200 per day lakes were not yet mapped, and tackle was being devel- in 1995 when he turned his business over due to health oped daily in their boats. If a guide found fish, it was issues. “At first, it was Ma and Pa trips, and we had to not uncommon for several guide boats to be side-by-side. guarantee fish or we wouldn’t get paid,” he said. “That “Camaraderie was the name of the game,” Ron said. meant learning on the fly, and much of what we did was Many guides rented boats from resorts. A typical experimental.” guide’s arsenal included two cigar “tackle” boxes bound It was thrilling for Cooper to have lived in this era. with rubber bands, a minnow bucket, a chain stringer, He said, “We went from stringers to live wells. From no a 5-hp to 15-hp outboard, a gas tank and four rods. The electronics to learning to read flashers to the modern customers paid the rental boat fee, usually $3 per day, electronics of today. Man hours spent on the water is and for minnows. In the early 1970’s, the Lindners start- still the key. Teaching what we do and how we do it is ed running their own Lund boats with 25-hp outboards. still a valuable component of guiding. Al chuckled at his concept of guiding in the early years. His guide boat in 1969 was a Lund 14-footer with a 5-hp “I wanted to catch the fastest limit of fish, and if I had to Johnson. He jumped into a Lund 15-foot boat with a 10catch 16 of the 18, I did. This was not the right mental- hp Evinrude a ity, but what I observed was critical for much of my later few years later, career. I learned what people did wrong and what they followed by an couldn’t do. This I was able to teach in the magazine and AlumaCraft 16on TV.” Ron said, “The guide mentality was an early taste foot boat with a of tournament fishing.” 50-hp Mercury. Al’s observations on guides, “I like the story-tellers, the He then ran ones who share their passion. People who guide truly Rangers and love to fish. It’s a profession of underpaid guys with a Champions that wealth of knowledge. I respect them. Those who put were 18 to 21 their rods down to help people catch fish are the best guides. Those early years were fun, carefree, and the innocent days of my life.” Ron said, “Fishing the 60’s and 70’s with small boats made us focus on smaller areas. Wind conditions forced where we fished. I never worked harder than on a cold front day.” Mr. Walleye wasn’t always Mr. Walleye. Gary Roach was a tree-planter, mechanic, musician, bartender and outdoorsman. He guided part time at January 23, 2010 Breezy Point resort when he returned from the Gull Lake, Brainerd, MN Navy in 1960. He started with the Nisswa Guides www.iceﬁshing.org League during the 1967-1968 period at $12.50 800.950.9461 per day for a half-day trip. “This was the trial pay structure from Marv, but the other guides voted me in and my pay doubled,” Roach said. Like other guides, Roach rented boats. When he bought his Lund 315 and strapped on an old motor, he said he felt like a king. “I built and glassed in a front pedestal seat and added a compartment with a hole in the bottom for the first livewell ever in a boat - this was in 1969,” he said. “Each day was a learning experience. The Lowrance green box helped us learn where walleyes went in summer. Crawlers and leeches came onto the scene with live bait rigging, and this had a big impact.”v Roach said, “Those early years taught me something I learned when competing in major bass and walleye tournaments: You’re only as good as your next day.” Long-time area guide, George Cooper Jr., also
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Photo Provided by Jim Kalkofen
feet long, with big V-6 outboards. “If I had to live my life over, I’d do it all again,” he said. A handful of guides who started much later offered their viewpoints of guiding today. Perry Good is a worldclass walleye tournament angler, with multiple wins on the Professional Walleye Trail. “I treat each day of guiding as a tournament day, and look hard for fish. I want people to be happy and catch fish,” he said. “If I run into a couple of guys who want walleyes on Gull in July, I go into the weeds and have fun showing them a different method to put fish in the boat. I think all my clients like learning new tactics, my Lowrance HDS, my Lund and tackle,” Good said. With about 30 guide trips per year and working part-time at Gander, doing many events for his sponsors, Good also fishes many tournaments. Butch Blasing has been guiding for about 16 years, and operates about 90 trips per year from S & W Guide Service. He used to do 130 trips, but for family reasons, cut his work load. He is also full-time at the MPCA. His number one goal is to provide clients a great time while educating them about the resource. He teaches new techniques, especially with foreign visitors and saltwater anglers who never tangled with a pike or a walleye. “They universally find Lindy rigging to be the most intriguing thing they’ve ever seen,” he said. He explains the variations of rigging by choosing from among 20 rods set-up with Lindy rigs with different color hooks and beads, various leader lengths and bait options.Only about 30 percent of his clients even take fish home, and then, only enough for a meal. Limits are not even discussed, and most of his clients only want the fishing experience. Tim Anderson of Big Fish Hunt Guide Service primarily chases muskies from July to ice-up. His clients want to learn and sharpen their learning curve, get to know a certain lake better (and how to fish it), and the hardcore
guys who want to hook a fish of a life-time. “I stay on the pulse of the bite, drive to the hot lakes and jump spot to spot until I find the right combination. I watch the moon rise and moon period and fish around the clock, with nights becoming a favorite time to catch muskies,” he said. Anderson feels the GPS mapping, electronics, electric trolling motors, strong batteries, casting rods and reels, lure selection, line and his boat make fishing much simpler than four decades ago. Walleye Dan Eigen is very visible in Brainerd-lakes guiding circles. He works closely with Fleet Farm, conducts personal and video in-store sessions, writes a weekly column for the Dispatch and runs a guide service in Nisswa with four other guides working for him. “Giving it 100 percent all day is a fact of life. I am driven to put customers on fish,” he said. Many of his repeat customers have seen the great days and understand the slow days. Walleyes are his normal quarry, but bass and pike enter into the picture, especially in the dog days of summer. “Teaching is a very important aspect of each day. People want to know about electronics, tactics and what’s going on — why are we doing what we’re doing?” Eigen said. Talking with the “old” guides, which he does often, he said, “Today, we’re in a different era with more competition, amazing technology and fewer secret spots. But, it still comes down to working my tail off for clients — that has not changed from the 1960’s to today.” Author’s Note: The Brainerd area has many guides, and this story could not possibly include all of them. The viewpoints of those included were to share a bit of the guide’s life from yesterday to today.
J I M K A L K O F E N has been in and around
boats all his life. He has been director of the largest walleye tournament circuits for two decades, and was inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.
Comparing guiding “then” to “now.” Then: We had to imagine the bottom without water. It was Now:
search-search-search to find flats, tips of points and fish. We can go to spots using our GPS in any kind of weather.
Then: We mostly rigged or jigged with live bait. Now: So many options exist, like spinners, leadcore trolling with crankbaits, slip bobbers, and more.”
Then: I ran a 7 1/2 -hp outboard and rented boats until I had my
Then: Electronics were just coming into the marketplace, and we
Lund 315. My 250-hp Mercury Verado trolls like a 10-hp, and I can hit every corner of every lake in any weather in my 20-foot Lund.
all used flashers. We also depended on shoreline landmarks and a compass. Wow is the best word to describe the new Lowrance units. It’s like looking at TV, and you don’t miss a thing.
Then: Days were much shorter due to the boat ride to get to spots. Then: We figured out what we needed to do to catch fish. Now: I have an extra hour of fishing on a guide trip. Now: Knowledge is readily available on TV, in the magazines, on Then: Fish went on a stringer and hung over the side. Now: State-of-the-art livewells are set-up to keep fish alive.
the internet; people have immediate access to what’s biting, where and at what depth.”
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By Melody and Ron Banks
THERE’S A RUSTIC, ROOM LOG CABIN
that was built by a band of like-minded men decades ago. Small and dark, it doesn’t fit in with the modern age of super-highways, cell phones and wide screen televisions. But that’s the point — it sits right where it belongs: at the end of a timeless, leaf-strewn trail, away from the hustle and bustle of today’s demands, beckoning to a simpler, less complicated time. Step over the threshold, take care to not bump your head, hear the clompof your shoes on the wooden floor. Once your eyes adjust, you’ll see the rough-hewn table, candles, tin cups, a soot covered, dented coffee boiler and other utensils more familiar to the past than the present. Alas, the walls cannot speak, but glance at the shadows dancing overhead and
DEEP IN THE WOODS
underfoot cast by the warming fire in the stove. This modest shelter echoes with laughter of long night retreats, where blustery, buckskinned and bearded companions rejoice in the camaraderie of their backwoods brotherhood. You can almost hear the recounting that once-in-a-lifetime shot, see the shine of that hand-made hunting knife, smell the leather and burnt black powder. But we need not rely on our imaginations to tell us who these occupants might be. This is the gathering place of the Crow Wing County Muzzleloaders. — Ron Banks The cabin, which was built by members of the Crow Wing County Muzzleloaders club, sits in an undisclosed location on property owned by Nick Bernier. Bernier is a charter member of the club, which was established in March of 1977. The club also owns a small piece of adjoining land that they use for a shooting range. Bernier became interested in black powder and buckskinning while he was a medical student at the University of Minnesota. Re-enactors would gather on weekends to rendezvous at Murphy’s Landing near the Twin Cities. Nick still enjoys rendezvousing today. “It’s refreshing to be outside and get away from the stressors we deal with everyday. In the camps, there is no electricity, TV or videos, just the campfires with people sitting around visiting, sharing stories and talking about projects they are working on,” he says. Club president Jim Whistler thinks he was only 6 when he first became interested in muzzle loading and buckskinning. He still remembers putting on a coonskin cap and watching Davy Crocket on TV. Television shows like Davy Crocket and Daniel Boone, along with movies such as Jeremiah Johnson and Mountain Men, sparked a movement of sorts that piqued the interest of those who hearken back that time period. Jim points out that about half of the club’s members are not re-enactors. “Many just love the old style fire-
January 23, 2010 • Gull Lake, Brainerd, MN www.iceﬁshing.org • 800.950.9461 16 L i v i n g
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Photos provided by Melody & Ron Banks
arms. They enjoy shooting and hunting with them.” About eight years ago Jim began working with the Old Wadena Society who sponsors the Old Wadena Rendezvous and Folk Festival. Festival highlights include acoustic music, storytelling, Anishinaabe dance and drum and artists displaying and selling handcrafted wares. The club has been involved with other historical ventures over the years. Along with many community members, they supported and helped move the Beaulieu house back its original location at Crow Wing State Park. They also set up a fur trader camp at the park each June in conjunction with Canoe Days. Ray Nelson, another charter member of the club, says he became interested in muzzleloaders when a friend came by with a black powder kit he had purchased from a Coast-toCoast Store 30 years ago. “That kit was the seed. I just had to have one,” says Ray. “I went right out and bought one.” Over the years Ray has continued to build muzzleloaders and several club members own guns built by Ray but he no longer builds them from a kit. “It took me all winter to put that simple rifle kit together. Now I can make an authentic looking one from scratch in about a month,” he says. Ray has also spent quite a bit of time in area classrooms teaching young people about the history of the early 1800s. He has been featured in several newspapers dressed as Private John Boley. Boley, who traveled west with Lewis and Clark, was disciplined by the leaders and sent back to St. Louis where he later joined Zebulon Pike on his expedition to find the source of the Mississippi River. “It was a fascinating time in our nation’s history,” says Ray. “There were areas not yet charted, cultures not yet discovered.”
Those who would like to learn more about muzzle loading, re-enacting or the history of the 1800s may want to check out these suggested reading materials or web sites:
www.oldwadenarendezvous.org www.bigislandfestivalandbbq.org www.coht.org Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose
The Journals of Lewis and Clark edited by Frank Bergon
A Pilgrim’s Journey, Vol. 1 & 2 by Mark Baker
The Book of Buckskinning, Vol. 1 - 8 by William H Scurlock
History does seem to be a common thread that binds the club together. Treasurer Jon Schram remembers listening wide-eyed as a youth when his mother recounted the story of his great grandparents living as homesteaders in southwestern Minnesota during the Sioux Uprising in 1862. “My greatgrandfather was away from home when it happened but my great-grandmother was actually shot in the leg by one of the warriors,” Jon says. “My mother told me her grandmother never held it against the Indians. She felt they had been mistreated and felt sorry for them. My great-grandfather went to Mankato to see the hanging. They hung 39 Sioux Warriors.” Jon has been collecting artifacts for over 60 years. “My family owned a resort on the Whitefish Chain near the Pine River. I think I was about 7, when I was walking along the shore one day and saw something sticking up through the sand. It was just a little edge of something, sitting sideways. When I pulled it out I was surprised to find it was an arrowhead. I have been looking (for artifacts]) ever since.” Jon’s collection today consists of boxes of arrowheads, worked stone and pottery shards. He seems to have an eye for finding such things, like a mushroom hunter who can spot a morel in a pile of fallen leaves. In addition to collecting artifacts, Jon has made many of his buckskin clothes and hats out of hides he has tanned himself. The process he uses, called brain tanning, is as old as some of his artifacts. “It is said that each animal’s brain is large enough to tan its own hide,” says Jon. The Crow Wing County Muzzleloaders hold an annual “Show and Tell” open house each March at the Brainerd Public Library. They always welcome visitors as well as new members. It doesn’t matter if you are a re-enactor, or just enjoy black powder firearms or handicrafts from a by-gone era. They are a fascinating bunch of characters who love to talk and show off their prize possessions. Make it a point to stop by and visit with them this March. It’s like taking a step back in history.
MELODY & RON BANKS
Melody and Ron Banks are members of the Crow Wing County Muzzleloaders. They live in Nisswa, Minnesota.
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AGGRESSIVE TACTICS FOR FIRST ICE WALLEYES
MOST GOOD WALLEYE ANGLERS GET REAL EXCITED WHEN THE FIRST GOOD I C E O F T H E Y E A R A P P E A R S . The fish are aggressive and still willing to swim a fair distance for something to munch on. As a result, be aggressive in your tactics to catch them. New rattling spoons and advances in lure design will allow you to be even more successful than traditional methods. For example, the Rattlin' Flyer Spoon offers the fish a vertical presentation, holographic flash and sound, plus the ability to “cast” under the ice that's deadly when walleyes are nearby. Another new aggressive vertical jigging lure that is now available to you is the Lindy Darter. This bait can be pumped aggressively, has an irresistible, life-like action plus brass rattles which brings fish in. Other baits can be effective, but they often peak in performance during the golden hours around sunrise and sunset. While these low light periods are still the best times to have a lure in the water, aggressive tactics will help you catch fish all day long. LOCATION
Finding the best location is the key to catching fish. While there is still no such thing as a magic lure that will catch fish all the time and everywhere, you must drill holes in their neighborhood. In natural lakes, first ice will find walleyes near the steepest breaks on shoreline structure. Study a hydrographic map and look for the fastest drop-off to the deepest part of the lake. Humps and points are good spots as well. Early ice is often the time to visit those shallow prairie lakes that were too weedy to fish effectively in summer. Focus on hard-bottomed spots like rock piles and even small structural features. A slight rise or hard spot on the bottom can be holding areas for walleyes. Stick with shoreline structure on bigger lakes like Mille Lacs or Lake of the Woods. Check out spots where reed beds stick up through the ice. The edge of the reed beds will hold walleyes. As always, points are the prime real estate in reservoirs, but look for the ones with the sharpest breaks into the old channel, which will be the deepest water in the system. GEAR
It is best to use an ice rod that is fairly stout with a stiffer tip, like St. Croix's Legend Ice LIR24M. If the rod is too limber, you can move and jiggle it all day long and little of the action will be transferred to the bait. You must be able
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to shake a Rattlin' Flyer Spoon or Darter hard enough to get them to make some noise and work the lures. Remember that whatever the rod tip is doing, the lure is doing below. Start by using low stretch mono in 6 to 8 pound test. If you're fishing deeper water, try using a super braided line, like Power Pro, to increase your sense of touch - detect bites, feel bottom, and transfer action to the lure. A hand held GPS helps to locate spots you hopefully programmed in during the open-water season, when moving around to scout was much easier than during the frosty weather. A flasher or electronics is critical. Humminbird's new ICE 55 is awesome and easy to use. Sonar offers the ability to detect walleyes that move close to your bait. You can also watch the color change as they move ever closer. Gauge their mood and the action they want by whether they continue to move to the center of the hole and take the bait or veer off. Too many near misses are an invitation to change jigging action or color. Keep your color choices simple. In low-light periods, red Techni-Glo works well because red glow is the brightest. When you charge it with your Tazer (a small hi-intensity flashlight which is designed to light up glow lures), fish can see it the farthest away and at sunrise and sunset, they will be attracted a long ways. Blue glow lasts the longest, so it's a good night color when bigger fish are more apt to bite. Daytime colors vary according to water color. Chartreuse is always a good choice, but play with the greens, the oranges and the yellows. Keep adjusting the color to what the fish are telling you. By using and understanding your electronics, you can tell when fish are coming by and not biting. If that happens, then make some color changes, adjust your jigging motion, or change lures entirely. An underwater camera can help if you aren't moving around a lot. FISHING A SPOON
The design of the Rattlin' Flyer Spoon mimics its predecessor, the Flyer Jig. They glide when they are dropped down the hole, allowing ice anglers to cast a 6-foot radius around their hole. What you do next is critical. Don't just lift it and let it pendulum back below the hole. Slowly drag it and twitch the spoon as you bring it back. Now, you're “casting” almost fishing like you would in open water, thus covering more fishing areas from one spot. Walleyes often inhale it right from the bot-
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tom. But, if not, the next step is to pound it into the bottom over and over. It puts the “poof” factor on your side. There's always sediment on the bottom. When you lower the bait to the bottom and shake it or pound it, it will cause the sediment to mushroom up. It looks like fish feeding on bloodworms and larvae. It can cause a feeding frenzy of perch and then the bigger fish come in to feed on the perch. The last step is to lift the lure off the bottom and jig the bait aggressively to make the rattles work for you. It's like a dinner bell for a curious walleye. A major mistake many anglers make is to lessen the intensity of their jigging when a walleye shows up on the flasher. Don't freeze up and keep jigging aggressively to keep the rattles working. If you do see fish turn away, then try modifying your jigging action. So, the lesson is; first drag, then pound, and then jig the spoon. If you like fishing with live bait on a bobber, that's not a problem. Just leave one hole for aggressive jig-
Photo provided by Ted Takasaki
T e d
ging. There will be times when you'll be jigging and get nothing, then quit a moment and the bobber next to you goes down. It's not hard to figure out what happened. You called the fish in with the rattles, but maybe it wanted sometime more neutral looking so it turned off and took the minnow on the tip up instead. If aggressive jigging doesn't do the trick, try switching to a Genz Worm or a Fat Boy dressed with several Eurolarvae. Poof the bottom with them, too, pounding the jig to send sediment into the water to attract perch and walleyes.
T E D T A K A S A K I is one of the country’s top pro walleye fisherman and a former PWT champion. Not only has Ted won many fishing tournaments, he is the CEO of Lindy Little Joe, Inc. maker of fine fishing products.
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Nature’s FOOD GRILLED SALMON W/PINEAPPLE SALSA 1 1/2 cups fresh or canned pineapple chopped (fresh is preferable) 1/2 of small red pepper chopped 1 small or half of a large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped 1/4 red onion chopped 1 jalapeno pepper chopped ﬁne, seed removed 1/4 cup fresh basil chopped 1 tablespoon fresh ginger chopped ﬁne Juice of 2 limes 1 tablespoon of sugar 4 salmon steaks 2 tablespoons olive oil black pepper salt This is a healthy grilled salmon recipe. Combine pineapple, red pepper, cucumber, onion, jalapeno, basil, lime juice and sugar 30 minutes before grilling steak. Dry salmon steaks and brush oil on both sides. Salt and pepper to taste. Grill salmon on medium high heat to medium rare, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Serve grilled salmon with salsa.
PEPPERCORN VENISON STEAK 1 1/2 pounds of venison back strap cut 1/2 inch thick 3 tablespoons olive oil 4 tablespoons shallots chopped 1 tablespoon butter 2 tablespoons fresh ground peppercorns 1/3 cup brandy 1/4 cup red wine 1 cup beef stock 1/3 cup sour cream Warm butter and olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. (Be careful not to get it too hot.) Salt and pepper back strap on each side. Sear each side of steak quickly. (Do not overcook. Meat should be medium rare.) Place the venison in a oven safe pan and place in oven on warm. Add the shallots, and fresh ground pepper to the pan. Add brandy to the pan to de-glaze. Be careful, as brandy is ﬂammable. Cook over low heat for 1 minute to reduce. Add wine and beef stock, turn up heat and add the sour cream, stirring to incorporate. Remove venison from oven and add to sauce. Heat for one minute and serve.
“...The New Old-Fashioned Meat Market”
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IF IT AIN'T JERKIN' IT AIN'T WORKIN' Catching Yellow Perch Beneath the Ice E V E N T H E M O S T D E V O U T W A L L E Y E F A N appreciates a major run-in with a feisty school of jumbo perch. Not the little guys that ripsnort the tail ends of your 'crawlers from spinner rigs. But honest-to-goodness pound-plusers in substantial numbers. Perch that taste as good as any walleye; some say, even better. Fish that aggressively bite artificials tipped with livebait, and fight like tigers on light tackle and light line. Especially when you can get on them hot and heavy through a couple of holes in the ice. Because even after the walleye season closes, perch provide a good winter fix for whatever cabin fever ails you. While it's not quite accurate to say that yellow perch are merely miniature versions of larger walleyes, there is in fact a close relationship between these two kissin' cousins of the perch family. Their domains definitely overlap. And one definitely loves feasting on the other. Which is bad news for perch, but good news for walleyes. Let's examine their similarities and differences, and see how we can adjust walleye-ish ice fishing tactics to catching jumbos on light tackle. PERCH LOCATION
For walleyes, ice anglers tend to tightly hug the dropoffs rimming the perimeters of large mainlake structures meeting fairly deep water. Hard bottom along these edges often concentrates walleyes along twists and turns in the contour. Walleyes love these precise locales. Yet perch, while often nearby, seemingly do not find them as inviting. Perch are more soft-bottom basin critters, likely to munch on bloodworms or other insects and larvae emerging from the mud. Yet they are often found very close to structure-like literally just off the edges. As such, the transition from hard bottom at the base of a dropoff, to the soft bottom of the adjacent basin, is a perfect place for walleyes and perch to interface. Which is a polite way of saying, take a bite out of the perch population. If you fish vertically, right on the dropoff, you're likely to catch walleyes, especially during the lowlight transition periods of sunrise and sunset. Yet fish a few feet or yards out onto the adjacent mud flat, and you're probably going to run into perch, chiefly during the day. Perch are active and on the prowl when the sun shines, but once light levels drop, they tend to settle to the bottom, resting their little fin tips on the basin, like a kid plopping his elbows on the table at dinnertime. Magically, just about the time the perch bite begins to taper, the walleye bite begins to kick in, with bigger 'eyes munching on their smaller relatives. Photo provided by Bill Lindner Photography
by Dave Csanda
Thus, while you often catch both in the same area, it's chiefly along their overlapping territories. Stick to the dropoff, and you catch mostly walleyes during low light. Move out slightly across the adjacent mud basin during the day, and you're in perch country. Start in mid-afternoon and fish until dark, and you can do both in close proximity. The best way to find perch is to find the dropoff along a prime midlake bar or hump, and then drill a swiss-cheese pattern of holes across the nearby basin. True, this is a relatively flat area, but don't worry. This is where perch live and feed on critters that live in and emerge from the mud. Or on little minnows that happen to wander through their territory, making perch equal opportunity feeders. Exact areas, bottom contents, and productive depths vary from lake to lake. But whereas you often catch walleyes in exceedingly deep water, perch are usually pretty happy in the 20- to 35-foot levels. A nice lowlying carpet of sandgrass often makes good areas even better. Otherwise, soft mud bottom may suffice. In the end, perch are where you find them. They do move throughout the season, grazing their way through the local food supply before moving on to the next spot. So be prepared to follow the bite. Look for soft-bottomed basins adjacent to midlake structures of modest depth, particularly during midice. During late ice, however, perch, like walleyes, are moving toward their eventual spawning areas, which are not the same as those for walleyes-although they're often very nearby. Walleyes tend to spawn on shallow rock shorelines, reefs and incoming creeks, ten days to two weeks after the ice goes out. Prespawn fish briefly feed adjacent to their spawning areas, and then bing-bang-boom, they're right up in the shallows, spawning at night. Perch, by comparison, have a longer feeding period from late-ice through prespawn. Most likely, they'll gather along the base of the dropoff adjoining shallow 4- o 8-foot coontail or cabbage flats, which is where
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they will move shallow and begin spawning when the water reaches above 50 F-coincidentally, right after the walleyes finish spawning. Under the ice, however, expect perch to linger at the base of the dropoff, where the hard bottom of the slope meets the soft bottom of the adjacent basin. Generally not too deep-15 to 20 feet or so. Eventually, as ice thins to a precarious thickness for vehicle traffic, perch may begin moving up shallower into the adjacent weeds as well. Find a coontail flat just off the mouth of an incoming creek, for instance, and you've probably found a late-ice perch paradise. Just walk gingerly, and stay off any areas where current further thins the ice to a wafer-thin canopy. The nice thing is, such spots often become hotbeds of multi-species activity at late ice. You're likely to catch bluegills, bass, pike-even walleyes-all in the same areas, on the same small baits. Which is a nice problem to have, since there's typically a noticeable increase in fish aggressiveness the closer it gets to ice-out. Fish seem to anticipate the upcoming spring season, and beginning putting on the feed bag. And when that happens, chances are you're going to get bit. PERCH JERKERS
Tacklewise, if you simply downscale your ice walleye spoons and gear, you'll be on target for perch. Instead of 1/3-ounce jigging spoons, go with 1/6- or 1/8-ouncers, tipped with a fathead minnow head. Or thread 1 to 3 waxworms on the tines of the small treble hook. Downsize to short, light-action ice rods, and 2- to 4-pound test mono line, and apply the same wiggle-and-jiggle jigging tactics that you'd use for 'eyes. Keep an eagle eye on your depth finder to spot fish and evaluate fish activity. If they're present and active, perch readily appear on your screen as they rise to examine your lures. If they don't bite right away, reel to raise the bait a foot or so, and jiggle and pause again. Try to tease them up. If they begin rising, they're falling for your routine. They higher they rise, the more likely they are to fall for your trickery and bite. In general, however, perch are very bottom-oriented, quite unlike crappies that routinely suspend well above bottom. Use a bottom-tracking, portable ice depth finder like a Humminbird Ice 55 that expands your view of the first couple of feet above the basin. It'll reveal your lure, perch, and how they respond to your jigging efforts. Or use an underwater camera. It's really entertaining to watch perch move in, study your lure, then nip it and… suddenly get jerked off camera, through the roof. A good chuckle for you, anyway. Not necessarily for the fish. After you get the first perch on the ice, and decide to keep it as part of a meal, consider popping out an eye (ish!!) and adding it to your hook in place of a minnow head or grub. Just push down with your thumbnail to
dislodge it. After the first few times, the squeamishness goes away, and it becomes second nature. Especially since it seems to be about the best bait you can get. At times, the eyes have it like nothing else. Next up, you can fringe into bluegill-style baits like tiny jigheads tipped with inch-long soft, plastic bodies. Or teeny-tiny single-hook flutterspoons tipped with a waxworm or small softbait. These tend to produce when quivering, rather than popping and fluttering, seems to work best. Select colors that match either insects or minnows, depending upon what the fish are feed on. At the very worst, you may stumble onto a bunch of bonus bluegills! WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
So, what's the big secret to catching those magnum jumbos you see pictured in magazines, as opposed to normal small-statured perch? It's not so much technique as it is where you're fishing, which is a principle that similarly applies to bull bluegills or, in fact, just about any fish. Certain waters simply have the correct blend of genetics, food supply, population levels, acceptable predator-prey relationships, and tolerable fishing pressure (harvest) to allow perch to grow extremely large. Others simply don't, and you get small to average perch instead. Size can vary a bit from year based on fluctuations in any of these factors. But the fact remains, certain waters become known for having the right stuff to put up jumbos on an annual basis. In north-central Minnesota, large, moderately fertile waters like Winnibigoshish and Leech lakes are good candidates for jumbos. Others are smaller, yet usually still substantial lakes, lying just enough off the beaten path to escape excessive angler harvest and exploitation. (Numerous lakes in the area from Blackduck to Deer River fall into this category). Your local bait shop or fishery office is your best source of information as to the location and productivity of candidate waters. As far as getting information out of other anglers already fishing them, well, that might take a crowbar and a whole lot of muscle to pry their names out of secrecy. And as a nation, we supposedly don't allow that kind of stuff anymore… In the end, jumbo perch jerkin' is a fun deal. Don't overcomplicate it-but don't take it for granted either. On the right lakes, using fairly simple tactics, the potential rewards are sky high.
After 28 years as a magazine editor and TV angler at In-Fisherman, D A V E C S A N D A recently rejoined his old friends at Lindner Media, producers of Angling Edge Television, in Baxter.
Check Out Linder Media Late-Season Ice Perch & Bluegills Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ChskGULtW0
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