Issue 1 • Edition 6
Featured in this issue
A MOUNTAIN OF A TRAIL BY: BRIAN S. PETERSON
PLUS MORE! • Spring River Rituals • Owl Prowl
By: Tim Anderson
By: Judd Brink
• Minnesota Fishing Challenge • Dandelions
By: Jim Kalkofen
By: Sheri Davich
• Your Best Shot
Read Online: www.brainerddispatch.com or www.brainerdoutdoors.com
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A FISH TALE
Growing up in Staples, I was often drawn to the Crow Wing River north of town. I loved nature and out there it was at its best. I also loved to hunt and fish and at least in those days there was an abundance of game and fish out there. In the summer I would find my way out to an old swimming hole called Jakee’s by the golf course and we would wile away the hot summer days immersed in the sparkling waters of that meandering river, playing like sea otters The water was always clean, refreshing and pure and we would go home suntanned, exhausted and happy. Then, as I reached my teen years I started to fish more than swim and one winter I built a tarpaper shack fish house, found an old wood stove and set it on the perfect spot. The river was wide there but only ankle deep except for the last 20 feet on the far side, where it was several feet deep on the inside of an island and a wide bend in the river. In the winter the fish were forced through that narrow deep spot because the rest of it froze all the way to the bottom. I would sit for hours twirling that decoy, my spear in hand, waiting for the big one to come along. It was in late January when I first saw this northern pike. The first time he glided through the hole I thought he was on the fast track to New Orleans he was swimming so fast. He was huge and the big fish dreams are made of, and I couldn’t get him out of my mind, even though I had convinced myself I would never see him again. But then he came back, and on more than one occasion, and my hopes came back, too. He would never really show himself, just glide through the hole never hitting at the decoy or he would lie way off to the side, out of reach of my spear. All to soon the spearing season was over and for the time being I forgot about the fish.
By: Mike Holst
That summer I traded my spear for an old steel rod, and a squeaky reel and found myself back out in the area. I would put on my swimsuit and walk down the river casting an old silver spoon into the deep holes. I tied a stringer to my waist and would clip the fish on it as I caught them — if I did catch any. On this particular day I knew I was back in the area where my fish house had been the winter before. As I approached the deep area I saw this fish — my fish — swimming lazily on the edge of the hole. My cast was perfect and he took the bait and the fight was on. He ran and pulled me into the deep hole and for a while I had to swim to stay up but gradually my feet hit the bottom and when I tightened the line he was still there. The fight was on but I finally beached him in some shallow water and wrestled him into submission. For a long time that day I walked the river with him clipped to my waist on the stringer. I thought what a stir it would make when I got home. He didn’t seem to fight me any more; he just drifted along beside me. At last I reached my bicycle I had hid in the weeds and it was time to go home. I knelt in the shallow water and studied that magnificent fish. How would I carry him home? Was he going to be any good to eat? Finally I reached down, unclipped him and he swam a short distance away and then turned to face me. Then he drifted backwards with the current, back into the dark green depths. I never told anyone about this fish. No one would believe me anyway. The way I figure it we were both winners that day.
M I K E H O L S T Mike Holst lives in Crosslake
Mn. He is a published fiction author and has five books currently in print. You can check his web site for more info on them. Mike also writes a weekly column for the Northland Press which is a small town newspaper in Crosslake. He contributes quite regularly to the Brainerd Dispatch open forum. www.mikeholstfictionwriter.com.
Welcome ...................................... 3 Minnesota Fishing Challenge .... 5 Hiking and Spring Wildflower .... 6 A Mountain of a Trail ................... 8 Spring River Rituals..................... 10 All Hands on Deck!.................... 14 Fishing the “Am” Side of a Pro-Am .. 18 Kayaking ..................................... 22 Dandelions .................................. 24
A MOUNTAIN OF A TRAIL
Owl Prowl .................................... 26 Winging it for Turkeys .................. 29 Spring Again ............................... 32
Service Directory/Calendar ....... 33 Your Best Shot ............................ 34
506 James Street • P.O. Box 974 Brainerd, MN 56401 (218) 829-4705 www.brainerddispatch.com www.brainerdoutdoors.com Visit us on Facebook 4
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STAFF: Publisher .................................... Tim Bogenschutz Advertising Director .........................Sam Swanson Copy Editor ............Roy Miller and Brian Peterson Marketing / Special Projects Coordinator ... Nikki Lyter Magazine Layout ..................................Andy Goble Ad Design .......................................... Jeff Dummer, Andy Goble, Jennifer Fuchs, Lisa Henry, Angie Hoefs, Cindy Spilman and Sue Stark Sales.................................................. Dave Wentzel Online Sales Manager ........................... Phil Seibel 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. ®2010 On the cover: The Cuyuna Country mountain bike trail. Photo by Brian Peterson
FISHING CHALLENGE If Al Lindner believes in it, shouldn’t you?
CREATED THE LINDY RIG,
changed the history of sport fishing and won fishing tournaments, sparked another Al Lindner concept. Because he believed so strongly in how lives were being transformed at Minnesota Teen Challenge, Lindner put his name behind a charity fund-raising event for that organization. Now in its third season, the Minnesota Fishing Challenge is Lindner’s baby, and he encourages anglers to enter the June 4 multi-species tournament. “This is a great day of fun, catching Gull Lake fish, meeting new and old friends, winning great prizes, and supporting one of my favorite causes — Teen Challenge,” he said. The Fishing Challenge concept started with the simple ideaa of bringing anglers from churches throughout the state togetherr and evolved into a major fundraiser, yet remained fun for fatherss and daughters, grandpas and grandsons, brothers and friends. Many churches sponsor teams. Two-person teams may enterr any or all of the four divisions: bass, walleye, pike or panfish. Orr they may enter the mixed bag division.Trophies are also award-ed to the largest bullhead, carp, eelpout, sucker and dogfish. The Fishing Challenge, presented by Mills Fleet Farm, mayy be fished from any size boat, launched anywhere on the lake,, and includes a greet-and-meet dinner during the Friday eveningg rules meeting. Lindner is especially proud of the quality of merchandisee prizes and trips. For instance, fishing pros, TV show hosts and d legends of the sport donate more than three dozen top-qualityy rods and reels as prizes. Frabill ice shelters and nets, MinnKotaa trolling motors, lure kits, Navionics mapping chips and much h n more are up for grabs. Many fishing guide trips and Canadian n and local resort stays extend the excitement of participating in this one-day event. Fishing Challenge information may be found at mntc.org/ fishingchallenge. Or stop at local sporting goods outlets or the Brainerd Center of Teen Challenge and pick up a brochure. Anglers may also call Jim Kalkofen at 833-8777. “We have room for 100 teams, and I would like Brainerd lakes area anglers to act now and enter,” Lindner said. 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. Photos Provided by Jim Kalkofen
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Hiking and Spring Wildflower Viewing at Charles A. Lindbergh State Park
Stretch your legs and treat yourself to the beautiful wildflowers peppered throughout one of the region’s finest state parks. FOLLOW THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER SOUTH FROM BRAINERD AND YOU WILL NOTICE A COUPLE OF THINGS:
The river begins to gain steam as it enters an increasingly larger watershed on its way toward Minneapolis; and a patch of towering red pines, grassy bluffs and a charming old WPA stone water tower at Charles A. Lindbergh State Park, right on the west bank of the river. Not only did Charles Lindbergh live here, he managed the estate before he went off to college and later made history as America’s most famous aviator. The DNR has preserved the historic site and made it available to the public as a state park, and one of the finest such in the Lakes Area. Hiking here will take you on a tour of forest, field and flower and will give you an opportunity to dip your toes in the river or have a picnic.
SPRING FLING Charles A. Lindbergh State Park is known for its thick stands of large red pines, but if you do a little searching, you can find some of the best showings of spring wildflowers in the region. The Hiking Club trail that loops through the park offers an excellent tour of the park’s diverse landscape and will take you through the grasslands and transitional zones between prairie and forest where wildflowers thrive. Wild daisies, coneflowers, Indian Paintbrush and Prairie Smoke flowers grow in the sunny meadow just west of
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the Mississippi River and north of the park entrance. Take a hike north on the trail that follows Pike Creek through the massive Norway pines and oak trees that crowd the banks and provide a rich blanket of forest turf along the forest floor. While you’re there, take a look at the large boulders in the creek bed left there during the retreat of the glaciers that once covered the area during the last ice age.Veer left where the trail splits and head west toward the meadow. As the trees give way to the open grasses, keep your eyes peeled for the beautiful young flowers sprouting up from the undergrowth. As the trail bends south, you will pass a crash site from one of Lindbergh’s early test flights. This grassy area is also a good place to look for native flowers. Just south of Little Falls, this park is less than a half-hour away from Brainerd and offers the kind of hiking experience that makes the lakes area so great. If you’re patient, you may see bald eagles, fox and even owls.Whitetail deer, migrating song birds, native wildflowers and the continent’s longest river are minutes away. What are you waiting for?
J A C O B K U L J U is a Minnesota-
based freelance writer who also writes regularly for the Voyageur Press of McGregor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Long-Awaited Cuyuna Countr y Mountain Bike Trail Finally Set to Open This Spring
M o u n t a i n
OF A TRAIL
THE TRAIL RISES AND FALLS WITH DRAMATIC TWISTS AND
like a trail would in the heart of the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. That’s part of its beauty.And the beauty of the area winding through and around the mine pit lakes of Cuyuna Country is undeniable. But, some might say, that’s the dilemma. Those rapid descents will make for some blurry runs for hard-core mountain bikers when the highly anticipated world-class trail opens in the CCSRA sometime this spring. Some members of the Cuyuna Group of Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists halfj jokingly wondered out loud during a recent meeting if that didn’t in some way defeat the purpose of what they see this trail to be. It’s the beauty of the surroundings, of those rapid ascents and descents backdropped by towering pine trees and deep-blue mine pit lakes that’s the draw for these folks. And, A they say, how can you truly enjoy the beauty surrounding those awe-inspiring descents when you’re busy barreling w down those runs? In that sense, the beauty of this trail is absolutely in the eye of the beholder, with something for everyone — from those w prefer to meander along who the trail and enjoy the view to those who are more focused on navigating a trail that, in their eyes, will be nothing more than a blur of red clay, handlebars and knobby tires. For them, the beauty of the landscape is how it translates to these heart-racing runs. Regardless, all of that beauty w be on display when the trail The mountain trail in the Cuyuna Country will State Recreation Area in Ironton will finally opens. afford bikers breathtaking views of mine Yes, finally. pit lakes. The trail has been in the w works for years. And for many of those years, it was a conceptual thing. But anticipation grew last spring, when the trail began to take shape. And again last fall, when it w thought the trail might open. But those associated with the trail didn’t want to was rush something they had nurtured for all those months.A winter under its belt before encountering what they expect to be heavy tire traffic would be good for the trail, they thought. So it was pushed back. Now, the last traces of winter are the only thing between mountain bikers and a trail designed especially for them. Names already are being attached to the 30 or so loops that make up the approximately 24-mile trail — names that resonate with the area and the mining community, such as Man High, Trout and Crusher. The mountain
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bike trail also will utilize the paved trail already existing within the CCSRA. “The question has been when will the trails open this spring?” said Steve Weber, park manager at the CCSRA. “When the conditions allow and we’re able to go through and do a maintenance sweep.” Emergency types were trained last fall on the unique situations that Cuyuna Country might present. And yet this spring, “Emergency personnel will be doing steep-angle training. They probably haven’t done that before,” Weber said, adding that a thorough mapping system also is in the works. “There’s been a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff. A lot of credit goes to these local guys,” he added, motioning to those in attendance at the recent Cuyuna Group of Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists meeting. While the trail will open as soon as conditions allow, it won’t be complete until late May or early June, when a 65-foot bridge linking the trail between the Pennington and Portsmouth mine pits is added. So it should be in place for the DNR’s grand opening of the trail June 10, being held in conjunction with the first Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival June 11-12 in Crosby and on the trail. “It (the bottom of the bridge) will be 10 feet above the water to allow for navigation,” Weber said, referring to boat traffic on those popular fishing pit lakes. “It’s prefabricated. It will be coming in one piece. A crane will drop it in place and they’ll bolt it down. They’ll still have to do all the concrete work. It’s pretty much midway through the trail. It’s a real big piece (of the puzzle).” While it’s not just for travel via knobby tires, this trail was made with mountain bikers in mind. “There will still be hiking,”Weber said.“But we’re not promoting it as a hiking trail. It’s not set up for them. All the literature has been toward mountain biking. “It’s a different world out there.”
The Cuyuna Country mountain bike trail, shown last fall, will offer terrain for bikers of all skill levels.
B R I A N S . P E T E R S O N , outdoors editor of the Dispatch, may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5864. To follow him on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/brian_speterson. For his blogs, go to www.brainerddispatch.com.
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P e t e r s o n 9
WE PROBABLY ALL HAVE OUR OWN RITUALS THAT WE DO EACH SPRING.
Mine start when Gull, Mille Lacs and the other area lakes are still frozen solid, and area yards and woods are waiting for the sun to relieve them of the weight of snow placed there these past several months. You see, all winter long I’ve been waiting and pining away for somewhere to float my boat. The first reasonably close opportunity happens when the Mississippi River opens during February or March each spring, and the next one happens when the Rainy River opens during March and April. It’s on these two rivers that the most hard-core anglers scratch their itch to wet a line, while most guys are still ice fishing. I love it, because it’s also a great time to scratch the “big fish itch.” Massive pre-spawn walleyes are there to be had on a “catch and release” basis, as are the huge pre-historic lake sturgeon found in the Rainy River of the north.
Fellow musky guide Steve Jonesi hefts one of the biggest walleyes I have ever had the pleasure of having in my boat! This fish weighed in the neighborhood of twelve pounds, and was caught and released from the Mississippi River. As it travels farther south of Brainerd and St. Cloud, the Mississippi widens, and is used more and more for travel and industry. On the river, there’s a series of locks and dams that offer great early season fishing opportunity.“Pool 2” runs from the Ford Dam in St. Paul to the next dam at Hastings, and the pools continue south and east from there, along the Minnesota/Wisconsin border. Redwing and LaCrosse/Lacrescent are a couple more very popular fishing areas. Because they are border waters, these pools offer more relaxed fishing regulations than the typical inland waters.
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The great thing about pool No. 2 is that it is open to fish “catch and release” year around. It’s especially interesting to me though in February or early March, when the walleye and sauger have begun their migration and spawning run. Here, fish concentrate in river channels and holes during days, and move up onto flats to feed in the evening as the light descends. And these fish are fat. They’ve been feeding on shad among other prey, which give these walleyes some shoulders to be proud of.They’re also full of spawn, as they enter the final stages of ripening before they actually consummate the act. As with any river, timing is crucial. Get there too early, and the accesses are iced in, making it difficult or impossible to get your truck down the ramp, or your boat into the river. During this time, you may be able to get a smaller boat into the river, but you’ll spend so much time dodging icebergs and fighting the cold water that it will make you wonder what you’re doing there. Get there too late and you’ll find the river high and raging, swirling with chocolate-brown water – debris floating in the entire water column ready to disable your engine or fowl your offering: another situation where you might as well be at home. But get there when the timing is right, and you have an opportunity to catch a whole bunch of fish. Targeting large schools of smaller walleye and sauger is a blast as you can rack up some numbers of fish in no time. Another of my favorite past times is to forgo the numbers, and look for more sizable fish. They are typically not in as large of schools, but fish in the 10-12 pound class are fairly common. The Mississippi as it flows through the Twin Cities area, along with the pools further south along the Minnesota/Wisconsin border are, in my opinion, likely your best opportunity to catch the heaviest walleye of the year in the entire state of Minnesota. I happen to be spoiled by having friends who live in the twin cities metro area who keep me posted as to the river conditions, but there are also a number of internet forums (ie:fishingminnesota.com) and bait shops where you can glean information while at your computer.
RAINY RIVER Timing is equally important on the Rainy as it is on the Mississippi; it just happens a bit later because it’s so much farther north. Depending on the spring, the Rainy will usually begin to break up in mid to late March. You can track it by watching the reports on clementsonresort.com, a “ma and pa” type resort on the river, whose owners give up-to-date reports on the progress of the melt. This means everything in the world to folks like us, who live farther south, and depend on the locals and the interPhotos provided by Tim Anderson
Breint Oie, of Pillager, poses with a monster that he caught on light “bass sized” baitcasting gear. It was one of the most intense sturgeon battles I have ever seen. net so that we can plan our trips to make the best effort at succeeding with the limited time we have. The Rainy River flows from Rainy Lake, at International Falls, to Lake of the Woods , which is to the west of the city of Baudette. Generally, the river is shallower near I. Falls (10-20 feet), and gets deeper (20-40 feet) as it nears the mouth of LOTW. Resident walleye and sturgeon inhabit the river year around, but during spring, this Minnesota/Ontario border water experiences a massive influx of these two species, among others. Walleye and sturgeon from the lake move up en masse, first to feed, and then to spawn. For walleyes, this is a real opportunity for a numbers fest, as well as a great chance to catch huge fish as well. Give or take, we generally catch 30-inch class “eyes” each spring. And the sturgeon… they are among the largest and most powerful fish that you can catch within hundreds of miles in any direction of Brainerd. Fish in the 50-pound class are common, and whoppers of 75-100 pounds or more are not unheard of!
When the water is colder (ie: 32-37 degrees), I generally fish with a “bubble-gum” colored Northland Fireball Jig with a stinger hook and a rainbow minnow. The stinger hook attaches to the base of the jig head, and then extends farther back to stick a small treble hook into the tail of the minnow. This “lengthens” out your offering, and helps to catch the “short strikers” which are so common this time of year. As the water warms (38-42 degrees), the walleye tend to be more aggressive, and fishing with live bait often becomes unnecessary. At this point, I begin using longer shanked jig heads from “Dominator” or “B-Fish-N”Tackle, along with a 4” low-profile plastic worm called the “ringworm.” Chartreuse, blue, or white are great colors. The advantage of using plastic is that you can fish faster. You pitch your jig out to various angles from the boat, and work the jig along the bottom as you make your way back to the boat. Once you get a bite, you simply unhook your fish and quickly cast back to the same spot to look for more. No messing with digging in the minnow bucket, re-baiting, and nursing cold wet hands. I find the “eyes” most commonly on the shallower sand, gravel and rock flats, mostly in the 8-15 foot areas on a normal spring. Walleye in these rivers often run in large schools, or in sizespecific schools. By that I mean, you could run into a massive school of 15-20 inch walleyes, and could crack off a 100-200 fish day by staying on them. Or, you could run into a couple of schools of bigger fish, and “only” catch 50 fish, but find that half of them are over 25 inches. Either way, it’s a great day on the river.
SIMPLE WALLEYE FISHING What’s really great about this river fishing is that you really need very little once you’re in your boat and on the river. For a walleye rig, I use a 6.5-7 foot medium or medium light rod with a 1,000 series Shimano (or similar size) reel filled with 6# Fireline Crystal. Beyond that, I fish almost exclusively with jigs that are 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 oz. depending on the speed of the current and the walleyes attitude.
Pat “P.J.” Brennan, Brainerd, poses with a big Rainy River walleye on a day where we caught some great numbers, as well as some huge fish.
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A n d e r s o n 11
STURGEON: SIMPLER YET
will sometimes find great concentrations of sturgeon right at the ice-pack – where the river ice meets open water. My best days of sturgeon fishing have happened when I followed this pattern, fishing the ice-pack from day to day, wherever it may be.
Lauren Dorweiler (Left, Delano Mn.) helped Gary Gutenkauf (Right, Brainerd) to subdue this huge sturgeon for a photo. You can see the “ice-pack” is nearby in the background. All you need is a 6-8 foot medium-heavy to heavy baitcast rod made for catfish or musky fishing. Long and soft is best, as these sturgeon generally make numerous long, hard runs and you need a good rod to absorb the punishment that these fish will give. Big sturgeon are notorious for taking off after the hookset and peeling off some serious amounts of line. Consequently, a smooth drag is a must, as is having a good quantity of braided line. I’ve used line from just about every manufacturer out there, and most will do the trick. My favorites are Superbraid, Invisibraid, and Suffix Performance Braid in the 50-100 pound class. I go equipped with some 2-4 ounce flat “no-roll” sinkers, to get my bait down on the bottom and keep it still. I use a goodsized swivel below the sinker, and then a short (6-12 inch) piece of soft, used braided line from the previous season. Lastly, I fill a 4/0 Gamakatsu circle hook with a couple of night crawlers and a couple of rainbow or fathead minnows. No need to “set the hook”, with a circle hook… just reel down, lift, and the hook slides right to the corner of the mouth. Use your rod to lift the fish toward the sky (if you can), and then quickly reel down to bring in your progress. There are a couple of primary places that I will usually find the sturgeon. First, I look to the holes, which are simply the deepest places you can find in a particular stretch of river. My theory is that the sturgeon rest in these holes, swimming upstream until they hit the head of the hole, and then circle back around – sort of like a real lazy swarm of bees. Most holes seem to have a “sweet spot”, and I like to move around until I find where the sturgeon are concentrated. I anchor my boat and fish from directly underneath it, to straight downstream and left and right at various angles. When the sturgies are feeding or on the move, I find them more on the gravelly flats which frequent the long straight-aways on the Rainy River. Here, I fish them the same by anchoring, but I look for subtle differences in the bottom structure that might key me in as to where they might be concentrating. This could be something as simple as a hump – and the fish might be holding right behind it and using it as a current break. When you hit the river right as the ice is breaking up, you
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As a guide, I’m pretty spoiled when it comes to the amount of time that I get to spend fishing. I usually make two or three trips down to fish the Mississippi each spring, and then haul my boat and camper up to the Rainy to stay for as much as two weeks. One of my favorite things to do each spring is spend time with my good friends, who usually don’t require too much armtwisting in order to get them to come up and fish with me for a day or two. There, I get my greatest fulfillment by helping them to be successful at catching as many numbers and as many big fish as I possibly can during their stay. Each season, we enjoy lots of grins, tell lots of stories, and take many a good picture as the guys routinely catch the biggest fish of their lives. Perhaps some early season river fishing may be in your future. My advice would be to prepare for the worst winter weather you can imagine. Bring all your warmest clothes to cover yourself from head to toe. Remember that you are floating in the midst of a big freezer – water that is right on the verge of freezing is all around you. Being on the river is much, much colder than standing on shore, which is right within plain eyesight. Pay special attention to your hands, feet, and head – which are usually the first to get cold. Be smart with your boat, and with your engine. When it’s cold like this, stuff tends not to work, or even worse, gear tends to break. So be prepared for hardship as well. You may have heard about the crowds. Surprisingly, even though the Mississippi is in the heart of a couple of million people, there is generally plenty of room to fish. Red Wing is the busiest, because it gives the angler the chance to keep a few fish to eat., but other areas of the river are really very quiet. One would think that since it is so much farther north, the Rainy would be much quieter, but actually the exact opposite is true. On weekends during prime time, many hundreds of anglers flock to this hotspot to perform their spring river rituals. If numerous boat accesses are open, this tends to thin out the crowd. But if only one access is open, it can really tend to concentrate the people and bottleneck things. This really doesn’t bother me. Anglers in the early season are generally a jovial lot – happy to be able to float their boat and wet a line after the long winter. The vast majority will lend a hand at the access, or share a tip or report while waiting. Be sure to do the same yourself, and everything will be just fine. Treat yourself to an icy adventure in the boat this spring.You’ll likely have a blast and start a new tradition like so many of us have, and who knows, you, too, may even catch the biggest fish of your life. With over 30 years of experience in being "obsessed with fishing" T I M A N D E R S O N is the owner ot Tim Anderson’s Big Fish Hunt Guide Service. Specializing in Giant Musky Hunts on Lake Mille Lacs, and the surrounding Brainerd Minnesota area Lakes. Photos provided by Tim Anderson
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ALL HANDS ON DECK! Pontoon Fishing is Effective and Fun TAKE
in the Brainerd lakes area and you’ll be amazed at the latest fleet of boats tied up to docks and perched atop lifts. They’re not just traditional V-bottom aluminum fishing boats anymore, nor sleek fiberglass runabouts designed for cruising and skiing. Nowadays, many of them are pontoons. Somewhere along the line, pontoons crept into our consciousness and onto our local waters with little fanfare or frenzy. So now that they’re here, what do we do with them? Time was, purchasing a pontoon was like admitting you were turning 40, ready for the proverbial rocking chair, and that your best fishing days were behind you. But no longer. Today’s pontoons are actually incredibly efficient fishing machines that the entire family can enjoy in comfort, safety and even luxury if you so choose. First off, forget the idea that pontoons sacrifice boat control. If you’re after walleyes, simply sit at the console, slip your outboard engine into reverse, backtroll into the wind, and the waves roll right beneath the deck.You actually reduce the amount of bounce and pitch you experience with a pontoon, compared to a typical fishing boat.
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Move crosswind to substantial wind and waves, however, and you do introduce a hint of rolling motion to the deck, but you get that with any boat. Controlled drifting downwind in pontoons requires some boat control adjustment due to the high sides and increased wind resistance of the railing that encircles the boat. I usually just kick the motor in and out of gear from time to time to slow the boat’s drift. If you prefer, toss out a drift sock off the upwind side of the boat to slow your drift speed, tying the tow rope to the upwind railing wherever it’s convenient. Most of the bass fishing we do on our personal pontoon is accomplished with a 24-volt electric motor positioned to deploy off the front center of the bow deck. MinnKota’s AutoPilot series electric steering motors have long cords that enable you to position the foot pedal inside the railing, which is a great safety feature in windy conditions. Co-Pilot hand controls allow remote steering from anywhere within the boat as well. In calm conditions, though, I like to fish off the front deck, right where my bow depth finder is mounted, with the transducer attached to the underwater motor housing of the electric motor. My bowmount electric has a short mounting bracket, Photos provided by Dave Csanda
referred to as a pontoon mount, for stationing in the limited space atop the front deck of a pontoon. If your pontoon has no front deck, consider switching out the railing’s front door to a half-door, which creates about 6 to 8 inches of open space between the bottom of the door and the deck. This allows you to mount a traditional bowmount bracket electric motor to the floor beneath the door. The downside is, the motor is kind of underfoot in the stowed position, since it extends below and inside the railing. And a small dog or loose gear might be able to escape beneath the door and go for an unplanned swim. All things considered, I prefer the pontoon mount, if feasible. Some anglers opt for a singleor dual-prop electric motor (like MinnKota’ Engine Mount series) that bolts to the cavitation plate of your outboard, meaning that it’s down in the water at all times unless you raise your outboard. You steer the electric by turning your steering wheel to turn the big engine, and adjust speed with a handcontrol while seated at the console. Pretty slick-although a bit on the pricey side. But for sheer convenience, it’s tough to beat. If an electric motor isn’t in your future, purchase a quiet four-stroke outboard. We use a 90-horsepower Mercury 4-stroke on our Let’s Go Fishing pontoon, and find that it delivers remarkably stealthy boat control at idle speed. Many times we’ve shifted in and out of gear to move the boat a few feet while fishing shallow bays for crappies or bluegills, and you never even hear the motor running or disturb the fish around you. You have to not hear it to believe it.
DESIG N O P TIO NS Pontoon versions billed as “fishing models” typically have swivel seats positioned at all four corners, and often have the railings lowered at the corners to make it easier for anglers to dangle fishing rods over the side. That’s admittedly a benefit if you prefer to sit while you fish most of the time, particularly when trolling or drifting for walleyes. I find, however, that lowering the railings at the corners of the boat doesn’t project quite the same sense of safety and security when kids are up and moving around the boat. I prefer a consistent railing height all around the boat to help keep rambunctious children and playful dogs inside the perimeter, rather than potentially flopping overboard across the lowered railing. My grandkids say I worry too much. But being The Cap-
tain as well as The Guide, that’s part of my job. So put your life jacket on, matey. And keep your fingers and toes, paws and claws, safely inside the railing whenever we leave or return to the dock. You’re gonna need ‘em to reel in all those fish. Admittedly, much of the fishing we do off our pontoon with kids and family involves casting for sunfish or bass, which favors fishing from a standing position — especially if you fold the canopy down. Before you object that folks should never stand in a boat, consider the difference between a small, tippy v-bottom aluminum boat, and a large, stable platform resembling a mini aircraft carrier. Pontoon tubes stationed along and beneath the outer edges of the floor enhance stability. They allow you to move around and stand with ease in most conditions, although you should realistically avoid unnecessary footwork in big waves. But most of the time, standing is OK when the boat is at rest, and provides easier casting and better visibility both across and down into the water. Put on a pair of polarized sunglasses, and you’ll be amazed at what you can see subsurface from your eagle’s eye perch atop the deck: weeds, rocks, fish. Just be sure you have a long-enough-handle landing net to be able to dip down and scoop up a sizeable fish at the moment of truth. This is particularly true if you make the switch from traditional-diameter, twin aluminun tubes to the newer tri-toon models that feature three oversized tubes for enhanced stability at rest and increased performance under power. Oversized tubes also position you much farther above the waterline; thus the need for a long-handled net to land fish.
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winch like MinnKota’s Deckhand 40 off one end of your boat-most likely the bow — which retracts or lowers the anchor with the flip of a switch.The trick is finding a space to mount it while not interfering with your electric or outboard motor-or your trailer winch when the boat is on the trailer. Each boat is a little different, but with some experimentation before you drill any mounting holes, you should be able to find a sweet spot to mount the winch that eliminates interference or minimizes potential tangles.
GOOD OLD DAYS, BRAND NEW WAYS
Large tri-toons enable the use of larger outboard motors and increased speed for skiing, tubing and cruising with numbers of people aboard. And the simultaneous use of multiple outboard motors. I recently watched one mammoth pontoon on Gull Lake get on plane and zoom off in a heartbeat. Of course, they had three 200-plus-horsepower engines spanning the transom, which is nearly enough power to put you into orbit, much less on plane. Most folks, however, opt for a considerably more modest, and dare I say sensible, power package ranging between about 35 horsepower for smaller 18- to 20-foot pontoons, up to about 115 horsepower for 24-footers.The Mercury 115 four-stroke on our personal 24-foot pontoon does a pretty good job of pulling skiers and tubers, and trolls down nicely for most trolling applications. I also shift it in and out of gear to hold in casting position in strong wind…or when I forget to recharge my trolling motor batteries. Of course, when you simply need to sit still in one place, nothing beats an anchor. Lower it to bottom, let out enough rope so the anchor won’t slip in the wind, and tie off to whatever point on the railing works best to position the boat for casting or vertically fishing below. On the 28foot Crestliner our Let’s Go Fishing Chapter uses to take seniors, kids and veterans fishing for free we often set out two anchors for a better grip, and to prevent the boat from swinging side-to-side in swirling winds. Then we toss slip bobbers out all around the boat and let the fish beware. You may even consider mounting an electric anchor
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Back in 1993, my wife Liz and I purchased the very first Crestliner pontoon that featured a prototype livewell to hold fish, and the company’s first attempt at positioning a barbecue grill at the bow.We were kind of the guinea pigs for the initial design, back in the day when pontoons were just beginning to be considered as sophisticated fishing/ luxury watercraft. I drilled a lot of holes and ran a lot of wires, positioned and repositioned electronics, added batteries and fuses and onboard battery chargers, experimented with anchor cleats and winches, attached rod holders at various points along the top railing and even barbequed aboard a couple of times, despite the (incorrect model) grill’s tendency to spill grease on the carpet.The boat even had a porta-potti strategically positioned behind a privacy curtain, although no one ever had the nerve — or developed the desperation — to use it. Live and learn. In comparison, today’s pontoons routinely come with livewells, baitwells, coolers, running/interior/docking lights, fused electrical switches for accessories, swim ladders, detachable poles for towing skiers and tubes, collapsible canopies, mooring or seat covers, privacy compartments, sinks with pumpable water faucets, stereo/ multi-speaker sound systems, onboard battery chargers, plush padded seating of all configurations, cup holders, pedestal tables, and storage compartments galore; some tri-toons even feature a huge storage compartment in the center pontoon, accessible through a hatch in the floor. Plus a high-tech depthfinder/GPS/mapping unit combo mounted to the console, allowing you to locate, fish and return to spots with amazing accuracy. And perhaps even a barbecue that doesn’t drip. As to which size, model and degree of luxury best suits your needs and budget, the logical advice is to visit several pontoon dealers, hop up in their boats, move around to probable fishing positions and visualize what you do and
Photos provided by Dave Csanda
what your best options are. For instance, a boat crammed with all-bench seating and a huge sunbathing platform at the rear is probably better suited for cruising and skiing, while one with at least a few swivel seats, some open floor space and a functioning livewell is realistically more up your alley for fishing. The nice thing is, with so many manufacturers making pontoons of all types and designs, you’ll likely have choices, rather than having to settle. If you plan on keeping your boat on one lake, you don’t need a trailer; a marine service can take your boat in and out of the water for you in spring and fall and even store it off-site for the winter. If you want to trailer your pontoon to other lakes, consider the trailer style prior to purchase. Skinny scissor-style lift trailers that fit between the pontoon tubes are best for getting your pontoon in and out of shallow, unimproved accesses, but they sacrifice a degree of stability on the highway; tow them any distance in windy conditions or across pot-holed roads, and they tilt and sway to the point of nervous distraction. Broader bunk trailers whose bunks cradle each pontoon tube provide surprisingly rock-solid towing capabilities, but you have to submerge them farther into the water to get your boat on and off the trailer, which may limit their use to improved boat accesses with concrete ramps. Choose whichever style best suits your situation. In the end, you can fish mighty effectively and enjoyably off a properly rigged pontoon. And the nice thing is, you can switch on a dime into towing mode with tubes or skis; convert from fishing poles to netting turtles or spotting loons and blue herons in the shallows; enjoy a mobile family picnic on a sunny day; take the dogs for a boat ride, strategically perched comfortably atop the padded seats with their ears flapping in the wind; and pretty much enjoy the best of all worlds on the many lakes and rivers within the Brainerd lakes area. That goes for anglers and boaters of all ages and interests. Because with pontoons, it’s all hands on deck, afloat and having fun. D A V E C S A N D A is a veteran outdoor communicator/TV co-host who works at Lindner’s Angling Edge Television in Baxter. He is also president of the Brainerd Lakes Area Chapter of Let’s Go Fishing (www.lgfwsbrainerdarea.com), a Minnesota-based non-profit volunteer organization that takes seniors, youths and veterans fishing for free.
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FISHING THE “AM” SIDE OF A PRO-AM: MY PERSPECTIVE IT’S BEEN A COUPLE YEARS SINCE BEING INTIMATELY INVOLVED IN THE PRO WALLEYE GAME.
That changed at the Anglers Insight Marketing Championship on Winnie last September. I elected to fish the “Am” side of the tournament, something I have always wanted to do since originating the concept many years ago. The In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail was a propro draw in 1990 and again in 1991. At the urging of several pro anglers to transform the PWT into a pro-am, I researched the concept as executive director of the PWT, and presented my plan to the board of directors, which included In-Fisherman and Cabela’s executives.They agreed. The rest is history. One of those very close to Mille Lacs fishing told me that we would never get enough Mille Lacs amateur anglers to sign up for that event. He was wrong; it filled with amateurs in less than a week. So did all the others.The amateur concept grew the sport, educated and taught many current-day pro anglers, showed tactics to opinion-leaders who went home to their dealers, fishing
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clubs and buddies and shared what they learned. Many team tournament players couldn’t wait to try out the new tactics at home. Walleye gear and techniques were being invented and innovated on tour. With more people (ams) taking part first-hand, word of tournament-tested “stuff” spread far and wide quickly. I heard week after week what a bargain it was to fish as an amateur. Many were surprised to win prizes — they thought what happened in the boats was reward enough for entering. I was able to observe the reactions of amateurs over the years. They were enjoying themselves immensely. I became friends with them, had dinner with them, hunted with some, received valuable insight about potential tournament waters in their regions and saw many eventually jump into the pro ranks. Top pro angler and multi-tournament winner Tommy Skarlis has often said,“If I had to start all over, I’d fish as an amateur first.” At Lake Winnibigoshish, many former PWT amateurs were on hand and sitting next to me at the rules meet-
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Photo courtesy of Jim Kalkofen
ing. After conducting more than 100 such meetings, I was now on the other side, and really liking what I saw. Someone asked me what the difference was between fishing the “am” side versus running the whole show. My answer, “Wanna check my blood pressure?” While fishing a Pro-Am, there is one pro and one amateur in the boat. I was that amateur. And, sitting in the amateur’s boat seat with South Dakota pros Lynn Jurrens and Rick Olson (what are the odds of drawing two South Dakota Tourism wrapped boats?), they made the decisions on when to move, the tactics to use, the distance back when trolling, how to manipulate the lures, how to set boards and I soaked up their wisdom. If I was a partner or teammate, maybe I could have shared what I had learned while fishing with Mike Gofron for three pre-fishing days. But, no, I was the amateur, and I loved being precisely that. The rules for being the amateur are simple. An amateur should listen and not share fishing spots, knowledge or anything about the lake with the pro. Interesting, both Lynn and Rick said it was going to be just like a regular fishing day. In the morning, we walked through the tactics, where to find and/or store rods, net, etc. On netting, both said we’d work through it. We did. I was an active participant in the fishing. However, blade colors, lure choices, depths to fish, controlling the boat,
were entirely their calls. I respected them for that. In fact, I learned some things that will help me fine tune my own presentations. From Lynn I learned how to control depth, which was so critical on the flats we fished. I also learned that it was essential to return and check out spots that had been hot all week. And, when they didn’t pan out, to vacate the premises and catch fish where they were biting. Both Lynn and Rick fished weeds early, Lynn by trolling spinners and Rick by trolling Minnow Raps. Both presentations were equal failures on those days. An amateur can see the thinking and strategizing that goes on in the heads of pros. Advice: wait until they make a move, and then ask why. Answers will range from “gut instinct” to “following my plan.” Lynn went to boards, half-ounce weights with spinners and crawlers. Rick and I covered miles and miles of a break, running the 13-foot depth at 2.9 to 3.5 mph. All the fish that were 21 to 24 inches in pre-fishing, shrunk to 13 to 16 inchers on both tournament days. But, for the record, in both boats, we discussed the fishing, amongst dozens of other topics, starting our daily talk-a-thon about 7:30 a.m., and concluding after weigh-in. Riding with the pros was a treat, even though some anxiety crept into my mind. I know of situations when past amateurs have done the following:
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Swung at a walleye with the net and missed completely. 2. Did the same, but whacked the walleye and knocked it off the line. 3. Did the same, but got the hooks caught in the net and the fish swam away. 4. Froze with the net in hand and couldn’t even get it in the water. 5. Run out spinners on boards, but after the pro caught several fish on his side of the boat, reeled in the first “amateur” line to find no crawler on the hooks. Response,“I didn’t know you wanted crawlers on this thing.” That was a fault of the pro — something he never did again. 6. Fail to set the hook on a jigging or rigging bite. 7. Let out about five feet of line in a rigging bite on a Mille Lacs flat. 8. Let out hundreds of feet of line by free-spooling and not paying attention. 9. Pump the leadcore rod when fighting a fish. 10. Set the hook repeatedly during a trolling bite. 11. Clip a board on backwards. 12. Clip the “right” board on the “left” side. 13. Refuse to believe the pro when he tells the amateur he has a fish on. I used to tell pros at PWT meetings that it was up to them to work closely with their amateurs, and the better the partnership the better the results. Walleye guides like Brainerd Lakes pro anglers Rich Boggs and Perry Good were especially good at this, as were the guys who re-
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mained calm under fire. Lynn and Rick were really good at this. Rick has probably fished with 500 or so different amateurs over the years. Living in the Brainerd lakes area, I wanted to learn more about Winnie. I had my map back at the cabin, and watched the GPS and the mapping systems being used by the pros. I now know so much more about Winnie than I could have learned in months on my own. It’s only 105 miles from my house to Four Seasons Resort, and I will be there again. In talking with other amateurs, many of them were there for the same reason. Some intended to make it their annual fishing trip the following year; others will come back with families; one guy said he knows where to stay when perch fishing Winnie this winter. Yes, I had a ball. Not only did I make new friends along the way, I was able to catch up with old friends. I guess friendship and camaraderie are what I miss most about not being on tour regularly. I was also able to observe the inner workings of the Catch-Record-Release methodology employed by AIM, and it really works well. Fortunately for walleye anglers wanting to fish a ProAm, there are usually one or two within easy driving distance of the Brainerd area each season. FLW Outdoors will conduct a pro-am on Leech Lake June 9-11. Amateurs (they’re called co-anglers on the FLW) pay $350 and may win cash prizes. Other FLW events are set for Lake Erie, Green Bay and South Dakota’s Lake Oahe. The AIM tour (amateurs pay $250) stops at Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, Lake Oahe, the waterways and rivers near Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and the Mississippi River in Dubuque, Iowa. Watch for future pro-am events on Cass Lake, Mille Lacs and other local, popular walleye hotspots.
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.
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Photo courtesy of Jim Kalkofen
Let us introduce you to the newest member of the Dispatch family. He arrived at 12:01am March 1st 2011, we’ll introduce you to the Brainerd Dispatch’s mobile phone app. If you haven’t met him yet, he is way cool. If you are buddies with him he will get you the news, up to date weather, sports, classiﬁeds, entertainment and other important basic daily news. Plus if you ask him nicely he will send you a direct line to our Daily Deals, rss alerts for other specials deals, local sports scores, breaking news and more. Come see us at the Commerce and Industry Show and participate in our “Find MO” contest and win one of many great prizes.
Alexandria, Baxter, Brainerd, Crosby, Little Falls, Staples (218) 829-0371 | www.mmfcu.org Certain restrictions apply.Subject to credit approval.Equal Housing Lender.
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Looking for kayaking companions, Kidder offered a kayaking class through Community Education in 1999.“I wanted to share what I knew. I was trying to get some people to paddle with.” Kidder continues to teach kayak courses several times a year and started a kayak club. The group now has 60 active members and enjoys weekly paddles and kayaking-camping trips to the Apostle Islands in Lake
K A Y A K I N G MIGHT BE THE PERFECT SPORT B R A I N E R D
With 416 lakes, a network of rivers, including the mighty Mississippi and miles of navigable wetlands, kayakers have lots of water to pick from. Most importantly, it’s a sport for everyone, the sluggish and sleek of all ages. “I love being at water level,” said Maria Seep, Nisswa. “Kayaking is very silent, you just skim along the water.” Seep who grew up with canoes and sailboats took a kayaking class two years ago and never looked back. “It’s easier than canoeing and I can do it by myself. Kayaking is great recreation.” Kayaks have replaced canoes as the preferred silent water craft. Allen Wynn, manager of Easy Riders in Brainerd, said they have seen a big increase in kayak sales in the last five years. “I personally think that kayaking is more pleasureable than canoeing. Anybody can do it. It’s family friendly. You just need a boat and a paddle and life jacket. Kayaks are so maneuverable and great in shallow water.” Jeff Kidder, Baxter, fell in love with kayaks the first time he saw them 15 years ago. “I was selling artwork at a show near Marquette, Mich., and I saw people in kayaks paddling on Lake Superior. A light bulb went off in my brain,” he remembered. “I wanted to buy one that day. I restrained myself but went home and found a place near Grand Marais where I could take lessons.” Kidder has been paddling ever since. “Maneuvering in the waves with a kayak is a beautiful thing. They are less tippy because you are closer to the water. Your balance is better because your center of gravity is lower. The paddling becomes part of you.You are wearing the boat.”
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Superior and Voyageurs Park in northern Minnesota. “It’s an easy sport to get started in but there are also many advanced skills that make it so much more fun,” said Kidder. When Darrel Johnson retired eight years ago, a friend suggested Kidder’s kayak class. “I took to kayaking like a duck to water,” Johnson noted. “I was 60 when I started paddling. My second cousin is still kayaking in his 80s. I thought if he could do it, so could I.” Johnson, who lives near Nimrod, says kayaking is a solitary pursuit as well as a social sport. “Our kayak club gets together every Tuesday night to paddle a different lake in the Brainerd area,” said Johnson. “We go out for something to eat afterwards. We are like-minded people of all ages.” Unlike canoeing, which requires partners, kayaking is an individual sport.“At our club paddles, you just show up with your boat,” Kidder said. “You are the captain of your own ship. Kayaking is a great sport for women. If they get a boat fit to their proportions and ability, they can paddle just as well as a man. It’s not all about power, it’s finesse.” Kayaks range from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Kidder says it is important to find a boat that fits you. “Never buy a boat that you haven’t paddled. You should paddle a lot of kayaks before you pick the one you want to buy. It’s just like trying on shoes. One style or size just feels better on you,” said Kidder. “Your feet need to fit comfortably on the foot pegs while your thighs nestle into the sides of the boat. It’s all about points of contact.” Kidder has 30 different styles of kayaks that he sells. Seep said she spent a whole season trying out different Photos Provided by Rachel Nystrom
kayaks before she made a decision to buy one. “I wanted you can glide through so quietly. It’s a great way to oba boat that was formed around me so I could get the most serve wildlife. Last summer a loon came up to my kayak power out of my stroke while using my legs as a brace.” She and I stopped paddling,” Kidder said. “The loon looked at me and then did a slow 360 finally settled on a “beautiful around my boat. He was trydeep blue” 17-foot plastic ing to figure out who I was. sea kayak. When her husWhen he finished his invesband decided to buy a kayak, tigation, he paddled off.” he picked an 11-foot fishing After l5 years of paddling kayak. They traveled tokayak, Kidder says his pasgether with the kayak club sion for the sport continues last summer to the Apostle to grow. “I like to go harder Islands.“There were 19 of us and faster. Kayaks are like and we went for three days,” pieces of art, their shapes said Seep. “It was a very difand colors and design. A ferent experience kayaking kayak maneuvering in the on Lake Superior’s swells. waves is a beautiful thing. I We had all kinds of weather like looking at them almost from mirror-like water to as much as paddling.” stormy seas.” Seep also enjoys the soliBrainerd Community Edtude of kayaking. She trys ucation is offering two kayto get out several times a aking courses this spring. week from ice off to ice The introduction class inon. “In the fall it’s so quiet. cludes four sessions beginning April 26. An advanced There are no other boats Me on the left and my sister, Robin Reabe on the kayaking course on bracing around. I kayaked on Dec. 6 last year just before the right took to the waters of Perch Lake for our first and rolling begins March time ever in a kayak. 28. For more information the lake froze over,” Seep on the classes call 454-6924. Additional information on said. “i just love it. I’m going to do it the rest of my life.” Kayakers can move at a leisurely pace or get an athletic Brainerd’s kayak club can be found at www.paddlepushworkout. “Sometimes I like going on a gentle day and let ers.com the wind blow me. I enjoy floating. It’s so relaxing,” said Kidder. “Other times I paddle hard and fast, a real cardioA journalist, R A C H E L R E A B E vascular workout.” Kayaking has taken Kidder to Alaska, N Y S T R O M worked as a reporter Canada and Mexico as well as many rivers and lakes across and talk show host on Minnesota America. “Kayaking makes living in the Brainerd area a Public Radio for almost 20 years. She currently serves on the Crow Wing lot more fun. If you never left our area, you would never County Board as a commissioner. run out of lakes to try. I love paddling through the reeds,
Gas • Groceries • Bait • Liquor • Licenses • Boat Storage Open 6 am to 10 pm Daily • Corner of Hwy 210 West & County 18 SW
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Love ‘em or Hate ‘em - They Are Here to Stay I T I S S P R I N G , time to turn our attentions to lawn and garden. We seed, feed and weed.Yes, indeed. And despite our best intentions and actions uninvited plants inevitably find their way into our yards. The dandelion, that bright and cheery yellow blossom, is a flamboyant reminder that in the game of lawn maintenance, weed trumps grass just about every time. Believe it or not the lowly dandelion was once looked upon much more favorably. Some believe they were brought to the new world by the Pilgrims, purposefully. To this day there are many who celebrate their presence. Herbalists know that the dandelion has been associated with better health. The dandelion herb has been linked to improved liver function and relief of constipation and diarrhea. It is said to purify the blood, cleanse the digestive system, and can help dissolve kidney stones. It has been shown to help weight loss, cure acne, lower high blood pressure, and help control diabetes, among other benefits. In addition to its medicinal properties it has great nutritional value. Dandelion greens are more nutritious than spinach! One cup of raw greens has: • 112% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A • 535% RDA of Vitamin K • 32& RDA of Vitamin C • 103 mg of Calcium • 1.7 mg of iron • 218 mg of potassium They are also a good source of beta carotene, lutein, Vitamin H, and over two-dozen other nutrients. An incredible edible, really! The dandelion parts — root, leaves, and flowers — are all edible. Young leaves can be eaten as spring greens in
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tasty and healthy salads, stir-fry, and soups.The secret? Harvest the leaves before the flowers emerge, when they turn bitter. The roots can be ground and used as a coffee substitute. They have a similar taste without the caffeine jitters. There are mild laxative properties and it is effective in treating heartburn. In addition, dandelion is a great honey plant for bee keepers. Tea and wine can be made from the flowers. While there are no negative side effects from ingesting dandelion some people have allergic reactions to it. If you are allergic to yarrow, iodine, ragweed, marigold, chrysanthemums, chamomile, or daisies you should avoid dandelion. And always, be familiar with the source. You don’t want to harvest dandelions from a field or yard sprayed with weed killer. “I don’t care! I still don’t like ‘em….” If you still are intent on ridding your yard of this most valuable weed, there are methods to do it. You can go the herbicide route, or you can take a “green” approach — a lake, child and pet-friendly path to eradicating dandelions. Here are some suggestions: 1. Mow ‘em often — When dandelions are blooming, mow frequently to prevent the yellow blossoms from going to seed and multiplying. 2. Root ‘em out — Dandelion plants cannot be eliminated by taking just the tops of the plants, but they can be dug out by hand. There are specialized tools available to remove dandelions and other weeds, roots and all. Improving soil, by applying compost and mulch, discourages weeds. Not only will they be less apt to take root, a soil that has been worked is fluffier and makes weed pulling just that much easier. 3. Poach ‘em — Pour boiling water over the plants.
4. Smother ‘em — Because light increases germination and plants need sunlight for photosynthesis, smothering plants will eventually kill them. Cover plants with cardboard or black plastic, or you can cover with grass clippings, compost or bark mulch. 5. Pickle ‘em — A 5% concentration of vinegar, similar to that found in household vinegar, is an effective weed killer against many annual and perennial weeds. When applied to weed foliage the acid in the vinegar acts as a contact herbicide but does not persist in the soil or pollute ground water. You may need to apply more than once for old growth weeds. 6. Fry ‘em — Desperate? A weed burner torch is effective. Extreme, but effective. 7. Apply corn gluten meal —There is some debate as to whether this is an effective method, but it is worth a try if all else fails. Corn gluten meal (CGM) is an organic weed and feed. A pre-emergent, such as CGM, prevents roots from forming during seed germination. If a root can’t grow, the seedling will be unable to obtain water or nourishment from the soil and will dry up and die. Love ‘em or hate ‘em — they are here to stay. Nutritious, obnoxious, tenacious, vivacious, contagious, — these and many other “ious” adjectives describe the dandelion. Label them as you choose, but you must learn to live with them. Just remember, if you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em!
Pour flowers and water in large pot and bring to a low boil. Add the sugar and the peels (peel thinly and avoid any of the white pith) of the lemons and the orange. Allow to stand until cool (70-75 degrees F.). Add yeast and yeast nutrient, cover, and put in a warm place for three days. Strain and pour into a secondary fermentation vessel (bottle or jug). Add the raisins and fit a fermentation trap to the vessel. Leave until fermentation ceases completely, then rack and add the reserved pint of water and whatever else is required to top up. Refit the airlock and set aside until clear. Rack and bottle. This wine must age six months in the bottle before tasting, and will be even better if allowed a year.
3 qts dandelion flowers 1 lb white raisins 1 gallon water 3 lbs granulated sugar 2 lemons 1 orange Yeast and nutrient Pick the flowers just before starting so they’re fresh.You don’t need to pick the petals off the flower heads but the heads should be trimmed of any stalk. Put the flowers in a large bowl. Set aside one pint of water and bring the remainder to a boil. Pour the boiling water over the dandelion flowers and cover tightly with cloth or plastic wrap. Leave for two days, stirring twice daily. Do not exceed this time!
(Recipe from C.J.J. Berry’s First Steps in Winemaking)
is a free-lance writer living in Pequot Lakes.
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OWL PROWL 26 O w l
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OWLS HAVE BEEN A PART OF CULTURE A N D M Y T H O L O G Y F O R A L O N G T I M E . They
have also appeared in art and are often used as symbols for being wise or having wisdom. They are still viewed and enjoyed by many as one of the most interesting groups of birds in the world. They are found on every continent and habitat except for Antarctica. They have remarkable ways to adapt and physiology which allows them to survive in severe climates throughout their range. Owls are part of a larger group called birds of prey, otherwise known as raptors. This group’s features include excellent eyesight, a hooked bill and talons. Some examples of birds of prey are hawks, eagles and osprey. So what features, besides a hooked beak and talons, does an owl have that a hawk or eagle doesn’t? They are the only raptor that is nocturnal, which means they hunt mostly at night in total darkness. This is compared to raptors that are more diurnal, such as hawks and eagles. Owls also have rounded heads with large eyes set out and forward on the face. If you ever get the chance to view an owl, be sure to notice how much further it can rotate its head than people or other birds of prey. They appear to turn their heads all the way around, but their true range of motion is 170 degrees. This is achieved through having twice the number of vertebra in their neck, 14, compared to people. With these characteristics, one can rule out that the bird in view is not an eagle or a hawk; it is an owl. Minnesota is home to 10 species of owls. The smallest is the Northern Saw-whet and the largest is the Great Gray. Most of the species are year-round residents, but are difficult to view on a regular basis because of their plumage, which gives them the capability to blend in to their surroundings. Every spring and fall season at Hawk Ridge in Duluth several of the smaller owls, like the Boreal and Saw-whet, have been detected during evening banding, which suggests some seasonal movement. Most owls
can be heard or seen in the right location and time of day. Minnesota is one place that many professional photographers and hardcore birders know very well for viewing owls and the occasional owl irruptions. During the winter of 2004/2005 there were thousands of owls to make it the largest owl irruption to occur in the state. Many people traveled to the area just to witness this amazing event. Most of the owls viewed were Great Gray owls. I went on several trips to view this phenomenon and was amazed to see such a high number of owls in one location or area. I also talked with people from all over the country who were busy watching the owls and clicking their cameras for photos. The state also has several birding events and festivals centered on the opportunity for viewing owls. One festival in particular is the Sax-Zim winter birding festival in Meadowlands during February where several resident or winter owl migrants can be seen. The earliest nesting bird in the state of Minnesota happens to be an owl, the Great-horned owl. Males of this species start courting females and setting up territories as early as January with nesting soon to follow within the next two months. There are some risks associated with nesting so early, but the reward is that its prey is available in good numbers. Unlike most birds, owls do not construct their own nests from scratch. Instead they use a variety of existing nests or tree cavities from other birds. These “old” nests can be from squirrels, hawks, crows, eagles or from heron rookeries. In the Southwest deserts of the United States many owls and hawks nest in large treesize cactus known as the Saguaro cactus. Most people would agree that owls have a varied diet ranging from as small as an insect all the way to as large as a raccoon. Owls have even been observed and documented catching fish. Owls, along with other birds of prey, are nature’s way of keeping the small rodent population in balance. One interesting thing about an owl’s
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eating is that it can’t digest bones or feathers. So, it expels them into pellets that consist of what was consumed from one or several meals usually a day or two later. These owl pellets can be a good clue that an owl has been roosting nearby or possibly nesting. Have you ever gone on an owl prowl or just simply listened for them? The best time for the two larger owls, the Great-horned and Barred, in the Brainerd area is between February and April. Your success will also depend on which habitat you choose or live by. Barred owls prefer lowland that is associated with wetlands or swamps. Great-horned owls prefer more upland such as oak mixed with pine and open fields for hunting. The Barred owl’s call, when heard, is very distinctive and often described to sound like “who cooks for you, who cooks for you, who cooks for you all”. It seems that this is the one that is most often heard by people while camping at a local state park or recreation area. The Great-horned owl is your typical hoot owl, often giving several deep sounds that sound like “hoo, hoo, hoo.” There are also several smaller owls that may be heard as well and share similar habitats with the larger owls. In the past I have conducted owl survey routes, which involve driving a designated route and stopping every half mile to listen for up to five minutes. If you choose to
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conduct your own survey for fun or research, try to avoid stopping near wetlands because the frogs and toads will make it very difficult or nearly impossible to detect any owl sounds. Even though most of us will never see one of our nocturnal visitors, hopefully hearing them will give you some curiosity as to who it might be. There are several CD’s and sites on the internet where one can find audio recordings of the owls in the area. Some people can also get owls to respond back to them just like wolves sometimes do. It’s a thrilling experience to listen and hear owls on a cool spring evening in the Brainerd area; I invite you to try it some evening.
J U D D B R I N K is the owner of MN Backyard
Birds offering birdscaping packages using bird feeding stations for your enjoyment. We install and maintain bird feeding stations for commercial and residential customers in the Brainerd Lakes Area. Judd also leads bird-guided walks and tours in the area. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos provided by Judd Brink
WINGING IT FOR TURKEYS TURKEY HUNTING SEASON IS JUST TWO S H O R T M O N T H S A W A Y . Indeed, the spring tur-
key season is a special time of the year, a time when amorous tom turkeys greet the dawn with gusto, their rattling, deep-toned gobbles echoing from lofty perches. It’s a time when male turkeys do their best to woo a lady friend by fanning their tail feathers in peacock-like fashion, erecting their iridescent body feathers, plums that glow metallic green, gold and bronze, all while their heads are radiant with patriotic colors of red, white and blue. It’s also a time when otherwise sane humans arise well
before dawn and attempt to dupe a passionate tom turkey by imitating the calls of a hen with love on her mind. Turkey calls come in a variety of types. The three most popular styles are the box call, the slate call, and the diaphragm call. Perhaps the least known of the turkey calls is the wingbone call. There are wood and plastic versions of wingbone calls on the market but, as the name implies, the original wingbone calls were made using the actual wing bones of a wild turkey. To a hunter the excitement of calling a tom turkey into shotgun or bow range is seldom equaled. If the hunter called the bird using a wingbone call he or she made
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themselves, the experience is even more gratifying. Follow these simple steps to make a wingbone call from the next turkey you bag: 1. Remove the wing at the shoulder joint. Do not cut through any bones. Instead, separate the wing from the body by cutting between the bones. The bones needed to make a wingbone call are the humerus, radius, and ulna. Clean as much meat from the bones as possible.
Once the bones have been cleaned, use a hacksaw to cut them to lengths that will fit inside one another.
Initially, remove as much meat as possible from the turkey wing bones. 2.
Separate the bones and cut off the large ends with a hacksaw. Clean the insides of the bones by running a wire and paper toweling through them to remove the marrow. The humerus is filled with a series of boney web-like membranes that can be drilled out. Use epoxy to glue the bones together. The wingbone call is now ready to use. Some hunters embellish their calls by adding artwork like scrimshaw or decorative painting. You can wrap the joints with thread like youâ€™d wrap line guides on a fishing rod.
Clean the marrow from the bones using a wade of cloth or paper towel wrapped on a piece of wire. 3.
Boil the bones in soapy water for an hour or so to degrease them. A final soaking in hydrogen peroxide will further whiten the bones. Lay out the three bones and then cut the bones to a length that appears appropriate. Then bevel the ends with sandpaper until the three pieces of bone fit properly. Finally glue the bones together using two-part epoxy and allow 24 hours for the glue to harden.
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The wingbone call is ready to use. Astute turkey callers glue a rubber washer about onehalf inch from the tip of the call to ensure their lips are positioned the same each time the call is used. A lanyard can be fashioned to hang the call around oneâ€™s neck. Photos provided by Bill Marchel
Emitting convincing yelps, clucks, and purrs – a hen turkey’s lustful language – on a wingbone call requires practice. Put the small end of the call between your lips just off center and cup one or both hands around the end of the call. You do not blow on a wingbone call; instead suck convincingly on the call with a kissing motion. Be patient because it takes a lot of practice to sound like a hen turkey. The wingbone call has a unique sound and experienced hunters claim they are especially effective for calling heavily hunted toms. By the way, if you don’t have a turkey wing lying around and want to make a wingbone call for this hunting season, you can utilize the wing bones from a grocery store Butterball.
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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Do you enjoy taking photos?
Do you have a favorite image of an eagle, Áower, sunset, et, or how about your favorite hunting partner? Here’s your ur chance to share it with readers of “OUTDOOR Traditions.” s.” Send it along with a two-sentence explanation as to where, e, why, and how it was shot. Both could be published online e and in the 50,000 copies of our new quarterly magazine,, “OUTDOORS Traditions.” Each issue will have an “editor’ss pick” contributed photo, including a credit line of the photographer’s name and portrait if available. Deadline for the Summer edition is May 16, 2011. The Dispatch will collect images quarterly (spring, summer, fall, and winter).
Send your photo to: “Your Best Shot” Brainerd Dispatch, P.O. Box 574, Brainerd, MN 56401. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope if you want your materials returned. Or send your digital Àle to firstname.lastname@example.org om
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THE POET, ALFRED LORD TENNYSON ONCE SAID, “IN THE SPRING A YOUNG MAN’S FANCY LIGHTLY TURNS TO THOUGHTS OF L O V E . ” I guess when I was a young man those thought’s
of love — or what I perceived was love, bubbled out of me in the dead of winter way back then.Yes, raging hormones and runaway glands got all mixed up with thoughts of love. Now that I’m an old codger though and those thoughts and urges have greatly diminished, springtime does seem like an aphrodisiac of sorts that’s really not sexual in nature, but I do realize all to well what Alfred was talking about.You see to me, spring is like a new beginning. It’s as if Mother Nature who just last fall put all of her flora and fauna away for a few months just to tease us a little, is now bringing it all back together again, as the trees bud once again, and the grass turns back to green. It’s a time when we replace the smell of the furnace, with the smell of the mother earth. Each year at this time of the year spring becomes the great precursor for the summer months ahead. The forerunner for yet another round of the lazy crazy days of the season we all rejoice in. It’s the season when projects come off the drawing board and become a reality. A season of flowers, and fruit and vegetables, and a season of long carefree days in the warmth.There is baseball, fishing and long days at the lake, soaking up sunrises and sunsets. There are baby animals and birds replenishing the aging stock and insuring the continuation of the species. But first of all must come springtime, the season that ushers it all in and lifts us up gradually from the winter blahs, quietly transitioning us into the summer of sun and fun.
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Nowhere on God’s green earth is this change so dramatic as it is right here in the lakes country we all love so much. Maybe its because I’m old and realize that the summers of my life are not infinite that I so look forward to them. That summers in my life are now just a memory, more than a reality. Maybe its because I have learned through the wisdom of life to love so perfectly and that an old man’s fancy, compared to a young man’s fancy turns to all of the things he knows makes this world so wonderful, because he has lived them, over and over again. There will be days in springtime that play with us however. Days that will say, “Not so fast my fickle friend, because summer’s coming, but winter’s not quite at the end.” Charles Dickens described it best as,“One of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” Patience is a virtue however and all good things come to those who wait.Virtue can only be described as our moral goodness and something we have to practice and learn. Not just in springtime, but every day of our lives.
M I K E H O L S T Mike Holst lives in Crosslake
Mn. He is a published fiction author and has five books currently in print. You can check his web site for more info on them. Mike also writes a weekly column for the Northland Press which is a small town newspaper in Crosslake. He contributes quite regularly to the Brainerd Dispatch open forum. www.mikeholstfictionwriter.com.
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Peg Serani, Baxter, MN
This photo was taken on Fall Lake by Ely while out kayaking with my husband. We came around a point on the lake and there he was - how could you NOT want to take a picture. I took this photo with my digital Canon EOS20D & telephoto lens. I bring my camera along on all our kayak outings apture moments like this! to capture
SSend d a slide lid or print i t tto “Y “Your B Bestt Sh Shot” t” B Brainerd i d Di Dispatch, t h P P.O. O B Box 574 574, Brainerd, MN 56401. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope if you want your materials returned. Do you enjoy taking photos? Do you have a favorite image of an eagle, flower, sunset, or how about your favorite hunting partner? Here’s your chance to share it with readers of “OUTDOOR Traditions.” Send it along with a two-sentence explanation as to where, why, and how it was shot. Both could be published online and in the 50,000 copies of our new quarterly magazine, “OUTDOORS Traditions.” Each issue will have an “editor’s pick” contributed photo, including a credit line of the photographer’s name and portrait if available. Deadline for the summer edition is May 16, 2011. The Dispatch will collect images quarterly (spring, summer, fall, winter). After each issue of “OUTDOOR Traditions” publishes, we will then place the images on our website.
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Spring 2011 Outdoor Traditions Magazine • A Mountain of a Trail • Spring River Rituals • Owl Prowl • Minnesota Fishing Challenge • Dadelion...