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April 2013


Heading west for open water, walleyes Spring turkey hunting

Things to do to get ready for fishing Protecting wood ducks

2-Estherville (Ia.) Outdoor Connection, FRIDAY, April 4, 2013

HEADING WEST FOR OPEN WATER AND WALLEYES The temperatures are finally moving out of the “freezer,” so to speak. Yet, the ice still has its grip on the area lakes. For a lot of anglers in northwest Iowa, lack of open water leads them to eye the Missouri River at Chamberlain, SD. As I mentioned in a previous column, open water fishing has been going strong for several weeks. Last week I couldn’t take it any longer. So, I talked Dick Lineweaver, a friend of mine from Arnolds Park, into spending a couple of days fishing on Lake Francis Case. The Plan

What I like most about fishing the reservoirs on the Missouri River is that they are a river/dam and fast water fishery and a lake-like atmosphere when you get a few miles down from the river. So, to me it’s the best of both worlds. Being a South Dakota boy, I’ve fished all of the impoundments since I was in my teens. Most of the time I used my own boat, but this time with my pontoon still in winter storage, Dick and I decided to use a guide service. I turned to Garry Allen, who owns Allen’s Missouri River Guide Service and the Hillside Motel in Chamberlain. It was a natural since my father-in-law and I began staying with Garry back in the early 1980s. The only trouble with fishing in March is the weather. This year especially, we’ve had cold, wind and snow squalls just about every week. So, I kept watching the weather until it looked as if Wednesday and Thursday would be in the upper 40s to low 50s with southeast winds 5-10 mph. So I called Garry on Sunday and penciled it in

with the option of postpon- bite usually centers around ing if the weather took a turn 1/8, 3/8 or 1/4-ounce jigs for the worse. Fortunately, it tipped with a lively minnow. Sometimes a short shank and sometimes a long shank jig works best, so we used both. Chartreuse and green STEVE are the most common colbut others will work. WEISMAN ors, Garry told us on the way, OUTDOOR EDITOR “Fishing was really good by the dam this morning. I had two guides out and they all took limits with one group of four getting their 16 was exactly as forecasted. walleyes by 9:30.” Allenʼs Missouri River That was the good news. Guide Service The bad news: that bite had ( Since the late 70s, Garry died by 10:30. “The best has built a guide business bite has been in the mornbased on catering to his ing, so it’ll be a little clientele. He offers a full tougher this afternoon,” said guide service, a motel, a Garry. baitshop and just plain fish- That was another reason ing advice. It’s grown to the that I wanted to have Garry point that seven full time guide us. We didn’t have a guides are kept busy lot of time to search and throughout the open water explore to find the fish. We season. When you stay at a only had a limited time to place year after year, you fish. With nearly 20 miles can tell if they are the real of water from the dam to deal or not. Allen’s office is Chamberlain, that’s a lot of one of those places that area. anglers head to early in the Garry actually ran south morning for coffee, some nearly 12 miles to an area bait and last minute advice. known as Kiowa Flats. “I’ve However, it is at the end of a had some good days here,” day’s fishing that anglers said Garry. One thing about get together in the main fishing walleyes on the river office by the big screen TV this time of year is that the at the to share the day’s sto- bite can change constantly. ries. Add a big spread of After a little searching at deer sausage, crackers, and different depths, Garry chips along with a beverage found the fish in a deeper and it doesn’t get much bet- trough between 20-24 feet ter than that! of water. We trolled between .2 to .3 mph bouncDay I – Wednesday Our plan was to leave ing the jigs off the bottom. Spirit Lake early on In addition, we would put Wednesday and be ready to out another jig and just put fish by 11 or so. When we the rod in the rod holder and got there, Garry had his 20- let the boat provide the foot Lund hooked up and movement (dead stick). ready to go. All it took was After about four hours, we getting on our fishing had nine nice 15-19 inch clothes, grabbing several walleyes in the boat. We dozen minnows and heading then headed toward the north to the dam at Ft. ramp and ended up picking Thompson. This pre-spawn up two more before calling it a day. After all, we needed

Dick Lineweaver, Garry Allen (guide) and Steve Weisman hold a nice 3-person limit taken below the dam at Ft. Thompson a week ago. The largest walleye was nearly 22 inches long. Photo submitted

to be back by 6 p.m. to watch the Hawkeyes and Virginia. That evening we sat around the office with anglers from Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota eating horsd’euoveres, sharing fishing stories and watching the Hawkeyes’ victory. Of course, there was a little good natured Iowa vs. Minnesota “talk” going on! To end the day, Dick and I took six fillets to Charley’s Restaurant next door and had them fix up a meal of walleye, along with salad bar and baked potato. Day II

On Thursday, we were on the water by 7:30 a.m. It was only 26 degrees, but with very little wind, it was still relatively comfortable.

This time we fished a stretch east of the campground. After working depths from 11-20+ feet, Garry found the fish in 11-14 feet of water. By 11 a.m., we had 12 walleyes in the boat ranging from 16 to nearly 22 inches. We also released a few other walleyes. I did catch the 22 incher on the dead stick. A White Sight

The majesty of the Missouri River breaks, the water and all of the wildlife is something I always look forward to when I head to Chamberlain. This time, though, I got a huge, huge surprise. Snow geese, yes snow geese. Their migration was on, and it was a sight that even Garry had never seen

the likes of before. Are you ready for this? Several hundred thousand snows and blues were using the river as a resting place. The noise was deafening, and the swarms coming in to the flocks already on the water looked like huge swirling flocks of blackbirds migrating through in the fall. Toward evening the sky was filled with line after line after line of snow geese heading east to feed in the cornfields. The flocks filled the sky as far as the eye could see. The two days went by all too quickly; they always do. However, the photos combined with the memories will give the two of us plenty of stories to tell and retell!

Estherville (Ia.) Outdoor Connection, FRIDAY, April 4, 2013-3

Another successful Nature Center Banquet BY ERIC ANDERSON

Spring turkey hunting outlook



On behalf of the Emmet County Nature Center Foundation Board and the Emmet County Conservation Board members and staff, I wish to thank all our sponsors, donors and attendees of the sixth annual Emmet County Nature Center Banquet. The banquet was once again a huge success. The night was filled with friends, good food and outstanding support of our Nature Center. This year with the help from all of our sponsors, donors and supporters we were able to generate over $24,000.00 in net profit. All of money earned goes directly to the Nature Center to support environmental education. I cannot thank all of you enough for your generosity and support for this very worthwhile program. I would also encourage all to come out for a visit. Our summer hours will begin Memorial Day weekend and run through Labor Day weekend. Summer hours are Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Our regular business hours (year-round)


Kathy Grussing from Shakopee, MN placed the winning bid for the cedar chest built by Kim Swanson. Photo by Blair Martyr

are Wednesday – Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. I also want to thank all of the volunteers who gave of their time last year. Volunteers donated 410 hours in 2012.

We continue to look for volunteers to help at the Nature Center. If you are interested in helping please contact us for more details: (712) 867-4422 or

Spring turkey hunters in Iowa should notice more birds. Dry conditions in 2012 meant a better hatch and first year of growth for poults. As about 45,000 hunters head to the woods through April and May, that can’t hurt their chances of taking a gobbler. “Across the state, we had about a 25 percent increase. North central and northeast Iowa had great increases in reproduction,” notes DNR forest research biologist Todd Gosselink. East central and southwest Iowa showed healthy increases, too…though with fewer overall sightings. Poults with hens, sighted by DNR field staff and other cooperators during the late summer, together with fall bowhunter observations, and eventual harvest of year old ‘jakes’ the next spring help formulate Iowa’s hatch and brood success index. Iowa’s turkey season opens with the April 6-14 youth season. The regular seasons fall in line after that; April 15-18, April 19-23, April 24-30 and May 1-19 for combination shotgun/bow tag holders. A resident archery only tag is good throughout the four regular seasons. The expansion again this year of the youth season might seem like an early start. However, the April 15 opening day of the first regular season is on track with season openers in past years. That nine-day youth season provides extra one-one-one mentoring with

hunters under 16. In earlier years, bad weather over the shorter four day season could erase a young hunter’s chances to head to the woods…especially if he or she could only go out on the weekend. Youth hunter numbers set a record in 2012, with 3,450 licenses sold. And with the longer season, harvest success was up a whopping 81 percent. Across all spring seasons in 2012, hunters holding 45,159 licenses in Iowa harvested 10,457 bearded turkeys. An Iowa resident may obtain up to two spring turkey tags, so long as one is for use in Season 4. Ahead of your first forays into the turkey woods during the season, turkey experts urge you to do some subtle scouting. What calls to use? “I will have a couple of mouth calls, a box call and an owl hooter,” suggests wildlife technician Jim Coffey. “Be confident with what you use; practice to build that confidence…even if you don’t use it each time out.” And while the crack of dawn gobble is exciting, it is not the only time to pursue Iowa’s biggest game bird. “There’s nothing wrong with heading out at 10 or 11 a.m. That turkey lives where you hunt. He will still be there!” reminds Coffey….again noting that early season vegetation might have you sitting still, to minimize movement and being detected by the eagle-eyed game bird.

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4-Estherville (Ia.) Outdoor Connection, FRIDAY, April 4, 2013


duck box, you are out of luck. By law removing any native Last month we talked about birds nest is illegal and they are when, where and how to hang protected by federal and state your Wood Duckhouse. This law. time it's about how protecting Wasps the incubating hen and her eggs As for wasps, here is where from predation is extremely checking nest boxes every day important. Checking of the comes in handy. Rip the wasp house every day is also very nest down as soon as it is startimportant. The best way to ed, but you can use a spray check your house is to stuff a ONLY if the hen has not started rag or your hat into the entrance to nest yet. Spray the wasp and hole and open the inspection nest and leave the box open to door slowly. air out for an hour or so. If the If the hen is on the nest leave hen is on the nest, spray the her alone, close the door and wasp while the female is on the wait 30 - 40 seconds then outside of the nest box. The best remove the plug from the hole, way is to be by the entrance hole she will stay on the nest. I like and spray the wasp on the way to out. Always spray AWAY from wait and watch for the hen to the entrance hole if a hen is on leave the nest to feed. thats the nest. when I go and count eggs. Feral cats There are lots of predators Feral cats, which is a domestic including raccoons, squirrels, cat that has gone wild, are only European starlings, feral cats, a threat to the hen and duckwasps, owls and woodpeckers. lings after they've left the nestThere is not a lot that we can do ing box, when the hen is on the about owls, since most of the ground calling for her young time owls hunt at night and the and after the first few ducklings duckling are taken at that time. have hit the ground there is a lot The ducklings have a far better of clucking and peeping going chance of surviving owl attacks on. This is the sound of a dinner if the lake or pond shore line bell going off to feral cats. has a lot of cover like brush Again checking the box every piles or reeds. day can save your hard work. I Woodpeckers like to check my boxes in the Woodpeckers are also a hard late afternoon. If I see the one to control. With them, it a young ducklings, I know that 50 - 50 deal. The predation is they will be jumping the next done either over a nesting site morning and I can be there to or for food. Woodpeckers will help mom get them safely to the eat wood duck eggs if given the lake. Still at times this is not chance. If it's predation for food enough. there is not a whole lot that can One of Birdhaven’s cusbe done. Now if it's for nesting tomers had waited 18 years to rights, that’s a whole new story get a wood duck and on the day and an easy one to take care of. that they jumped, half of the Just put a woodpecker nest neighborhood was there to box up a few trees over facing watch and they still lost over the same way that the wood half of the brood to three feral duck house is facing and the cats before anyone could move. woodpecker will most likely It is this author’s opinion to trap use the new box. and humanely euthanize all Also by checking the box feral cats. every day, you just might drive European starlings off the woodpeckers. If for one European starlings, will break reason or another you have dis- the eggs and will even attack covered too late that a wood- the hen and can do severe dampecker has taken over the wood BIRD HAVEN

age to her. The best way to beat the problem is to remove nesting materials when starlings are first noticed using the box, and to keep it up until they leave. (Or shoot the Starlings if you have a chance.) The European starling is considered an invasive species and is one of two birds that you are allowed to kill 24-7. Wood ducks bring no materials to the nest, so when you find straw and other nesting materials you know a nest competitor is at work. Checking nest boxes for competitors should be done in the afternoon rather than the morning to avoid frightening off hen wood ducks. Raccoons and squirrels

Raccoons and squirrels will both eat eggs. Raccoons will also eat the hen and ducklings. Raccoons learn quickly, and once they start raiding unprotected nest boxes, they will soon all but eliminate a local nesting population. A baffle may help this situation. To learn more about baffles, read on! Squirrels will also take over a nest box. Once a squirrel is in the box it is hard to keep them out and most likely the hen will never return to that box. The best way to protect the Nest box is with baffles (cones made of sheet metal.) if the nest box is on a 4x4 or metal pole sections of galvanized stove pipe can be installed around poles. Also just make sure that the stove pipe will swing and move around on the pole. If your nest box is on a tree, sheet metal can be wrapped with a 2-feet-wide band of shiny, rust resistant metal around the tree both above and below the wood duck house. If you have any questions about wood ducks or any of our native birds that use nest boxes stop in at Birdhaven or call 712-336-2473 or 712-3200320 and we will be more than happy to help you out. Finally, don’t forget: bluebird nesting season is almost here.


What a difference a year can make. A year ago last March, we were basking in almost balmy conditions with highs running from the low 60s to upper 70s. Now this year, we’ve had a few days in the upper 40s, but for the most part, they have seemed stuck around 30 degrees. That has certainly kept iceout from happening with the ice grudgingly pulling away from shore and a few holes opening up on the main lakes. Last year the netting process for the Spirit Lake Hatchery personnel was less than idea. Although the season was still a success, consistent netting of big broodstock never materialized because of the early warm weather not matching up with the photo light period, which is so crucial for spawning walleyes. According to Mike Hawkins, fisheries biologist at the Spirit Lake Hatchery, a later iceout usually means a much better netting process. Walleye year classes on Big Spirit DNR data shows the walleye population on Big Spirit continues to be excellent with growth rates and recruitment at all time highs since the 17-22 inch slot limit was instituted in 2007. Hawkins notes that the 2001-year class was a big year class that on average took six years to reach 14 inches. Now year classes are reaching 14 inches in 3-4 years. The 2007-year class was the system’s last big year class, but now Hawkins says there are back to back year classes coming. “Both the 2010 and 2011 year classes have good numbers with the 2010 year class approaching 14 inches and the 2011 year class 12-13 inches. Anglers should have good numbers of harvest sized fish this year.” Of course, much of this growth data comes from the tagging that occurs during the gillnetting process. The tagging helps biologists analyze population dynamics as the fish are caught and recaught over the years. This yearʼs additional challenge Finding four juvenile zebra mussels last fall on East Okoboji and Upper Gar has totally changed the way the gillnetting process is now handled. “Although we have found no veligers yet and we do not know if there is a breeding population, finding the juvenile zebra mussels means we must take every precaution not to move mussels or their larval young to

DNR personnel carefully take walleyes out of the nets during gillnetting. Photo submitted

another lake.” So, when the netting crews leave East Okoboji to head for Big Spirit, everything must be treated. “We will bleach all of our netting equipment, wash down the boats and trailers and flush the motors before we head to Big Spirit,” says Hawkins. The DNR will set up monitoring stations in the Okoboji chain to check for other signs of zebra mussels. “The veligers cannot be seen with the naked eye,” notes Hawkins. “They are the size of plankton and can only be seen with a microscope.” Thus, they make perfect hitchhikers in unsuspecting boaters’ live wells, bilges and motors. As Hawkins says, ”We try to lead by example and decontaminate everything before going down the road to another body of water.” Listed below are reasons why there is so much concern: ■ First off, zebra mussels cause issues because they filter water, up to a liter a day, to eat plankton. While this does clear up the water, what is left behind often leads to huge algae bloom that can be harmful to people and pets. ■ The zebra mussel can change the entire fish eco-system. ■ Zebra mussels adversely affect water system by clogging pipes, which, in turn, affects the water cannot flow. ■ Zebra mussels can collect as a “colony” on any firm object. That includes anything from plant life to boats and motors, to hoists, to docks. ■ Millions of dollars are spent yearly in infested waters to deal with the problems associated with zebra mussels.

Estherville (Ia.) Outdoor Connection, FRIDAY, April 4, 2013-5

The Last Word

Time… and these places Come April, at least here in winter-weary northwest Iowa, thoughts turn to open water fishing and the many years I have been privileged to be a player in this springtime ritual. The image of angling for sunfish with cane poles may seem archaic to many of you. As for me, I couldn’t wait for Dad to bring down those caned relics each spring from the rafters in the garage where they had spent the winter. When they grew brittle from the elements and were rendered retired, we would hurry to Charlie’s Place along the highway in town, where new ones were displayed in wooden barrels, the old black braided line and split shot included. I think Dad paid $4 each for them circa 1950s. And off we would go, cane poles in tow, to Arrowhead or Swan Lake or some secret farm pond, adrenaline pumping and child-hearts beating like tom-toms. It was mostly bluegills, those rainbowdappled treasures that would slurp our hand-dug earthworm presentations and make the online redand-white plastic bobbers dance and then disappear into the water. But also there were bullheads and the occasional largemouth bass and crappies, dark as midnight. I didn’t know it at the time, but those would be some of the finest fishing days of my life, fashioned by innocence. Closed-faced, push-button spinning reels came next. I believe a Zebco 202 Zee-

GREG DREES Bee was my first, teamed with a rod so stiff you could kill vermin with it. And then the wonderful open-faced spinning tackle revolution! With lawn mowing money, I bought a Langley Spin-Flo reel for $12 and mounted it on a sparkling white fiberglass Shakespeare rod, heady stuff for a 13 yearold. My first fish on that rig came on a family vacation the next week to West Lake Okoboji. From a dock at Terrace Park I cast a Heddon Super Sonic until my arms ached, until a fine smallmouth smacked the bait, hooking me for life on cast-and-retrieve fishing. I still have the black-andwhite photo of me holding that bronze-back, a proudas-punch smile on my face. I remember gazing with wonder into my Dad’s ohso-too-big metal tackle box. It was like opening a history book, heavily laden with Dare-Devils, Lazy Ikes, Hula Poppers, Jitterbugs, Creek Chubs, Bass-Orenos and other fine lures, now considered mostly antique, but many of which I still use and catch fish with today. Armed with such arsenals, we would travel to Minnesota lakes, walleyes and northern pike and bass

on our minds: Bowstring in the north, in the Chippewa National Forest; Miltona and Pelican in the middle reaches; and mostly secret shallow prairie lakes like Benton in the southwest. There was also a fascination with the Dakota reservoirs that lasted a decade or so. But always there was the captivation with the Iowa Great Lakes, from childhood until now, everlasting. I’m now a sixty-something angler who may have lost touch with the most modern aspects of fishing, but not its elemental goodness. Perhaps I’ve been left in the technological dust of the sport, so to speak, and I’m OK with it, really. High-powered boats, the intrusion of digital gadgetry and competitive fishing have never done it for me anyway. When I fish from a boat, it’s in my 1978 16foot Crestliner, with a 1970s vintage outboard motor and a rudimentary depth finder. Works fine and, truth be told, the fish don’t care. Given all this, I’m not ready to be called old yet, just seasoned, perhaps, or just blessed with a lot of experience. Fact is, many of my outings today feel like brand new adventures, and I await the forthcoming ones with exuberance. I figure Father Time is still well on my side, willing to wait in the wings while I go forth to redefine the afternoon of life. Nowadays give me a pair of chest waders, a good spinning rod and reel combo and a small box of

lures and I’m the happiest fisher on the face of the earth. Maybe it’s a reverting-back-to-my-cane-poledays thing. Someone else can figure out the psychological aspects, I just want to wade and cast, wade and cast. And give me the cover of darkness, with no one else around, spring and fall, and even summertime in the bulrushes. On water with bewitching names like Big Spirit and Okoboji, great fishes come to me. Walleyes, some real brutes in the fall, are some of the rewards of this essential fishing. But slab crappies,

too, and smallies, none as magnificent as the 22 ½incher that pounded my offering at Gull Point on a cold, inky night last November. The sight of that seven-pound leviathan rolling to the surface, its black-barred flanks shimmering under a full moon, will stay with me the rest of my days. And so it goes in the life of a wizened fisher. The quest is still the same. Searching, always searching. Once I find what I’m looking for, will it ever be the same? Editor’s note: Each month the Outdoor Connection tab

1907 18th St. Spirit Lake

will feature the powerful writing of well known free lance writer Greg Drees in a special column entitled “The Last Word.” Born to a family of hunters, fishers and conservationists, Drees’s passion for the outdoors and the preservation of natural resources was nurtured from youth. He has sustained an affinity for the Iowa Great Lakes that began as a youngster on family vacations and grew as he returned to the area annually to hunt and fish, making the area his permanent home 15 years ago.

6-Estherville (Ia.) Outdoor Connection, FRIDAY, April 4, 2013

Skinny water walleyes BY JASON MITCHELL

No secret that walleyes move into shallow water come spring, but a lesson I have had to relearn a handful of times over the years is simple: don’t be afraid to look for fish in a foot or two of water come spring. Many anglers will fish shallow particularly early in the year but often stop at that threefoot mark. Why so shallow

There are probably many reasons that cause walleyes to position themselves into a foot or two of water, but I think most of the time, warmer water temperatures and baitfish are the two biggest motivators for pulling walleyes into such skinny water. When it comes to finding walleyes in really shallow water, less than three feet… there does seem to be some misconceptions at least from my own personal experiences. Wind is probably one of the biggest misconceptions I have found from my time on the water. Wind and shallow water walleyes is almost cliché, but I seldom find fish less than three feet of water during a strong wind that is crashing in. The fish may be active and they may be shallow, but they typically duck right below the reverse current that is rolling back off the shoreline. In three-foot rollers for example, I seldom catch fish in two feet of water. Typically they are a touch deeper like five feet. When I often do find walleyes in this same location, however, in a foot or two of water is the next day after the wind dies or switches and the water is still stained from yesterday’s wind. I think one of the reasons for this is that walleyes don’t like to position right up into the turbulence. In really strong winds, I have actually seen fish like white suckers, bullheads and even northern pike get washed up into rip rap, but I have never seen a walleye get washed up. What also surprises some anglers is that sunny days often pull fish shallowest especially during the pre spawn period. I have seen this on natural lakes, river systems and

reservoirs. Also, this can be a big fish pattern as it often seems like big females will slide up into a foot or two of water just to warm up. Almost seems like some of these big fish will move up so shallow that the sun can hit their backs. What areas to target

The locations where we have seen these skinny water patterns unfold run the gamut. On river systems, for example, most fish locate near current breaks and seems much of the time. Fish move out into fast water and they move back into quiet water, but many fish are caught on the edge where faster water meets slower water. I have caught some really big fish in rivers, however, far from this edge quite a ways back into quiet water up along shallow gravel and sand bars or rip rap. Typically during normal flows, these fish might have only been fifty to a hundred yards or less from faster water, but where they were sitting was slack enough for a largemouth bass to live. On natural lakes and reservoirs, gradual sloping shorelines with firm gravel to sand bottoms have been good. Rip rap is another solid option at times and shallow sand or gravel bars that have pencil reeds can be dynamite and are one of my favorite locations for finding walleye ultra shallow. Shallow rocks can also be really good but on many natural lakes and reservoirs I have fished, the rocks were often right on the shoreline in a foot or two of water and then out a little ways. The rocks either got much smaller or the bottom turned to sand and often, the fish seemed to hold right on the bottom edge of the rocks. The bigger the rocks, the more I found this to be the case. Presentation

With these really shallow fish, you almost have to cast to the fish, and there is nothing better than a jig because jigs only have one hook. Most of the time, you have to slide into spots and slip the jig up into this shallow water without making a lot of commotion. Big bomb casts with heavy artillery are

typically not going to work. In fact, there have been many times where I had to pitch the jig up on the bank and just slide the jig into the water. That is why the single hook on a jig shines as they don’t catch as much debris or get hung up so much. From my experiences, there are two basic maneuvers that really trigger these fish. The first is to cast the jig up on the shore and just slide the jig into the water and slowly slide the jig through the zone with a drag or swim where the jig is just above the bottom maybe halfway through the water column. The other method is to pitch the jig up into the shallow water, feathering the line with your finger as it hits the water and keeping the line semi tight as it falls. With either method, the key is often using really light jigs with lots of bulk to slow that jig descent way down. Typically, either 1/8th ounce or 1/16th ounce will suffice, but you have to bulk up the jig by either adding plastic or a larger minnow so that the jig is easier to cast further distances and than slowly sinks once it hits the water. Favorite jigs for this presentation include the 1/8th ounce Northland Tackle Rocket Jig for dragging and the 1/16th ounce Northland Tackle Fire Ball bulked up with minnow or plastic for the slow fall. There are times as well when a 1/32nd ounce Fire Ball tipped with a live minnow is killer in really shallow water. With the lighter jig, hook the minnow on so that it stays alive and after casting the minnow up on the bank, let it swim around in the shallow water on semi tight line. This method is a little slower and takes more time but can often pull a few more fish off the spot. By far, I do much better using monofilament, because I think mono slows the rate of fall for the jig and adds some subtleness to the glide and fall that just causes the jig to hang in the water longer which the fish seem to like. Perfect line for this application is seven pound Bionic mono. This particular line is easy to cast with lighter

Rocket Jig Walleye: the author Jason Mitchell shares some wisdom on how to catch walleyes in ultra shallow water early in the year. Photo submitted

jigs but slows the jig down dramatically in the water. Depending on your height, a six to seven foot medium light fast action rod is about perfect for leveraging small jigs up onto the shoreline and the extra length lets you get a good hook set when the tip of the rod is high. We have a new line up of walleye rods for this season ( that are really impressive in that they retail for less than sixty dollars and feature IM8 graphite construction, lifetime warranty and Fuji guide train. Early in the season, do not over-

look sliding up into really shallow water when conditions dictate and at least check really shallow water. There have been many days where the most aggressive and hardest hits I had all day came in water less than three feet. Editors Note: The author, Jason Mitchell hosts the popular outdoor program Jason Mitchell Outdoors which airs on Fox Sports North (9:00 am Sunday) and Fox Sports Midwest (8:30 am Saturday) and is a member of the Ice Team Pro Staff. More information can be found online at

Estherville (Ia.) Outdoor Connection, FRIDAY, April 4, 2013-7

Tr ansitioning toward open water I am often asked, “What do you like better? Ice fishing or open water fishing?” I love them both! But let’s face it, it’s been a long winter. Not that much snow, not that cold but it’s almost April 1, and I can still ice fish on West Okoboji! I’m ready to get in the boat, but it looks like it’s going to be two to three weeks before iceout here in Okoboji. What’s a fisherman to do in the meantime? There’s plenty to do! First I’ll get all my ice gear put away for the season. I am very careful about how I store my ice shacks. Clean your shacks out thoroughly. Nerver leave food or wrappers in your shacks. If you do, your tarp may end up the target for nesting mice that will destroy your $900 quilted ice shack. I’ve seen it happen. Some people use moth-


balls to repel rodents, but I don’t like the smell they leave behind. I like to fold three or four or more fabric softener sheets in my ice shacks. I store all my portable shacks up off the floor on a trailer making it tougher for mice to have access. So far…knock knock on my desk…I have never had mice. I also like to find a place to store my Marcum depth finders and cameras in a place where I will see them and can get to them easily during the summer. If I see them every day, I’ll hopefully remember to give them a charge at least once over the

Stewardship Tip:


summer. And I’m particular about how I store my ice fishing rods. I love the Otter Outdoors ice rod cases, but I only have two and I can only force about 11 or 12 rods in each one. All the rest get stored in plastic storage containers that I buy at Walmart. It makes it easy to throw them up on a shelf out of the way till next winter. It also keeps the rods clean and protected. Chances are you’ll only need to buy one large container. Once I have my ice gear put away and stored properly, I dig into my open water gear. I love getting my rods and reels restrung with new line, cleaned, polished and lubed for a new season. I go through the tackle box, take inventory, make a list of wants and needs, reorganize, sharpen and replace hooks. Then the boat! Oh my! Can I get all this done in three weeks? I better get busy!

What in the heck do Vinegar and Baking Soda have to do with fishing and stewardship? I can hear what you’re thinking. But consider this. The toilet and the sink are the two primary avenues that we use to dispose of our waste water. Whatever we put into these vessels ends up in our streams, lakes and rivers. At one time, when the sink was clogged, we’d reach for a can of drain cleaner. And the toilet? When we needed to clean the “can,” we’d reach for the toilet cleaner. When the sink runs slow, consider reaching for the baking soda and vinegar rather than the drain cleaner. Pour in 1 cup of baking soda, then one cup hot, white, distilled vinegar. Let this sit for 5 minutes or so, then flush with hot water. And when the toilet bowl needs to be cleaned, reach for the vinegar rather than the toilet cleaner. Pour in three cups of distilled, white vinegar and let it sit overnight. Scrub the bowl in the morning. Vinegar is a by-product of vegetables, fruits and grains. It is both edible and biodegradable. Baking soda’s primary ingredient, sodium carbonate, is easily absorbed. Both are useful, biodegradable alternatives to caustic household chemicals.

Why it is important to the fish Drain cleaners contain sodium hydroxide, chlorine bleach, HFC’s, and sulfuric acid; they are highly caustic. Toilet cleaners contain chlorine bleach. When we use these products, we introduce toxins directly into our waste water through our sinks and toilets. If a sanitary sewer overflow occurs, these chemicals can go directly into our watersheds. When they do, they ultimately end up in our fish. Consider some of the great fisheries that we have here in our part of Iowa. Everything that we do on or off the water affects these fisheries. By choosing less caustic alternatives, such as vinegar and baking soda, we introduce fully biodegradable products into our waste water. Our fish are the ultimate beneficiaries. The Vinegar Institute has assembled a list of additional ideas for using vinegar around the home. Editor’s note: Each month the Outdoor Connection tab will feature a column by Recycled Fish, a nonprofit organization founded by Teeg Stouffer in 2003. Originally a Catch and Release education organization, it is now a national movement of anglers who live and promote a lifestyle of stewardship both on and off the water.

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More and more, people are getting the itch to go fishing. Many areas of the country have been covered with snow and other weather that has delayed the arrival of open water. In conversations with anglers at recent seminars that I've been involved in, you can just feel the eagerness of those folks to get in a boat or in waders or to get out on a dock and get a bait in the water. Before you make a cast, following are some things you should do. Make sure you've got a fishing license. In many areas fishing licenses expire in February or March. Check to make sure you've got a current license. Spool up with fresh line. It's a good idea to start every season with new line. Your line is the only connection between you and the fish: You want to be using good stuff. You don't need to strip all the line off your reel when you respool. If you're putting new line on a reel that's used for casting, strip off enough line that will enable you to tie new line to the backing (the old line) to have 40-50

yards of new line. We generally don't make 50-yard casts, so that's enough line to cast effectively and trim a little line off every now and then. If you're adding line to a trolling reel, you'll want to have enough line to get your bait back a hundred and fifty feet or so. Rarely will you need to get your bait back that far, but again, a little extra allows for trimming line when necessary. I started using the new Bionic Line last year. It worked fine and is available in odd sizes, which I have come to appreciate. Sometimes five or seven pound test is perfect for jigging or rigging. Check your trailer lights. Make sure the boat battery is charged. If your waders leaked last fall and you didn't fix them, they still leak. Get them fixed now. Check your tackle box inventory. Replace what is needed, and if you're in need of any of the new baits that have been introduced recently, now is the time to get them. If you use aerated bait containers, check those batteries. The aeration systems from Frabill are outstanding. They keep minnows livelier than any other bait bucket I've used.

To see all the newest episodes of Fishing the Midwest TV, visit FISHINGTHEMIDWEST.COM If you're in the market for a new tackle box, consider the new Flex'N Go from Plano. This system enables you to customize your tackle box to exactly match your needs for the day. Caution on the water is a big deal. If you need a new life-jacket, take a look at the inflatables that Cabela's offers. They're comfortable, so you're more likely to wear them more often. If you haven't done so already, you need to make lodging plans if you're going to be going on any fishing trips. In conversations with many resort owners, it seems like folks are waiting later in the year to make lodging commitments, then are disappointed when their resort of choice doesn't have openings. Make your plans now! The open water season is here or near across most of the country. Take care of the tasks just mentioned and you'll have a more enjoyable and productive fishing If youʼre ready to go fishing when the opportunity presents itself, youʼll be more season. successful. Photo by Bob Jensen

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April 2013 Outdoor Connection  
April 2013 Outdoor Connection  

April 2013 Outdoor Connection