Friday, January 29, 2010

A Broken Window, Rain, Mosquitoes, and a Musky!

If you have ever been on a Canadian fishing trip you know how bad the insects can become during the late spring and summer months of June, July, and August. Especially on the warm sunny days, the biting flies locate you on the lake as if you were a coordinate on their internal GPS units. As evening sets the mosquitoes can sometimes descend on you like a blanket of fog, to where there seems to be no escape. At times it can be quite annoying, but the beauty of this unspoiled wilderness and the quality of the fishing is what keeps us all coming back whenever we can.

It is here where this story begins, on Eagle Lake, Ontario, where my brothers, Kevin(Ronnie) and Keith (Hoy), brother-in-laws David (Hawk), Mike(Bob),and our good friend Will (Young Will) had ventured to South Shore Lodge. We arrived on a partly sunny Saturday afternoon, drove to the parking and launch area, loaded up the boats and headed to our camp. We fished that evening for a little while to get our feet wet (foreshadowing) and then turned in after a long day of traveling. We didn't know it, but it would be the last time that we would see the sun until the following Saturday morning. We awoke on Sunday morning to the clouds and rain that would be our new fishing companion for the rest of our stay. Good thing we packed our rain gear! We got our rain suits on and it seemed as though they stayed on the rest of the week.

All of us tried to do our best to fish as hard as we could but after a couple days of being pelted in the face by wind and rain, we decided that a deck of cards and a warm dry cabin (with food, beer and scotch) was a much better alternative. Even a shower didn't feel like a good idea after being in water all day. As we played cards with our fingertips looking like raisins, we noticed that the mosquitoes that were loving all the rain, were somehow entering the cabin. Every minute or so someone was slapping or swatting a Mosquito and watching it fall on the table in front of them. We drank and played cards for the rest of that evening. While we sat at the table, laughed and dealt the hands, one of us noticed, that a mosquito had landed on the picture window behind Bob. Without hesitation, Bob backhanded the window and it shattered into pieces. We first sat in disbelief over what we had just witnessed, but I will tell you that over the years we have had more fun ribbing Bob about the busted window than we could have ever imagined. With the window now open to the screen porch we figured that our mosquito problem would only get worse. It was then, as we cleaned up the glass, that we noticed that the floor boards in the kitchen had gaps in them and that was where our little bloodsucking friends were coming from.

We didn't catch too many fish that week and my brothers decided they wanted to try a Musky fly-in lake on Friday. A few of us didn't want to spend the extra money, so we decided to stay behind and continue to take our chances on Eagle. On Thursday afternoon another group in camp had told us that they had seen a big Northern Pike come up and follow their lures as they were fishing in Eldorado Bay. After listening to their story of the fish, I quickly surmised that it most likely was a Musky. Friday morning came and my brothers headed off on the float plane to Fisher lake. Bob, Young Will and I decided to head to Eldorado Bay. It would be a wise choice.

Upon entering the bay and setting up our drift over the weed bed, the three of us decided that we would give this area a little time, knowing that a good fish had been spotted here. About an hour or so later, Bob was reeling in a nice walleye that had nailed his daredevil spoon, when a big musky came right over the top of it and tried to grab it. It was the first musky that we had seen all week. It was about 9:00am now. We drifted across the bay numerous times and didn't see another musky. The rain had been on and off for the whole day but it was better than it had been most of the week. It was after 2:30pm now and Young Will decided to change baits again and try a Suick (perch color). I don't remember how many casts he had taken when he plopped the Suick right on top of a muskies head. Immediately as the bait hit the water it erupted into a full boil and the fish thrashed wildly and rolled many times. It was a long way from the boat and it took a while until Young Will was able to bring the fish boatside. I netted the fish weeds and all it measured around 44 inches long, but it was a big fat fish with a large girth.

I remember the feeling I had as captain of my boat, and how excited I was for my guest to have caught such a nice fish from our craft. It was a great feeling of accomplishment. To this day it is though I am standing there still, and I can see Young Will's lure flying through the air and landing on the water. The chaos and high fives that followed. I will never forget that moment. Young Will and I have remained good friends and tonight he is coming over to our house with his wife Krystn. I'm sure as we knock back a couple of Budweisers, eat some pizza, and share stories of our fishing trips past, present, and future, we will remember the real reason that we love to fish! It is the friendships we make, the laughs we share, the memories we take with us, that make each fishing trip a unique and worthwhile experience.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bluegills and Iceholes!

Most of you who know me are aware that I love NASCAR. Over the last 15 years or so I have followed the sport quite closely, almost to the point of being a little over the top. Yes! I fly the flags from my front porch and I've got the pictures of my favorite driver (#24 Jeff Gordon) hanging from our garage walls. Hats! There are more than I could possibly wear in a weeks time and of course there are the clothes to go along with it. Sweatshirts, t-shirts, pajama pants, even the dog has to wear a little something, and so Scruffy sports his #24 collar all year long. I told you I was a little over the top. My friends and I have been to Chicagoland Speedway numerous times since it opened and I understand and feel the need for speed! The engineering and development that goes into a race car is fascinating to me. A little change here, or a design change over there, pushes the racing engine to the brink of destruction, while it operates at optimum speed and horsepower. I can't wait for speed weeks! Last weekend, my son Bryan, and my brothers Kevin and Keith were able to squeeze in a little ice fishing on Channel Lake, in Antioch, IL. Upon our arrival we noticed that the snowmobile racing club was out on the lake, making their runs across the frozen surface and pushing their speeds to the maximum. We gathered our gear and headed across the lake. If you have ever played the video game Frogger, you will now understand what happened next. For the next 15 minutes or so we dodged our way between the snow sleds to reach our destination on the lake. The club was using the middle of the lake, so we thought once we made it to the other side, we would be out of the way. I drilled a few holes and set up our shanty and we began to search for some Bluegills. The early morning fog had now cleared and the sun began to shine upon the lake. This would be a nice afternoon for keeping warm but what about the fishing? We fished from hole to hole and didn't even get a nibble. As we continued searching for the Bluegills we noticed that the snowmobile club had now moved closer to where we had set up. Only about 30 feet away from us now, the "ice holes" were making their runs from just beyond where we were, down the lake and back. It was quite loud and the racing fuel now filled the winter air. Clouds started to roll back in and the wind picked up and we hadn't even caught a fish yet. The entire middle of the lake was empty of fisherman but these "ice holes" had decided that they would move right next to us to start their runs. They were so close to us, that in order to line up for each race they started to circle our shanty, gear, tip-ups etc. One of them even circled my brother Kevin who was sitting, fishing over a hole on a five gallon bucket. To say the least we were very annoyed by these "ice holes". I started to think about how rude people can be, and how it doesn't matter if it is Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter, there will always be a bunch of "ice holes" on the Chain-o-lakes who do not think about anyone but themselves. We held our ground and did not give in to the "ice holes", although I am sure that they thought we would move, and give them more of the lake to race on. I'm all for sharing the lake, and the fisherman had given them the entire middle of the lake to have their fun. Why did they have to come right next to us? Oh yeah, because they are "ice holes". Kevin went to check on another rod that he had propped up next to a hole. One of the "ice holes" who had circled our shanty had run it over with his sled. It was completely destroyed. The four of us continued fishing, although we wanted to drill some "ice holes". It was late in the afternoon now and we did manage to catch a few Bluegills in the last hour and a half to help ease the pain of the broken rod and reel. The fish began to take our ice jigs tipped with a wax worm, but the bite remained quite light and it was now almost dark. I think we managed to catch 13 in all. We gathered our gear, some intact, some broken, and headed back to our car. As always we had a good time, with many laughs and memories that will be forever etched in the back of our minds. I just didn't know that when I had left that morning I'd be complaining about there being too many "ice holes"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Support Your Local Tackle Shop......

Technology is constantly changing all around us, sometimes faster than we can blink. We are always searching for a new item to improve our way of life. With the Internet at our fingertips, we can purchase just about anything we want and have it delivered to our front door, many times at the same or less cost than heading to a retail store. But what if that was the only way we could purchase an item? For instance; You are traveling to work for a meeting, and you need to stop for a pack of gum, a pen, batteries, etc. A local store is always available to provide that last minute item to make our day a little brighter. What if they weren't there? With the economy the way it has been for the last 2 years, businesses are closing their doors at an alarming rate. Smaller retail shops are disappearing fast, and empty strip malls are almost everywhere. The bottom line is that we need those retailers to be there for us, for those last second items, and because of that, we frequent them quite often. Gas stations capitalized on this need, and began to sell almost anything, while we stop to fill our tanks. How many of you have seen the "Live Bait" signs that are hanging in many of our gas/convenience stations? Have you ever wondered about the consequences of purchasing your live bait from them? Well let me explain myself a little further. I have been on the water a few too many times when I didn't have the right color jig, the wrong size hook, or the wrong type of live bait. The boat next to us is catching fish after fish and we can't seem to get a hit on anything. After checking in at the local tackle shop and getting a few pointers from the store owner or employee it is almost always the ticket to improving the afternoon or next days catch! Your local tackle/bait retailer has the items you need to have a successful day of fishing. The best bait, lures, line, rods, reels, and most of all knowledge, are all a part of your local tackle/bait store. We as educated anglers must continue to support these local shops. If we purchase our live bait from gas stations (which are overpriced anyway) we are cutting into the livelihood of the local bait and tackle stores. When you put them out of business by not supporting their shops, you will no longer have that local knowledge, and superior products, that at times can be so critical for a great day on the water. Please remember this the next time you stop to get your live bait and remember to ask for the latest information on where to go, what's biting and what they're using. You'll be glad you did!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Musky Bug......

I don't know when it really began for me, but I would have to think that it probably started on Snowbank Lake near Ely MN in the early 1970's. My parents had taken us out for the afternoon to do a little fishing on a overcast and very humid day. As I recall ( I couldn't have been more than 6 years old at the time ) we had headed toward the back of a calm bay so my Dad could take a few casts for a bigger fish. We had been out since lunch and hadn't had too much success with the pan fish. I remember that only my Father was casting, and we were all just watching him for a few minutes before returning to the dock. He had put on a orange and black Evans Shyster with a silver blade in a 1 ounce size and hurled his lure toward the thick weeds that outlined the back of the bay. I can't remember how many casts he had taken, when he yelled "I got one". I can still hear his voice as his excitement grew, knowing that he had hooked into a good fish. We were fishing out of a 16ft row boat with a 10 horse motor and once Mom had seen the size of the fish she shouted for us to get into the bottom of the boat. The fish made a good jump clear out of the water and also made a few deeper runs while Mom got into position to net the fish. The fish did not tire easily and I listened to Mom yell to Dad that the next time it swam by she was going to try and net it. The fish came back around the boat again and Mom stuck her arms way down in the water to reach, and eventually net the fish. I looked at this huge fish, that now seemed to take up all the space in the bottom of our boat. It looked like nothing I had ever seen before. The fish was long and looked like a pike, though I had never seen one that big. The coloring was different also, it was almost all silver on the sides with an underside that looked white, but with a remarkable pink hue to it. The fish was the most unique fish that I had ever seen. We brought it back to the dock as we did with almost all our fish back then and had showed it to the people around the resort. They called the local Game Warden and he drove out to look at the fish. They determined that it was a Blue Pike. Now at the time there was not to have been any Musky in Snowbank lake and I think that is what led them to that conclusion. Since then I have seen many pictures and also live natural muskies that have that green/silver look to them with no markings. We took the Musky home to have it mounted and it still is hanging on the basement wall in the house where we grew up.From that day forward the thought of hooking into a large Pike or Musky has always driven my brothers and I to fish countless hours for a chance to experience those amazing creatures. The three of us love to fish for Muskies and have been fishing both recreational and in tournaments for as long as I can remember. Late Last summer on a trip to St. Germain WI, my son Bryan caught the bug too! While fishing from the dock at my brothers cabin, Bryan had a large Musky engulf his new Mepps lure that he had purchased for himself that weekend. It was the first lure that he had ever bought with his own money, and I will never forget the look on his face when he came up to the cabin with his line waving in the air. He was angry that he had lost his new lure, but the sight of that Musky, mouth open, eating his lure, gave him a new excitement that will last with him a lifetime. My son caught the Musky bug! Now, like his Grandfather, Father, and Uncles, he too has found a passion for Musky fishing. Tomorrow we are going to the annual Musky Show in Palatine, IL and I can't wait to see the smile on his face while he tells his story. It will probably be almost as big as the one on mine!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The old way is sometimes the better way.....

Bryan and I were riding in the car yesterday on the way to see Grandma Delores and the rest of Shirley's family. We got to talking about fishing (my favorite subject) and he said to me, "Dad I like fishing but only when I catch something." I quickly concurred with him that fishing is always a blast when the fish are biting. We had our visit with the family, came home, watched a movie together, and I tucked him into bed. I returned to the couch to relax and wait for Shirley to arrive home from work. I was sitting there, listening to music, and thinking about what Bryan had said to me. I concluded with the following. We have made everything way too easy for our children. There were many times when I went fishing with my Dad that we didn't catch a fish. We didn't have a fish locator to search the lake until we found a school of Crappies, or a trolling motor to quietly enter a back bay to sneak up on a giant Largemouth, or a GPS unit, to quickly return to the sunken island we had fished the year before. No, we fished the hard way and many times we came up empty. I decided to make a promise to myself in 2010. I'm going to try to be the best teacher I can be for Bryan in the new year. Not only at fishing but in life! When we had the last snowfall, Shirley and I were having a cup of coffee and watching out the living room window. Our neighbor Gary (he is retired) was about to start shoveling the driveway when his daughter (early 20's) took the shovel from him and started to remove the snow. Shirley jumped up from the couch, opened the door, and proceeded to tell Jenny what a nice thing she had just done. I said to Shirley, "When was the last time Melissa or Jeramie shoveled the driveway?" I don't think we could remember. We have made everything too easy for our children. We had an old floor in our house growing up in Hoffman Estates that would get marked up pretty bad from shoe marks etc. Every time we would have company coming over for a special occasion Mom would have the five of us clean the floor for her. The stuff we used probably would be included in the 2010 most dangerous chemicals list, but she didn't know any better. You had to wipe it on the floor with a clean rag, scrub out the marks, wait for it to dry, and then polish the floor with a buffer. Mom! I'm going on record here, "I'm glad you made us do it." I only wish I had that floor for Jeramie, Melissa and Bryan. We all have heard the stories from our parents, of how they used to walk miles to school in the cold of winter, or scrub the back porch stairs with a toothbrush. I think they did. That's why Mom and Dad didn't want us to have to go through some of the tough things they did. We try to make it easier for our children, and sometimes the final result is our own fault. So in this new year I'm going to make an effort to teach Bryan some of the important things in life. How many of our young adults today can cook, clean house, or mow the lawn? How many of your kids can read a map? Can they sew a button on a shirt? I'm glad that my parents took the time to teach me the "little things" that at 42 years of age don't seem to be so little. We live in the age of high tech, fast paced, and it's all about me. Remember waiting to use the phone? How about watching TV together as a family, instead of everyone watching their own TV in their own room? Having dinner together instead of everyone eating at different times? Our kids can Facebook and text message to each other all the details of the day, but can they sit and have a conversation? As parents I think we need to step back and remember how it was for us growing up. We need to take things back to a simpler time when parents made a real effort to make time for their kids. Not to take them somewhere and drop them off and pick them up, but to be with them. I think that is what my Dad was doing when he took us fishing, coached us in baseball, or had me help him on a project in the house. Mom did the same when she showed us how to cook or clean a bathroom. Take extra time in 2010 to do the little things with your children, and teach them a few extra things along the way that will last them a lifetime. You will be glad you did, and you will be preparing them to make them better parents. Last Sunday we went to Mom's, and my sisters and I took all the kids sledding together. We spent the afternoon, at the hill with the kids, and we all had a blast. Bryan said; "It was the best day ever." I think we can both agree on that!

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