Tuesday, January 25, 2011

NAIFC Qualifier Monticello, MN

The streak ends...No "BIG FISH" award for me this weekend but still a great time.

The start of our journey was interesting and felt like a continuation of last weekend equipment issues. We hit the road a 2:00am Friday morning with an approximate arrival time in Monticello at 8:30am. As we are driving north on Interstate 43 we blew out a trailer tire, right next to a semi along side of us, after that scare and about 45 minutes of messing around we continue. The drive up was nice, traffic was good, weather was COLD. When we left Sheboygan it was -5, as we drove through Wausau it was -14 and when we pulled into Monticello, MN it was -22. -22!!!! Holy wow thats cold, Minnesota knows what cold is and they bring it! We purchased our fishing licenses and drove to the nearest tire shop to get a new tire on the spare trailer rim. We arrived at the lake about 11 am Friday morning. -17 at this point, little bit of wind, and one of two quads would not start, yup again we are hit with an equipment malfunction. The battery in the borrowed quad was totally dead, froze maybe, I don't know but it a a paperweight that stayed on the trailer ALL weekend. So after having to change pre fishing plans for the second weekend in a row we rolled out to the designated fishing area and drill only a few holes knowing we would not be able to fish many of them before they froze up once again. Within the first few minutes we caught some fish, what a relief. We had worked so hard to find fish in Ludington and we just dropped on them in Monticello, we quickly found out that fish were EVERYWHERE! If you drilled a hole in 7-10 feet of water, you have fish, big fish too. Big is a relative term of course, the size of fish we caught most of the weekend were a good eater size panfish, in fact some were downright monsters in most lakes in Sheboygan County. We had heard of 1# bluegills in Pelican Lake, we were hoping to find some, even just one would have been cool to hook up with, sadly it did not happen. We finished up pre fishing around 4pm and headed into town to check into our hotel and grab something to eat before the seminar Friday night.

The Seminar was given by Pat Smith, a legendary angler from MN, he Pro Staffs for many companies and works with Thorne Bros. as well. This lake he says is his favorite, its where he "Cuts His Teeth". When a guy like him says its where he fun fishes, you know its good. We found out the growth rate of fish in this lake is 1 1/2 times the growth rate of most any lake in Minnesota, and the MNDNR wants to draw it down for waterfowl land, basically causing a disastrous condition for the fishing. This lake is a haven for pan fish, there had to be 200 ice shacks on the ice, 75-100 of them were the $5,000-$9,000 style, you know, satellite tv, all the amenities of home on the ice. Lots of money sitting on that lake that will not be there if they draw it down further. But I am not here to talk about that. Friday night Jack Backer, the head of the NAIFC, asked if I would help drill some holes and help with the kids camp the next morning. Of course I said yes, what a cool thing to do, and Shoe and I felt pretty good about pre fishing so I helped with the kids and Shoe went fishing.

Saturday came and we hit the ice early, -10 that morning, heatwave! We fished in a few places and then I went to the kids camp area to drill holes, Shoe went on to fish more, and he also was preparing to fish in a qualifier for the World Ice Fishing Competition. He signed up the night before, its a chance to fish for the USA IceTeam in 2012, with only a few people signing up he only had to show he could do it, he did. We met back up in the afternoon to continue pre fishing, we found fish almost everywhere, it was so much fun to find fish. They wanted big baits, spoons, larger jigs, stuff that made a lot of noise and movement. Saturday night was the rules meeting, where Shoe was recognized as one of the World qualifiers (Being a qualifier at this stage allows you to fish in the "Fish Off" held in March in Rhinelander to determine who the 2012 USA team will be). I was recognized for helping out with the kids camp as well. We felt good about Sunday, we figured most everyone would have a limit of fish, we were just hoping for a few "kickers" or bigger fish to give us a good weight.

Sunday morning comes quick, always does. It was cold, -15, no wind though. You see that, I justified it being -15 with saying "no wind though", come on its -15! Still way cold. Lol. We were 2nd in line up,waiting is the name of the game on tourney day, wait in line to be inspected, wait to get on the ice, once on the ice wait to start fishing. The first place we stopped to fish actually produced nothing, not even a mark on the flasher. We made the decision to move in about 45 minutes. We then moved to where we were fishing the afternoon before, we pulled up, no one was on our spot, we drilled our holes and were on to fish the rest of the day, just upgrading most of the morning. The thought crossed our mind to move a couple times, but its tough when every now and then you find a fish you can upgrade. We did have to watch how many Crappies we had in the bucket. You are only allowed 10 per person in MN and we quickly had 15 for the two of us, so we needed to get picky. The bluegills we had were nice, not monsters but nice, and the crappies were cookie cutter 9 1/2" fish.

The weigh-in was at The Station, a sports themed bar in Monticello. There happened to be a Green Bay Packer game on the tvs in the place and it was hard to pay attention to the weigh-in. I will tell you something, it was strange to be watching a Packer-Bear game in MN. Our total weight was 6.5#, thats for 8 Crappie and 8 bluegills, we finished 28th place out of 71 teams. Our goal was to be in the points and we did it.

We have one more event we are doing this year, Lake Winnebago this coming weekend. Hopefully we can do well as this is out "Home" lake. Go Team 711!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

NAIFC Qualifier Ludington, MI

Well, its over, we are back home safe and we even have a bit of a story to tell. The Ludington NAIFC Qualifer was just as fun to fish as the others, but this one came with a few more struggles.

We left Sheboygan at 2am Friday morning to head to the other side of the big pond, Ludington, MI, down and around Chicago, then back up along the east side of Lake Michigan. That in itself was interesting. Adam "Shoey" Schumacher my partner had 2 hours of sleep, while I had about 6, we drove into Chicago following the directions of the GPS, expressways to tollways to the skyway, and 14 dollars later we were through. $14!!! To drive on your roads!! Hmmm. At one point we missed the continuation of the express way and managed to make it into down town Chicago, with a trailer, not fun. But we hopped back on the interstate and the rest was easy travel all the way to Ludington, MI.

Once we arrived in MI we purchased our licenses and trail passes (We found out later we did not need a $34 pass for the sled, sorry Shoe.) and found our way to Hamlin Lake. They had 13 inches of snow on the ice which made for relatively slow travel the first day, we split up to pre fish hoping to find our honey-holes quickly. Shoe did find some bluegills and all I found was tiny perch and shiners, lots of them, in fact so many of both that I really want to fish for northern pike and walleye in this lake cause they must be HUGE with all the forage they have. We wrapped up pre fishing after Shoe made his way to me on the 1980 Yamaha ET340 snowmobile and it died, just out of the blue, done, dead. So I started the trek back across the lake on the quad to get a tow strap and pull the sled back to the trailer, about 1 1/2 miles away, through 13 inches of snow, not looking forward to it. As I arrived at the truck to unload the equipment before driving back to Shoe I noticed a snowmobile screaming down the ice, it was Shoe. He had somehow revived the sled and made his way back, which was very relieving. We unloaded the equipment from the quad into the truck and then proceeded to load up the snowmobile with no problem, it was the quads turn to get loaded on. I had to take a bit of a running start to get the quad on the trailer and get the trailer to tilt down again. I did so, and as the trailer came down the wheels of the quad slid across the end of the trailer and the front of the 4-wheeler dropped off the the front of the trailer, fortunately I was not hurt, but we had quite a problem, and you know those embarrassing moments where you do something and you look around to check if anyone saw you do it, I didn't have a chance to do so before there was a television camera on us, and the camera operator/ tournament director Mike McNett asking us what happened. So I guess, Yay! We made it on TV! Oh but not how we wanted to. We managed to lift the machine back onto the trailer, with a little help from some other great people. That was the end of our first day, it was a slow go on the ice, rough day for my pride but still a great day of education and of course anticipation for the upcoming tournament.

Day 2, Saturday started of before sunlight, at BIG BOY, a real BIG BOY! It was awesome. We then headed to the launch once again, the previous night we received 3 more inches of snow and winds were near 20 mph with gusts of 30-35 mph. If this was not pre fishing there is no way I would have been out on the ice. We unloaded all the gear, the snowmobile, the quad and drove onto the ice, 300 yards later, the snowmobile was stuck, to much snow for such a low riding machine. The quad didn't exactly love it either but it was able to continue. We messed with the snowmobile for a little while, we even had one of the "Ice Men" Myron Gilbert stop by and offer us a tow strap, which we did have already but we certainly did appreciate the offer. We were eventually able to tow the sled a bit to get it unstuck and then just keep moving fast to make sure it didn't sink down into the snow again. The sled died once again, out of the blue, dead. Talk about frustrating, windy, colder, snowy, and a now stuck and non running snowmobile in the middle of the lake. Some days you want to scream. After some choice words for it and some pondering we willed it back to life and took off once more, all the way to where we wanted to try and fish, we made it, after about an extra hour of messing around. We drilled our holes and began to fish, it was not long and I had pulled up three 8 1/2-9" bluegills out of the same hole. We quickly packed up and felt good about that location for the next days tourney. We traveled everywhere across that lake that day, but nearly every time we needed to move we had to hook the strap up to  the snowmobile to tow it to free it from the snow, I am sure it was quite a funny operation to watch. The wind was brutal, it would swirl the snow around everything, my glasses were covered in snow even when I wasn't facing the wind, and the fishing was not great either. We packed it in around 1:30pm. We figured we were not learning anything anymore, and it just wasn't our day. We had discussed other options of how to fish the tourney the following day without the use of the snowmobile, you must stay within 30 steps of your partner at all times and that included on the machines, and the sled could not move slow without sinking into the snow and the quad could not move fast because of the snow. It really was not going to work for us. When we arrived back to the truck and trailer we decided we would give something a test run for the following day. We hooked up the trailer to the back of the quad and Shoe was going to ride on that as I pull it across the ice, we pulled onto the ice and quickly realized that was not going to work. We now had the 4-wheeler and the trailer stuck on the ice. Myron Gilbert said to us earlier in the day, "If it wasn't for bad luck you guy wouldn't have any at all."  He was not kidding. We did eventually get the quad and trailer off the ice, the equipment loaded up and we started to brainstorm what we were going to do the following day. The rules meeting was that night, the community of Ludington was so cool, they had all kinds of raffle prizes, they had a chili cook off, they really did a fantastic job of welcoming us into their city. After the rules meeting we went back to the hotel and retied jigs, thawed and dried equipment and watched the Green Bay Packers stomp the Atlanta Falcons, which was nice, and went to bed.

Day 3, Sunday was much nicer weather wise than Saturday, up at 5:15am to load up,  check out and get to the launch for the tourney.We decided to attach a long rope to a shelter we had with us, and that was going to get us both across the ice, Shoe driving the quad and me riding in the shelter. We arrived in line, were inspected, allowed to travel to our fishing spots and we got our holes drilled. Where we started fishing that morning we had fished later in the day on Saturday, only pulling out some small perch, but we noticed many many other teams had stopped here too, so we were going to find out what they were catching. Once we could begin to fish we quickly had to very small bluegills in the bucket, but it then died for us. We spent about 25 minutes in that spot before making the decision to travel to where I caught those really nice bluegill the day before. When we arrived to the new spot we found the gills were not there, lots of little perch were, some shiners, but no gills, then I hooked into something big, or at least bigger than perch and shiners, but lost it after only a few seconds. 15 minutes later I again hooked into a nice fish, I called Shoe over to help with it, we landed a 1.07# Crappie, a really nice fish and a surprise to us because we had not caught a crappie once during pre fishing, plus this is where the bluegills were supposed to be. I hooked up with one more nice crappie but lost it at the bottom of the hole. We caught a total of 5 fish, 4 small bluegills and the one crappie. It was tough, we had one thing going for us though and that was it was tough for everyone, including the locals. We traveled back across the lake before weigh-in time and checked our fish in. Knowing that we would have to hope for a whole lot of bad luck from other teams in order to place well overall. Shoe did say he thought I may be in the running for "BIG FISH" again because of the size of the crappie. I figured being it was about a pound someone would have a bigger one. Weigh-in began a little after 3pm and the buckets being weighed were not heavy, 3 pounds here, 2 pounds there, we knew we had only a pound and a half of fish but it was encouraging to see others had a rough day too. We were called up to have our bucket weighed and they always weigh your big fish first, our was the crappie, 1.07# was now the big fish for the tourney, with about 20 buckets left to weigh. I was told by Tony Boshold that they had a "pounder" or two in their teams bucket so I trusted he may have beat me. His team was called and their big fish weighed, .92#. With only three buckets left to weigh Shoe and I started thinking we did it again. We won "BIG FISH" for our second tournament in a row! We did, and it is a great achievement, big fish is always a bit more luck, we need to work on placing in the top ten, getting our total weights up, but "Big Fish" is cool too. We finished right where always have, 33rd, right in the middle or so.

That was our weekend, fun and frustrating sum it up, we will be off to Monticello, MN in just a few days for another one and we can't wait. We could use all the luck we can get this time.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tip Down Seminar Highlights

Here are some of the highlights from the Tip-Down seminar I gave at The Squirmin' Worm Farm Thursday January 6th 2011.

Types of Tip-Downs; TipDown.com, Sure Strike TipDowns, HT Enterprises, Homemade

Set Up; 4# Hi-Vis Mono, #16-18 treble hook, small split shot, your choice of small minnow (Fathead, Rosy Red, etc.)

Why- Tip down provide must less resistance than conventional tip ups. When line is released from a tip-up more drag is created through the water, the fish feel resistance thereby causing the fish to spit the hook. The tip-downs once they have reached the balance point the tip drops to the ice, giving the fish slack and allowing the angler to retrieve the rod and set the hook. The tip-downs unlike tip-ups will have a tendency to reset themselves meaning when a fish takes the minnow while using a tip down and only pulls it inches away the tip of the rod will bounce back up resetting itself to it original position. While using a tip-up if the bait is pulled further than 1/2" the flag will pop up, and the line will free-spool until the bait rests on the bottom of the lake. You must then reset the tip up each time.

Notes- Stay close to your tip-downs, you will want to set the hook before the fish is able to use all the slack provided when the tip of the rod drops. Wear clothes that you are able to move around in, fishing with tip-downs can mean a lot of running around setting hooks, HT Enterprises and Ice Armor make excellent clothing specifically designed for ice fishing that will keep you warm and water proof and still be nimble. Tip-downs are great for kids, most have a rod and reel which makes it easy for a child to reel in, hand lining fish is a skill not easily pickup when very young. Tip-downs are also great for beginners, again the rod and reel is something that most anglers, including novice are used to. Checking for fish and depth of bait with electronics is easier, being that only the line is running into the hole, instead of a spool or an entire cover around the hole it is quite simple to drop the transducer of the flasher in the hole to check for fish or to see what depth you bait is positioned. Jig in amongst your spread of tip-downs, most fish you fish for with tip-downs are schooling fish, some will be willing to bite at minnows, other will most likely want some other presentation, once attracted to the area you will stand a good chance of catching them on a jigging rod as well. Be willing to move your spreads, because many times you are fishing schooling fish you will want to move the spread of tip-downs to follow the fish, it may not be large moves but it may be a good idea to have holes in any direction should you need to do this quickly

Q&A- Q: Do you always use hi-vis line? A: Yes, I try it first, if I need to I will tie on clear leader material.

Q: Do you only use the small minnows? A: The only reason I use small minnows and fish the tip-downs primarily for panfish is because larger minnows will pull the tip-downs down if they get squirrely.   

Q: Can I use the tip-downs for pike? Walleye? A: Yes, but again, using larger minnows they may have a tendency to pull the tip down, down giving you a false hit.