Nothing better than fall fishing

I am missing fall fishing this year because of my goal to hunt Elk in Idaho.  The preparation is taking some time getting ready.  The first goal is to develop some proficency with a high powered rifle.  The second is to learn to ride a horse.  Both are needed for this trip.

However, there are other fishermen that are fishing in one of my favorite lakes in South Dakota, Wauby Lake, South Dakota.  My good friend John and a couple of his friends went without me to haul in the walleye.  Following my recommendation of fishing the weather, the three of them picked a great three days to make the 300 mile trip from Council Bluffs.

They arrived late in the evening, therefore their only information was by phone from the local bait shop.  It was the same information that I had based my trips on.  The recommendation was to fish the west end of the lake putting in at Kanago access.  Then they were told to fish the Bresky Bay area and stay along the north shore, but not to go beyond Duck Island.  They were also told to fish straight out from the lake access.  I was never sure of the distance after leaving the landing.  I always headed southeast and made a long sweeping half circle back before going east on the lake.  Straight out is a sunken rock pile, and with the current water levels the first pile is not visible.   Fishermen should approach with caution to avoid smacking the lower unit on their motors, but they will be rewarded with some nice fish.  The second spot is just beyond the sunken rockpile.  This pile of rock is more visible and there is some dead timber sticking up.  A fisherman should approach with caution, and fish around the pile staying in about ten to fifteen feet of water.  This is a bigger reef and probably runs thirty yards north and south.  East and west it runs about ten to fifteen yards. 

In the morning, John started at Bresky Bay and worked along the north shore as recommended.  He started out in ten feet, got no hits, then moved out to twenty feet.  He was rewarded with good solid hits and a nice keeper fish mixed in the group they caught.  They were pulling red and white spinners tipped with a piece of crawler.  They lowered the bait to the bottom then reeled it up about two to four feet to keep it out of the vegetation on the bottom of the lake.  This worked well all morning and by noon they were halfway to the daily limit. 

After a little break for lunch, they were back on the lake by 2 PM and repeated the process.  The walleye were getting finicky and the hits were not so frequent.  John also said he believed they were mouthing the bait and not smacking into it like a feeding fish.  Light strikes were not a real good sign, but these were patient men.  By 4 PM they were shut down and nothing was hitting.  The decision was made to hit it really early in the morning.

They were back on the lake early the next morning.  A light breeze out of the southwest gave the lake a nice ripple as they headed to Bresky Bay.  They fished for two hours along the north bank and struck out.  John then decided to head to the east end of the lake beyond school bus point and fish a bay just opposite the Grenville Access on the south shore. On the south end of this bay is a series of buoys that mark a restricted area operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife.  The area is a waterfowl refuge, and you canot enter.  About twenty five yards away from the refuge,  the action really picked up.  In fifteen feet of water they found the hungry walleye and had a daily limit by noon. 

 After breaking for lunch and cleaning the fish, the rest of the day was spent exploring the lake and looking for additional reefs, drop offs, and any other underwater structure that will hold fish.  How much better could this get.

On the final morning they went to the Grenville Access to fish the bay next to the wildlife refuge.  Success was with the fishermen.  By noon they each had two more walleye, which was a posession limit.  What a trip!

Having some good success this fall? Drop us a line.  Good fishing, good hunting and good luck. Hank

P.S. October 2nd is the opening day for ducks in the Tekamah area.  With all the water around it should be a good opener.

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Elk Hunting and Learning to Ride A Horse

Packing in on horseback and hunting in the mountains has always been my goal and now the goal is going to be realized.  But here it comes, I have to learn how to ride a horse.  Now at first blush, I thought this was nothing.  Mount up, kick him or her in the ribs, and gallop off into the sunset or sunrise, whatever the case may be.  The questionaire sent by the folks at Windriver Outfitters had a serious question, ” Do you have experience riding a horse and when was the last time you rode?”  My experience is limited to when I rode a wooden horse on the merry-go-round at the age of four.  The music was outstanding, but now I have to get serious.  My friend Charlie and I will be in the Nez Perce National Forrest in Idaho riding horses on an elk hunt.  That is no place to be careless or foolish.  We both took it seriously and contacted a riding stable.  They put us through some training on horses.  After taking the training, I really feel confident that this will be an enjoyable part of the trip, and not a nightmare.  Below is a copy of the manual they gave us along with some tips at the bottom.  It is an interesting read.

Stand on the near, left side of the horse.  Gather the reins in one hand, put your left foot in the stirrup, and hold onto the back, (holding onto the saddle when mounting will cause it to slide).  Keep both your hands on the front of the horse. You can also hold the cantle of the saddle (back or seat) with your right hand when mounting).  Push up and swing your right leg over the back of the horse, keeping your leg from kicking the horse’s flank.  When mounted, gather your reins and then hang both legs down near stirrups and make sure they are the right length by having the stirrup reach your ankle. You should also be able to simply slide your feet into the stirrup while lifting your feet a few inches.  Start off with a slow walk. To ask for this pace, squeeze your legs, (lower calf) and the horse should move off.  Only kick the horse if he does not respond to repeated squeezes. You don’t want to teach him bad habits by ignoring you. The walk is a 4 beat gait, meaning you can feel when each hoof hits the ground.  After a few minutes stop and check your girth.  You should be able to fit 4 fingers between the girth and the horse.  If you can fit more, then you must tighten the girth.  While walking, make sure to keep your heels down, back straight and chin up. Your body should form a straight line that can be drawn from your heel, to the hips, to the shoulders. Most riders think you pull on the left rein to go left and the right rein to go right. This is true, but not very effective and may cause long term health problems having to do with the mouth of your horse. Learn how to steer with your legs. For example if you want to go left, use your opposite leg (right leg) and put pressure on the horse with the leg. While you are putting pressure with your right leg, “open the door” with your left hand. That means you loosen up the reins only in your left hand and pull outward like you are opening a door. Doing those two things plus steering with your reins gives you perfect control.  When stopping, pull back on the reins and sit deep; you may have to lean back a bit and put your weight into your bottom and heels. When halted, release reins as the reward and pat your horse. Once you are comfortable at the walk, you can try a trot. Trotting is quite bumpy and you may get unnerved and unseated. Do not take anything too fast. It may take a week or two to start to trot. If you are riding English, try posting. Posting is when you rise to the beat of the trot. To post, simply rise and fall, but when you sit down, make sure you are following the horse’s outside shoulder (the one closest to the rail). When that shoulder is going forward, you rise. When it is going back, you go down. If you sit the trot, move your hips with the horse, otherwise you will bounce and the horse’s back won’t feel too great. To get the horse to move forward, as in any other gait, you must squeeze slightly with your legs. The trot is two beats. You should be able to count “1,2,1,2” while your horse is trotting. When slowing from a trot to a walk, sit deep and pull back slightly on the reins. Continue trotting until you can post effectively and are comfortable at the trot. The next step is canter. To ask for canter, squeeze your outside leg while having it back a bit and squeeze with your inside leg.  Before you canter, sit in trot and then ask, as this will have you sitting ready for the canter. At canter you should sit back slightly, and when you feel you are sitting back too much, you will be sitting back just enough. Or you can go into a half seat when you canter, which is a modified two-point. The two point is the jumping position. At a canter, you rock forward and backward, with your bottom just slightly off the saddle. Cantering is also known as a lope to most western horseman. Cantering is much faster than trotting and will take time to get used to. Once you can canter, again, stay vigilant with your posture and heels. The more advanced you become, the more details are required to ride properly. Make sure to keep practicing posting and walking while learning how to canter, because these are skills you need to advance. Leads are important to the canter. If you pick up the wrong lead, the horse will be uncomfortable. The inside shoulder should be leading (it will look as if it is staying ahead of the other shoulder). After picking up the canter, glance down to make sure you have the correct lead. If not, slow down to a trot and pick up the canter again. Once you are comfortable at the canter, you can move on to a gallop.   Galloping is much like a canter, but faster. You should sit slightly forward in the saddle and keep your bottom elevated.

Always wear riding boots that have a a flat sole with a slight heel. (To prevent stirrup slipping too far, resulting in your foot through the stirrup).

Always wear long pants when riding.

Never sit or kneel near a horse.

Try to always mount from the left side or near side. Horses are usually trained most on this side, but a well trained horse should be handled on both sides equally.

Don’t run up to a horse.  You can come up behind it, but make sure the horse knows you’re there.  Be cautious, you can pat him on his rump and say “whoa” or “easy boy” so he knows you are there! Always move to his shoulder and always talk to him so he knows you’re coming closer.

This may seem strange to beginners, but try not to feel nervous around a horse. A horse can pick up what you are feeling and when you are nervous, the horse will feel nervous too.

Never yank the bit.  Think that the horse has egg shells in his mouth.  He’ll thank you by being relaxed and free moving.

Always have a professional coach or trainer or experienced horse rider with you if you are just learning to ride. You should always ride in the presence of someone else in case of a fall or any other emergency so there will be someone to help you.

Putting a bridle on is harder then it looks! Horses can move their heads up and about a million other directions!

Always make sure that the girth is tightened appropriately. Double check before mounting. If you need help, do not hesitate to ask. If you make it too tight, the horse will be grumpy. If you make it too loose, the saddle will slip.

Horses are sensitive animals. Always make sure you are relaxed and calm around them, so as not to make them feel nervous.

When you are trotting, keep track of where your feet are. If they are under you, that is fine.

Never scream on a horses back, even if the horse gets nervous and starts to trot.  Don’t panic because the more pressure you put on the horse, the more scared you will make him.

If this is your first time riding, never try bareback. A lot of girls and boys think that bareback should be their first ride so they can feel the horse underneath them first. Wrong. The saddle is always there for your comfort, protection, and safety.  Try a bareback session after you ride with a saddle.

It pays to train for a good experience.

If you have an interesting story or pictures, e-mail them to me, and we will publish them.

Good hunting, good fishing and good luck.  Hank

P.S. Nebraska announced their fall turkey season.  It starts September 15th and goes to December 31st of this year.  Limit is two birds either sex.  I like Nebraska Turkey Season and the way they set it up.

Sighting in a Rifle

“The lazy do not roast any game, but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt.” Proverbs 12:27.

It is time to sight in the rifle and punch some holes in a target.  I first called my friend Bruce.  He is a big game hunter with lots of high powered rifle experience.  This is how he told me to do it.

Cabelas has a rifle rest on sale for $69.88.  It is a $119.99 item, and I went and bought one of these.  It is much easier for me than getting a bunch of sand bags, a table, etc. and building a shooting platform that will be 100 % stationary.  You want to shoot at 25 and 100 yards.  It is a good idea to make yourself as comfortable as possible.

Set up first at 25 yards.  Use a medium size target.  I like to use one that is about eigthteen inches in diameter.  That is pretty close to the kill zone on a deer.  I also dial in the highest power on the scope that will give me a clear image.  If the image is not clear, dial it down until it is clear.  Put the cross-hairs on the bulls-eye.  Now you want to close your eyes for about ten seconds.  Upon opening, the target and cross-hairs should remain stationary.  If not, you are under some tension and shift around a bit until you feel relaxed.  You should be able to put the cross-hairs on the bullseye, close your eyes, then re-open them again and not have the target drift.  Your muscles in and around the eyes are then relaxed.

Fire one shot and then examine where the bullet hole is on the target. Refer to the dirctions that came with the scope. My scope calls for one click to = 1/4 inch at 100 yards.  This is common, but may be different for your scope.  On my scope, if the shot is 2 inches high at 100 yards, I would down turn 8 clicks, but at 25 yards, I would turn it times 4 times 8 to equal 32 clicks.  The same applies to the windage adjustment. 

Now fire another shot.  Examine where the bullet penetrated the target.  If it hits inside the number ten ring on a small bore rifle target be satisfied.  That is close enough, unless you want to expend more ammunition to make it perfect.  If it did not hit inside the number ten ring, make small additional adjustments until it does hit in that area.

Now move out to the hundred yard target.  Use the same type of target, and wait until your rifle barrel has cooled. This time fire a patter of three shots.  They should be within 3 inches of each other, and inside the # 10 ring on the target.  If not, make the appropriate adjustments for elevation and windage.

There is extra homework to do.  If you want to get really into this, study the “Expanded Rifle Trajectory Table.”  This will provide additional information on where to land long distance shots.  My friend Bruce told me just do the above and forget the extra study unless I plan to shoot some long distances.  Where I am going and based on the pictures, the elk are all being shot in the timber so I do not anticipate any long range shooting. 

My next part of trip preparation is horse back riding.  A questionaire and a list of necessary equipment we should carry came shortly after I made the reservation.  All of the equipment I had, but there was one item on the questionaire that jumped out at me.  “Do you have experience with horseback riding?  If not, have you ever ridden a horse and your experience with it?”  The truth is, I rode a horse on a merry-go-round when I was a small boy.  It must have made an impression because I still remember it.  Needless to say I answered the question with a NO.

More to follow next week on the preparation phase.

Good fishing, good hunting, and good luck   Hank. 

P.S. I am missing the fall fishing.  If anyone has an interesting story, send it to me, and we will publish it.

Fishing is Over for Me

I had my boat winterized with the dealer and put it to bed for the winter.  A little early, yes, that is exactly what I have done in the face of some really good fall fishing.  It was a necessity.  Last winter my wife and I attended the sport show at the Mid-America Center. One of my goals in life was to go on a first class elk hunt in the mountains.  I do not care what mountains I go to as long as it is in the U.S.   Over the years I looked at a lot of outfitters, but I liked the cut of the gentleman I met at the show.

 Wind River Outfitters is owned and operated by Mike and Jaylene Branson. This couple offers guided hunting trips into the Nez Perce National Forest for Elk, Deer, Mountain Lion, Bear and Big Horn Sheep. I always make sure the operators are licensed, bonded and insured.  They immediately passed the test. Then I visited with Mike about hunting for Elk in the national forest. We visited quite at length about how they operate, and I knew from the conversation that customer service was their top priority. Then we discussed the price.  It was right in line with the type of service and quality of hunt to expect in a remote camp.

The next step was to visit with my wife and listen to her impression. It pays to listen here. My wife is a good judge of character. She is always invited, but is not interested in a tent camp in the wilderness. Her impression was very positive. The next person I contacted was my good friend Charlie to see if he wanted to make the trip. Charlie does not hunt, but this is a trip of a life time into unspoiled wilderness by horseback and it is professionally guided. I knew he would be interested, plus he enjoys the outdoors. A quick call, and he came right back with a positive go, and “how big a gun do I need to bring along.” The final check was to call the references and, wow, did I have some really solid and outstanding recommendations. That salted the trip. Charlie and I made the deposit and now all we have to do is get ready to head to the mountains in Idaho in October. 

Now there are two things that I do not do.  The first is to be proficient with a high powered rifle.  Decades ago, I bought a Winchester Model 70 and shot two deer in western Nebraska with my friend Bruce.  Family and career slowed down my out of state hunting.  The gun was packed away and stored.  I just got it out and it looks like new, which it basically is.  I cleaned it up and got all the grease and oil out of the barrel and metal parts.  The wood still looks like the day I bought it.  I took it out and fired it, and it worked well.  I then took it to the gun shop and had the scope bore sighted, and now I must practice shooting up to a least 100 yards.  Talking with Mike, we will be hunting in lots of timber and some meadows.  That means we will not be shooting long shots.  I still have to practice and become proficient with the weapon. I primarily shoot shotguns for ducks, pheasants, chukar, and turkey.  For deer I use a muzzle loader or my 44 depending on the distance.  But I have limited experience with a 30-06.  The sporting goods store was more than happy to recommend a good bullet for the hunt, and to stock me up on plenty of ammo for practice. 

The next thing is horseback riding.  We pack into the remote camp on horseback and then ride during the day.  Mike told me deer roam about three to five acres.  If you read a previous blog about deer in Iowa that will confirm this statement.  Elk roam three to five square miles.  This means we will have to cover some ground and walking might be out of the question. 

I called Charlie and asked, “Have you ever ridden a horse?’  Needless to say I should never have asked the question as it came back a resounding NO.  Now this trip is my idea so I felt obligated to line up horse back riding training.  That was easy.  Outside of Council Bluffs is a riding stable and they rent horses.  I gave the owner a call and told him about the requirements.  His answer was very positive.  “Every year I have you tenderfoots come and need to learn how to ride.  I will bet my bottom dollar you are going to the mountains and hunt either bear, deer, elk, or goat.”  His sense of humor was outstanding, and I was given assurances that we would be able to handle a horse after his training.  The plus that goes with the training is we will be awarded a certificate that indicates we have passed the stable’s rigorous training and are full- fledged horsemen.  How much better can it get than that.

This week is shooting and sighting in the rifle.  Next week it is horseback riding.

Good fishing, good hunting and good luck.   Hank

Oops, Bad Call

The fishing was so good the week before that I followed the weather intently for a week, then picked three days to go up to Webster, SD and fish Waubay.  Three days was all I would need, and that included driving time.  Brimming with confidence, I started asking around to see who would like to go catch some walleye.  I could not believe what happened.  No one wanted to go.  We have had some unseasonably hot weather in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area with extremely hot and humid days and nights.  The weather I saw up north had 80s in the day and 60s at night.  A little different. 

It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.  I just planned to go by myself and catch fish.  I had not looked at eastern South Dakota temps for 4 days.  All I did was follow the frontal patterns and it was positive.  They had some really hot days before I left. 

I got up early, drove hard, and arrived in Webster, SD around noon.  I had a quick lunch, checked in at the motel, got the cover off the boat, and headed to the bait store.  Their recommendation was a little different than before.  There had been some hot weather, and the fish had gone deep.  It was recommended to work in the 15 to 20 foot range.  That was ok with me.  They also recommended minnows and or leeches if I was going to fish with live bait.  Stay off the south shore as no one was having any luck in that area.  That was different than before.  The one consistent item was not to go to Grenville.  That end of the lake is my favorite and I have two spots that I have always had luck. 

I headed to the Kanago access and was on the lake by 2 PM.  A brisk wind out of the northwest was creating some good waves which should help provide some good walleye fishing.  Not liking the recommendation of not going to the south shore, I headed there anyway.  That was a waste of time. I worked the point back and forth from ten feet to twenty and not one smack on the lure.  Staying there one hour was enough as I did not have a strike.  The second part of the downside was the graph showed very little fish.  Compared to my previous trip this was just the opposite.  Full of fire, I headed to Bresky Bay.

Fishing the entrance and staying deep, very few fish were graphed.  No hits and I was the only boat in the area.  Last time here, by 10 AM it was like Grand Central Station.  The DNR should have provided traffic control.  Having good winds to provide some wave action, there was no action at all.  Moving east out of the bay along the north bank as recommended, I graphed a lot of fish, but no hits or even gentle taps.  The fish were not feeding, or I was using the wrong type of bait.  Switching from minnows to leeches made no difference.  As recommended, I moved farther east along the north bank.  No luck.  It was now past 7 PM and up north you get a little more daylight, so I started working my way back to where I had started.  Changing colors of the spinner, changing to jigs, pulling plugs, working deep then into the shallow, made no difference.  I could plainly see that I was not going to catch a thing this day, and I quit by 9 PM.

Next morning I was up really early, and was on the lake just at first light.  I headed to the south shore again just to try it out.  A gentle southwest breeze was creating a nice ripple effect on the lake, and I really felt good that today was the day.  Fishing there for an hour produced nothing, and I headed to Bresky Bay.
At the mouth of the bay I stopped to work the point that stuck out into the lake.  I caught nothing.  Moving into the bay and working the ridge, I caught nothing.  I was not even getting strikes.  A boat came by out about 200 yards and I could see they were pulling plugs.  Now here comes a secret.  I watched them for a short period of time with binoculars to see if they were catching anything.  I have seen happier fishermen and these two guys were not looking too happy. In fact they were a little glum.  I have now been on the water about three hours and then the lake went calm.  The wind totally died.  There was not one breath of air moving.  There were no clouds in the sky.  The sun was beating down on me and it was getting hot. I decided to go have some lunch.  At the boat ramp a couple of other boats came in and no one had caught anything.

Back on the lake by 1:30 pm, there was no wind and not a ripple of movement on the lake.  The algae always present this time of the year in the lake was in full bloom.  Heading to the entrance to Bresky Bay and working down the north bank, I graphed fish, but no takers.  No wind and no waves and not a cloud in the sky was the condition.  It was hot. I moved all the way to school bus point, and then decided to go to my old haunts and give it a try.   As I plowed through the dead calm waters there were large bands of milky white streaks on top of the water.  It looked like the gulf oil spill I had seen on TV.  As I plowed through it, there was a very strong oily odor and great big globs of algae mixed in.  The area I wanted to fish was covered with this milky appearance. 

By now it was 6 PM, and I was burned to a crisp.  Having caught nothing, it was time to throw in the towel and head for the barn.  Pulling the boat out of the water, the underneath side was covered with a light brown foam.  I immediately headed to a car wash and sprayed it all off.  The next morning I headed for home. 

I had several calls on Sunday from the people who had remorse for not going on the trip.  Everyone was glad to hear they missed nothing.  It is called fishing, not catching.

Good fishing, good hunting, good luck  Hank

Waubay Again

The weather looked great in eastern South Dakota, so I loaded up myself and my wife and we headed north to Webster for a couple more days of fishing.  The fishing was good the week before and the weather had settled down where the wind was not a factor.  I wanted to be on the lake early in the morning fish till noon, take a break and a short nap, then hit it again in the evening till almost dark.  I generally do not fish in the dark.  You always see great pictures of people that have been night fishing, and their catches are outstanding.  It is not for me.

After a nice evening drive up to Webster, the early morning hours brought high overcast, and light winds from the south to southwest.  Perfect for early morning fishing.  I had called the local bait shop and they told me to stay to the west end of Waubay Lake, and put in at Kanago boat access.  I like to fish the other end of the lake, just east of school bus point and put in at Grenville, but he was emphatic.  Do not go to Grenville.  With that type of a recommendation, the decision was made.

We headed straight south out of Kanago and it was just starting to get light.  On the south shore there is a rocky point that sticks out into 10 to 12 feet of water that gradually drops down to 20 feet.  I was told to fish in 8 to 10 feet of water.  That would put us pretty close to the shore.  Using a red and white spinner and tipped with a minnow, I wanted to back troll into the point starting at 15 feet and then letting the boat drift back out again.  I also wanted to keep the spinner about 2 to 3 feet off the bottom.  Years ago a guide told me suspended fish are feeding fish.  My wife has a favorite jig that is a killer for her.  She began by dropping it to the bottom, reeling it up about two feet and then bouncing it up and down.  Works for her, and she has the proof with some outstanding catches. 

It took 15 minutes, but we both were getting some soft hits.  Nothing really strong, just the usual walleye peck and mouthing the bait.  The start of the action was in about 8 feet of water.  Moving a little deeper we started really getting some nice hits, and were picking up small fish 13 to 14 inches in length. At this time I bent down the barbs.  I have never lost a fish doing this.  It makes it easier to get the small fish off the hook and back into the water without damaging the fish or holding it in your hand.  Many times, when I see what is there, I just let the line go slack and then tighten it up and shake them off.

We stayed in this area about one hour and picked up three nice walleye in the 16 inch range.  These will fillet out nicely.  Other boats were heading our way, so we picked up and left as I felt we had milked the area enough and we headed toward Bresky Bay.  This is where the people at the bait house had told us to go initially. 

We started about 1/4 mile from the entrance on the west side of the lake.  There is a point that sticks out into the water several hundred yards and I wanted to work along the deep side of the ridge.  Finding it is easy.  If you stay out about 100 yards, all of a sudden the lake bottom rises quickly to about 6 feet.  You are there.  From here we worked in the 10 to 15 foot zone, back trolling into the shallow water and drifting back out again in to the deeper sections of the lake.  We picked up a couple of nice fish, had a lot of hits and they were solid.  That is always a good sign.  If the lure is getting smacked periodically, sooner or later you will catch something.  We worked out to 15 feet of water and back into the starting point of around 6 feet.  We were somewhat sheltered out of the wind as the high bank to the west southwest of us kept the water calm.  I would prefer to have more ripple.  We picked up a couple more fish in the 16 inch range again.  These will make great fillets.  More boat traffic was showing up so we knew this was the hot spot on the lake. 

There is a ridge that runs north and south and I consider this the dividing line to entering the bay.  Also just a couple of hundred feet from the ridge is a big tree in the water sticking up and this is the starting point for me.  I back trolled down the inside of the ridge in 8 to 10 feet of water.  To the north end there was standing weed and lots of moss.  I wanted to be on the edge of this and not in it.  We worked south with the trolling motor and drifted back north using the motor to keep us on the edge of the ridge. My wife continued to pick up the balance of our daily limit with her favorite jig tipped with a minnow.  By noon, we were limited out for the day with four really nice walleye apiece. 

The sun was starting to appear from behind the clouds and the wind was picking up.  With this in mind we headed in to clean the fish, and rest up for an evening of fun catching fish and pitching them back. 

The next morning the wind had really picked up out of the northwest and we headed over to the point.  This time we started in the 20 foot range of water and let the wind carry us into the shallows.  With the wind blowing us into the shore, I felt the walleye would be stacked up along the area that dipped into the deep water waiting for bait fish to be swept into them.  Nothing.  We did not get a hit.  The wind was really beginning to whip itself into a frenzy and we moved to Bresky Bay.

We started at the south end of the ridge we had worked along yesterday and back trolled against the wind trying to stay in about 8 to 10 feet of water.  Mid lake we got nothing, but up close to the weeds we both picked up some keeper fish.   Letting the wind drift us back to the south shore was more like a race than a drift.  I threw a drift sock out of the boat, but we were still moving along at a good clip.  This was still faster than I wanted to move.  My wife was getting the hits, as I was too busy running the boat.  She picked up a couple of nice walleye, and I got nothing.  We had been at it for 4 fours and decided with the wind starting to pick up even more we would throw in the towel. 

Off the lake by 11, we headed back to the motel, cleaned the fish, and picked up the eight caught the day before.  This was a really good day and a half with 10 decent size walleye.  We headed for home.

Good fishing, good hunting, good luck  Hank

Cooking Fish

The highlight of any trip is cooking and eating the catch. I generally do not keep fish in the freezer very long. I have friends that do keep fish up to nine months, by freezing them in an empty milk container that is filled with a brine solution. But only fresh fish will taste sweet. A well preserved piece will never taste fishy. The trout family and especially lake trout will have the tendency to taste fishy if not correctly preserved. This fishy taste is caused by oxidation of the natural oils when subjected to warm temperatures. Black bass, walleye, perch rarely have this problem. I have had bass and walleye not taste up to par when caught in muddy waters, and so I generally avoid this type of lake, or if I catch a few, they are released. Deep, clean, cold and clear lakes produce the best tasting fish.

When cooking a fish we want to bring out its fine natural flavor and firm up the flesh. Cooking fish in oil that is too hot is the enemy and it will make it tough, dry, and tasteless. I like to warm up the oil gradually and the pan also and just drop a touch of water in the oil. If it jumps and pops it is ready. If it starts to smoke it is way to hot. Too hot of an oil will cause a fillet to develop an unappetizingly strong flavor. Badly cooked fish will turn more people off than for any other reason.

Testing the fish to see if it is ready for dinning is simple. Just use the tines of an ordinary kitchen fork and see if the fish will flake. When it flakes, it is ready and should show some moistness to it. I use a variety of recipes as shown on the recipe section and have tried every one of them out. The kitchen implement that I always use is a heavy cast iron skillet. This type of pan holds the heat after it is heated up and provides a better all around skillet if you are frying.

As I indicated, pan frying is my favorite method of cooking fish and there are so many commercial dips and batters on the market. I like to try them all. I try not to crowd the filets, but give them plenty of room when pan frying. I also like a mixture of one fourth to one half stick of butter to two to four parts vegetable oil. This yields excellent flavor and good nutrition. I do not use a lid even though spattering may become a problem. This is a sign of unwanted water. You can invert a colander over the pan. This will let the steam escape and continue frying the fish. It helps to prevent some of the splatter.

I rarely deep fry, but have many friends that do. They recommend heating the oil to at least 360 degrees, but not over 380. You have to guard against burned oil, and should be avoided at all costs. After the fish are dipped in your favorite batter, frying for about three to six minutes should complete the task. Draining on a paper towel and then serving immediately will provide an excellent meal.

The only fish I bake are the ones caught, or I should say bought at the super market. This would be fresh or fresh frozen salmon, halibut, or tilapia. A very hot oven for a short time is what I recommend.

We do broil some of our fish, but again this is the store bought kind. Salmon, halibut, trout, and tilapia are the ones we will broil.

For me the best part of fishing comes at the dinner table with family or friends and enjoying freshly caught fish.

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck Hank.

Keep Them Fresh

You have been fishing for two to three days and one of the most important items in you basket of knowledge is to bring them back fresh. After all, when you figure in the cost of going on a trip two to three hundred miles from home, you want to get the cost per pound down to a reasonable amount. This amount will vary for everyone. I know for a fact that I may be asked this question, “Would it have been cheaper to buy them at the store.” It is just not the same as bringing back your catch to share.

Fresh fish is one of my favorite foods, and unfortunately it is one of the most perishable. From the moment you catch it, it may start to deteriorate due to the sudden change of moving from a cold environment into a warmer one. The enzymes in its digestive system work harder attacking the muscular tissue by penetrating the alimentary canal. Deterioration starts from within. Keeping it alive while you are fishing is imperative during the day. I constantly keep changing the water in the live wells, and keep the mix of big and small fish in each well relatively the same. If the weather was warm and I was catching fish, I would sometimes add a bag of ice to each live well to cool down the water. One of the best methods I have ever seen was used by a guide in Canada for keeping fish fresh during the day. He kept a gunny sack (burlap bag) in the boat and put the fish in it tying the bag over the side. The bag was kept deeply submerged except when traversing to another spot, or was brought up at the end of the day. When the fish were out of the water, the bag helped keep them cool and moist. When using a stringer, I always hook the fish through the lower and upper lips. This allows the gills to work rather than holding the mouth open, and causing drowning. Then I lower the fish into the water making sure I let out all the line available on the stringer. I want the fish to be below the bottom of the boat and move into cooler water the shade offers. I never lift them out unless I am adding one, or moving the boat.

Now to get them home. If I am on a trip where I am spending the night and there is a freezer available, this solves a lot of issues. The fish are immediately filleted, dried, and sharp frozen. Hard as steel and well packed in ice or dry ice upon the trip home, I keep the cooler inside the vehicle to keep it out of the sun. I also make sure the cooler has been washed well inside with a hot soda water solution and air dried in the sun. I want nothing inside that could spoil the fish.

If I am driving home in the evening after catching some fish, I gut and gill them making sure to remove all of the insides. Every piece of the inside is removed and I run my thumb down the bottom side of the back bone and remove the blood and tissue deposited there. All the guts must be removed. At this point I wash the fish completely and then make sure it is completely dry. Water will hasten deterioration of the meat. Drying is very important. Placing the gut, gilled, and completely dried fish in a plastic bag, then making sure it is sealed with the air out of the bag and you are almost done. I then pack the bagged fish in ice with chunks or cubes at the bottom of the cooler and crushed ice around the fish and cubes on top. This will get it home it great condition where they can be filleted out or sharp frozen. Again, my cooler has been washed and air dried in the sun before using it.

Life is good, and it is better when we sit down to dine with family and friends on some fresh fish you have just caught and brought home for everyone to enjoy.

Good fishing, Good hunting, and Good luck. Hank

P.S. Have a tip, a picture or a great story, e-mail it to me, and we will get it published.

Crappie, Northern, & Walleye

What a trip. It happens a couple of times a year if you go often enough, and this was one of those times. Checking the weather for Webster, SD high pressure was prevailing with winds from the west to southwest not over 15 mph. This was perfect.

I left Wednesday evening with my wife and we had a really strong south wind blowing us north. Arriving at Webster the wind was really stiff and the lakes we drove by on our way in were really rocking and rolling.

Up early Thursday, we grabbed some minnows and crawlers and headed to Waubay Lake. The wind was not a factor at this time, but it switched to the northwest and really began kicking up the waves. By noon, I was done fighting with boat control and we headed in for lunch and paid a visit to Sportsman Cove. The forecast had changed and was for stronger winds in the afternoon. So with that in mind we headed to Pickerel Lake.

Pickerel Lake is a beautiful body of water. It is long and narrow running north and south so we could hug the west bank and be out of the wind. Immediately we started picking up crappie, and they were really nice slabs about ten to twelve inches. The walleye we picked up were really small, less than fifteen inches and we threw them back. To my amazement, we were getting smacked by small northern and this went on all afternoon. When this started to happen, I took a pair of pliers and bent down the barb on the hook. I wanted to get them off as easily as possible. I have never lost fish doing this. We were pulling red and white spinners with a minnow attached. The northern were really aggressive. The walleye would just mouth the bait and you would just feel a slight tug on the line. The crappie took hold like food was going to be rationed the next day. We picked up a nice limit of crappie and one northern was kept that was a decent size.

Friday looked like it was going to be a good day. A little ripple was on the lake. At the boat ramp I met two gentlemen from Aberdeen, and they told me where their favorite spot was on the lake. So we followed them over. I had never fished the south shore much. We found some outstanding structure and graphed lots of fish. Immediately we started catching small walleye in about eight to ten feet of water. This was shallow for this time of the year. I moved out deeper and worked back and forth into the bank in eight feet and back out to fifteen. We were getting some action. Then it just plain shut off. The lake went totally flat, and there was not a breath of breeze. This is unusual for this part of South Dakota. The temperature rose into the 90s and there was not a cloud in the sky. We broke for lunch and headed back to the motel for a short nap. The rest of the afternoon, we stayed off the lake. However, several of the guests staying at the motel came in with some nice fish. You don’t catch anything unless you go.

Saturday morning the wind was brisk out of the south, so we headed for a location near the boat ramp. I had never fished there before, but the people at Sportsman Cove gave it a strong recommendation. What a call. The wind was around 15 to 20 mph. We drifted into about six feet of water and back out to 15. Then we started the process over and over again. We started fishing around 7:30 AM and were done with a day’s limit of walleye each by 10 AM. All the fish caught were sixteen to eighteen inches in length and made really nice filets.

We folded up and headed for home.

Good fishing, good hunting. Hank

Websites

When I am not fishing, hunting, going to sport shows or scouting out a new area or lake, I like to review websites posted by the various states. My three favorites are Iowa, as I am a native. I fish and hunt along the Missouri River bottoms. I review South Dakota because I fish the glacial lakes. Nebraska is referenced a lot as I hunt waterfowl, upland game and deer in the state. These are not listed by rating. I like them all equally well. The site I am looking at a lot depends on my interests at the time.

Iowa has an excellent article about aquatic hitchhikers and I always follow their suggestion in keeping my boat and live wells clean. The article below is reprinted from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Website http://www.iowadnr.gov/.

Zebra mussels and Eurasian water milfoil are two aquatic invasive species that have spread across Iowa by hitchhiking on boats, in bait buckets and on other equipment used in the water. Bighead and silver carp are two other aquatic invasive species that have been spreading their own throughout Iowa Rivers. With recent flooding, these nuisance species have been able to swim around dams that otherwise blocked their movement.

“Public action is the key to preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species,” said Kim Bogenschutz, DNR aquatic invasive species program coordinator. “Boaters and anglers can unintentionally transport aquatic hitchhikers if they do not take the proper precautions to prevent their spread – inspect, clean, drain.”

Inspect your boat, trailer, and equipment and clean them of any visible plants, animals or mud before leaving a water body.

Drain water from the live well, bilge, transom, motor and bait buckets before leaving a water body.

Clean and dry boats, trailers and equipment. Before transporting to another water body.

Spray/wash your boat, trailer and equipment with high-pressure and/or hot water; or dry your boat and equipment for at least 5 days.

Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash. Never release plants, fish or animals into a water body unless they came out of that water body.

It is illegal to possess or transport prohibited aquatic invasive species in Iowa. The fine for violating the law is $500. Signs are posted at public accesses to remind boaters to stop aquatic hitchhikers and to identify infested waters. More information about aquatic invasive species and a list of infested waters can be found in the 2010 Iowa Fishing Regulations booklet.

I just got back from a three day fishing adventure. There will be more on that trip next week.

Good fishing, good hunting and good luck. Hank