Jeff Sundin Fishing Report November 23, 2017 "The Owl and the Grouse; Thankful For Clarity"
I’ve been thinking about that myself and the list is long, too long for this report. But there is a short story about something that happened this week that makes me thankful.
In some circles, mine included, encountering an owl is special. Owls are thought to represent a connection with wisdom and understanding, knowledge by intuition, not by credential.
Just before dark on Tuesday, I encountered one, it was a Snowy Owl and it was in trouble. Its leg had become stuck between the branches of a tree limb and try as it might, it couldn’t wiggle out of that spot.
I could tell that it had been struggling for a while; it looked tired. Even though it was going through the motions of attempting to free itself, it was clearly ready to give up.
Not prepared to conduct a rescue, I looked around the woods for anything that I could use to help. A pole fashioned from the longest tree branch I could find got me close, I could touch the owl, but there wasn’t any leverage; I could not free it.
Technology didn’t help either; I called phone numbers that I found on the internet. But all I got was answering machines delivering the same message; if I want help, I need to call during “regular” business hours.
Hoping that I might get some inside information, I talked with a friend who works for the DNR. He didn’t have any better way of contacting anyone than I did, but he did offer some insight; “let it go, you did what you could do and this is simply nature doing what nature does.”
Intellectually, I knew he was right, there’s a lot of death by natural causes in this environment. For Mother Nature, this was just another day of business as usual. Emotionally though, I felt helpless, all I could do was look at that bird, hoping that it would somehow get lucky and free itself.
By now it was dark, I was out of ideas and I was a long way from home. I threw in the towel and drove away, but later, even as I rested, I was thinking about that owl.
When we woke up yesterday morning, I told Susan that I was going to drive back over to the lake and try again. I had it all planned out, a good long pole and heavy rope would allow me to break the branch and free the owl; this time the rescue would be conducted properly.
When I arrived, the owl was still there except I was already too late. It did not survive the cold night.
Scolding myself for the poorly executed rescue mission, I sat in the truck pondering. I recalled my buddies words; “this is simply nature doing what nature does” and like I said, intellectually I knew he was right.
Just then a Ruffed Grouse appeared at the edge of the dirt road; it wanted to cross, but I was making it nervous. At first the grouse hunkered down, sneaking most of the way across the road. Just before it reached the other side, the grouse stood up and strutted proudly into the trees. That bird looked like somebody who had just won a game of dodge-ball; I could almost hear it say; “HEY! I made it, I’m okay!”
Can you see where this story goes from here, I’ll bet you can?
If that Snowy Owl was still alive, then there’s a darn good chance that this Ruffed Grouse wouldn’t be. Mother Nature had other plans and intervened, superseding the predatory instinct of the owl to kill and eat the grouse. The meek, in this case, inherited the earth.
Even though the story is sad in one way, it’s happy in another. But it’s not about the owl, the grouse or me either, we were all just there to help illustrate. This is a story about life and the way that everything happens for a reason, even though we seldom get to see it all play out.
Clarity, that’s what I’m thankful for. The owl and the grouse moving me one step closer to understanding my place in this universe.Happy Thanksgiving Everybody … :)!! - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"During early ice, Crappies can be found in deep water, shallow water and sometimes, when they're pressured, in-between.
Jon Thelen reveals a strategy for targetting areas where feeding fish transition between them. between" View Video >> Crappies Under Pressure
Small lakes, mainly the shallowest ones are already producing some fish. Ice on these shallow waters are obviously going to be the most reliable for early travel. But on Tuesday, I found 5 inches of clear, solid ice on one of the deeper Grand Rapids area lakes. Walking to the spot, I covered a couple of hundred yards without hearing or feeling a crack; it was good ice.
It’s 8 degrees Fahrenheit outside my office right now and the forecast calls for 22 as the high today. Using the Ashton Ice Growth Prediction Method, there’s a good chance that lake will be sporting ice thicker than 6 inches by the time I get the Thanksgiving Turkey served tomorrow.
Violent winds ruffled the ridges of the ice on Upper Red Lake. Several large cracks and lots of broken ice can now be found and while Walleye anglers can still travel to certain areas, they’ll be forced to halt travel into “unknown territory” until ice can re-form over those open cracks or until rental operators bridge them.
Before the windstorm, ice thickness was about 8 inches, still too thin for vehicle traffic. Under the current circumstances, anglers should not be planning to travel using anything heavier than an ATV. Be advised too that travel off of known routes could be hazardous.
For me, holiday plans will keep me busy until the weekend. That means hoofing it to my favorite Crappie hole can’t happen for a few days. I am confident though that whenever the urge to fish coincides with a day off, I will easily be able to find a spot. By the time I get there, it’s likely that I won’t be the first. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
"The wait for the lake to get entirely locked up with ice continues. Good sections of ice with pockets of open water. This time of year, this is common based on direction of wind. Everyone hoping for calm winds and cod weather. It is coming, only Mother Nature knows when. The Rainy River has a skim of ice across it with only a few open areas left. Back bays are frozen over. Water temperature is 32.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
On an average year, resort fish houses get out on the main lake around Dec 10th and stay on the ice through March 31st. ATV's and collapsible fish houses will get out a bit earlier based on when resorts who maintain ice roads feel it is safe. When resorts open ice roads, stay on marked trails and don't deviate for safety. Walleyes and saugers are staged up nicely along south shore including Pine Island, Zippel Bay, Long Point and Rocky Point. Early ice fishing is looking to be very good once ice is thick enough.
NW Angle is frozen in most areas with a few areas of open water in neck down areas with current. Expectations are high as big schools of walleyes inhabited the area all the way up to freeze up. Resorts are monitoring ice conditions. The tradition of Lake of the Woods ice fishing in on the horizon." – Lake of the Woods Tourism, (800) 382-FISH
A new definition for portable shelters has been provided in law, which states that a portable shelter is one that collapses, folds or is disassembled for transportation.
“Wheeled fish houses, which formerly were considered portable and thus excluded from licensing requirements for shelters, will now need to be licensed,” said Al Stevens, fisheries survey and systems consultant with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “In the past, anglers using wheelhouses could use them without shelter licenses as long as they were occupied, including overnight.”
A shelter meeting the new definition of portable () only needs a license when a person leaves it unattended, meaning they are farther than 200 feet from the shelter.
The change pursued by the DNR and enabled by 2017 legislation accompanied hunting and angling fee increases. An annual resident shelter license is $16. A three-year license is $43. Owners of houses to be rented pay $31 annually or $88 for a three-year license.
A valid license tag must be attached to the outside of the fish house in a readily visible location. On border waters, a shelter license is not required on the Minnesota side if the neighboring state doesn’t require a shelter license for its waters.
To learn more about the fishing and hunting license dollars are spent, visit mndnr.gov/licensedollarsatwork. Shelter or fishing licenses can be purchased at DNR license agents across Minnesota, by phone at 888-665-4236 or online at mndnr.gov/buyalicense.
Chris Fosse Wrote; Q) "I have a 2016 Impact 1850 and am considering switching to a tiller (pro-guide probably with a 90 HP if I do it). Enjoyed reading your tiller article and have been meaning to ask a question!
Do you have any tiller assist on the 90, I wonder about having to fight it in a cross wind with rough water?
Back in the day I had a 91 Gary Roach with a 75 Mercury tiller and I hated that thing under those circumstances. Now I am almost 50 and have lots of creaky joints... so, thoughts?"
A) Chris, the simple answer to your question is this. If your budget allows, then adding the power assisted steering is a very good idea. If you want to make steering your Pro-Guide virtually effortless, then this will definitely do it.
For me, being able to take my hand off the tiller to tie a knot or net a fish without having to worry that it will steer off course is probably even more important than solving the issues related to steering torque.
That said; tiller controls have come an awful long way since 1991. Today, Mercury’s “Big Tiller” installed on their 90 HP engine will give you a lot more control than you had before. So even without the power assisted steering, controlling your rig will be quite manageable, under most circumstances.
In my case, the first “Big Tiller” I purchased was equipped with the power steering feature. It was installed on a 2007 Mercury 115 HP 4 stroke that powered my 2000 Alaskan. On that rig, the power steering was fabulous; it did everything it was promised to do. But on this rig, it seemed like overkill.
The 115 HP engine had more than enough torque to get that boat on plane fast and it had plenty of power to keep it on plane at low speeds. So because I wasn’t struggling with steering torque issues anyway, I decided to equip my next Alaskan, a 2008, 20 footer with Mercury’s 90 HP OptiMax, this time without the power steering.
This setup worked fine for me and although there were definitely times that I wished for the convenience of the power steering, most often I was satisfied without it; so satisfied in fact that that my next several boats were all set up identically. The 20 foot Alaskan, 90 HP OptiMax and Big Tiller, minus the power steering was a setup that served me very well for several years.
Now that I’m running the 208 ProV GL, the power steering is an essential feature and I do have it installed on my current Big Tiller version of Mercury’s 200 Verado.
Every time I start the engine and put it into gear, my first thought is; “man, this is sure a nice setup”.
The Pro Guide is a heavier boat than my Alaskan is, and rigged with a 90 HP engine, it seems reasonable to anticipate that there will be at least some additional steering torque. Knowing that your goal is to eliminate the issue completely, my recommendation is that you add the power steering to your Big Tiller rig. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Q) Hey Jeff, I got into ice fishing over the last two years, and you are my go to. I am a big open water fisherman, but just started ice. We have a cabin on (name withheld) Lake. Kind of a long shot, but I didn’t know if you knew anything about that lake and ice fishing, or if you’re familiar with other lakes around the area?
I don’t know if you give advice like this, but I thought I'd ask. Looking to get up there this winter to test my luck! Thank you, Jackson ..." Read >>
A) Jackson, I regret that I haven’t had any firsthand experience with your lake. But I do research lakes fairly often and I thought this one might be an interesting challenge. Besides, there might be other readers who wouldn't mind looking over our shoulders while we take a look to see what we can learn.
Your lake was most recently surveyed in 2012 and after reading the reports, I was encouraged by a couple of notable positive comments by the DNR.
“Walleye abundance was above the long term average and range for similar lakes. Trophy walleyes are found in the lake with walleye measured up to 31 inches in 2012.”
While I don’t spend a lot of time ice fishing for Walleye on small lakes, knowing that there may be a trophy lurking below could encourage me to make an exception.
Another positive, in my opinion, is revealed in this statement; “Bluegill abundance was up from recent surveys and at the high end of the normal range for similar lakes.”
The charts don't show that there are tons of whopper Bluegills, but there are good numbers of fish and some of them are of reasonably good size. It looks like the kind of situation where you can keep busy and have a reasonable expecation to harvest some fish too.
Also wort mentioning is that the Northern Pike population is low, but the average size is good.
If I had a cabin on your lake, watching a tip up while I search for panfish would occupy my time during the day. In the evenings, I’d move onto the breakline and try for one of those big Walleyes as the sun goes down.
The tricky part about fishing your lake will be figuring out where to ambush the fish. That water is clear, sometimes turning in Secchi Disk readings upwards of 30 feet. Its apparent shortage of structure and abundance of deep water could be problematic too.
It’s very possible that you’ll have to specialize in finding suspended fish. It’s also possible that fish location might be quite deep, forcing you to harvest them rather than practicing catch and release. That’s okay as long as your harvest lies within the lakes ability to keep up.
Fish do some amazing things and I haven’t learned all of them yet. So before you open the map that I marked up, please bear in mind that these are only educated guesses. Armed with the limited knowledge contained in this single report, if I were headed to your lake, these are some spots that I’d search first.
The blue area on the north end would be my first stop in the search for Bluegills and Sunfish. Expanses of shallow water that lay adjacent to tapering breaklines are classic locations for panfish and I’d be surprised if they aren’t located somewhere adjacent to that shallow flat.
Experimentation is the only way to figure out the best depths, Sunfish can be anywhere between the shallowest weeds and the outer extremes of the breakline. Typically though, I expect to find them somewhere between 12 and 30 feet deep; that’s where I focus my early search.
The red area in the northeast corner is interesting too. Sharp inside corners located near shore are often good panfish spots. I’d check this hole at various times throughout the season beginning at first ice. I’d also keep that spot in mind for late ice and also for fall fishing. I know that they are not super-abundant, but it’s possible that you will encounter Crappies in that hole sooner or later.
The yellow areas show potential as Walleye feeding spots. I tend to favor areas where there are interruptions in the breakline. Whenever there are turns and points along the path into deep water, there’s potential feeding opportunity for the fish.
I tend to shy away from steep, straight breaklines like the un-marked territory on both the east and west sides of the lake. Those steep breaklines could be fairly good spots for pike though, and if I had time, I’d test them for that.
Finally, I’d at least take a look at the deep hump outlined in green. Sometimes spots like this one are a waste of time, but sometimes they’re not. If that small bar has some rock, marl or other interesting content, it could produce some fish. Scan it with your electronics and see what it looks like.
Okay Jackson, there’s the nickel tour of your lake based on some very limited information. I’d be thrilled if one of these suggestions paid off on the first try, but if it doesn’t, don’t give up. Let me know what you find out there and maybe we can tweak the ideas a little bit. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Hardly the image that most ice anglers want to see, ice that once covered this lake has been broken up and blown into shore by strong winds.
For folks in the Itasca region, it’s a setback, but it isn’t the end of the world. After all, Thanksgiving is still a week away and there are still some ice covered lakes and the ice is making; albeit slowly for now.
On Thursday, I stopped at Bowstring Lake, from my vantage point the ice appeared to be holding its own over shallow water. My visibility was hampered by grey conditions, and did not allow me to see far enough out to be sure. But I believe that I could see some holes of open water over the lake's deep, mid-lake basin. While it's possible that there are some limited opportunities to ice fish in shallow water, I think it's best to play it safe and wait for the next cold snap that will ensure more favorable conditions.
Like I mentioned yesterday, Wednesday’s strong winds created open spots over deep water and open holes in current areas on many area lakes. Most of the area’s larger lakes, especially ones with deep water have some open water at mid lake.
Upper Red Lake always gets the most attention at first ice and it’s no different this season. Reports about ice thickness suggest that there are roughly 6 inches of solid ice. There are folks fishing up there but limited to either walking or using 4 wheelers, the big crowds have not arrived yet.
By most accounts, walleyes haven’t arrived yet either. While there are some fish being caught, there isn’t anybody bragging about racking up big numbers.
Still further north, Lake of the Woods is beginning to attract small crowds too. The Northern Pike spear fishing season opened up on November 15th and there are folks in dark houses hoping to take a stab at Mr. Big.
The big lake has ice cover, but not enough for travel by vehicles. The Rainy River has begun to freeze, but there are still stretches of open water. So for now, most ice fishermen are in a holding pattern.
The forecast doesn't look good for the fast production of ice. But temperatures do remain cold enough to produce some new ice each day. So even though I’m taking a pass on trying to fish this weekend, I’ll be keeping an eye on conditions. It won’t surprise me if the itch starts coming back in a few days. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Denser than lead, Tungsten allows us to pack more weight into small lures, allowing faster drop rates, better control and improved contact with our baits.
But what if we could find some of our old favorites; time proven confidence baits made with Tungsten instead of Lead?
Guess what? Lindy has done it! They’ve taken the most well-known family of ice fishing lures, already famous for great drop rates and produced them in all new Tungsten versions.
The Lindy Fat Boy, Lindy Ice Worm and Lindy Bug are now offered alongside the already popular Tungsten Toad. Now ice anglers can enjoy using these proven jig designs with the added advantages that Tungsten provides.
The “bad news” is that the rest of the Itasca area lakes held on to most of their ice, but not all of it. Thanks to the warm-up, these lakes wound up with small open spots over deep water, open holes in current areas and cracks caused by Wednesday’s strong winds.
For most of us, there’s no way that our favorite lakes can be considered “safe” for ice fishing this weekend. Even though there may be expanses of decent ice, there’s no telling when we’ll be headed for a thin spot. We’re just gonna have to wait for a prolonged cold snap that will freeze the holes back over again.
Getting back to the good news, shallow lakes that held on to all of their ice will be re-freezing fast. Maybe you’ve been watching one of them and maybe you know for a fact that their ice sheets remained intact throughout the warm spell. If that’s the case, then you may have a chance to fish on the ice this weekend.
It's just after 7:00 AM right now and I'm headed out to look at a few of my favorite early ice spots. I'll have some comments and photos for Friday morning, so if you're on the fence about fishing this weekend, be sure to check for an update tomorrow morning. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
Ice covered lakes are the norm around Itasca County now. In fact there are only a handful of places where open water can still be found.
As usual though, Mother Nature loves showing off her sense of humor; this time by taking ice anglers to the brink of readiness before holding up the show with one more weather warm up.
On a driving tour of the area this Monday, we visited Jessie, Bowstring, Cutfoot, Sand and Winnie. I noted that ice cover on several of them was easily thick enough to support light foot travel. In fact, I walked around the outer edges of several lakes where the ice thickness ranged between 4 and 5 inches. The ice felt solid under my feet and I didn’t hear any cracking or notice other visible signals that there were weak spots.
On all of the lakes we visited, there was a clear division between the white colored outer edges and the clear, black newly formed ice that covered deep, mid lake waters. The clear ice was thinner, ranging between 2 and 3 inches, but even the thinner ice supported my weight without putting up a fuss.
After I walked out onto Cutfoot Sioux from the landing near Williams Narrows, I returned to the truck reporting that if we really wanted to fish today, I think we could. The thing is that the ice was still thin enough to make me doubt whether its strength would be uniform over an area large enough to provide good fishing opportunities.
The next few days will be telling, if the current ice remains intact, then the next cold snap will likely add enough new ice to signal a super early start to the ice fishing season. If, on the other hand, warmer temperatures and strong winds break up the existing ice, then we’re looking at Thanksgiving weekend before conditions will recover.
No matter how you look at it, this is gonna be an early ice fishing season; the only remaining question “How Early”?
Air temperatures did not drop below freezing last night and are expected to remain warm again today. I’ll take a drive again this afternoon to see how that changes things, if at all, we’ll know more after that. - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
It doesn’t look like the fish are going to get much of a break this fall. Ice is forming fast and a handful of the shallowest lakes are already ice covered.
I know it sounds early, but on Upper Red Lake, eager ice anglers have set their sights on THIS WEEKEND to take their first steps into the 2017/2018 ice fishing season.
I took my own tour on Wednesday and the ice on Itasca area lakes hasn’t advanced that far yet. But I did find one shallow lake frozen over and I have already taken my first walk on solid ice.
The contrast between 2016 and 2017 is incredible; after waiting forever to get onto the ice last year, we will be lucky to finish out the deer hunting season before hitting the ice this year.
The cold wave that’s accelerating freeze up may moderate next week, but the current temperature is in single digits and the long range forecast says we won’t see any temperature rise above freezing for almost a week. So here we go, the official start of ice watch 2017 has begun; I'll be posting regular updates
I know that there’s always a clamor to be one of the first anglers to fish on fresh ice. I know too that you don’t need me to tell you to be careful out there. But I’d sure hate to see anybody get hurt, so humor me, if you’re heading onto the ice this weekend, take all of the necessary precautions and be safe.
In “the old days”, I spent a lot of time in my deer stand, north of Deer River. But the 2017 deer opener found me sitting in a new tree stand, located in fresh territory.
I wasn’t sure if I’d even be hunting this year, but a plea from the Hippie Chick to help gather some venison led to an unexpected invitation from my brother in law. He and his family offered to share their family deer camp with me, giving me an inside look at a world of deer hunting unlike anything I’ve done before.
I’ve never been one to describe myself as a quitter; I usually try pretty hard to stick with the pursuit of a goal until it’s achieved. I’ve been bested though; Steve Pelto’s indefatigability has me beat hands-down!
Deer hunting, even at its most intense level has never amounted to much more than a few hours in the stand at a time. Yes, I did it every day, I rarely missed an afternoon in the stand and thankfully the pursuit of Mr. Big usually ended happily, at least for me. That said, sitting in a heated stand, watching over trails that lead into a field where I knew the deer would eventually wind up did require a commitment. But Steve’s way of doing things is different, a lot different.
Think about how you would tackle a hunting spot that covers thousands of acres, has no food plots, no fields and lays miles away from the next closest road. Think about how you’d predict where the next buck would appear when all he has to do is roam the woods at his own pace, unpressured by other hunters and unbothered by constraints of time. This kind of hunting is the real deal, fair chase hunting at its finest.
“The deer are here and sooner or later you’ll see one, but you’re on their schedule”; Steve said. That means the only way to bag one is to be there, in your stand when one of them decides to walk. That’s what he does, sunrise to sunset, he’s in his stand waiting for Mr. Big to step into an opening between the trees.
The system works and he has antlers on the wall to prove it, but you have to be a special kind of person to do it. For one thing, you have to love it and he does. Steve doesn’t beat around the bush about deer camp, in his words; “I can do whatever I need to do for the other 50 weeks of the year, these 2 weeks are mine; I love it here.”
I’m special, but not that special; I did managed to improve, surpassing my usual few hours in the stand at a time. But sunrise to sunset without coming in for a break, that didn’t happen for me, not yet anyway.
I ran out of time before I saw Mr. Big, but there’s still hope, the rifle season is far from over and the backup plan is the muzzle loader season. There have been more than a few happy endings with my smoke-pole and it could happen again. Hopefully weather and scheduling will afford me an opportunity to get lucky.
So while I’m polishing the auger blades, tuning up the snowmobile and squeezing in my next few hours of hunting, Steve is making his own luck, I'll bet that he’s gonna win by sheer determination.
I’ll be looking forward to seeing the picture and when I do, I’ll be proud! - Jeff Sundin 218-245-9858 or EMAIL
What is barotrauma? Simply stated barotrauma is “injury caused to the body by changing air or water pressure.” In humans we know this as “The Bends”- a dangerous condition that divers experience when they come up too fast from deep water. Believe it or not, something similar happens in fish.
For example: When an angler angles walleye at the bottom of the lake, those walleye are experiencing a certain amount of pressure (air & water). When the angler yanks them up to the surface, that pressure is drastically reduced. This means that their gas filled cavities rapidly expand. This is particularly a problem for fish due to the presence of their ..." Read >> BAROTRAUMA AWARENESS