Archive | August, 2008

Will the Pope survive terrorists shooting up St. Peter’s?

August 26, 2008

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“The Messenger,”
by Daniel Silva

Will Israeli super-spy Gabriel Allon be able to save the life of the Holy Father and get revenge on the Islamist extremist who planned attacking the Vatican? And what and who might be other targets for the terrorists?

The pope is a draw in this page-turner of a novel, but concerns about the pontiff and St. Peter’s really is the cookie part of the Oreo. The creamy filling is how the Israeli and American spy guys infiltrate a Saudi billionaire to get to the terrorist they’ve targeted.

Silva has a good thing going as he takes advantage of post-9/11 fears and anti-Arab sentiments rampant in the West.

He’s also milking his creation of the character Allon, who restores paintings to their original glory when he’s not putting away bad guys. He’s a hero we can’t help but support, and Silva is taking advantage of his protagonist’s popularity now with a fistful of novels.

All are good international thrillers, and “The Messenger” joins the rest as worth your time because it’s a good premise and a good plot.

But know there’s a definite slant to his work, and a message Silva is not shy about: There is evil out there, and the world needs to be more attuned to the threat posed by those who hate capitalism, Christianity and democracy. – bz

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Patience rewarded

August 26, 2008

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On three trips in a row to the Minneapolis City lakes, I was able to land a bass weighing more than 5 pounds. Last Thursday, I was hoping to make it four in a row.

The weather was beautiful as I departed from the landing on Lake Calhoun. Optimism was running high as I pulled up to my first spot at about 10 a.m. Just a week earlier, my son, Joe, and I each had landed bass weighing 5 pounds, 3 ounces from this spot.

This time? Nothing. I worked it for a while with a jig and plastic trailer but managed only one biteoff from either a muskie or northern pike. No bass.

So, I went to another spot that had produced in the past. I found some nice fish on the end of a small point and caught about four or five. The wind picked up and made it very hard to fish this spot. So, I decided to go back to my first spot and see if there was anything going.

There was. I decided to try something considered to be a big-fish bait — a Berkley Powerhawg. The bass liked this large offering and chomped down on it aggressively. I landed several nice fish off of this long point, but they were concentrated in one small area. I tried working other sections of this structure, but caught nothing.

I then went back to the small area again, but the fish went quiet. It was around 4 p.m. and I decided to make one more pass over this spot before heading in to shore. As I did so, I switched from the Powerhawg to my top go-to bait — a Berkley Ribbontail worm.

I pitched it to the spot and felt a light bite. Because of the earlier action, I instinctively reeled down and set the hook. The rod doubled over and the fish didn’t move for a second or two. Then, it slowly plodded away along the bottom. Big fish. I had only 8-pound test monofilament line, so I played the fish carefully. I got it up to the surface, let it thrash a bit, then lip-landed it.

I pulled out my son’s digital scale and weighed the fish — 5 pounds, 2 ounces. I had caught a 5-pound bass for the fourth trip in a row. It has been a fabulous summer on these lakes and I’m eager to see what the fall holds.

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In the crosshairs

August 18, 2008

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Hunting season is weeks away, but my thoughts turned to autumn on Saturday, as I pulled a Tika .308 rifle out of its case.

My sister-in-law, Ginny Ulrich, handed me the firearm on behalf of her dad, Bob Guditis, of Great Falls, MT, who also happens to be my two oldest boys’ grandfather. After much looking, he found a left-handed rifle for my son, Andy, to use on our upcoming deer and elk hunt in Montana in November.

Last fall, when we went to Montana to hunt antelope with Grandpa Bob, he gave Andy and his older brother, Joe, each a rifle to use and keep — .25-caliber super short magnums complete with scopes. But, the guns both were for right-handed shooters and Andy is left-handed. So, Andy used the gun, but Bob kept it and promised to find Andy a right-handed rifle.

A few weeks ago, he called me with the news that he had finally found one. Needless to say, Andy was thrilled with the news. So was I. This will allow us to capitalize on a golden opportunity to hunt near Great Falls for the second year in a row. After coming close but failing to get an antelope on the last hunt, the boys are hoping to harvest both an elk and a deer. Their tag is good for both, and they can shoot either sex.

They got special tags that Montana offers to youth who are sponsored by either a resident or a nonresident who possesses a big-game combination license (for both elk and deer) for that calender year. Grandpa Bob qualified and sent me a special form that he filled out and signed. I then filled out the applications and mailed them in along with Bob’s form and got the boys’ tags a couple weeks later. It was simple.

The best part was the tags cost only half the price of the normal nonresident big-game combination tag. Instead of paying $648, we paid $324 each. Actually, Granpa Bob paid for one of the tags, so I had to spend only $324 for both tags.

Any Minnesotan who has hunted in another state — particularly out west — knows that this price is cheap for a nonresident license. There is some serious price gouging going on when it comes to license fees for nonresidents, so I felt very fortunate to be able to get these tags at such a modest price. Then, last week, some cow elk tags went on sale and I bought one of those so that I could hunt alongside the boys.

I don’t know what we would do with three elk, but I’m not worried about that right now. To be honest, I would be thrilled with just one. Elk meat is absolutely delicious and I would love to have some in the freezer. And, if we happen to get more than one elk, I will just give meat away to friends and family. It is so good that I am confident none of it will go to waste.

In the meantime, I have more bass fishing left to look forward to, plus my annual fall fishing trip to Lake of the Woods with my friend Pete Wolney, a high school classmate of mine from Totino-Grace High School in Fridley. This will be our fifth trip up there and we have done well so far, especially last year, when Pete caught a walleye just over 28 inches and had it mounted. I lost a big one and am hoping for another chance at a lunker this year. Despite the cold, this is one fishing trip neither of us would want to miss.

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The bass before the storm

August 14, 2008

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As my son, Joe, and I headed toward the Minneapolis city lakes yesterday, he expressed skepticism about our search for largemouth bass. Like many anglers, he assumes August is a slow month for fishing.

Au contraire! My experience has shown that August can be excellent for fishing, especially for my favorite species, the largemouth bass. I routinely do well during this month and, in fact, landed my largest bass of last year in the middle of August on the city lakes.

I told Joe I thought I could catch a 20-inch bass during our trip and even made a friendly wager with him. Because I forgot to bring any kind of length-measuring device, we would go by weight. If I caught a bass 5 pounds or bigger, he would buy me dinner — unless he caught a bigger one.

Things started slowly as we tried Spot No. 1. Then, the action got dramatically better on Spot No. 2. One of the first fish that came to the gunwale looked close to the mark, but was a little short. Then, not long after, I hooked into a bigger fish. As I got it close to the boat, I turned to Joe and said, “I think you just lost the bet.”

Sure enough, the fish weighed 5 pounds, 3 ounces on Joe’s digital scale. But, we had lots of time left.

I’m proud to say that Joe did not lose the bet. A short time later, he caught a fish that weighed exactly the same as mine. A tie. We caught some other nice fish, but neither of us could top those two lunkers.

Unfortunately, our trip was cut short by a severe thunderstorm that blew in fast and produced heavy rains, thunder and lightning. Because of the ban on outboard motors, we had to rely on our electric motor to get us in. The storm caught up to us and soaked us with a zesty downpour. We were able to reach a bridge built over a channel and waited out the storm there with several canoeists.

Just before we quit fishing, Joe landed another nice bass weighing 4 pounds, 12 ounces. I’m amazed at the number of big fish that are landing in my livewell this summer. I’m doing a lot of things I have done in the past, but with much better — make that bigger — results.

I’m glad that it worked out this way. Truth is, I was hoping Joe would catch a big bass. He starts school next week and this is a good way to end the summer. It was also a chance for me to spend some quality time with him. In less than two years, he’ll be out of high school and, probably, out of the nest. That’s hard for me to think about, but it makes it more important to enjoy the time with him at home while I can.

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Measuring up

August 12, 2008

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When I was a kid, it would have never occurred to me to measure the length of a fish. Now, it’s a routine practice. Part of it is curiosity in wanting to know how big the fish is.

Most of it, however, has to do with the modern-day slot limits imposed on many lakes. Most people have adopted the practice and are willing to release fish that fall inside a lake’s protected slot.

Sometimes, that isn’t enough. I read a sad case in the pages of a local hunting and fishing newspaper called Outdoor News. A columnist for the paper, Gary Clancy, a widely-known outdoorsman who has written books on hunting and has written newspaper and magazine articles for decades, recounted a recent experience on Upper Red Lake.

He and some friends had a successful day on the water, catching more than 100 walleyes. But, due to a slot limit requiring the release of fish between 17 and 26 inches, they only kept six. So, they came back to the boat landing short of their limit of three fish apiece.

When they got back, a game warden was waiting for them. He measured their two biggest fish and told them they measured 17 1/4 inches, which was in violation of the law. Clancy thought the warden would take those two fish away, give them a warning and leave.

He was wrong. The warden gave them a ticket for the two fish, which carried a fine of $190. Clancy was upset and described his anger in the column. He said he made an honest mistake due to the fact that he and his friends didn’t have the best measuring tool with them at the time.

If Clancy’s version of the story is true — and I have no reason to believe otherwise — I think it’s a shame. I feel this is an overzealous move by the game warden. For the most part, I think the DNR does a good job in managing our state’s natural resources. But, I think a fine of $190 for two fish measuring just 1/4 inch over the 17-inch line is excessive and unnecessary. Percentage wise, it’s the equivalent of getting a ticket for driving 56 mph in a 55 mph zone.

In light of this comparison, I don’t know how the DNR can justify such an act. As a taxpayer, I don’t feel it’s a good use of enforcement resources. I would rather the enforcement officers spend their time looking for the gross violations, like five, 10, 20 or more fish over the limit. Those are the ones that really hurt the resource. And, unfortunately, these types of offenses happen all too often.

I say let’s leave people like Clancy alone. I read his column regularly and even have e-mailed him for advice. He always answers and I have profited from his wisdom on several occasions. I don’t think he’s the type of person the DNR should be punishing. Someone from the DNR once told me that wardens have some leeway in deciding whether or not to issue a citation.

I think wardens like the one who gave Clancy a ticket should do a better job of exercising it.

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Walleye heaven?

August 9, 2008

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I just got back from a four-day trip to Lake of the Woods at Adrian’s Resort with the winner of this year’s Catholic Spirit youth essay contest, Cody Lensing of Shoreview, and his father, Merl. The details of the trip will be featured in an upcoming issue of The Catholic Spirit.

So, I can’t give too much away right now. But, I can say this: Although Lake of the Woods has lots of walleyes and is a popular destination for walleye anglers, it is by no means an easy lake to fish.
Its size means the fish have miles and miles of water to roam, and roam they do, especially in the summer months of July and August. It pays to do some serious research about fish location before you head out on the water.
Perhaps a more important factor, especially at this time of year, is the weather. Of particular importance is the wind. The stronger it blows, the more challenging it is to both get to your location and control your boat.
A popular method of fishing on this lake is anchoring and jigging. If you are going to do this, it is crucial to have an anchor that will hold. Two factors to consider are weight of the anchor and style.
I can tell you one thing: Mushroom-style anchors are almost worthless on this lake when it gets rough. Anchors with some type of spike or spikes are effective at digging into the bottom and holding fast. Some anglers like attaching heavy chains to their anchors to add more weight. Finally, don’t forget to let lots of rope out when you drop anchor. A good rule of thumb is to let out one-and-a-half to two times the depth of the water you’re fishing. For example, at 30 feet (a popular depth at this time of year), you would let out anywhere from 45 to 60 feet of anchor rope.
These are the types of lessons you will learn if you fish this lake. If you do your homework and are prepared, you won’t have to learn them the hard way. Of course, another approach to fishing this lake that avoids all of these issues is to hire one of the many charter boats operating out of the resorts.
Even if you bring your own boat, it might not be a bad idea to book a charter the first day of your trip to figure out where the fish are and what presentations work best. Or, you can go on a charter if the water is too rough for your boat. Either way, you will gain valuable knowledge that will help you later on in your trip or on future trips.
Bottom line: This is a lake worth getting to know. The fishing has been great for the last several years and it has a more generous slot than many other lakes, including Upper Red, which isn’t quite as far north. On Lake of the Woods, you can keep four walleyes and have to throw back anything between 19 1/2 and 28 inches. On Upper Red, you have to throw back anything between 17 and 26 inches and can keep three fish.
I have fished both lakes and, let me tell you, that extra 2 1/2 inches on Lake of the Woods is huge. Not only does it mean you can keep bigger fish, but more of them. On all of my trips there in the last four years, we have caught fish between 17 and 19 1/2 inches and it is great to be able to drop them into the livewell. Part of the fun is anticipating the fish fry that comes later.
This is precisely what keeps me coming back to Lake of the Woods.
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