Tag Archives: fishing

Lunker muskie on board!

August 25, 2014

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Father Paul Shovelain helps a young angler pose for a picture with his catch.

Father Paul Shovelain helps a young angler pose for a picture with his catch.

I was enjoying the celebration of my nephew’s baptism yesterday when my phone alerted me to an incoming text message. It was from Father Paul Shovelain, and there was a photo attached.

I know this newly-ordained priest well enough to know that a text message and photo during the summer could only mean one thing — a fish story!

And, sure enough, it was. I asked him to email me more details of the story, plus the photo. I was happy to see his message in my in box this morning. Father Paul is now assigned at St. Peter in Forest Lake, and the story involves a young boy in the parish. Here’s what Father Paul had to say:

“Matthew and I were out fishing for bass on Saturday, August 23. I have gotten to know Matthew’s family quite well during my first two months at St. Peter’s and they let me keep my fishing boat at their dock.

Matthew and I went out fishing for bass and did have much action for the first hour. Matthew mentioned that he wanted to try his dad’s favorite spot, so we drove over to it and put the anchor down.

There were a couple other boats around, but they were fishing for panfish. On two of his first three casts, something was hitting Matthew’s topwater bass jig. He thought it was a northern and I was fishing on the other side of the boat, so I didn’t pay two close attention.

On his fourth cast, a massive 44-inch muskie hit it and Matthew was able to set the hook. He thought it was a northern at first and I exclaimed, “No, that’s a Muskie!”

I just wanted to get the fish in the boat, but I only had a small walleye/bass fishing net. After a few minutes, he got it close to the boat and I was able to net the fish, and it curled around in the net.

We got it in the boat and we were just thrilled! I had never handled a muskie before, so we drove over to another boat, and he jumped in with us and showed me how to handle it.

Meanwhile, Matthew was yelling, “I got my first muskie!” His dad, about 100 yards away on their dock, heard him and took the pontoon out to meet us. We got pictures, and then the fishermen that showed me how to hold it gently coaxed it back into the water.

I didn’t have a tape measure or a scale, but based on the pictures, Matthew’s dad thinks it was about 44 inches and 20-25 pounds! That was one memorable fish!”

Congratulations to Matthew. No doubt, he’s hooked for life. My first muskie was a 45-incher I caught on my very first evening of muskie fishing. Like Matthew, I, too, caught it on a topwater lure. I haven’t done much fishing for muskies since then, but Matthew’s story makes me want to try again.

I’m sure this will be a summer Matthew will never forget. As for me, I’m hopeful that one day I will be able to get out fishing with Father Paul. We’ve talked about it for years. Maybe, we can do it this fall.

Who knows? Maybe Father Paul will take me to the spot where Matthew caught his muskie.

Or, he might adapt the seal of the confessional principle to what goes on in a fishing boat and, thus, not divulge the location of the muskie strike.

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Some walleye for the frying pan

July 15, 2014

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As readers of The Catholic Spirit now know, I had a successful fishing trip to South Dakota’s Lake Oahe last month. I was invited to participate in the Bishop’s Charity Fishing Tournament, and I gladly accepted.

The walleyes I brought home have made for some nice fish dinners. I decided to deep fry some in beer batter for the guys in my men’s group. I have been experimenting with some recipes in the hopes of finding a real winner.

I decided to go back to a cookbook I had used the first time I tried deep frying fish. Lo and behold, I found a recipe I had handwritten on one of the pages. Years ago, I had tweaked the recipe in the book and came up with something good.

So glad I stumbled upon it! I went with it again, and the fish tasted great. In fact, my friend Mike Altendorf, an avid fisherman himself, said it was the best beer-battered walleye he had ever eaten. What a nice compliment to hear!

Over the Fourth of July, our family went up north about 20 miles inland of Lake Superior. We were invited to stay at the Franciscan Brothers of Peace new Spiritual Center, which features a beautiful main cabin, chapel and smaller cabin on a small lake that just happens to have walleyes.

We took out the brothers’ pontoon boat and went on a search for walleye. I had talked to someone from the local DNR office who knows about the lake and has fished it himself. He gave me a few tips, and we headed out on Sunday evening, July 6.

After raining off and on throughout the weekend, including during the afternoon that Sunday, the skies finally cleared in the evening. We anchored on a nice dropoff, with the wind blowing into it.

Just minutes after starting to fish, each of my oldest two boys got a bite but failed to hook a fish. Then, the bobber I had set up for my daughter Claire went down. I tried to set the hook, but didn’t connect. I reeled up to check my leech, then cast it out again. Seconds later, it went down again and I landed a plump walleye that was about 15 inches long.

Claire ended up catching two more walleyes of similar size, giving us three for the night. I pan fried them the next night shortly after getting back home. They were delicious. Too bad we didn’t catch more to save for later. But, that just means we’ll have to go back up to the brothers’ cabin someday!

In  the meantime, we are going to have venison fajitas tonight, which are always delicious. My oldest son Joe is going back to Dallas tomorrow so he can go to the Rome campus of the University of Dallas to work as a resident assistant.

Hopefully, this will be a nice sendoff meal for him. We’ll all be sad to see him leave, but excited that he can be in Rome for the upcoming school year.

Who knows? Maybe, I’ll figure out a way to go there and visit him!

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Time to go fishing!

June 6, 2014

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Now that the spring turkey hunting season is over, it’s time to think about fishing. I will have my first chance of the year to get in a boat this coming Monday.

I have been invited to Lake Oahe in South Dakota for the annual Bishop’s Charity Fishing Tournament. It’s a fundraiser for seminarians in the Diocese of Sioux Falls, several of whom are studying here at the St. Paul Seminary.

My research online revealed that Lake Oahe is an excellent fishery for walleyes. That’s good news. I actually will be a contestant in the tournament, as well as a guest of the diocese. I don’t care much about how well I do in the tournament. I’m just hoping to bring home some walleye for a fish fry and meet lots of people, including Bishop Paul Swain.

I leave Sunday afternoon and will stop at Blue Cloud Abbey on my way out. I will take a tour and hear the history of the abbey. If it works out, someday I would like to stay there overnight. Perhaps, I can come out again and do that. There is a Bishop’s pheasant hunting event in the fall, which is very enticing.

For now, I’m setting my sights on catching some walleyes. I filled the spools of my reels with fresh line, so I’m good to go. I will be assigned to a boat for the tournament. Not sure if I will find out Sunday night who I will fish with. Sounds like a serious tournament, so most likely every person bringing a boat is a skilled angler.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to make a contribution to the live well. I haven’t gone fishing since last summer, so I may be a bit rusty. But, I’ll try to catch on quickly. Stay tuned for the results of the tournament!

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It’s turkey time!

May 2, 2014

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Strutting gobblers like these are what every turkey hunter longs to see.

Strutting gobblers like these are what every turkey hunter longs to see.

My turkey hunting seasons are just around the corner, and I can’t wait! I am super pumped, as it looks like the weather will improve next week. My Minnesota season begins on Tuesday, May 6, and it looks like we will be in the 60s, even 70s for all five days of it.

The next day, Wednesday, May 7, my Wisconsin seasons begins. There’s an overlap between the two seasons, but I plan on driving back and forth, if need be, to fill my tags.

Obviously, the best scenario would be to get my bird in Minnesota on the first day, then just concentrate on Wisconsin after that. But, with the cold, wet weather we’ve had, I don’t know what the birds will be doing next week. The good weather should get them active.

There’s no doubt that weather plays a key role in turkey hunting. Nicer weather does seem to correlate to increased activity by birds, but that doesn’t guarantee a bird will come in. Conversely, bad weather doesn’t shut down breeding activity entirely. Yet, the 15-inch snowfall last May 2 did, in fact, keep the birds roosted for almost two days.

Thank the Lord there is no snow in the forecast for next week. I do think we’ve turned the corner on that. Now, it’s just a matter of figuring out where the birds are and what they’re doing. I’m hunting properties I have been on for the last six or eight years, so I have some idea where the turkeys might be.

What I’m really hoping is that they’ll be vocal, both in the roost at dawn and, especially, when they’re on the ground. I’m hoping to be able to slip in close to some loud-mouth toms and convince them I’m their next girlfriend.

Stay tuned for a full report on my week in the woods!

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2013 Outdoors highlights

January 2, 2014

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As I look ahead to outdoor adventures in 2014, I think it’s worthwhile to take a look back on 2013 and recall the blessings of the year. There were many highlights, and I offer this list of the best ones:

Snow bird

It might seem tough to name turkey hunting in the snow – in May! – as a highlight, but May 5 will go down as both a unique and awesome day in the turkey woods. Just days earlier, the area I hunt in Wisconsin was blanketed by 15 inches of snow. It was very strange driving out to my hunting spot and seeing snow everywhere. It looked more like December than May.

I must admit, I had to fight off feelings of despair during my hour-long drive to Ellsworth the morning of my hunt. Would the turkeys be radically affected by the snow? Would they still be interested in breeding? Would they gobble?

Turns out, the birds were quite active indeed. In fact, I had a nice 2-year-old tom on the ground in less than an hour. He gobbled very eagerly on the roost, and I coaxed him in with some aggressive hen calling followed by some soft calling at the end. The bird was standing in the snow when I shot him, and I was sitting in the snow against a tree. It was the first time in almost 30 years of turkey hunting that I had hunted in snow that actually was accumulated on the ground.

It was a very unusual hunt, and a very cool experience overall. But, I NEVER want to hunt in snow again in May. Let’s hope this is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

I did continue to hunt after that because I had bonus tags that the state offers. The hunting was extremely difficult and the toms had lots of hens around. I believe this was caused by the fact that the snow destroyed eggs the hens had laid, so they went out to breed again. Thus, I had very little success calling another bird in. I had some jakes (young toms) come in fairly close, but they ended up not being in gun range. I fired, thinking they were, but they were too far and merely ran off at the shot.

The good news is I spent a lot of time in the woods and learned the properties well. So, i should be in fine shape this year. I look for it to be a good spring season. Two years ago, the early and warm spring caused a very good hatch, and there were lots of jakes running around during the 2013 season. That means lots of mature 2-year-olds this year. I can’t wait!

Buck for the fireplace

Just weeks after finishing my turkey hunting season, I got a call from Lee’s Taxidermy in Prescott, Wis. to let me know that my whitetail buck mount was done. It was the largest buck I had ever taken and I’m not sure if I will ever top it, or even match it. I took Joe, my oldest son, to the taxidermy shop to pick it up. Then, when I got home, I put it up on the fireplace.

Joe has a nice buck mount, too, and we discussed whose was better. Lee Schommer, the taxidermist, said his scored 151, and mine about 153. He did not take exact measurements of mine, but says whenever he tries to estimate the score of a buck, he’s usually within 2 inches of the exact score. So, bottom line is that our bucks are very even. The rack on Joe’s is thicker, but my rack is wider and has taller tines. Honestly, Joe and I are not competitive when it comes to trying to get the biggest rack. It was just fun to compare our buck mounts.

Claire’s first walleye

My 11-year-old daughter Claire caught her first walleye in June on Upper Red Lake. Due to a very busy schedule, we were able to run up to Upper Red for an evening of fishing. We contacted Bear Paw Guides and hired Tyler Brasel to guide Claire, my wife Julie and I for the evening. Just days earlier, the protected slot loosened to allow the taking of fish up to 20 inches, versus 17 prior to that. So, we were very optimistic about being able to catch fish to take home.

The trip did not disappoint. We had our four-fish limit for the three of us (12 fish total) in an hour, and Claire caught lots of fish, starting with her first-ever walleye. Tyler set her up with a bobber rig and it worked beautifully for Claire. Tyler has young kids of his own, so he is very good at helping children catch fish. He did an awesome job with Claire, and it’s a trip we will never forget. Hopefully, we can get back up there again this summer.

‘Tonka bass

I went out to Lake Minnetonka on the Fourth of July with my son Joe to try for some largemouth bass. He was home for the summer and wanted to do some fishing. I wasn’t sure how it would go, as I hadn’t been on the lake in years. However, I did very well on the lake when I did fish it regularly, and wanted to hit my old spots to see if they produced.

Turns out, one spot in particular was as good as it used to be. We caught several nice bass on it, including a feisty 18-incher, and I went home very satisfied. Joe got some action, too, although he was a bit rusty at fishing with plastic worms. Near the end, he started to get the hang of it, and pulling a bass over the gunwale put a smile on his face. I would definitely like to do some bass fishing in 2014!

Breakthrough with a bow

Of course, my top highlight of the year has to be getting my first deer with a bow. Everything came together on the morning of Nov. 6. A young buck with a small eight-point rack came walking by my stand at just 10 yards, giving me a perfect broadside shot. I drew back as he stepped past me and I quickly found his vital area with my 20-yard pin. All of my practice and preparation paid off with a perfect pass-through shot. Tracking was easy in the snow and I found my buck about 100 yards from where I took the shot. It’s hard to put into words the feeling of finding my deer after the shot. I had hit about a half dozen deer previously, but didn’t find a single one, including a small doe that I hit in late September. Ask any bow hunter, and they’ll tell you that failure to find a deer that’s hit is a very sick feeling. Hopefully, I’ll be able to duplicate my success next year.

Sons come through

It was also a good deer hunting year for my two oldest sons, Joe and Andy. Joe got a small whitetail doe on the last day of our hunt in Montana over Thanksgiving week, and Andy ended up taking a doe in Montana plus a doe in Minnesota. So, our freezer is full, plus we were able to give venison away. Our family has been feasting on venison in the last few weeks, and I’m sure our supply of meat will last into the spring and summer. There’s nothing like venison steaks on the grill!

One intriguing possibility for 2014 would be taking Claire turkey hunting. She has expressed interest, and I have said I will take her if she wants to go. She turns 12 in April, and that would be very fun to chase gobblers with her. She’s not sure if she actually could pull the trigger on an animal. But if we go out and call a bird in, and she decides not to shoot, that’s fine with me. I like going out into the woods, especially in the spring, so she won’t disappoint me if she decides to hold off on the shot. We’ll see what she says as we get closer to the turkey season.

The next thing I’ll do is contact landowners after the Wisconsin turkey lottery. I have been blessed to have several landowners who continue to let me hunt, and I can’t wait to get after those birds in 2014!

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Boat winterizing is simple

October 29, 2013

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I took advantage of the warm weather on Sunday to winterize my boat. It’s a simple task, but very important, especially if you want the boat to perform well next spring.

That’s right. Good performance next fishing season hinges on what you do with your boat now. I do a few simple steps, and my boat runs well the next open-water season. This is my to-do list for winterizing:

1. Take care of your gas. I take the outboard motor tank and empty the gas into my car’s gas tank. Then, I put in fresh gas along with Sta-bil fuel stabilizer. The directions call for 1 ounce of Sta-bil for every 2 1/2 gallons of gas. I pump about a gallon into the tank, add the Sta-bil, then put another gallon-and-a-half of gas in. I shake it a little after that to be sure it’s mixed well.

2. Start your engine. Then, I hook up the tank with the fresh gas and start up the engine. You have to be sure to have water going into the engine, or you’ll burn up your engine. Simply take what’s called ear muffs and place them over the intake on the lower part of the motor. Attach them to a garden hose and turn the water on. Then, once you see that there’s a good seal on the ear muffs, start up your motor and let it run for 10 minutes. That uses up the old gas and puts the fresh gas in the carburetor and internal hoses. And, be sure to look and see that water is coming out of the engine.

3. Fog your engine. With your engine running, take off the cover and remove the plate that covers the carburetors. Spray fogging oil for about 5 seconds into each one. The engine will slow down and smoke will billow out of it. That’s what you want. After spraying the last one, shut off the engine.

4. Change oil in lower unit. Now comes the messiest part of the job – changing the lower unit gear lube. You can do it in the spring, but I do it in the fall while I’m working on everything else. On the lower unit are two screws, one higher up and one down low. Take both off, starting with the higher one, and drain the old gear lube into a pan. Often, it looks milky, which is a sign that it needs to be replaced. Some people think you can get away with changing it every other year, but it’s not very expensive, so I do it every year. After the old lube has drained, screw a pump into the lower hole and pump in the new lube until it runs out the top hole. Then, put the screw back into the top hole, and unscrew the pump from the bottom hole. As quickly as you can, put the bottom screw on. You may lose a little lube, but that won’t be a problem.

5. Charge batteries and store properly. Disconnect all wires from your marine batteries and charge each one. They store well with a full charge. Once charged, place them on a shelf. Do NOT put them on concrete. Doing so will drain them of the charge. And, store them outside. A battery expert I talked to said this is the best. It’s tempting to bring them inside, but he said this is wrong. So, I follow his advice. He says a marine battery lasts about three years, so you may need to replace it in the spring.

All of these steps shouldn’t take more than an hour. I wish I could have used my boat more this summer, but it just didn’t work out. The fact that my gear lube wasn’t milky tells me the boat got less use than previous years.

Hopefully, next year I will get out on the water more!

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What a bass means to a boy

August 21, 2013

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Proud anglers hoist the biggest bass of the day.

Proud anglers hoist the biggest bass of the day.

I’ve never been so excited about a 16 1/2-inch largemouth bass as I was last Friday.

And, it wasn’t even my fish. The lucky angler was my nephew, Michael. I think I was as joyful as he was when we hoisted his prize over the gunwale.

The chunky fish was the largest he had ever caught. And, the look on his face made that point clear. It matched a fish I had landed about an hour earlier, providing an excellent start to a meal for my brother and his family.

Times like this create summer memories that last well into adulthood. But, I had started wondering if a moment like this was going to happen for Michael or his older brother Matthew. I had spent the early afternoon trying to teach them how to catch bass on plastic baits, but with little success. There definitely is a steep learning curve for this endeavor, and early attempts can be filled with frustration and futility.

This occasion was no different. There were bites, hooksets that weren’t nearly stout enough, and numerous escapes by the bass.

The good news was, the fish were there and plenty willing to grab onto the baits. I was hoping, in time, one of the boys’ hooks would work its way into a largemouth’s jaw.

Sure enough, in the last hour, Michael pierced the mouth of a bass with a worm hook I had let him use. The battle was on! Usually, if the hook gets through the fish’s bony jaw, it’s curtains for the bass, unless the line gives way.

Michael played his fish well, and the fish eventually came belly up to the side of my boat. A quick swoop of the landing net, and the young lad tasted success at last.

I did my best to applaud his skills and acknowledge his success, hoping this would hook him on bass fishing – and plastics – for life. Meanwhile, another task just as important tugged for my attention.

Matthew never did land a fish that day, and he struggled with tangled line on top of that. This is an opportunity for gentle teaching and encouragement, and I took some time after we got off the water to have a little talk with him. My brother felt bad for his oldest son, but I told him that experiences like this can create a hunger that can make a person hungry and determined to conquer the learning curve.

I reminded him that I have been bow hunting for two years, and have yet to tag a deer. Guess what? I am more eager than ever to get out there and try to shoot and recover a whitetail. So, I noted, Matthew’s unsuccessful try at catching a bass on a plastic worm is not necessarily going to sour him on fishing.

Hopefully, it will keep him coming back for more. I have a feeling he is going to want to top his brother’s bass.

Now’s the time to turn to the next page of his young fishing career. Largemouth class will be in session next summer!

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First a turkey, then a ring

July 23, 2013

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Most turkey hunters I know are single-minded when it comes to chasing gobblers.

Lee Zeman is cut from that zealous cloth. But, he got very distracted during a turkey hunt this past spring. On his birthday, April 17, he took his girlfriend Ali out to try and get her a bird. He captured the hunt on video, which ended with her pulling the trigger on a nice 1-year-old bird, called a jake.

But, it’s what came after the gun shot that caught my eye – and captured my heart. As the two were admiring her bird, he turned to her and got serious. Very serious. He pulled a box out of his pocket and popped the question.

How’s a woman going to say no to the man who helped her get a bird? She freaked out more than a little, but finally gave Lee the answer he was hoping for. The wedding is set for June 21 of 2014.

I found the whole story heartwarming. I met Lee while at the headquarters of Zeman construction. Lee works there as a project manager, and I was there to photograph his uncle, Chris Zeman, who is one of this year’s Leading With Faith winners. Shortly after I got there, Chris said I had to meet his nephew Lee.

I’m glad I did. Turns out, he is every bit as passionate about the outdoors as I am. He is also enormously talented and highly energetic. At this time of year, he is chasing muskies, which he does up north on Lake Vermillion. Turns out, it’s a fabulous muskie lake. He has caught fish longer than 50 inches, including a giant that he caught several years ago that measured 56 inches.

Like most muskie maniacs, he puts in hours on the water in search of these giant predators. He admitted that Ali doesn’t join him on the water. Most likely, she would just fall asleep in the boat, he said.

I wouldn’t be surprised if their honeymoon involved some fishing. Congratulations Lee and Ali. May God give you both many happy years together!

Note: to see more about Lee’s hunting and fishing exploits, visit his website at True Calling Outdoors

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Walleye heaven!

June 24, 2013

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Julie and Claire Hrbacek display part of their catch on Upper Red Lake

Julie and Claire Hrbacek display part of their catch on Upper Red Lake

I had the narrowest of windows to try and pop a few walleyes for the frying pan last week – about three hours, to be exact.

Where can an angler go to have any hope for success in such a tiny time frame?

Upper Red Lake, that’s where! Just two weeks ago, it looked like I might be able to get away for two or three days at the end of last week. I was primed to hit this phenomenal walleye fishery to cash in on a walleye bonanza fueled by the shrinking of the lake’s protected slot – from 17-26 inches to 20-26 inches on June 15.

I was dreaming of two days of fast fishing, with a fish fry at the cabin and a limit of walleyes to bring home. Alas, the calendar got full, and I was left with just one evening to get out on the water.

I cajoled my wife Julie and daughter Claire into joining me, and we left the house at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, June 20. We arrived in Waskish on the lake’s eastern shore at 5:30 p.m. and eagerly pulled in to Bear Paw Guides, where our guide for the evening, Tyler Brasel, awaited.

It had rained during the drive up north, but the skies brightened near Grand Rapids. Unfortunately, the weather looked troublesome on the western horizon, where Tyler’s dad Steve said a storm was positioned.

Would it come straight across the lake and end our outing? Or, would it steer southward and pass us by?

I said a short prayer, with the intensity only a fisherman yearning to get on the water can muster. With that, we hurried to the boat landing, located on the outlet of the Tamarac River.

A bobber and hope

We only had to go a short distance from the mouth of the river to one of Tyler’s favorite spots. It’s a small rock pile the size of a living room located on the eastern shore. He’s got it plugged in to his GPS, which was the size of a small TV. He actually has two GPS units, which enabled us to park almost right on top of the rock pile.

Tyler handed Julie and I rods with jigs tied on. We promptly attached frozen minnows to the jigs and heaved them overboard. Julie caught the first walleye of the evening – and the second, and the third. This all happened in a manner of minutes, while Tyler was getting Claire set up with a slip bobber rig.

Throughout the drive up north, Claire had said she wasn’t sure she wanted to fish. I hoped she would at least try it. When Tyler suggested the bobber setup, Claire quickly agreed.

Good thing, too. The walleyes jumped all over her jig-and-leech presentation. In fact, she ended up catching the most fish in our group. Even Tyler marveled at her success.

As for me, I caught my fair share, and contributed to the limit of 12 walleyes we brought back to the docks. Turns out, we needed far less than the three hours of daylight to pull in our legal limit. And, we caught several bonus perch, and Julie even landed a northern pike that we were able to keep.

Attitude change

In terms of Claire’s attitude about fishing, she had this to say shortly after landing yet another walleye:

“This is a game changer for me. I like fishing now.”

Why shouldn’t she? With fishing like this, just about anyone would fall in love with it. Fortunately, the storm held off and didn’t bother us during our time on the water. The wind did pick up during about the last half hour, so we decided to head in. Tyler and Steve cleaned our fish back at the resort, and we took home a nice bag of walleye fillets.

Tyler said he is able to catch walleyes all summer long, though he has to go farther out from shore and cover more water. He said he never fails to catch fish when he tries his hardest. Sometimes, he does some experimenting and will come up empty.

The good news is, there is lots of summer left and Tyler has plenty of openings on his calendar, especially during weekdays. And, there are lots of walleyes left in the lake. We caught plenty of various lengths, from about 8-10 inches all the way up to one just more than 20 inches. The fishery looks to be in fine shape.

Perhaps, the best news of that wonderful night is that Claire definitely wants to go fishing again. In fact, she was disappointed to leave the next morning.

Who knows? Maybe there’s hope I can get her into a deer stand.

 

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Walleye bite is on at Upper Red Lake!

June 18, 2013

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Tyler Brasel of Bear Paw Guides on Upper Red Lake holds a nice walleye he caught while fishing with his son and his two other children.

Tyler Brasel of Bear Paw Guides on Upper Red Lake holds a nice walleye he caught while fishing with his son and his two other children.

I had June 15 on my mind recently. That’s the day the Minnesota DNR changed the protected slot on Upper Red Lake.

From the walleye opener through June 14, it was 17 to 26 inches. On June 15, it changed to 20-26 inches, creating a large number of fish now legal to harvest.

I cashed in on this phenomenon several years ago, when I took my wife Julie and our four children up to a resort on the lake called Bear Paw Guides. We went for several days and brought home our six-person limit of 24 walleyes, which kept our freezer stocked for the summer. Getting a limit was not a problem.

I’m going back up later this week to fish with owner Steve Brasel’s son Tyler. I have been on the phone several times with Steve, and learned that the fishing has been fantastic all spring. In fact, he says the fishing may be the best it has been since the lake re-opened to walleye fishing in 2006.

Here’s the amazing part: Very few people are taking advantage of the red-hot action. Steve told me that the cold and wet spring, which kept ice on the lake until after the opener, combined with higher gas prices have kept people away.

Too bad, I say. People don’t know what they’re missing. Steve told me stories of folks catching 100 walleyes in just a few hours. And, right now the crappies are shallow and biting well. Tyler took his three kids out one evening last week and they landed 39 crappies. Some of them were the big 15-inchers the lake is known for.

My schedule is tight, and my wife and I will have just one evening and the next morning to fish. But, that should be plenty of time, as we will be fishing with Tyler. He’s got dozens of spots plugged into his GPS and can take us anywhere we need to go.

But, I highly doubt we will get to many of those locations. We may be able to catch everything we want on just one spot. The good news is that he is fishing all this week, so by the time we get there Thursday evening, he should know what the hot spots are.

Not only that, but the weather looks pretty good. There may be a little rain, but most importantly, the winds are supposed to be light. That is key on this large, oval-shaped body of water that is unprotected from strong winds coming from the south, southwest, north and northwest. I looked at the weather forecast, and it says the winds will be light and from the southeast on Thursday.

Perfect! I can’t wait to get up there.

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