Author Archives: Darrel

About Darrel

I am 52 years old and have been married to the same woman for 31 years. We are empty nesters with 2 children and 2 grand-kids. I love fishing and do it every chance I get.

Focas

For years I had heard about Fellowship Of Christian Anglers Society (FOCAS). I had heard professional fisherman on the Bassmasters show talk about their involvement in Focas. I had thought about seeking out the local chapter, but had never done it.

While at the Elmwood All Outdoor Show early last March I stopped at the Focas booth and talked to the guys from the local central Illinois chapter and took home their information.

I went to their next meeting in April. What a great group of guys. What a great combination of faith and fishing. At the monthly meetings they pray for and with each other, they have a devotional, they talk about fishing, and about their fishing tournaments, and they laugh and have fun.

The group in nondenominational and members attend many different churches in the area.

At the fishing tournaments there is a devotional and prayer before the early morning take off. Most tournaments are one day events held on Saturdays.

This year I attended most of the meetings and fished a few tournaments with the club. I am looking forward to fishing more tournaments next year.

If you  are a christian and you like to fish, I recommend checking out your local  chapter.  Contact me if you want info on the central Illinois chapter.

Minnesota Ice Fishing

Man I can’t believe this blog has been sitting here as a partially done draft every since this January, but shortly after I got back from Minnesota I started a new career as a financial planner and I have busy every since between studying and working.

Anyway… at a family holiday get together just after the first of the year my cousin Suzy stated that she wanting to go to Minnesota to visit her sister, niece, and other extended family members. I mentioned that I wanted to go to Minnesota some day to ice fish. Suzy had never ice fished before, but said she wanted to try it. Well one thing led to another and we decided we would go up together in a couple weeks.

Our trip was great from the beginning. Suzy’s Niece Audra and Audra’s husband J J were very hospitable. We stayed at their house the first night we got there and the next morning we went out to Clear Lake at the town of Waseca. J J pulled the very nice ice house out onto the ice with his truck. He had made the ice-house himself. (He obviously has some skills.) Like I said it was very nice, with all the amenities, except for running water. It had a nice wood interior, a table, bunks, stove, furnace, satellite TV, and a port-a-potty in the bathroom.

As soon as we got the house set in place J J and son Blake went to work drilling holes in the ice through capped holes in the floor of the house. Soon we were set up and fishing. This was my first time fishing from an actual Ice House and not just a portable, and also my first time using a flasher. The flasher didn’t take long to get used and it a big help to see the fish.

 

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J J’s Ice House

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J J’s friend’s Ice House

 

 

 

 

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Ice fishing rod and reel in a holder with the flasher there marking fish.

 

 

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 One of the highlights that sticks out in my mind is in the evening I was sitting in a chair catching Crappy and some of the family was next to me sitting at the table playing Yahtzee. It was like I was fishing in someones dining room.

The fishing wasn’t great, just medium to small Crappie, but the overall experience was awesome, like a free guided fishing trip. Hope to do it again soon. Thanks Audra and J J.

 

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It was like a small town on the ice.

 

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Rapala Coat Hanger

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Fishing Lure Table Top

 

 

 

Take A Kid Ice Fishing

Chrissy said her son Bobby would love to go ice fishing and suggested I take him some time. So why not. I love sharing my passion for fishing with others. So I made all the necessary preparations, made sure I had wax worms for bait and propane for the lantern/heater.

I picked Bobby up shortly after 7 on Saturday morning and the ride to the lake was peppered with the usual barrage questions you would expect from a 6 year old. After arriving at the boat ramp we headed a short distance across the lake to a spot I had caught fish on my previous two times out.

I drilled a couple holes, set up the ice hut, lit the lantern for heat and soon we were cozy inside. Bobby caught the first fish, a Blue Gill, which he said he wanted to put back in the water, so we did. We continued to catch Gills off and on for a couple hour, keeping a few to eat and putting the smaller ones back. Bobby said some were giants and I saw no reason to tell him otherwise.

The bite got really slow and Bobby got bored so it was time to leave. We got everything packed in the car and I said we would do some “site seeing” before we headed home. We drove around the lake and I pulled into the parking lot at the dam. When we got out to enjoy the view we saw a man and a girl sledding down the hill. They said they had an extra sled that Bobby could use if he wanted. Well of course he wanted and there was no way I was going to pass up the chance to let him sled.

He made about six passes down the hill, then I said we better get going because I wanted to head home to clean and cook the fish. We stopped at Bobby’s house so he could show off the fish and then headed to my house. Bobby watch me fillet the fish. Again with the usual barrage of question, such as, “do fish have hearts”.

I cooked the fish in the oven and we had a late lunch of fish fillets and potato chips.  I’m not sure who enjoyed the day more, Bobby or myself, but I would definitely do it again.

 

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More Ice Fishing

Two firsts today. I got out ice fishing on Lake Thunderbird for the first time. I took my friend Jim and it was his first time ice fishing. We had what I would call near perfect conditions. 5 to  6 inches of good solid ice and temperatures ranging from about 32 degrees in the morning to 40 plus in the afternoon so it was pretty comfortable.

We got on the ice a little after 8 am and I drilled a hole right at the boat ramp to check the thickness. Knowing that we had plenty of good ice helped both Jim and I to proceed with some confidence, but we continued drilling holes to check thickness and to fish.

The first few holes didn’t produce any fish, but I remembered a spot that I used to get hung up when I was trolling in the open water season, so I knew there was something there that might hold fish. I drilled a hole there and started catching fish almost immediately, both Blue Gill and Crappie.

We fished there till the bite died off and then moved down a little ways where we caught a few more Gills. I drilled several more holes catching a fish here and there and we called it quites about 1 pm. Hard to beat fresh Crappie and Blue Gill for supper.

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Ice Fishing

I got out ice fishing this past Saturday, thanks to Nat Herman with Herman Brothers Lake and Land Management. We had to work a little to find and catch fish, but thanks to the fact that we were with people that knew the lake and knew how to use flashers to find fish, there were plenty of fish caught.

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One of the biggest take aways from the day was learning how to use a flasher for ice fishing. This is invaluable information and I will have a had time ever ice fishing without one.

Nate will be doing guided ice fishing trips on his lakes through the winter. Click on the “Guided Fishing Trips” at www.hbpondmanagement.com for more information.

Electronics for Fishing?

How and/or how much do you use your Electronics for fishing? Do you just use it for depth or do you use it to find fish holding structure, bait fish, and fish themselves? What about GPS, mapping, water temperature, down imaging, side imaging, boat speed, tracking?

When I asked that same question on Facebook, Brian Mazur, who fishes the Illinois Walleye Trail said, ” My Lowrance units are my life line for all of the above. If it says there is nothing I move on. Once you learn how to use and read them properly they’re priceless.”

Hoping I will soon have that kind of confidence in my electronics as I’m planning to get a new unit before spring.

I’ve heard the same comment I got from Brian from other professional fisherman such as Al and Jim Lindner in some of their videos, yet I talk to quit a lot of fisherman who pretty much just use their electronics for checking the depth.

I’ve been drooling over down imaging and side imaging units for quit a while now. Anything to do with electronics changes fast. I paid over $4000 for my first for my first lap top 15 to 20 years ago. Now you can buy one with more power and memory for 1/10th of that.

Just like lap top computers, with electronics for fishing you can get more and pay less than just a few years ago.

So how about you. Are you like Brian Mazur and the Lindners, using electronics to their full potential, or just using them for depth, or maybe somewhere in between?

 

The Off Season

What do you do in the fishing “off season”, or does the fishing “off season” exist in your world?  I love to fish but don’t hunt, so I try to fish most of the year, but there is always a stretch of time where I can’t fish, so what to do?

1. To many sportsman fall and winter are all about hunting, and fishing that time of year doesn’t even enter their minds.

2. There is always time with the family, especially around the holidays. I know for some this probably doesn’t sound like the ideal thing to do, but the holidays only come once a year.

3. In an attempt to minimize the “off season” I like to take advantage of power plant lakes since they never freeze. Even if you like to ice fish there are always times when there just isn’t enough ice. At those times it is good to take advantage of the open waters of power plant lakes.

4. When there is enough ice for ice fishing I like to get out and drill some holes in the ice. With the right clothing and equipment it isn’t that hard to stay warm. I like the simplicity of ice fishing and it can be a blast at times.

5. One of the things I look forward to in the winter are the outdoor shows. They give me a chance to check out the newest fishing products, talk fishing, take in some seminars and meet some of my fishing heroes.

I look forward to hopefully getting out on the ice for some ice fishing this winter, but we’re not even close to having enough ice yet. I may get to Powerton, a local power plant lake, this winter, but it is closed until December 23. I am hoping to get to at least a couple outdoor shows, but they don’t start til after the first of the year. With all of this and the fact that I don’t hunt, that pretty much just leaves time with the family and of coarse one thing that I haven’t mentioned yet, watching fishing videos and TV shows. Fortunately I have several fishing videos on DVDs and access to many more on the internet.  🙂

Think of anything I may have missed?

 

Slip Bobber Rigs

Slip bobbers or a slip float system allows you to cast something as compact as 10 inches or less, and be fishing as deep as 10 feet or more, because the bobber slides up the line until it hits the bobber stop.

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There are several types of bobber stops that you can put on your line to set to the depth you want to fish. The type that I prefer to use looks like this…

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Like a little plastic dog bone with a hole in each end. They are durable, stay in place well and they can be reused. This is the part of the slip bobber rig that you need to put on the line first. Just stick the line in one hole, then rap around the bobber stop one and a half times and feed it through the hole on the other end. I usually use 4 or 6lb test mono-filament with this set up. You will probably want to rap the line less if you are using heavier line. You should be able to move the stop up the line with some resistance so it will stay in place. (I usually wet the line and stop in my mouth so it moves easier.)

Next you slide a small bead on the line followed by the slip bobber. The beads and stops are sold together and the bobbers are sold separately.

Slip bobbers are available in Styrofoam and balsa. The balsa probably perform slightly better, but I have had good luck with the Styrofoam.

Now you are ready for your hook or jig, whichever you prefer. Tie them to the end of your line and add some split shot a few inched up the line. The amount of weight you will need to add depends on if you are using a plain hook or a jig. I use 2 split shot (about 1/4 inch in diameter) with a plain hook and less with a jig. You want just enough weight to pull the line through the bobber and make the bobber stand up, but still allow the bobber to be easily visible, not too submerged.

OK, so now your rig is complete, bobber stop, bead, bobber, split shot, and a hook or jig. Just add some bait and let the fun begin. Now you can easily change the depth that you are presenting the bait by adjusting your bobber stop.

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It takes a little bit of time to put this rig together but I think it is well worth it because it cast so easily and is an easy way to control the depth of your bait. I keep at least one rigged at all times so it’s always ready.

Trolling Shad Raps

What a great day of fishing  yesterday turned out to be, even though it didn’t start out that way. But you know what they say about any day of fishing.

I wanted to get in some casting for Muskie and the weather looked right for it.  I call it “casting for Muskie” because other than one smaller Muskie that I caught on Cass Lake in Minnesota by accident, that is all it has been. So Jim and I headed to the lake about noon. Jim doesn’t cast for Muskie but he just likes go along and besides it’s nice to have a net man and a photographer. (ha ha) I took a couple rods with Shad Raps tied on so he could cast for whatever.

After a couple hours or so of casting a 1 1/2 ounce spinner bait my back was betting sour and my confidence was waning, so I decided we would troll. I trolled a 6″ Jake for Muskie and Jim trolled a Shad Rap for a while with no action.

My confidence waned some more so I decided to just troll both Shad Raps and I soon caught one small Large Mouth at the dam. We continued trolling along the shore up toward the shallower end of the lake with no action until we got to the west end where the deepest water is about 12 foot. This is where the action started.

I caught a decent Large mouth, then a Wiper (Cross between a White Bass and a Striped Bass) and then Jim caught a Wiper so things were looking up. Then I caught a 17″ Large Mouth. Probably the biggest I’ve caught out of Thunderbird so far.

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We continued to troll in about 8 to 12ft  of water for a bit longer with no more hits so it was looking like they had stopped hitting, but that was about to change.

Suddenly my pole bent and the drag started to scream. I grabbed the rod out of the rod holder and put the trolling motor in reverse as fast as it would go for a bit. Then I tightened the drag so I could fight the fish. As I fought the fish it actually came toward the boat and went in the other direction. The fight probably lasted another minute or so before we were able to see that it was a Wiper. As I got her closer to the boat Jim was ready. (Net man and photographer)

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This beauty was 22 1/2″ long and weighed 5.4 lbs.

Since it was almost sunset by that time we both decided that would be a good way to end our day of fish, so we headed for the boat ramp.

 

Your Favorite Fishing Destination

What is your favorite fishing destination?

At this point I would have to say that Leech Lake in Minnesota is my favorite fishing destination. One of the main reasons is that it is a great multi-species lake with Walleye, Perch, Northern, Blue Gill, Rock Bass, Large Mouth Bass, and Muskie. I think the other main reason is because it has been a great family vacation spot for us since the mid 90s.

A variety of fishing techniques work well here also. You can drift with live bait rigs, cast lures, troll, or even fish with a bobber. Many times in the past a large part of the fish we have brought home were nice size perch caught right off the docks with a bobber and minnow.

At one time the Walleye fishing had fallen off but it has come back in the last few years. I was fortunate  enough to be able to talk to Al Lindner at an outdoor show in  the Chicago area last year and he talked about how the Walleye population was coming back strong on Leech because of getting the Cumerant population under control and also because of slot limits.

There are over thirty resorts around the lake, but we have always stayed at Brindley’s Harbor Resort. We have always enjoyed Brindley’s because of the nice cottages, great hospitality, great service (fish cleaning included), and the protected harbor. It is also centrally located on the lake near Pine Point.

There is also a casino, a nice sporting goods store, and numerous other shops in the town of Walker.

One thing about Leech Lake to be aware of is that it is a big lake, 112,000 acres. This can make for a challenge on a windy day and you would not want to go up the with a small boat.

All in all though, this is my favorite fishing destination. Plenty of different species to fish for and plenty of lodging to choose from.

So what about you?

What is your favorite fishing destination?

 

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