***HLO 2011 Stories***

Christmas Weekend 2011

The "Crew" spent the Christmas weekend with family and friends. It was very enjoyable to spend another holiday with the ones we love. Our family and friends deserve all the credit in the world for getting us where we are today. They are our best advertisement and our biggest fans. Thank you so much. We love you!

Colt and Brock fished Pokegs on XMas morning. Fishing was very slow around prime time. They stayed out a little later than usual and were rewarded. The clouds spitted snow and produced 25 and 27" walleyes. It was a great Christmas morning on the ice.

Topper, Godfrey, Staci, and Mama speared on and off throughout the weekend. The pike were cruising on Pokegama. They seen lots of action. Multiple 30 inch pike were seen. Topper speared one for a fish fry on Christmas eve day. Mama speared a big 36 inch on the Wendigo Arm side. The "Crew" loves the excitement of the underwater aquarium. We are ethical spearers. We only spear pike when we need one or two to eat. We like to soak up the action while waiting for that fish of a lifetime.

A couple days prior to the weekend, Colt and Ben hit up Red Lake. Between the four of them who fished, they iced 50-60 walleyes. The South end out of Morts and Rogers was hot in 10fow around the rocks. Glow red lindy flyers were the ticket. Ice was 15 to 16 inches thick. Truck travel and wheel houses were common. Four wheelers were still being used to stay mobile. The walleyes were very active throughout the morning and afternoon hours.

3rd Weekend of December 2011

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! The hard water fishing season is now in full swing. The ice around the Grand Rapids area is good. Small lakes have anywhere from 8 to 11 inches of ice. Larger lakes like Winnibigoshish, Leech, and Pokegama range from 6 to 9 inches. ATV travel is the best method right now. It will be a couple weeks until vehicles are ready for the ice.

Pokegama has been our goto lake this past week. The walleyes have been very active in the early morning and evening. The morning bite has been steady for a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after. The evening bite has been shorter, about 45 minutes right around sunset. A buckshot tipped with a minnow head in 20-30 feet of water will put marble eyes on the ice. Shoreline structure sticking way out into the main lake basin have been most productive. The humps and bars are also great places to start.

Walleyes are biting on the smaller humps on Winnibigoshish too. 20 to 24 feet during the evening hours has been good. Again, ATV is the means of travel out there. Red Lake was very good last week, but very slow this week. No idea what happened there. Lake of the Woods is a very safe bet for walleyes and saugers. Good reports are coming from the East side of the lake out from Baudette. Look for those eyes on LOTW in 14 to 22 fow during the morning and evening hours and then venture deeper for the day bite. The ice on the West side of LOTW (Warrroad, Long Point, Swift Ditch), is extremely dangerous. There are huge cracks and open water. The DNR advises no travel out from the public landings.

We will be hitting some of our back lakes this week in search of slab crappies and hog pike. With no snow on the ice, it's a great time to catch hog pike in the shallows. It's also a great time to sit in the dark house. Lots of underwater televisions will be monitored in the next month. Craig, Adam, and Topper all put their houses out on Pokegama this week. Good luck and may the fish jump out of the hole. Have fun and be safe!

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Wolf Delisting and 2nd Week of December 2011

December 8, 2011
Opinion Editorial
By Mark Wm. Johnson, MDHA

Regarding “Wolves – Time for action.”

Minnesota has never been without canis lupus (timber wolves). Even when initially listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, Minnesota had about 500. Today, wolf populations in Minnesota are higher than at any time in recorded history. In fact, MN’s wolf population is argued as larger than the entire wolf population of all the other lower 48 states combined. And it is expanding. That is why the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is trying to delist wolves from the ESA.

Having surpassed all ESA recovery benchmarks, wolves in the Great Lakes Region (MN, WI & MI) have saturated their traditional range and expanded. In fact, Minnesota’s current “designated wolf range” has expanded by several fold from once covering only MN’s northeastern most arrowhead region to now encompassing the northeastern third of the state. Within that range is where Minnesota’s estimated 3,500 wolves reside. West and south of that range wolf depredations of livestock and pets provide irrefutable evidence of territory expansion where wolves neither counted nor estimated unless killed by depredation specialists.

From March 2007 to September 2008 MN’s wolves were actually delisted and placed under state management. At the same time wolves were delisted in the northern Rocky Mountains and placed under their respective state management plans (plans pre-approved by USFWS). But not everyone was happy with that arrangement. So, a federal lawsuit was filed by a dozen environmental and anti-hunting groups to whom the lawsuit would mean media attention, an advertised cause, and money. A sympathetic Federal Judge found in their favor and all subsequent attempts by USFWS to delist wolves have been thwarted by law suits or threats of suits, always thwarting delisting efforts, until this year.

Currently, USFWS is reviewing public input regarding proposed delisting of the wolf in the Great Lakes Region. Wolves of the northern Rocky Mountains were delisted previously this year thanks to Congressional legislation that dictated delisting and insulated against more frivolous lawsuits. Currently, language in from the US House of Representatives is attached to the House version of the Interior Appropriations bill providing the same delisting provision and protection for the Great Lakes Region. But, reportedly some Senators are fighting to remove the provision from Interior Appropriations Conference Committee compromise language. They will succeed in killing this delisting effort unless our US Senators and Representative act on our behalf to stop them.

So what will delisting mean? Delisting simply means that wolves will be placed back under state authority and remain protected under federally approved state management plans. MN will still have wolves. Not delisting will mean that wolves will continue to expand into more of Minnesota unmanaged, except for specific livestock depredation hotspots. Under our current “listed” status today, it is illegal to kill a wolf that is killing or eating your livestock or pets, but you may call a professional to drive over, verify it and then consider the proper action to be taken. Until they are delisted, the only reason for which you can kill a wolf is if your life is endangered and you better be able to prove it.

In 1989 Minnesota had 1500-1750 wolves and they have expanded ever since. In 1992 the federal population criteria for delisting wolves in MN was 1251-1400 wolves by the year 2000. Minnesota has been patient, perhaps too patient, but no more. The endangered species act was enacted to return endangered species to recovered status. The wolf has recovered, but the “antis” will keep mounting legal challenges to keep it listed unless we convince Congress to act.

It is time to speak out, today, this week. Contact your US Congresspersons and Senators today and direct them to contact Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Jack Reed and lobby for the Senate to accept the House wolf delisting language in the Interior Appropriations bill.

This is our time to act!
Mark Wm. Johnson
Executive Director
Minnesota Deer Hunters Association

Here is how we need your help today! - "Big Game Forever"

(1) Go to the website http://biggameforever.org/takeaction and send an email. It's fast, it's easy and it's free. Simply click "take action" and follow the instructions. It should take about 30 seconds to send an email to all of your elected representatives, the White House, Department of Interior and US Fish and Wildlife Service. Big Game Forever makes it easy to make a difference.

(2) Ask your friends to join the fight with Big Game Forever. Send an email asking your friends to do 3 simple things:
(a) send an email to Congress using our automated system at http://biggameforever.org/takeaction;
(b) sign the petition on our website at http://biggameforever.org; and
(c) take 5 minutes and watch the video at http://biggameforever.org which shows why the future of wildlife is at risk.

Come on hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, we have all seen what the growing wolf population has done the past few years. It has affected our sports in one way or another. It's time to act and do something about the wolf so it can be managed correctly and by our state, by Minnesota. PLEASE CONTACT CONGRESS TODAY OR FOLLOW THE LINK FROM BIG GAME FOREVER! - "Hang Loose Outdoors"

We made it out on the hardwater this past week. We hit a couple of our back country lakes and found some real nice crappies. Small lakes have anywhere from 5 to 8 inches of ice. The larger lakes are making ice as we speak. Red Lake has a solid 11 inches of ice and the bite is hot! Pokegama varies anywhere from 3 to 7 inches. More reports from the hardwater next week. Good luck fishing.

December 2011 is here

December kicked off the right way for Hang Loose Outdoors. Brock smoked a doe with the muzz in one of our food plots on Thursday evening. Godfrey followed up a doe kill of his own the next day in the swamp country. Godfrey’s doe was taken with the Thompson Center the “Crew” won at the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association Banquet back in February. Good way to break in the new gun. Great way to put some meat in the freezer before the hard water fishing season hits us. We are hoping a hog buck steps out soon as most of us still have our buck tags.

Colt and Ben chilled in North Dakota this weekend. School cats with no money should be bow hunting that primo state. Instead, they received a phone call around midnight on Friday night from a good friend. He called to see if they wanted to cruise to Devil’s Lake to duck hunt in the morning. Broke Ben and Colt decided it was a far drive for their empty wallets. But after he stated there were tens of thousands of mallards in the field he was going to hunt, they instantly jumped in the car and left for Devils.

After arriving in Devils around 3AM, a quick two hour nap, and an hours worth of precisely setting up dozens of full body mallard decoys, they were ready. ‘Ready’ wasn’t really the proper word once 8:30 landed. Tens of thousands of mallards was no exaggeration. For five hours, the four hunters couldn’t believe their eyes. There was not a minute that went by where the sky was not black with ducks, and not distant ducks. They were talking ducks that were working the field they were hunting.

Before any triggers were pulled, Colt stated, “I don’t even care if I shoot the gun today”. The sight was truly amazing. Well, they all fired their guns. They had a mind boggling time decided which green heads to actually pull the trigger on, though. After all was said and done, they each sat in the field with a limit of drake green heads and a couple geese. What a great experience.

Wow, do I miss the hunting opportunities in that state. Duck hunting is top notch and we won’t get into deer hunting. All I have to say is, ‘Bow hunters’ paradise’!

There are too many things to joggle in this next week. We got one more week of muzz hunting and then it’s straight to the hard ice. We will probably be venturing out on a few small lakes this week to check ice conditions and rip a few lips. Carry that smoke pole on the shoulder. You never know when that hog bucks going to step out! Good luck hunting and fishing everyone!

Written by BRock

Muzz Opener - Last Week of November 2011

The opening weekend of the MN Muzzleloader season was very slow for the "Crew". Deer were almost non existent once again. The weather didn't help much. Saturday brought a rain and snow mix to the north country. We were pretty wet sitting in the stands. Those familiar strong winds of this years gun season followed the next couple days.

Colt and Ethan bow hunted during the weekend because they didn't have muzz's. Ethan shot a five point on Saturday evening. Good late season buck man. Topper blasted a fawn for the freezer on Monday with the smoke pole. Those were about the only highlights of the last week of November.

The ice is almost ready on the small lakes. Please use caution if you are going to try and get out this week. Wear those life jackets and bring a long rope. Always fish with a partner or tell someone where you will be going. BE CAREFUL! Test that ice...

We will be trying to smoke some more venison with the muzzloaders this week and into early December. We will probably start to venture out on the ice in the next week or so. The small lakes should be ready for hog pike and panfish soon.

3rd Weekend of November 2011

Well, the 2011 MN Rifle Season is currently over. This last weekend was another hard one. Seeing deer has been a complicated process here in Itasca county. The "Crew" hunted numerous days from dark to dark this season with very few deer seen. We jumped from one area to the next. Even once the snow and cold temperatures came, things remained the same. We even took days to scout during the rifle season mid-week, but few deer tracks across vast areas indicated low deer numbers around the area.

Some areas had lots of wolf tracks mingled between deer tracks and others no wolf sign. A few of our favorite areas that have been good to us for a number of years had neither deer or wolf tracks. Where did all the deer go?

The Itasca county area has always been tough deer hunting, but this year was really tough. The hard times were due to many factors: the weather, hunter pressure, wolves, low deer numbers. This area in the state is very spotty. Some small areas have good deer numbers, but the majority of the north woods have low numbers. The luck was not with most of the "Crew" this year.

Most of us did shoot a doe or two for the freezer so we shouldn't be complaining all that much. We passed up a few small bucks because we don't shoot them. Small bucks are future trophies. Dan Neary highlighted our rifle season shooting a 153 inch 10 point. Staci shot a respectible 10 point herself.

All in all it was another great year filled with challenges and learning experiences. We did a lot of pre season scouting with little to show forth. We sat many many hours only seeing a deer here and there. Next year will be filled with bigger decisions and challenges.

But for now..... We got muzzleloader season. It's time to fill the last of our tags and possible shoot that hog we've been chasing all season. It's also time to get out the ice fishing gear and the pike spears. Tis the time for another season! It's time for the cold weather, the smoke and powder, the underwater television, and the pole bending ice action!

Dan Neary and the Second Weekend of the 2011 MN Rifle Season

For all you ladies and gentleman who have the privilege of knowing Dan Neary, you know that Dan is one lucky and mischievous person. Dan provides us with good laughs and great stories. We don’t understand how Dan has so much success in the outdoors, but he must do things right part of the time.

Well, on November 9th, Dan sent me this text message while I was at work: “I am on my way to work and just saw the biggest buck of my life. It was north of Squaw Lake. The buck was easily a 12 pointer with 12-13 inch G2 and G3 tines. Unbelievable! I have my rifle with me, but I don’t have any blaze orange in my truck. He was right up on the road. I got within 20 yards of him! I can’t believe I just saw that buck. Awesome when you see one like that in real life.” I sent him multiple texts back in the next half hour asking him why he didn’t shoot it and why he wasn’t in the woods trying to kill his buck of a lifetime. Knowing Dan, I just smiled thinking about what was actually going through his head as we texted back and forth.

The rest of the story goes something like this. Dan got to work, sat down at his desk, and collected his thoughts. He couldn’t handle knowing that buck was right at his finger tips. He grabbed an orange vest and told his coworkers he was going hunting. He tore off back towards the south to the sighting.

He pulled his Chevy off the side of the road and jumped into the woods. The area where the buck had ventured was thick so he picked a log to sit on no more than seventy-five yards off the road. Thoughts ran through his head as he watched vehicles drive down the road. What are the odds this buck will come back? This is a shot in the dark. That buck is long gone. This is a dumb spot to be sitting.

As Dan sat on the log for a half hour pondering his decision, he heard a twig snap. He looked to his left and a huge bodied deer appeared. Dan is left handed so a deer on his left means he has to turn one-hundred eighty degrees to shoot. Dan tried to get his legs to the other side of the log, but stopped abruptly as his eyes caught sight of the rack. It was him. Oh my god! What was this stupid buck doing coming back?

Dan’s buck fever set in like no other (Dan gets buck fever on spike bucks so you can all imagine how much he started shaking). He twisted his body around to the left, stopped the buck in an opening about sixty yards, and struggled to put the crosshairs behind his shoulder. He shot, but felt himself pull the shot low.

All that lay on the ground where the buck stood was a little white hair and a small chunk of meat. Dan packed up and headed back to work. (I can’t imagine that drive back to work for Dan.) He pulled into work and told his coworker Tom the story.

Tom waited for Dan to cool down for a few hours before they headed to the shot sight. An hour of tracking the buck’s trail turned into nothing. A small sapling just in front of where the buck stood was sawed off real low from Dan’s .30 06. A few small drops of blood were all they found besides the hair and chunk of meat. It must have been a really low shot they figured.

Dan was heart broken as he told me the whole story that evening on the phone. I encouraged him that he probably didn’t scare the buck from the area. I explained to him that if I was Dan Neary, I would hunt that buck the rest of the season and hunt nowhere else. I think Dan agreed with me a little, but you never know with Dan.

I got a text two days later from Dan that read: “Beaves, I think I just saw my hog again! He was sneaking through the thick popple slash about eighty yards away. I hit my can call a couple times and he started grunting the lowest and deepest grunts I have ever heard. He kept going. He was on a mission!” I text Dan back and asked him if he snort and wheezed at him or grunted. He told me that he did all the above, but the buck wouldn’t turn. He said it sounded to him as the buck responded back to him with grunts. From past experiences, I knew that was good. The buck knew Dan was there.

Then I asked Dan if it was the same road buck. He didn’t see the buck’s rack. He barely could make out the deer. He was set up in his climber stand about two hundred yards off the road this time. It was right around 10:30A.M. I made my point clear to Dan to stay in his stand for the rest of the day.

A little after noon, Dan text me and explained that he was going to get down and put his trail camera up over a scrape that lay to his right. Again, I told him to stay in his stand. It was lunch time and that is when the hogs roll. Dan’s texts were filled with confidence as he stated that he was going to kill the hog. His texts also showed stress. Well, obviously, after you miss it the first time and then possibly see it a second time without a shot.

At 1P.M on the button, Dan’s text message read: “I got a big decision to make. Do I stay up in my stand and hunt, or do I quickly sneak down, put up my trial camera and scent dripper, and then jump back up into the stand?” I texted Dan right back. “YOU STAY IN YOUR STAND AND KILL HIM”.

At 1:03 P.M my phone rang. Dan Neary’s number was there jingling away. I quickly answered the phone. “Beaves, he’s down.” “I just shot him.” “He’s a massive ten pointer.” I went crazy as my head bounced off the roof of my truck as I drove down the highway. Dan you are the luckiest kid ever. I knew he was going to come back around.

Dan put a perfect shot on the buck this time as it ran right towards him skidding to a stop no more than thirty yards from the base of his tree. Way to go DAN! A little luck can go a long ways. What is the chance you see a buck of a lifetime cross the road in front of you heading into public land and then kill it two days later? What are the odds you miss it and then get another chance? Well, it happened to Dan. It just goes to show what persistence gets you and what can happen during the hours of 10A.M to 2 P.M (Lunch Time) during the rut!

written by Brock

The Extreme Winds of the MN Rifle Opener

I don't think I can remember a rifle opener as bland and mind boggling as this past weekend. The winds blew like hurricans all weekend and into Tuesday morning. They did not go to sleep or take a snooze for one second. There was no time for closing ones eyes in the deer stand and listening for that twig to snap. Your eyes had to be focused 360 degrees. There was no hearing deer.

I would of taken twenty below zero or eighty degree opening weekend temperatures over those thirty to forty mph winds. I have very little luck when the wind blows constantly. In my opinion, lots of deer don't like to move too far from their bedding areas with high winds. Bedding to feeding is a short distance and this makes your chances of seeing deer less.

Some of the "Crew" didn't see any deer this past weekend and others seen a few, just not the right ones. Quite a few small bucks were seen between the "Crew" and a few does. No one pulled the trigger on a doe. Well, if you count Ben Olson than I guess this statement is false.

Ben didn't like a tasty fawn drinking out of the pond in front of his deer stand so he put it on the dinner table. Good going Ben. That fawner will be good college eats. Wait for the hog this coming weekend.

Staci put the only buck on the ground. She was sitting with Adam Godfrey on Sunday. A ten pointer got a little too close to her .243. She made a great shot and the buck only went 30 yards. Great second deer girl!

Some of the "Crew" will be hunting during the middle of the week. All of us will be in the woods for the second weekend! It's time for hogs! Let the leaves crunch, the antlers rattle, and the winds calm. Hang loose and kill some bucks!

Last Weekend of October 2011

The "Crew" was busy bowhunting this weekend and preparing their last few things for the upcoming MN Rifle Opener. Bowhunting was on the slower side for the amount of hours we put into the stands this weekend. A few small bucks and does were saw. The small bucks seemed to be on a mission which means those hog bucks should start to prowl for that first receptive doe real soon. Scrapes and rubs are appearing more and more as we approach this weekend's rifle opener.

Colt and Ben put the smackdown on the North Dakota waterfowl again this past weekend. Geese and mallards filled and fell from the skies. Field hunting was the name of the game.

Please BE SAFE this weekend. We all know the excitement of opening day. Keep safety in your mind and big bucks in your eyes. Good Luck!

Lunch Time is the Right Time
It's getting close to the 2011 Rifle Season

There is nothing better than listening to old timers’ big buck stories about the one that got away. How about the one when the gun was leaning up against a tree and his trousers were around his ankles when out of nowhere a monster buck appeared? Unfortunately, the gun was out of reach and the buck ran away. What about the time he was climbing down from his deer stand when the thirty pointer nearly ran right underneath him chasing a doe? Or how about that day he was driving back to the house for lunch when a monster buck ran right in front of his truck? He quickly jumped out, chased the buck through the woods, but never got a shot. He returned home and momma chewed him out because he was late and his lunch was cold.

For some reason it seems many of these missed opportunities usually coincide around the time when hunters are leaving their deer stands and making their way in for lunch. Lunchtime and the deer stand are generally opposites for a high percentage of hunters. Lunch is a period to warm up, tell the morning hunting stories, and fill that grumbling stomach.

In the stand, just when we begin to get comfortable our stomachs start to growl. The cold morning warms up a few degrees as the sun moves overhead. So, we get hungry, as do the birds and the squirrels as they start to rustle around looking for a snack. Most hunters are the same. It is “enough already” and they start to climb down from their deer stands and anxiously head back for coffee, lunch, and a short nap around 10 A.M (not that there is anything wrong with that). I am just the opposite. I am just settling in. For me, there is no better time to be sitting in the deer stand awaiting that big buck than the ten to two brunch or lunchtime and the naptime thereafter.

There have been numerous articles written backed with research and statistics presented concerning the best time to hunt mature bucks during the rut. Many people refer to the best time to hunt as “prime time,” the first couple hours in the morning and the last hour in the evening. Others base “prime time” on the moon phase on that given night or throughout that week. Some say the most dominant bucks get that way because they are mostly nocturnal.

Well, I am here to tell you, I am a firm believer that because lots of big buck activity takes place during the middle of the night, some big bucks sleep in or go to bed early, but are on their feet for a short time during mid-day. In my opinion, most mature bucks travel much farther out of their comfortable range during the night than they do during the day. This must be tiring. Hence, most day activity takes place near and around their bedding areas so to save energy for that “night flight.” There are obviously exceptions to this, however, as the rut is predictably unpredictable.

By definition, the rut is that period during the whitetail buck’s life when the only thing on its mind is locating receptive does. A single hot doe can make the smartest buck not so smart in a matter of seconds if he decides to pursue her. When a buck chases a doe all night long and into the early morning hours, he sometimes struggles to find safety once first light hits. I have seen a few nice bucks during first light, but it always appears they are cautiously sneaking in the direction of their bedding area. The night’s breeding process is tiring on big bucks and they usually seek cover and rest come first light.

Morning’s first light finds the majority of deer hunters waiting patiently in their stands or ground blinds for that big buck. Surveys have shown that most hunters climb down from their stands before 10 A.M and head back to the cabin or truck to meet up with the rest of their hunting group for lunch or coffee. They usually don’t return back to the woods until around 3 P.M. Well, I always say, you can’t kill that buck of a lifetime back at the house or shack or vehicle.

I don’t know if dominant bucks have patterned hunters, but my experience indicates that 10:30 A.M to 2:30 P.M offers the best chance to kill a big mature buck. This time period is when most hunters are absent from the woods. I’m not saying this is the best time to kill a deer. I’m saying it is an exceptional time to kill a big dominant mature buck.

Research has shown that throughout North America big bucks are highly likely to be active at varying times and length of times during mid-day hours. Hunters typically see fewer deer during this period of time, but the chances the one deer they might see could very well be a quality buck are very good.

There are many reasons and facts that support mature bucks being on their feet when the sun is high in the sky. Some hunters tell me the only reason big bucks are moving during this time of day is because hunters have pushed them from their beds on their way out of the woods or back into the woods.

I agree this happens once in a while, but it doesn’t account for a fraction of the mid-day sightings. A significant portion of a mature buck’s rut activity and doe tending takes place during the middle of the day. Another misconception held by most hunters is that during a full moon deer do not move during the day. My experience proves the exact opposite. I see over ninety percent of my deer activity during mid-day hours on a full moon and the day or two leading up to and after a full moon. I think it is just natural that mature bucks move during the mid-day. Lots of research supports this statement. My experience leads me to believe that a large percentage of big bucks are just waking up from their naps around 10 A.M while the does are just climbing into their beds.

Mid-day offers the perfect time for mature bucks to sneak through the woods using the wind to their advantage as they scent-check doe bedding areas. It all makes sense. The mature bucks are all rested up from their night’s activities. The rut is on! The does are congregated in a few predictable areas and hunting pressure is at a minimum. It’s the right time to locate those receptive does; it’s lunch time!

Lunchtime in November is one of my favorite times of the year. Let me tell you a few stories. Remember those couple really warm sixty to seventy degree Minnesota rifle openers we had in 2001 and 2002? On opening day in 2002, I remember stripping down to a t-shirt at 10 A.M. I passed up a decent eight pointer at 10:30 A.M and then a little five pointer at 11:10 A.M. At 12:15 P.M, I shot a 120 inch ten pointer ten yards from my stand. The buck came flying out of a creek bottom, where a few known bedding areas were, straight at me like a rocket. I dropped the buck two feet away from where one of my Doe-N-Estrus scent rags hung.

Now, let me go back to the first big buck I ever killed. It was 1998. My Dad walked up to me at 11:50 A.M on his way to a different stand to the south of me. He asked if I had seen anything or if I was cold. I was cold indeed. It was one of those overcast, misty, and damp days, but Dad encouraged me to stay in the stand. I curled up in a ball in the corner of the stand as I watched Dad disappear down the trail. It wasn’t ten minutes later (12:00 P.M) that a moose of a buck was standing over one of the scrapes that lay out in front of me through the open hardwoods. I had buck fever so badly at first glance at this buck that I can’t really recall how I ended up killing it. All I remember is Dad told me if it was a big buck to keep shooting until it didn’t move anymore. My SKS kept on a blasting.

That next weekend I filled Dad’s buck tag at 12:30 P.M with a respectable eight point. In 2000, I sniped a 125 inch nine point off a ridge from two hundred yards away at 10:30 A.M. Then there were a few very nice eight pointers I bleated in, back-to-back years, in 2003 and 2004. Both bucks were killed between one and two P.M. I also can’t let the 130 inch ten point story go untold. It was in 2006 at my creek bottom spot and, yes, he was killed at 3 P.M after I passed up four smaller bucks between 11 A.M and 2:30 P.M before harvesting him that afternoon. Oh, and there were those bucks in 2009 and 2010. Yeah, you guessed it; those two bucks were killed right around lunch time too.

I’m not saying I’ve killed every buck in my life between 10:30 A.M and 2:30 P.M, but the majority of the larger ones, I have. And yes, I’ve taken a couple of those with a sandwich hanging out of my mouth. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying the only time to hunt big dominant bucks during the rut is around lunchtime. I am simply stating, however, that you have to be out there hunting in order to have a chance at that big buck. I am also not saying it is a lock. It is not. But the opportunities are definitely there.

During the rifle season, our hunting group sits in the stand dawn to dark every day. We sit all day because we know that big buck can step out at any moment and because we love to hunt that way. Our success around mid-day has shown us that there is no reason to get down from the stand and risk missing an opportunity. Our fathers taught us to hunt this way. They would drop us off at the base of our trees in the dark and pick us up in the dark. No human words were heard during daylight hours unless we were admiring a big buck lying on the ground. The only lunchtime stories we shared and still share are the ones that end with success!

By Brock Anderson


MudRun - 3rd Weekend of October 2011
'Celebrating the Life of Jeremy Topper'

Friends and family celebrated the life of Jeremy Topper this weekend. The annual Benson mudrun was a great time on Saturday. Hundreds showed up to take to the mud and show their love for Jeremy Topper. The mud was deep and trucks and four wheelers ate it up. The skidder had to pull out every vehicle that took to the hole. Great times!

Jeremy Topper

JEREMY ALLEN TOPPER, 37, of Cohasset, MN died Saturday, October 8, 2011 as a result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

Jeremy was born in 1974 in Grand Rapids, MN to Robert “Bob” and Debbie Topper. He attended Cohasset Elementary School and graduated from Grand Rapids High School in 1993. Jeremy lived in Cohasset with his children, Brittanie and Brodie, and was employed at Terex/ASV in Grand Rapids, MN. He enjoyed playing an active role in coaching his children in various sports.

He is preceded in death by his paternal grandmother, Joyce Topper; and his uncle, Gary Topper.

Jeremy is survived by his children, Brittanie and Brodie of Cohasset and their mother, Kellie Topper of Alexandria, MN; his parents, Robert “Bob” and Debbie Topper of Cohasset, MN; one brother, Randy Topper (Lindsey Swihart) of Cohasset, MN; his paternal grandparents, Llewellyn “Pee Wee” and Marnene Topper of Cohasset, MN; his maternal grandparents, Jeanne Miller of Cohasset, MN and Haskell Ward of Hartselle, AL; his uncles and aunts and their families, Jerry and Donna Topper of Cohasset, MN Larry and Lori Topper of Arvada, CO, Jeanne and Fred Adams of Warba, MN, Judy and Jerry Mayerle of Nashwauk, MN, Scott and Nancy Drumbeater of Cohasset, MN, Dean Drumbeater (Sharon) of Cohasset, MN, Jackie and Chuck Carlson of Cohasset, MN, Tike and Vickie Sutherland of Cohasset, MN, Jeanine Grossman of Marble, MN, William “Bill” Miller (Steve Cummings) of St. Michael, MN, Steve and Kelly Ward of Hartselle, AL, Jeff and Sabrina Ward of Hartselle, AL, Tim and Karen Ward of Hartselle, AL, and Pam Topper of Grand Rapids, MN; and many cousins and so many friends that you could never begin to count them.

Visitation will be Wednesday, October 12, 2011 from 2:00 P.M. until the 3:00 P.M. Funeral Service in West Cohasset Bible Chapel, West Cohasset, MN. Rev. Lance Edminster will officiate.

Burial will be in Wildwood Cemetery, Cohasset, MN. Arrangements are with Rowe Funeral Home of Grand Rapids, MN.

First Weekend of October - Dan & Holly Neary

Congratulations to Mr & Mrs Dan Neary!

Dan and Holly tied the knot this weekend.

It was a great time with family and friends. Enjoy your honey-moon.

NoDak Quacks

Hangloose had a great weekend this past week out in North Dakota. Saturday the 24th kicked off the opener of the North Dakota waterfowl season; let me tell you there was no shortage of action!

Thursday was planned to be the first scouting day for the crew, Ben and I drove 45 minutes west of Grand Forks into Michigan. Michigan marks the start of the pot hole region on your way to Devils Lake and was a great starting place for our first day of scouting. We drove the Chevy down endless dirt roads until finally, off in the distance we spotted hundreds of birds in the air, all working a stubble wheat field. We bumbled around some minimum maintenance roads until we got within a quarter mile of the field. There were upwards of 2000 birds working this field! We were jacked up after seeing that so we headed south to find the owner of the posted field.

Once we found the owner of the field, we proceeded to ask if she would mind anyone hunting it on opening Saturday. Unfortunately she declined us. She explained that her kids were hunting that field and it was posted to ensure they got it all to themselves. SMART! So at the end of day one, the ducks and geese were plus one, Ben and I, zero.

We headed home that night in a sort of depressed mood as we knew tomorrow would determine whether or not we hunted the North Dakota opener. Friday found us back around the Michigan area scouting hard about 10 miles south of what we had originally looked over. By about 6 o'clock we had located a field packed with hundreds of mallards, pintails, and some honkers. Problem was, there was another student looking over the same field, even though it was WAY back in the Nodak sticks. But, being the good sportsman we are, we rolled up to the other hunter with intentions of finding out his plan for the morning. As we got closer, he flagged us down asking if we wanted to get in on the field with him and a buddy. Ben and I agreed almost simultaneously. However, we still had to get permission as this field was also posted. We exchanged numbers and parted ways. At about 7 o'clock, presently located in one of the half a million corn fields in North Dakota, Ben and I had almost given up on finding anymore birds. We debated what to do when we got turned down a second time. Finally, John called my phone with good news. “Hey! We are in guys!” We were pumped! 1500 birds working one small 4 acre field... BINGO!!

The trip home was all but quiet as we reminisced about killing ducks and geese, come morning. Our plan was to get some sleep and head out at 3 a.m. There was one BIG problem with that plan. Now I don't know if any of you feel the same way, but when I have a field locked down and there is 1500 birds filling every square foot of that field, I tend to not sleep until I am in that field and set up. So as you would have guessed, 0 hours of sleep were totaled up between the 3 of us. Still high on excitement, we piled into the blazer and set out towards the battlefield.

After a not so delicious, not so nutritious breakfast of gas station sandwiches, coffee, swedish fish, crackers, chips, mountain dew, and other goodies we were on the road. We arrived at the field around 4 a.m. Decoys were unloaded, blinds were brushed and our spread took shape. As the stars shown above us, and coyotes yelped in the distance as we sat and had a few laughs with John and Phil, the guys we had met the previous day.

As the first few rays of light shown across the stubble wheat field, mallards began to quack and make a racket as they slowly but surely made their way out of their roosts and onto the breakfast table. Flocks of 50 pintails buzzed us all morning. We shot 8 out of the first 2 flocks and then had to slow down and pick out mallards because you are only allowed 2 pintails each in North Dakota. The pintails did not stop however, they kept coming and coming, some footage was taken and some great shots were presented. Our crew ended up getting our limit by 8:30 a.m. Mallard drakes, pintails, and a few hens were taken, as well as a big lone goose. I tell ya what, those ducks are going to be delicious, cooked fajita style with all the fixings!

Well, the following week had been prosperous, Ben and I banked in on some fantastic deer hunting spots as well as scouting with the guys and finding another absolute pile of ducks! We would plan to hunt these ducks Friday morning before class at 11 with our good buddies Jesse Hidde, Steve Sarkala, Tony Ross and Chewy Detjen. Once again the bags, guns, decoys ect. were loaded into the truck. This time we left Grand Forks at 2:45 a.m. I tell you what, that sure turned out to be the best decision we made because another hunter who we had previously ran into scouting, thought he could nab up our field before we got there. Thats a no no. He quickly relocated after seeing us almost completely set up by the time he rolled in around 5 o'clock.

This morning also proved to be rather slow to start out with. However, when they started to fly, they came in like I've never seen before in my life! Flocks 100-150 mallards swung through, maple leafing all the way into our decoys! They seemed to drop from the heavens, their flock floating in like a smoke cloud until we were surrounded by ducks! After a flurry of ducks for an hour or so, we were standing next to the truck with a pile of mallards and pintails that anyone would have been proud of! It was such an exciting hunt none of us wanted to leave that field.

This is just an example that if you put the time and effort into your scouting and hunting, you will be rewarded greatly. It was great to be out with good friends enjoying what we all love to do..HUNT! So put in some time into your next hunt and see how it goes for you!

Written by Colt

MN Ruffed Grouse and Bow Opener

This weekend kicked off the Minnesota grouse and bow opener. A few of us hit the stands and the trails for a couple hours, but nothing hardcore, yet. Fishing was still on our minds as we had a couple scheduled walleye trips.

Topper guided a group on Winnibigoshish on Saturday. They landed at Plug Hat and headed around Tamarack Point to Moxey’s Hole. They found hungry walleyes in 6-8 ft of water. The weeds were holding the majority of the fish. Every pocket of weeds seemed to have a concentration of walleyes throughout the day. A 1/4 – 1/8 ounce parrot colored jig tipped with a shiner worked the best. Rip jigging worked better in the early morning followed by a slower speed and jig in the late morning/early afternoon. They boated plenty of eater eyes along with a few that they released. Look for the shiner bite to continue and be strong on Winni and other lakes from here on out.

Brock guided Dick on a local Grand Rapids area lake on Sunday. He wanted to increase his walleye knowledge on a lake closer to the Hill City area. Fishing was slow, but they managed to catch a handful of eater walleyes. A jig and minnow produced the majority of the fish. A crawler and lindy rig still caught a couple eye balls. Again, look for the jig/minnow to be your goto presentation as the water temperature continues to drop and that Fall bite kicks up. Search the shallow weeds for your most consistent action.

A few hunting tips for you during this early season are as follows. Look for the best ruffed grouse action up north in the younger aspen and speckled alder mixes. White spruces on the edge of intermediate and young regeneration forests are also holding those tasty birds. The underbrush and vegetation is thick right now so walk slowly and keep your ears and eyes peeled. The acorns are falling like mad right now. Great early season bow hunting spots can be found in Red Oak stands that are dropping healthy green acorns. Good luck hunting. Duck opener is this coming weekend.

Second Weekend of September 2011

The days of our short school week were spent reminiscing about what to do over the upcoming weekend. Ben and I alone mulled around ideas of goose hunting and fishing with two good college buddies that guide on Lake of the Woods, Jake Beckle and Stephen Slick. However, with temperatures sky rocketing into the 90s goose hunting was not looking like the best option.

As Thursday night rolled around, we put together a plan. We were to load up the guns, blinds, decoys, walleye rods, muskie rods, and everything else that was needed for a full weekend of fishing or hunting. We rolled out around noon on Friday. We arrived in Baudette around 3:30, hooked up to the 17 foot Lund and headed out of Border View Resort. The target species was big pike.

Now, I don't know if being in North Dakota had anything to do with our memory, but we just forgot all the fishing essentials. We arrived to the spot with no net and no foot peddle for the trolling motor. Now landing 40+inch pike by hand has been done before but we opted not to try. We met Jake's dad at the landing and returned to the water. After two hours of casting only a few small fish were caught. It was a gorgeous night despite slow fishing so we headed back in high spirits, looking forward to the mornings walleye outing.

That night we rigged up all our trolling rods with walleye divers and shad raps for the morning. Ben and I constantly gave Stephan and Jake a hard time for not ever trying Salmos on their rigs, seeing as Salmos are by far our favorite crank. They were good sports and assured we would catch fish in the morning.

We were up bright and early Saturday morning, we stopped at the local bait shop to grab food and drinks then were off to the lake. With the Lund finally in the water, we dropped all our gear, coolers and an abundance of rods into it and headed out, starting our 20 mile trek across L.O.W. Once we arrived to the first spot, we dropped the riggers to 29 feet and started working the structure in 33 feet of water at 2.7 mph. It wasn't long before Ben hooked into the first eye ball of the trip, a healthy 19 inch chunk.

As the weather heated up so did the fishing, one chunky walleye after another slammed our cranks all morning. We had 20 walleyes in the box along with 4 Saugers by noon. We did find some big fish as well. Ben found himself a 27 in marble eye and Stephan hooked into a fat 26. It was great to be out on the water again, especially hammering on the walleyes! A big thanks goes out to Jake and Stephen who found the fish and made the trip very successful.

We finished off the day with a fish fry along with potatoes and baked beans. A bon fire was enjoyed that night while we told fish stories about trolling under the moon and wishing we were pulling cranks on Pokegama.

written by Colt

Well, the rest of the “Crew” was trolling cranks under the moonlight on Friday and Saturday night. Friday, Brock and Joel Reed hit up Leech Lake out of Stony Point. Before dark, they searched and searched with the Lowrance electronics for a school of walleyes, but came up with an empty graph. They started trolling Slamo hornet and stings around Stony Point at dusk. A few walleyes were caught right around dark, but the bite was very inconsistent. They searched high and low all over the south end of Leech for a school of walleye. Finally around 11PM, they found an active school of fish holding in the rocks in Horseshoe Bay. They caught about a dozen eye balls from 11-1PM. Joel topped the night with a tank of a 27 incher. Only one eater (under 18”) was boated. Most eyes were 19-22”. It was a beautiful night on the water. The Northern Lights danced around midnight and were and always are a sight to see.

Saturday night Topper and Brock fished Pokegama for a couple hours. A few eye balls were caught on Salmo stings. The bite was slow at best, though. Dan Neary and his future brother in law caught a few also, but reported the action slow too. Look for the October full moon to be lights out as the water temeratures finally drop and those eyes move towards the shallows. There is a frost advisory predicted this week so those water temps should start to fall.

The rest of the weekend was spent scouting whitetail deer and bear hunting. Adam put more time into the stand, but came up bear less. A few bears continue to hit his bait. Look for this weekend to be action packed as temps dip into the freezing mark and the bears start to show themselves during the day.

This weekend is the opener for ruffed grouse and bow opener for deer. Some of us will be hunting both. To those hunting this weekend, be safe and good luck. Take a kid hunting with you. Introduce them to the great outdoors and keep our wonderful sports thriving for future generations.

Labor Day Weekend 2011

Labor Day weekend was spent with family and friends. The "Crew" got out on the water a little. Most of our time was spent relaxing, bear hunting, checking trail cameras, sighting our bows in, and enjoying great times with our friends and family.

Adam spent his whole weekend in his stand awaiting that hog black bear. His baits have been getting thrashed, but very inconsistently. Look for bear hunting to get better as the wild food in the woods diminishes. Hope to post some pics of a bear soon. Adam and Staci have sure been putting their time in.

We have been getting ready for the upcoming bow season. Shooting bows, scouting, and checking trail cameras have been regular for most of the "Crew". Colt and Ben have been shooting some geese in North Dakota.

Water temperatures around the Grand Rapids area have remained in the mid 70's. The crawler bite is still on. Look for the night bite to give up some walleyes this week as we push towards that full moon. The October full moon looks to be the crazy one. As the water temps fall, those big eyes will push back to the shoreline and the shallows. Hope it happens soon. The summer structures are where we are still fishing. The minnow bite will turn back on as those temps drop too. Great time to start thinking about those big minnows.

Hope everyone had a great memorial weekend.

Last Weekend of August 2011

Pokegama was our goto lake again this weekend. The walleyes have been hit and miss day to day on Pokegs this past week. Friday we found a mess of eye balls holding on a few of the deep humps during the mid day. These fish were eating on the bases of the structures in 22-28 FOW. A 7 ft lindy rig with a crawler worked slow .5-.8 mph hour worked best. A 6 ft gold spinner tipped with a crawler also triggered some bites. It seemed as the lindy caught most of our larger walleyes including a hog 29.75 inch, and the spinners boated most of those delicious eaters.

We trolled leadcore with Slamo Stings and Reef Runners for those hog slimers also. Pike action was most consistent in 25-40 feet of water. The thermocline also gave up a few pike. A fair number of 30+ inch slimers were boated. Wow, what exciting action and fight these give you. There's nothing better than catching fish. So when the eyes are hard to find or when they are being finicky, try fishing the predators in the lake. Keep the action going and the poles bending. The walleye bite on Pokegama has been best in the mid morning to late afternoon. We also caught a few lake trout in the deeps this weekend. Good eats. What a wonderful multi species fishery Pokegama Lake is. The crappies and bluegills have been biting in the evening hours in 14-20FOW. Watch out for those bass attacks on any presentation also. They have been in eat mode all over the lake.

Winnibigoshish has the most consistent walleye bite going on right now in 10-16FOW. Pull spinners tipped with crawlers at .8-1.5 mph. Try trolling those Salmo hornets out there too. Bowstring, Sand, Trout, and Deer are giving up some walleyes in the morning and evening hours too. Those giant Leech Lake crappies have been biting in 7-10 FOW with an occassional walleye here and there. The musky action is slowly heating up and will get better and better as we push into September. Keep on the fish with those Lowrance electronics. Rays Sport and Marine is your goto dealer for Lowrance graphs as well as terrific deals on Lund boats and all the gadgets you need to have a great time on the water. 218-326-0353

Third Weekend of August 2011

Fall was in the air this past weekend. Cool breezes were felt in the morning and evening. Those strong winds existed during the day, but they didn’t scare the Crew off the water. Topper and Brock guided a large group Friday afternoon on Pokegama.

The walleyes were loaded on the mid lake structures in 12-16 feet of water just off the islands. The wind was blasting over 20 mph. They pulled spinners and bottom bouncers through numerous schools of walleyes, but could not get any of them to bite. Those spinners caught perch, bluegills, pike, and bass, but no marble eyes.

Topper brought his group out to the deeps and broke out the leadcore poles. They dragged Salmo stings and Reef Runners down 23-27 feet under the surface right in the thermocline. It didn’t take them long to hook up with some hog pike. In an hour and a half, they boated a couple 30 inchers along with a few mid 20 inchers. The big pike made for a great meal later that night.

Brock took his group bass fishing in the calmer waters of Salter Bay. Small bass, bluegills, and perch were also found there. No hogs showed themselves. Both boats met up and returned to Pooles Bay to fillet fish and take a short break. Pictures of the hog pike were taken before they were filleted.

They returned to the water for the last hour before dark. Both boats trolled leadcore and cranks. A few more descent pike were caught along with a fat 26 inch walleye right before dark. It was a great fish to end the trip on.

That thermocline layer on Pokegama continues to provide us with great success the last few weeks. When the fish aren't biting in there regular areas this time of year, try focusing on the thermocline and you'll be amazed with your results. The thermocline is different from lake to lake, but again it's very visible on your Lowrance electronics. Pull some crankbaits using leadcore line or try the variety of deep diving cranks on the market today. When you catch a fish remember how much line you had out. Use a line counter if you have one. We recommend Diawa Accudepth 17LC with 10-12lb Fireline or Accudepth 47LC if you are interested in leadcore line.

Topper hit Pokegama again on Saturday for another guided adventure. Again the walleyes were tight lipped. They caught a couple right in the morning, but a consistent bite was hard to find. The gators were biting in the thermocline again. They caught quite a few nice pike with leadcore and deep diving crankbaits. After the trip, Topper couldn’t get enough slim so he picked up his Mom for some more pike action. Toppers Mom caught two pike over 30 inches and a few others. What a battle these pike give you. Give it a shot and we guarantee you have a blast.

Godfrey set up his bear bait stations this weekend. Bear season is just a few short weeks away. Colt and Ben goose hunted North Dakota this weekend. The geese were flying high with the bright skies, but they managed to draw some blood and put college meat on the table. Can’t wait to get out there and shoot some fowl next month. For all of you: Keep hanging loose and having fun!

Second Weekend of August 2011

That August full moon came and went on Saturday. The whole crew was out fishing hard that night. Fishing was consistent, but results were nothing compared to the past July moon. Pokegama, Deer, and Sugar all seemed to be on the slower side. Fishing was good during the day for walleyes in 20-30 FOW, but once night hit everything slowed. Salmo stings still pulled some good eater walleyes off the rocks on Pokegama under the moon light in 8-14 FOW. Pokegama, Trout, and Deer have a good day bite going on right now. The day bite has been very consistent on Pokegama in 12-18FOW with spinners tipped with a crawler. Watch out for those smallmouth bass too. They have been crazy active along with those walleyes. Deer and Trout have been good in the morning and evening hours in 20-30 ft with a leech or crawler on a lindy rig. Some walleyes have also been hitting a jig and shiner. Bring all the bait. You never know what they are going to want day to day. Stop in to River Rat just west of Cohasset on Hwy 2 for all your bait and fishing needs.

August is a great time of year to use big bait also. The Hang Loose Crew loves to drag big creek chubs, red tails, and suckers in deep water on lindy rigs. Use a single hook and a glow bead with a 4-7 foot leader and an ounce of weight. Cruise the deeps with those Lowrance electronics and find some deep schools of fish. Slowly drag those big minnows thru them and catch a hog. You never know if your going to catch a hog walleye, pike, or muskie. Give it a whirl and see what happens. Big fish bite in August. We have been pulling some gators on Pokegama and Trout in 30-40 FOW. Stop in to Rays Sport and Marine for all your boat and electronic needs. Its not too late to buy that Lund boat you've always wanted.

We will be on Pokegama this week fishing pike and eyes. We might give that waning moon a shot on a few of our clear lakes. We will also be on Leech Lake chasing those hog crappies in the shallows. Colt and Ben have been finding a great crappie bite in 6-10 FOW out there. Winnibigoshish is not out of the question for us either as the shoreline bite is going strong in 10-16 ft of water on spinners tipped with a crawler and those Salmo hornets.

The First Weekend of August 2011 - Dan Neary's Bach Party

Ooofffta where do we start with the story of Danny’s Bachelor Party on Rainy Lake? We started our journey at about 6:00A.M, headed north to International Falls. Surprisingly we got a pretty early start with Topps pulling the oldest trip in the book to get Danny there on time. The plan was to leave at six but if you know Dan your best bet is to set the time approximately two hours earlier than you want to leave.

We arrived at Rainy Lake visitor center at about 10:00A.M. Not bad timing for a movement of eight guys. We were on our way. Our destination was the farthest east we could go still staying in the U.S. We began to worry a bit when it seemed like we may not find an open camp site. Low and behold everything worked out the way it always seems to happen for HLO. It did end with a small race with a fellow camper which we came up victorious.

Fishing was great the next few days, whenever we wanted a meal it was no problem to get some great eater walleyes and a few pic-fish. It is absolutely amazing what you can accomplish with Lowrance HDS and side imaging! It only took Topps and Mama about two hours to have six or seven great spots packed with eyeballs.

When we weren’t fishing we were knocking down cold beverages and sharing stories and the laughs that never stopped. The highlight of the trip was some extreme cliff jumping. Topps, Dan, and Dave found some monsters to brave on Friday. They jumped the few smaller to medium cliffs and saved the monster for when they linked back up with the rest of the crew. When we were all together and back to the cliff it was evident that there wouldn’t be many takers on the big plunge. Topps assured everyone it would be fine and off he went. Down below the trash talking began in hopes he could coax the rest to jump, but it was pretty intense looking down at his ant looking body and Mama’s toy boat. Finally Joel showed up with no fear or hesitation and leaped. Topps now had an ally for trash talking. “Hey Bachelor, get your bleeepity bleep up to the edge and jump your life’s over anyway. Its water it aint guna hurt you pansy.” Oh crap, he actually went, sploosh! Dan popped up and the cheering began, but silenced by Dan screaming, “MY SHOULDERS OUT!!!!!” Luckily with his tight bay watch bod Topps dove in to save the day. Some say he’s exactly the same as David Haselhoff only different. It took some squealing and crying, but we got the shoulder back in and spent the rest of the night laughing and popping tops.

With some beautiful weather and a great crew it was huge success. We started our journey home everybody alive and semi-healthy. It’s a great time up there, a beautiful lake, and really not that far of a trip, go give it a whirl. Rainy Lake, it’s hard to beat!

written by Topps

The Last Weekend of July 2011

The last weekend of July 2011 was a little on the chill side for most of the “Crew”. The majority of them prepared for Dan Neary’s upcoming Bachelor Party on Rainy Lake Thursday to Sunday. They organized boats, trucks, food, tents, and of course plenty of things to drink. Excitement was in the air.

I on the other hand, did not pack as I was scheduled to work those days of adventure. Scratches my heart a bit knowing I can’t make one of my best friends Bachelor parties. Hope you all have a safe and fun time. I want to see some pictures, fish pics too of course. Rainy Lake is a tremendous walleye, smallmouth bass, and northern pike fishery!

I hit the lake with my girlfriend Katie this weekend. The weather was hot and sunny, but it didn’t stop us from catching a mess of fish. The walleyes were biting out on Pokegama mid day on spinner rigs tipped with a crawler. The mid lake points and bars were stacked with eye balls in 13-18FOW. Some schools were active and hungry, and some didn’t want anything to do with breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Finding yellow bellies on my Lowrance HDS and making a troll through them told me right away if they were hungry or not.

Besides walleyes, the smallmouth bass, pike, and sunfish were also very hungry and aggressive. There weren’t too many minutes that went by without a buzzing drag, pole bend, or netted fish. The action was hot and kept us under the sun. There is nothing more relaxing than catching fish and getting a sun tan.

We fished muskies one evening on the Mississippi River. We saw four muskies between 30 and 45 inches. I lost a 40 incher at the net right at dusk. It was a bummer, but nothing to hold my head over. That’s muskie fishing. The muskie fishing has been relatively slow the last few weeks all around the area. Look for pressure changes, fronts, and changing weather for your best opportunity. Keep Casting and Blasting!

Look for that moon in the sky soon as we push into August. It should be another great night bite with those Salmo stings and hornets on Pokegama, Sugar, Trout, Deer, and Leech this month. We will give you the reports as we hit the late night bite. Look to Winni, Leech, and Pokegama for the most consistent day bites for walleyes this week. Crawlers on rigs or spinners should be your first presentation to throw at the fish this time of year. If you are targeting big fish, pick up some big suckers or creek chubs from River Rat just outside Cohasset, before you head to the water. Rig these big baits on a single hook and 4-7 ft traditional lindy rig. Work them slow on deep schools of fish. Feed those toothy creatures for a minute and set the hook. This is how Hang Loose catches lots of there hogs this time of year. Give it a whirl. Good luck and be safe on the water.

The Waning Moon of July 2011

My eyes wouldn’t stay off the clock as I sat at work on Friday. All I could think about was the dark, my Lund boat, my fishing pole, Salmo #12 Stings, and the waning moon. Yes, not the full moon, the decreasing moon a week after the full moon. The waning moon is my favorite as it comes up a few hours after dark and it always seems to trigger those big marble eyes.

I picked Grant up at his dock on Friday evening and we hit the lake. Pokegama had a good chop as we headed across the lake to a shoreline where the wind had been pounding in all day. We tied on Salmo #12 Stings, set the line counters to 95 feet, and started back trolling. The night felt fishy.

It wasn’t three minutes later and I got tackled. I set the hook and told Grant to grab the net because I had a hog on. A couple minute fight resulted in me losing a very big 28 plus inch walleye right at the boat. I felt bad, but blew it off as the night was young. I knew if that hog ate, more were to come. Minutes later, I landed a fat 22 inch. It was game on.

Pokegama turned pitch black as we moved to my second spot. This rock inside corner gave up a giant of a 27 inch and another lost fish. Wow, the hair rose up on the back of my neck just thinking about what was to come. Pokegama Lake hogz were biting and we were pumped up. I gunned my Yamaha 90 to my third spot.

The wind was perfect for this inside corner and underwater tip that shot way out into the main lake basin. It didn’t take long and the walleyes started jumping in the boat. I was on fire. I boated a 25, 26.5, 23, and 20 inch in a matter of 20 minutes. My chartreuse Slamo #12 Sting was the goto lure. I cut Grant’s line and threw the same Salmo on his pole.

I caught a few more hogz before Prokop finally laced into the fattest 26 inch walleye I had ever seen before in my life. It was massive. It was almost fatter than it was long. We were double pumped now. Multiple eyes over 20 inches were caught and released. We boated 7 walleyes between 25 and 27.5 inches. What a phenomenal night!!!

Colt and Ethan struggled to find an active school of walleyes out on Pokegama that night. So once I dropped Grant off at his house, I told them to go to my spot. They reported it still being on fire. They caught quite a few walleyes including two 28 inch hogz. What a crazy night. Pokegama Lake is such an awesome fishery. When the hogz are biting, there is no better lake in Minnesota for trophy walleyes. We owe it all to that waning moon that night. So many records and memories stick with me from that week after the full moon. Friday night made another memory that I will never forget.

Saturday brought cool weather as I had a guide trip. Joey Harcey purchased a few trips with me for my Father’s Benefit back in May. Saturday marked one of those trips. I was so confident on the hogs still biting that I talked Friday night up all the way to the boat landing.

The wind was bucking as we hit the lake around 6:30PM. The fish were piled on one of my favorite humps, but they were not feeding that well. We caught two nice eyes in an hour and a half. Then we went searching for an hour before dark, but couldn’t find anymore. The night was young, I reminded him.

The line counters and Salmos were taken out of the rod holders. We started to troll a few spots where we were out of the wind. I popped a couple nice eater eye balls right off the bat. A lull followed us for about an hour after that as we moved from spot to spot. Did the cold weather shut them off? Friday’s spot where we had caught all the hogz was totally dead tonight.

We moved out to the bars and started running shallow right on top of the sand. Bam! There they were. We started getting them, at least one a pass. Moonrise was right around midnight. From midnight till 2:30AM, we boated 20 walleyes, including a 26 and 27 inch. We went home with a box full of fish. I cleaned Joey’s six walleyes and sent him on his way. Another terrific waning moon bite on Pokegama.

Topper was out on Pokegama on Sunday during the day. He reported a pretty steady day bite out on the humps and bars. His most productive presentation was a crawler and spinner rig pulled 1.8-2.2mph. The speed triggered the eyes. This time of year, when you graph eyes with your Lowrance electronics, and they don’t bite; speed it up. Walleyes are predators and lots of the time it takes a fast moving bait to generate a reaction strike. Get out and fish!

Written by Brock

Excellent Night Bite 3rd Weekend of July 2011

The moon and heat brought a new life to the walleye fishing this past weekend. Night fishing was fantastic. Good reports from all over the Grand Rapids area continuously rumbled in. Pokegama, Trout, Deer, Sugar, and Wabana all offered action to the night fishermen.

I hit the water on Friday evening right around 6:30PM. I scouted a few spots that I planned on taking the Gemmills once dark hit. Walleyes were loaded in 12-16 feet of water in the very first spot I checked. I couldn’t resist dropping a crawler down and trying to catch one. The first pass, I caught an 18 inch eye ball. “Wow”, I thought. “I could really hammer some fish if I wanted to right now,” my brain teased.

Deb and Jeff were cooking me dinner before I took Jeff and Larry out on there night trip. I had to be at Jeff’s house on the east side of Pokegama Lake around 7PM. I put the rod away and cruised a few more quick spots. The walleyes were stacked in two of those spots also. I had to go, though. Steak and potatoes called me away from wetting my line on those hungry walleyes.

After an excellent dinner, (thanks Deb) Larry, Jeff, and I strapped on the head lamps and headed out onto Pokegama Lake. The moon glistened off the iridescent water as we took to the main lake. It was a beautiful night. “The fish are going to be hammering”, I told them. It was one of those nights where my confidence level was through the roof.

Two hours into the night and my stomach began to turn. We only had a few walleyes in the box. The time was ticking and I could sense heavy air hanging over me as I ran around on the lake. I cruised from spot to spot with no success. I finally moved to a spot I previously had never trolled cranks on before. It was this or nothing. The clock showed 12:30 and I was out of options.

We threw out, set the line to 95 feet, and the walleyes began to slam. They were on in this spot. In the first pass, three beautiful keepers (17-19”) were boated. Our moods turned up hill and we were having fun again. We stayed on this spot till just before 3PM. We caught around 20 walleyes including two hog 27 inchers. We also caught two smallmouth bass (one bass of which Jeff wouldn’t stop ragging on me that I threw it back, haha) and a pike. I dropped them off on the dock and I could tell they had a blast. I had a ton of fun. Thanks Guys!

Colt and Ben were also out that night and reported catching 15 walleyes including two fat 26 inchers. They said that Salmo hornets were there go to lures. The Gemmills and I had our best luck on Salmo #12 Stings trolled right around 2mph. The best depths were 9-12 feet of water. Shoreline structure and bars that topped out around 8 ft were most consistent.

Saturday night was another fantastic night on the water. Colt and Ben joined Sean Colter for a fun night on the water. They caught about 25 walleyes ranging from 16-24" on Pokegama. Mama fished by himself and boated a 30" and 29.5". WOW Pokegama Giants... Brock and Adam hit Deer Lake for some muskie and walleye action. The muskies were off, but the walleyes were biting after dark. Multiple fish over 26 inches were caught and released by the “Crew” on Saturday night. Now that’s fishin’…

Randy and Lindsey headed up to the Rainy River on Saturday afternoon in search of sturgeon. Topper boated a 40 incher that evening. They fished throughout the night. In fact, they slept in the Lund out on the river. Now, that is hardcore. They threw up the tent right in the boat as storms swept through. Both of them survived the storms and the heat. They got an early start off the river Sunday morning as the humidity and heat really kicked up. We can’t wait to get up there in August and really hit the hogs. Sturge don’t just bite in the spring!

Overall, excellent weekend of fishing! We will be fishing crappies this week in the evening hours. The panfish action has been really good on most of the area lakes in 12-18 feet of water right outside the cabbage weeds. On Friday night, it’s back to Pokegama and the night bite. Good Luck. Keep them poles bent!

Written by Brock

Second weekend of July 2011

Smelt continued to die on Pokegama Lake throughout the later part of last week. In certain areas of the lake, the bottom is covered with decaying smelt. The die off seemed to lesson as the weekend pushed along. Blue gills and perch that were observed unhealthy on Wednesday looked much healthier as Saturday pushed in. No confirmation of this die off has yet been determined. Many rumors and opinions have been stirred around the Grand Rapids area.

Last week, the walleye bite on Pokegama was very poor. Hundreds and hundreds of walleyes filled the shallow weeds (5-8 FOW), but chose not to eat a thing. Brock threw the whole tackle box at them on Thursday and Friday and only came up with a few fish. What an amazing site it was to see lots of big walleyes cruising with the naked eye. What a headache it gave when you couldn’t catch them.

With quickly warming water temperatures around the Grand Rapids area, the walleye bite has become hit or miss on most of our lakes. The day bite is not fantastic by any means as the weather this past week has brought bright blue skies, hot temperatures, and no wind. It's almost like the walleyes are confused as June saw water temps slowly rise and all of a sudden the last two weeks they have vigorously jumped 10 degrees. Most walleyes on our clear lakes are transitioning to the night bite.

The July moon is in the sky and the walleye night bite on Pokegama, Trout, Sugar, Deer, and Wabana is heating up. Randy Greniger, Topper, and Brock hit Pokegama on Saturday night from 10PM to 1AM. They managed to boat 7 nice walleyes. The bite was scattered, but looks to be right on pace for this coming weekend. The full moon is on the 15th so get out there and troll those cranks! Stick baits like the Salmo sting and Rapala husky jerk are the lures of choice on Pokegama Lake. Salmo hornets and Rapala shads will put eyes in your boat on the areas additional clear lakes.

The regular guys tournament was Saturday on Pokegama Lake during the day. Topper and Brock struggled as everyone else did to get those timid walleyes to bite during the day. Topper and Brock caught 2 walleyes (23.25 & 18.5). Most boats caught one to two walleyes. First and second place fished Bunny Bar and came up with 16 and 17 pound bags. Congratulations to first place, Dave Olson once again. Bunny Bar must have been the only spot on the lake they wanted to bite. Hit the night bite or book a trip with us. The July moon is here. Get hooked!

When the walleye bite is tough during the day, look to edge of the weeds for those delicious panfish. We have been finding crappies and nice blue gills on Hill Lake on the edge of the cabbage in the evening hours in 10 to 14 feet of water. A northland 1/16 ounce jig tipped with a minnow or twister tail is the go to bait. Pitch it up to the edge and work it back towards the boat for the best success. The fish are suspended and most of the time they are looking for an easy meal. An occasional walleyes can be caught right along with these crappies.

The best time to get out fishing is all the time. Get out, fish hard, learn, and bring the kids, neighbor, or elderly. It’s not all about catching, it’s about having fun. Good luck and be safe on the water!

4th of July Weekend 2011

Let’s start this off with talk of the dead smelt all over the surface of Pokegama Lake. I know lots of people witnessed the terrible site this 4th of July weekend as many took to the lake boating, recreating, or fishing. Dead smelt by the thousands could be found floating all over in the waters of this unbelievably awesome fishery. This kill has never been noticed before on the lake.

Randy Topper first noticed this on Friday the 1st of July. While he was guiding out on Pokegama, dead smelt were littered all over the surface in various parts of the lake. The walleye fishing was absolutely terrible as he could not catch a walleye nor find a one with his Lowrance HDS. Him and his clients took to Sugar Bay and caught some bass and blue gills.

While talking to Sean Colter (another excellent guide on Pokegama Lake) who also could not find where the walleyes went that last few days, talk of the dead smelt turned into a big issue. Randy and Sean did there brainstorming and came up with a few opinions. Did the water warm up too fast with the last week’s extreme hot weather and trap the smelt above the thermocline? Did the smelt run out of food? Was there too much runoff with all the recent rains? Or did VHS (Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia) find its way into Pokegama Lake?

We will keep you informed of this concern as we find information out. With the DNR fisheries being closed due to the state shutdown, it might take a week or two. Let’s hope it’s not a big issue as Pokegama Lake is one of the best big walleye, pike, and panfish lakes in Minnesota. And don’t worry about a few off days for those walleyes. I’m sure the next couple days the bite will heat up again. It’s almost time for the Pokegama night bite too. Pull out those Salmo stings and hornets as we get closer to the weekend. You can find them at Glens Army Navy. They have the best selection. Get out and night troll this weekend. Keep those rods bent.

As fro Katie, Scottie, and I, we headed up to Northstar campground on Thursday evening for the 4th of July Grand Rapids Muskie camping trip. Thursday evening we fished Northstar from 7:00PM to 10:30PM. We moved a few muskies around the 40 inch mark. Friday morning was really slow as the day brought more warm weather, high skies, and humidity. We took a nap and enjoyed the beach during mid day. At 4:00PM we noticed storms rolling in so we kicked it back out onto the lake. Right before the storm hit, we moved a few Northstar giants (46-50”), but could not get them to eat. The rain came and no more muskies were seen. Don’t fish Northstar in the rain. Terrible….

Saturday morning brought more high blue skies, hot weather, and terrible muskie fishing. I told Katie and Scottie that we had to switch lakes to look for better success. We hit the road to Deer Lake around 4:00PM. We were all pumped as we gained confidence with the lake change. Scottie was ecstatic as he had never fished Deer before.

We saw six or seven smaller (30-36”) muskies from 5:00-8:00PM. I told Scottie that there were hogs in here. Right around 8:20PM (moonset was soon), Katie pointed out that we should hit one of our spots on the Southeast side of Bear Island. Tem minutes later, I got ripped. I set the hook into nothing. How can a muskie not get hooks? I was pissed. About 10 casts later, I seen a flash from the left as a muskie hammered my spinner bait. I was ready this time. A crow hopping hook set led to a huge thrashing muskie on the surface. I yelled, “FISH, FISH”. I heard Scottie throw down his pole to the bottom of the boat and grab the net. I put half my pole into the water and reeled as I tried to turn the muskie down into the water and off the surface. The last place you want to fight a muskie is above the water. If they get their head above the water, more than likely, they will throw your hooks. I got control of the fish as we all started shaking as the fish pulsated towards the bottom right off the front of the bow. It was huge. I got it up and Scottie netted it.

Not a word was said for a few seconds. Then Scottie said, “Dude, that’s 50 inches”. Scottie took the hooks out quick and Katie took pictures. We did not have a bump board, but we got a tape measure and measured the fish in the water. A so so measurement called it a 49 inch with an extreme weight problem. She had a huge girth. She gave a tail kick and said, “Bye”, as she disappeared into the aqua waters. We gave each other high fives and drank a beer in celebration. My personal best muskie sent a shiver down my spine. Thanks Katie and Scottie.

Sunday we slept in as more high blue skies shined down. We picked up camp and headed back to Deer. We went window shopping (drove boat around and spot fished) for muskies till about 5PM. Scottie caught a little 30” ski at about 6:30PM. That was about all the action we had. We fished till 11:30.

Muskie action should heat up this week as water temperatures climb and those toothy creatures get active. The best time to fish muskies is right before a weather front or storm. So get out there and cast. Fishermen are moving some very nice muskies around the Grand Rapids and Bemidji area. Cast and Blast!

A 49 inch muskie was not the only hog caught by the “Crew” this weekend. Godfrey and Staci got out fishing on Monday evening. Staci caught a monster walleye just a hair short of 30 inches. Way to go. Keep slamming them. And thank Adam for teaching you how to fish those crawlers. Crawlers on lindy rigs will always get the hogs this time of year. Good luck fishing everyone!

Written by Brock

Angler Young Angler Tournament on Pokegama Lake

We all thought that Saturday was going to be one of those insanely crazy hog days on Pokegama Lake. One of those days where every spot you go your crawler is getting sucked down by huge walleyes. Pokegama is not any ordinary walleye lake. When Pokegama is on, multiple ten pound eye balls decide to eat.

It would have been awesome if the day had gone like planned, but for the second year in a row the AYA (1 adult and 2 kids under 17 per boat) was faced with challenging fishing. It would have been great if the kids could have seen the real and true Pokegama Lake.

When the clock struck noon and Hans, Emily, and I had not boated a walleye, fear began to eat at me. I told the kids to just wait and good things would come. I cruised multiple structures for an hour without locating a single walleye. What was going on? Where did the under twenty inch eyes even go?

Knowing Topper, Matt, and Cain had two 27 inch hogs in the box made me feel a little bit better. At least one of the Hang Loose Crews would get to weigh in. Topper's boat pulled in both fish almost right in front of us in one of our same spots.

I fianlly located a good school around 2:30. I decided to work these fish back and forth until they chose to eat. Well, they didn't eat, and time ran down as we had to return to Tioga Beach at 3:30.

A few boats brought up there two overs to the scales. There were definitely some big fish caught. Topper was one of those to bring 2 up to the scales. They weighed in the upper 14 pound range and got 4th Place. Congrats to Topper, Matt, and Cain.

The most fish weighed in by one boat was three. It seemed as most had a tough going out on the lake. Very few under 20 inch fish were caught. The winners (Dan & Jake Olson) had 2 overs and an under for 17 pounds. Congrats!

Topper informed me that he had lost an 18-19 inch eye right at the boat in the last few minutes of the tournament. That fish might have got them first or second. That is FISHING!!!!

As for me, I'm taking a week off of walleye fishing, clearing my thoughts and going after big fish this weekend........ Muskies!!!

Grand Rapids Pokegama Classic June 18, 2011

It wasn't our day on Saturday June 18, 2011. The Pokegama Classic Walleye Tournament brought east winds, clouds, and cool temperatures to the Grand Rapids area. Twenty-four boats fished the tournament.

We located a bunch of walleyes while prefishing on Thursday and Friday and set up our game plan accordingly on Friday evening. Knowing Pokegama like the back of our hand we knew we had to run and gun all day long in order to catch seven walleyes over 25 inches (our goal). We had no doubt in our mind that we were going to get our seven fish to weigh in.

Well, lets just say we did not get our seven walleyes. The truth, we only boated one walleye all day. We held on to our frustrations all the way through the final half hour. We hit about twenty of our favorite spots and struggled to get a bite. Fish were visible on our Lowrance HDS graphs in 15 of our spots.

We fished with crawlers, leeches, cranks, sonars, and two secret weapons, but the fish didn't want anything to do with US. It was one of those days. It wasn't true Pokegama Lake. All fishermen have those days, don't they?

A fly hatch, east wind, and a very steady barometric pressure gave us an unexpected swift kick in the face. We tried all we could and had no game that day. We could not believe what had happened.

Sometimes one has to sit back and blow that day off, put it on the back burner and learn from it. That is just what we are going to do. Learning from tournaments is why we fish them. The learning experience and knowledge gained from a tournament is success. Look at last year on Bemidji.. We finished in the bottom of the pack and then came back strong this year and got second place... Pokegama Classic, you just wait till next year! We'll be givin it 110 percent.

AYA on Pokegama Lake is this coming weekend. The AYA is the Angler Young Angler tournament. One adult and two kids under 17 weigh up to six fish with only two being over 20 inches. It is a blast for the kids. Usually the fish are hammering. We hope that is the case on Saturday. Last year Brock took 4th place and Randy 10th... It's all about the kids so let's bat down and have some fun everyone. Take a kid fishing. Introduce them to this wonderful sport. They are the future of fishing and hunting!

Craig and Godfrey fished the Swan Lake Classic on Saturday. Their luck wasn't any better than Randy and Brock's. They caught walleyes, but most were in the slot. They reported a very low boat number taking part in the tournament this year. There are just too many tournaments going on on that day. Swan is an excellent fishery so we hope to see a turn around in that tournament next year...

Fish are transitioning out to the humps and bars on most of the Grand Rapids area lakes. Your best bet for walleye action is crawlers and leeches right now. Locate those walleyes with your Lowrance graphs and lindy rig or pull spinners through them. Look to the cabbage weeds and rocks on windy days... Good Luck!

Krause Anderson Walleye Classic June 11, 2011

The few days leading up to Saturday June 11th were stressful as we prepared for the Krause Anderson Walleye Classic on Lake Bemidji. The previous weekend we scouted the lake with our Lowrance HDS structure scan units, but did not fish a whole lot. Finding structure and spots we thought fish would use according to different weather conditions were what we keyed in on. We wanted to be most prepared this year. We didn’t want to finish at the bottom of the list as we had last year.

Thursday was stressful because we couldn’t catch the right fish which we thought we would need to do well. We caught lots of small 12-14 inch walleyes which would obviously lead us to another bottom of the pack finish. Topper did boat a 24 inch which raised our hopes a little bit, but a more consistent game plan was needed.

Thursday evening Scottie joined us for dinner. Topps cooked us steaks over the fire, but managed to drop them in the hot ashes. The ashes added wonderful flavor. I don’t know about Topps’ steak as it found the ground before his mouth. It was nothing a couple cold ones couldn’t cover up.

After dinner we did a little brainstorming combining our day’s information with our fishing knowledge and came up with a plan to test on Friday morning. We tested out our plan Friday morning on spots we knew good fish were. It wasn’t long and we had smiles on our faces and a few decent 17-20 inch eyes in the boat. It looked as our presentation and plan would work. Now, it was a matter of if the fish would be digging it on tournament day.

Tournament day proved to be flat calm, sunny, and hot. It was a monster change from Friday’s cold shivering conditions. It was nice to have some heat on the water. We liked the calm waters and sunny conditions because we felt our plan would work even better.

Our plan was solid and things seemed to be going our way when we had 5 nice weighable fish in the boat after the first couple hours of the tournament. We ground away on our two shallow water transitions and kept upgrading fish. Soon I put a 22.5” in the boat and we gave each other a big high five. With a 22.5”, 19.5”,19”,18”,17” we decided to go to one of our big fish spots in hopes to win the tournament with a giant.

Ten minutes hadn’t even passed on our big fish spot as I set the hook into a good one. Topper netted the fish and grabbed me with bear claws as we jumped around in the Lund like kindergartners during recess. The 23” kicked out our 17” and we were looking fairly well with four hours still to fish.

I told Topper we were staying on this spot the rest of the day as the Lowrance HDS showed numerous big fish in our small area. We caught a few small eyes within the next hour, but we stayed and ground away like we had planned.

At 1:30 Topper finally got a bite out on our deep water spot. I normally have a difficult time watching Topps set the hook during tournaments so I try to focus on other things until I hear drag peeling (that means ‘fish on’ and no miss). I heard a sweeping hook set and a drag buzz as I turned to see his 9’6” pole bent in half. It was a wonderful sight as the hair stood up on the back of my neck.

“It doesn’t have huge head shakes”, Topps mentioned as he fought the fish. Judging from the furious runs straight down I knew it was going to be a good one. My hands almost froze holding the net as I got a peak of Topps’ fish in the water. I don’t know if he seen it or if he was speechless as I netted the walleye and heaved it high into the sky and into the Lund. I jumped straight up into the air and Topps grabbed me as we bear hugged each other and then collapsed into the bottom of the boat alongside the giant 29” walleye that lay in the net. If anyone witnessed this, I guarantee it will be fresh in there mind for quite some time. It’s not very common to see two guys hugging each other in a boat then falling over helplessly into the bottom.

We sat pretty silent for at least ten minutes as we gathered our thoughts and tried to realize what had just happened. It was hard to hold my rod and control my shakes as I found myself doing circles with the Vector trolling motor. We knew we would be in the top ten now, maybe top five. It was a great feeling.

The next two hours went by ever so slowly as we kept pounding that spot away. A 26” was wanted so badly now. We thought that would lock up first place for us. Well, it didn’t come as the clock struck 3:15 and we decided it might be best to get closer towards the weigh in. We fished one more little spot for ten minutes before we determined our luck was over and it was time to head in and face the scales at 4P.M.

The judges looked at our fish when we came into the tent and told us we were going to be the last to weigh. Our hearts began to race. We were nervous as heck. The team right before us weighed in at 17.66lbs and moved into the hot seats. Topper and I looked at each other like, it’s going to be close. What was our bag going to weigh: 29”, 23”, 19.5”, 19”, 18”?

Our hearts sank to our ankles as our weight popped up at 17.09lbs. It was good enough to easily claim second place along with biggest walleye at 6.92lbs. We congratulated the Klein brothers on their win and conversed with the rest of the fisherman.

Second place was a wonderful feeling. Some of the best fishermen in the state were at this tournament and only one team had beaten us. One of the best fisherman we know stated Friday, “If you don’t bring your A game to this tournament you will get smoked out of the water”. Topper and I brought our A game on Saturday. Our hard work and preparation showed what we can do in the world of fishing….

Memorial Weekend 2011 - Bad Luck usually leads to Good Luck

The weekend found the “Crew” on Leech Lake camping at Federal Dam. Like the previous four weekends, it was raining of course and the wind was blowing. Friday night we stood in the rain around the campfire and enjoyed good old stories with numerous friends. Some stories might have been stretched a little too far due to certain ingredients in the drinks we enjoyed.

Saturday, Staci, Adam, and I hit the lake and headed towards Two Points in search of walleyes in the rocks. As we made the seven mile journey in the Lund, I felt the prop strike something at full throttle. It didn’t hit hard, but I obviously heard a clunk. As we sat down on a pod of fish in 12 FOW off Two Points and came to an idle, my Yamaha 90 started to squeal and grind. “OH NO”, I yelled. Adam and Staci looked at me in fright. Something was totally wrong. All of a sudden, I lost reverse and the motor died.

It was a long ride back to the landing as Topper’s Lund hooked on and pulled us the seven miles. In 3 foot waves, it was a long adventure. To top things off that morning, Adam tried catching a flying soda thrown from Topper’s boat, but reached a little too far over the side of my boat and launched himself head first into the water. Lucky for him he somehow held onto the railing at 3 mph and hoisted himself back into the boat. It was very good humor as we sat and laughed hysterically at the soaking wet Godfrey… Moral of the story, “Wear your life jacket even when you’re getting towed by another boat.”

We finally reached the landing four hours later as many friends gathered around my Yamaha motor wondering what the heck was wrong. I headed into Grand Rapids to drop my boat off at Rays Sport and Marine. Rays is very quick to act and their service is top notch. I am sure they will diagnose the problem and get it fixed asap.

I made it back to Federal Dam just in time to hop in Topper’s Lund for the evening bite. Dan, Craig, Topper, and I hit multiple spots in Portage Bay. We caught an array of species that night. Jumbo perch, northern pike, walleyes, clams, and red eye crappies were all very hungry that evening in 6-8 FOW. We fished into dark as the fish continued to bite.

Sunday, Colt, Craig, Randy, and I all packed in the Lund and headed out on Leech. Our goal was to have a more enjoyable day than the previous one. We jumped spot to spot trying to locate fish. The wind died and calm waters brought on negative attitudes in the boat. Topper intended that we would find fish. At 10 A.M we finally sat down on a school of fish on the east side of Bear Island.

There we found a mess of walleyes in the shallows (5-7 FOW) chasing shiners in the new weed growth. We kept a box full of walleyes ranging from 14-17 inches and released multiple fish from 18-26 inches. Northland 1/4 and 1/8 ounce gumball jigs in parrot and pink/white tipped with a shiner was the go to bait. A few fish were also caught on leeches with a 3 ft snell.

After a huge fish fry Sunday afternoon, we headed back out in search of those giant slab crappies. It took an hour or so to find them, but once we did, it was lights out. The hour before dark was exceptionally good. In 3 hours, we caught and released 70+ crappies from 11-14.5 inches. They were holding in 3-5 FOW. Gypsy jigs with white twister tails were unstoppable. Get out and find those slabs today. There will only be a few days to a week before these fish spawn and leave the shallows.

Look for the walleye action to slow down day by day in the shallows in the next week or two on lakes like Winni and Leech. Look for these fish to transition to deeper water and mid lake structure as we kick more into June. Your best bet in shallow water will be to look to the cabbage weeds on days when the wind blows. Be mobile and pay attention to those Lowrance graphs. FISH FISH FISH!

Good Luck and be safe on the water.

MDHA Banquet Trip & 3rd weekend of May 2011

Topper and I pulled into Eagles Nest landing on Lake Winnibigoshish around 6:30A.M on Saturday morning. The weather forecast was calling for an 80% chance of rain for most of the day. We landed our Lund Boats and suited up for what was ahead. A slight sprinkle sat in the air as we skipped waves thru Cut Foot Sioux and out onto the big lake.

It didn’t take long for me to locate a mess of walleyes that were hanging in 12 feet of water. My Lowrance HDS indicated that they were stacked as I dropped a few waypoints along the route. I rigged up Randy and Cathy’s poles and we started to back troll into the wind back towards my waypoints. I didn’t even have my line in the water yet when Randy’s pole bent over. FISH ON! A beautiful 16 inch walleye popped into the net and smiles filled our faces. It’s always nice to see that first one I told them.

We didn’t troll 60 yards and four walleyes were already in the box of my boat. I motioned to Topper to come over. From my view it hadn’t appeared as they had landed a fish yet. That small stretch was loaded as constant fish filled the down scan on my Lowrance. Cathy hooked up with the fifth walleye as Topper, Kristi, and Shawn cruised by us to the top of our drift. Randy clearly yelled at them that we were in the lead. I just laughed as I knew what we were in for.

Topper and I don’t get to compete against each other very often because we are partners in fishing tournaments. To this crew of clients, it seemed that competition was in the air. Kristi and Shawn ( Team L&M Supply ) were in Topper’s Lund as I guided Cathy and Randy ( Team Randy’s Cabinets ). The trip was purchased at the Minnesota Deer Hunters Banquet in March by Kristi and Shawn. As the trip was scheduled for four, Kristi chose to invite her brother, Randy, and his wife Cathy.

So I don’t know if a little sibling competition was on the line or what, but there was a lot of smack talk throughout the early morning as my boat dominated the water. We had eight walleyes in the box and Team L&M struggled to get a bite. Topper decided to go find his own fish as the excitement in our boat must have dampened their spirits.

The rain began right when Topper left. It wasn’t just a sprinkle either. It rained and rained and …….. rained. The rain didn’t dull our excitement. The walleyes kept biting our ¼ ounce Northland fire ball jigs. Pink and yellow were the best colors for us throughout the early morning. Boats began to show up and our fish started to push shallower as commotion stirred the waters. We picked up a few slot fish in shallow, took some pictures, and then decided to go find some new fish. The clutter of boats was just too much to handle.

The rain and wind grew as we pounded waves down to Pigeon. I cruised a while in 7-8 feet of water and paid close attention to my side structure scan on my Lowrance. I spotted a few fish here and there, but nothing special. We headed west down to the Farley area where I located a tight knit school in 8-9 FOW. We threw out and back trolled thru the fish. In a matter of minutes, we caught six more walleyes. I got on the phone and tried to call Topper, but there was no answer. His phone was obviously tucked away as the rain was coming down in sheets. We continued to work the school of fish. It was crazy action. We had 17 walleyes in the box by the time Team L&M found us.

They arrived and finally started to bend poles on our school of fish. Lots of words flew across the water between the two Lunds. It’s amazing how much fun fisher men/women can have when the fish are biting. It’s also incredible what we can endure (torrential rains) while having fun! The rain didn’t seem to affect this hardcore crew at all. Randy made it clear that we had already won the competition as our boat was nearly filled out. Team L&M didn’t let it bother them. We couldn’t keep fishing with 18 walleyes in the box so we kept catching and releasing our fish.

Cathy turned the heat on in our boat catching six walleyes in a row in a matter of minutes. I decided to hold onto the net and just work the motor. She tied into number seven seconds later, but it seemed to be a little bigger than a walleye. Her drag peeled like a freight train. For a second I thought it could be a musky. Minutes later, I barely fit it into the net. Cathy held a giant 35.5 inch pike up for pictures. Way to go. We had big fish of the day now too.

Right around 2P.M., Team Randy’s Cabinets decided to head in early, clean fish, and meet Team L&M Supply at the Gosh Dam Place for a fish fry. We had caught all the fish we needed and the rain was finally getting to us. It was safe to say we were soaked from head to toe.

We cleaned fish and had two drinks down along with a plate of appetizers before Team L&M finally appeared at Gosh Dam Place. They were hardcore and soaked up every last second of the day’s rain and phenomenal walleye bite. They decided to get off the lake right as the rain stopped and the sun peaked out.

We all enjoyed a huge meal that consisted of our fresh walleye deep fried to perfection, baked beans, coleslaw, french fries, and toast. Let me tell you, it’s hard to beat this meal at Gosh Dam Place. Where can you go and bring your fresh fish to get cooked? I think we were all ready for a hot shower, dry clothes, and our beds once we left the restaurant.

Thanks so much Kristi, Shawn, Cathy, and Randy for an awesome day on the water. And Kristi, remember to close your bail before you set the hook. Team L&M Supply caught the biggest walleye of the day at 24.5 inches and team Randy’s Cabinets caught the largest fish of the day, Cathy’s hog 35.5 inch pike!

Colt and Ethan pounded slab crappies and bull bluegills on an Aitkin county lake on Friday using T.H.E jig tipped with no bait. The fish were in 2-4 ft of water.

The Godfrey’s just returned from their four day turkey season in Wisconsin. Todd got some great video footage of a few strutting Toms that stayed just out of range for hours. He shot a jake towards the end of their trip. Adam was unlucky again this year.

Katie and her family fished Mille Lacs on Saturday out of Hunter’s Resort. Fishing was good in 10-16ft of water with leeches and slip bobbers.

2011 Minnesota Fishing Opener

Saturday kicked off the Minnesota fishing opener. Low and behold what would you know, Saturday brought gail force winds, rain, and cold temperatures to most of the region. What else would you expect from the opener? A walleye chop was more of a troll than a drift. The “Crew” was split up fishing and camping on Leech Lake and Upper Red Lake for the weekend. It was the perfect couple days for tent camping as nightly temps dropped into the upper 30F’s.

As I crawled out of the tent at 6A.M on Saturday morning, I was greeted with rain and swaying balsam boughs. It was not a happy start to the morning. After breakfast was cooked and our warm clothes and rain gear were fully zipped up, we headed to the boat landing. Scottie, Katie, and I were ready to rip some lips. Dan, Holly, and Taylor followed shortly after us.

We pounded waves in my Lund towards Five Mile where we met up with Colt, Ben, and Mike. They informed us that they had just arrived and already boated a 26”, 23”, 21”, and 17”. We were pumped to hear the walleyes were on. We caught a couple walleyes in the morning, but then the fish shut off for a while. We moved quite a few times around Portage Bay and would pick up a few here and there. Nothing was really hot and heavy. The strong wind made for a rough ride and we decided not to head to the main lake basin.

The fishing got pretty tough around noon, but we warmed ourselves with a couple cups of coffee from the thermos and kept grinding it out. Around 3P.M my Lowrance electronics located a nice school of walleyes hanging in 8 FOW south of where we caught them in the morning. Scottie, Katie, and I caught about twenty fish in a short time period before they shut down again. A blue and white Northland gum ball jig tipped with the smallest shiner was our most effective presentation.

Knowing my parents were on their way to the campsite, we headed in early to clean up our catch and get ready for the big evening fish fry at the Olson’s campsite. We ate very well that night and drank a few cold ones around the fire. I tell ya, there’s nothing better than fish, beer, and stories from the college days. Opener should be a week long holiday!

Topper called that night and informed us that the fish were slamming on Upper Red Lake. He said the Tamarack River was full of big fish. They caught a fair share of 19-23 inchers early in the morning before heading out to the big lake. They located eaters on the very north end in 4-7 FOW. Dragging and twitching 1/8 and ¼ ounce jigs tipped with minnows on bottom produced the most fish. Slip bobbers did well too.

Leech was very slow on Sunday morning. We had no problem locating schools of walleyes with my Lowrance structure scan, but getting them to bite proved almost impossible. Between the Starcraft (Colt, Ben, Ethan), Lund (Scottie, Katie, I), and Alumacraft (Dan, Holly, Taylor) we caught a total of 9 walleyes. Taylor caught the first walleye of her life a hog of a 25 inch. We headed off the lake around 10A.M and decided to pack up camp early. The post-cold frontal blue skies must have sewed the walleyes mouths closed overnight. It always seems that first day of a cold front is tough fishing and then the first day of the high pressure.

Well, Topper and Craig reported that the fish were still biting on the north end of Red again on Sunday. They said it was definitely slower than Saturday, but still very consistent. They said between the 4 boats in camp, 300 plus walleyes were boated during the opener weekend. That is some good fishing boys. What a tremendous walleye fishery Upper Red lake is. To book a trip or weekend of walleyes we recommend staying at Hillman’s Campground. The Hillmans always know where the fish are biting and will supply you with the most recent information to make your trip successful. Please give them a call at: (218) 647-8504

Watch out later this week. With the forecasted warm weather this week, the walleyes are going to be slamming. They are going to put the feed bag on in the shallows. Look to a jig and a minnow for the go to presentation for the next couple weeks as the shiners come into the shallows to spawn. Good Luck and be safe on the water.

Adam and Todd Godfrey are heading to Wisconsin for their turkey season. Good luck boys. Sorry I can’t make it this year!

Written by Brock

First Weekend of May 2011 - The panfish bite is on!

Tuesday, after my doctor’s appointment, Colt and I headed out to Pokegama Lake for the day. Our goal was to get familiar with my new Lowrance structure scan and get the Lund and all her gear ready for another open water season. If we caught some fish, it would be an added bonus.

The weather was absolutely beautiful as the Lund found the water around 10A.M. A nasty cold front blew through the region the previous weekend. Tuesday, we were faced with post frontal blue skies and very little wind. It was a perfect day to relax, soak up some rays, cast a line out, and learn some great new electronics set in front of me.

After all my settings on my two Lowrance HDS were set, it was evident that this new product was a keeper. Clouds of smelt in 80 feet of water appeared much better on down scan than the regular sonar. Rock piles on side scan showed up crystal clear. The first fish I graphed on bottom bent my pole as I grabbed hold of a 16 inch small mouth. My mind started to wonder and my fingers picked up my phone as I text Topper about how I already fell in love with structure scan in a matter of minutes.

As I scanned a few inside corners and points, I was amazed at how well down scan picked up fish that were hugging bottom. Single perch stuck out like sore thumbs. I couldn’t wait to see what a large school of crappies looked like. Just as I thought that, there they were. The third corner I swung into was loaded with fish. The inside corner was packed full of fish in 17-24 feet of water.

Colt and I dropped jigs down and caught a bunch of perch and a few nice bluegills. Wondering if any crappies were down there, we threw the underwater camera over the side of the boat. Bluegills bombarded the camera. It was hard to see five feet past the lens as hundreds of gills filled the screen. After a minute or two, I picked out a crappie then another and another. They were there.

We sat on that school of fish for an hour, but only caught one crappie and a bunch more perch and bluegills. I decided to go find some more fish and wonder the lake. A couple spots later we landed on another pile of fish that were hugging a rock to sand transition in 20 feet of water. The transition appeared beautifully on the down scan as so did the fish. Again, only perch and bluegills wanted anything to do with our bait.

We blamed the crappie bite on the mid-day and ventured out onto the big lake to fool around with the structure scan. We found a couple trees on bottom, a telephone pole, and a bunch of rock piles we never knew existed. We located quite a few schools of perch, but no additional panfish. We even checked in the shallows, but the water temperature was barely over 50F.

We decided to head back to the first spot I had found fish and camp on it for the evening. We arrived there at about 5P.M and stayed just before sunset. We managed to catch a great mixed bag of fish. We hammered on the bull bluegills, and also scrounged up a few huge perch along with four crappies. It was a great first day on the water for me, my Lund, and the new Lowrance graphs.

Topper and Vredenburg headed out on Pokegama on Friday evening after work for the last 2 hours of light. They found a mess of nice crappies along with a few big bluegills in 20ft of water in the channel to Jay Gould. They kept enough for a fish fry that night. Topper said waxworms out fished crappie minnows…

Recovering from my surgery on Wednesday, Saturday I bit down, gritted the pain in my butt (literally), and Katie and I headed out to Pokegama around 4P.M. We searched multiple spots (15-25ft) in Tioga Bay, the channel, and out on the big lake for crappies, but couldn’t find any congregation of active fish. We ended up pushing into the shallows around 6P.M. The water temp was 56F in four feet of water where we finally found them. They were hungry too. Katie out fished me two to one that night. Her 1/16 ounce Northland pink/white fire-fly jig tipped with a minnow was unstoppable. We caught right around 40 crappies from 11-12.5 inches, keeping a handful for a fish fry and a few for a neighbor. We had a blast!

Sunday, I headed back to North Dakota, while Topper hooked up the boat and took some of his family out fishing. Yes, back to Pokegama they went. With Topper’s most recent information from me, they spent an hour in my spot from the previous evening. They caught some nice crappies and a bunch of bull bluegills. Topper said the water temperature was right around 57F.

Topper dropped his Dad and some fish off at home to cook up for Mother’s Day. He grabbed the kids and took them across the lake to one of his own top secret spots. They caught one big crappie and a few big bluegills in 5-10 ft of water before the pouring rain made them head back in for the family fish fry.

Well, there you have it. It sure looks like most of the panfish should be in the shallows by the time you all read this. Look for the shallow bays for the most consistent action. Always pay attention to the water temps. Be mobile and you will find success.

Be careful this weekend for the MN fishing opener. The walleye bite should be great with the gradual warming we have had these last few days. Look for the best action to take place in 4 to 12 feet of water. Try those colorful 1/16 to ¼ ounce jigs preferably in pink/white, chartreuse, blue/white, and orange first. If they are not hitting on jigs, never rule out a one foot lindy rig- bullet sinker, swivel, and plain hook with a shiner. Work it slow for those finicky or mid day walleyes. Good luck and be safe on the water. We will be on Upper Red and Leech Lake this weekend!

The Return of the Sturge Tourney - Last Weekend of April 2011

As Friday approached all I could think about was that tourney winning 64 inch Sturge from last year. It nearly flew out of the water straight through the lens of the video camera that my eye was glued to. I caught all the crazy action as Topper fell back hands still glued to the rod handle and tension still on the line as I screamed "IT'S HUGE, IT'S A CONTENDER GET HIM IN"! Well, we won the tournament that day with that 64 incher.

But this was a new year and hopes were high and expectations were even higher. We had something to prove. So as Craig and myself were waiting to eat our meal at our great friends Dan and Kallie's wedding dinner, Topper's A.D.D was really showing. Every five minutes we were receiving calls and texts saying he was leaving without us or he was going to find new partners all the while sitting in his truck driving up and down the drive-way back and forth. Well, the meal was served, our congrats and good-byes were said, and the girlfriends were left to tear the dance floor up as we headed out to meet Topper.

We drove up Highway 46 to meet the rest of the competition who were already at the bar at Sportsman's Resort. As we left at bar close, ideas started to fly that we had talked about; making the 60 mile drive to the Y-Knot area and fishing the section of river which invites the Littlefork and Bigfork rivers to flow into the Rainy. We had heard reports of 60 inch plus fish being caught all week in this stretch. How could we not head to the Frontier area where we had won last year? It was a hard decision, but since we are HANGLOOSE and we do whatever we jumped in the truck at 2 am with no sleep and headed down the road.

As we left our trailer the first need came to mind “food and bait”. Holiday is always open, but bait was a gamble as we pulled into Lucky Bait just east of Baudette and were welcomed by an open sign that read "RIng Bell for Service". As we rang the bell and stood in a steady hard rain, we all just laughed knowing what this day was going to bring! After about 5 minutes, lights started popping on and a shadow appeared, wow this was a hardcore bait shop. With bait on hand and the wipers on full throttle, we headed east making the decision we were going all the way to the Y-KNOT. As we pulled into the landing, the rain just got harder, and we decided to get some zzz'z instead of getting soaking wet out fishing in the dark.

What seemed like seconds later, we woke to a load knock on the window to see our buddy Shorty screaming “Lets go!” He drove up from Rapids to fish the tournament also. He didn’t meet us at the landing to wake us up, but to deliver us the video camera that I forgot at the rents house. Man, I did not wanna hear the wrath of Brock if we would have not gotten any footage! After landing the boats and getting all our rain gear on, we headed down the Rainy River to the intersection of the Littlefork and to find Shorty and his buddy already hooked up to a big sturge. They had only left minutes before us. We all thought our decision was going to pay off HAHAHAHA NOT! After sitting in a pouring cold rain, moving fishing spots a half dozen times, and not even seeing one other fish caught from 6 am till 2 pm, we decided we were going back to the trailer to take a nap so we could get our fun on that night at Sportsmans.

After 8 hours of sleep we rubbed our eyes and cracked open a few beers to warm us up. We headed to the bar to hear stories mostly just like ours, slow and cold fishing. There were only a few fish caught. The winner was a young boy with a 54 1/2 incher that took the first place prize. Not to be left out though, Craig did get his named drawn for the second year in a row and won our entry fees back. So in the long run we were still winners of some sort!

We were greeted the next morning with snow and 40 mph winds. We decided to just go eat at the Ranch House and make the drive back home. Hopefully, next year we will be greeted with better weather and catch a few fish, but we always find ways to enjoy our trips and make great memories!

written by Godfrey

Five Tips to Help You Locate Those Spring Time Crappies

People usually ask me this time of year, “How do you guys always catch so many crappies in the spring?” My answer is typically, “Well, we’re always out fishing.” There is only one way to become a better fisherman and that is to participate. The more you fish, the more you learn, it’s that simple.

The day the ice leaves the lakes, we are backing our boats in. It has been like that since we were old enough to operate a four wheeler. There is nothing better after a long winter than dropping the anchor and casting a bobber out or pitching a jig around. Well, I lied; there is one thing better, when you find those crappies or bluegills in the shallows. When you find them, they are generally hungry and will eat anything you put in front of them.

How do you find these early season open water crappies or bluegills? If I was to give you five key tips they would be as follows: 1. Fish the shallower water bays. 2. Locate creek mouths or any natural water in flows. 3. Look for submerged wood and new aquatic vegetation. 4. Keep an eye out for bait fish in the shallows. 5. Pay attention to your electronics. All these tips independently or combined will help you pin point those early season panfish.

The first and most important tip is, fish the shallower water bays off of the main lake. Pay particular attention to the bottom composition of these shallow bays. Favor muddier or softer bottom bays over sandy hard bottom ones. Crappies prefer softer bottom bays as they warm faster and provide better spawning habitat. Favor those bays on the north end of the lake also. These bays warm quicker as they receive more direct sunlight. Warm water is what every crappie looks for come spring. These shallow bays are usually where a majority of them will spawn once that water temperature reaches 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once you have located a few potential shallow bays look for creek mouths, streams, or any natural moving water of any sort. Natural inflows usually carry warmer water into the lake and attract baitfish also. Crappies love to spawn near creeks and streams. Never rule out the shoreline along black spruce swamps either. Ground water movement influences lake water temperatures. A quick boat ride around the bay will reveal natural water inflow areas and other important features that will be good potential starting points.

A couple other good initial beginning points are features such as submerged wood, trees, and stumps. Crappies love to hang out around these as they offer cover and additional warmth. When the sun beats down on a log sticking out of the water, the heat is transferred through the log into the water. Again, crappies will generally be near the warmest water. In addition to stumps and logs, look for new aquatic vegetation: lily pads, bulrushes, cabbage, etc. New vegetation supplies cover while giving off oxygen which in turn attracts baitfish and hungry crappies.

Keeping your eyes open for darting baitfish on a calm evening when the lake looks like glass will often reveal those crappies in the shallows. Sometimes it is helpful to move with these schools of baitfish. Frequently crappies are not too far behind them. A good pair of polarized glasses will provide huge assistance while searching for early season panfish. They will also help in locating panfish beds later in the spring. Identifying features underneath the water will teach you a lot about why fish are holding in a particular area.

Another highly useful tool in locating fish and structure is a new electronic sonar fish finder. Electronics are absolutely essential in detecting the warmest water early in the spring. A couple degrees difference in temperature from one end of a bay to the other is enormous. Locating the warmest water in a shallow bay will cut your searching time in half while adding to your fishing time. Also, sonars will aid in showing baitfish and fish themselves. We rely heavily on our Lowrance electronics to find the warmest water early in the season, to locate structure, baitfish, and our target fish species. The Lowrance HDS is the best and most reliable sonar fish finder on the market. The Lowrance HDS combined with its structure scan option gives the fisherman the most complete package available today. Structure scan (side imaging) will help to better locate brush piles, trees, weeds, baitfish, and of course those crappies that you are after. Side imaging is convenient in locating structure and fish without having to be right over top. Not spooking fish and being as quiet as possible in the shallows is key to connecting with fish on the end of your line.

So get out on the water today and find those early season crappies. Use these tips along with your own tricks and knowledge. If you don’t find any crappies in the shallow bays once the ice goes off, scan the deeper water leading into the bays with your Lowrance electronics. Some days, cold fronts and windy conditions often push panfish out of the shallower bays into deeper water in search of warmer water. The spring is ever so changing and so are panfish when it comes to the early season. Warm water is the key to location and from there on its all participation and hopefully pole bending action. Good Luck and bring the kids. There is nothing more enjoyable than watching the kids pull those slabs over the side of the boat!

Written by Brock Anderson

3rd Weekend of April 2011 and SNOW!

It's not everyday you slam on your breaks while cruising down the interstate at 75 mph. That is exactly what I did on Sunday on my way back to Jamestown, ND as a huge moose in the corner of a CRP field caught my attention. I pulled my binoculars up and watched the big bull for about 5 minutes from the window of my Chevy truck. It was about 200 yards off I-94. The cars, trucks, and semis that honked at me as I sat off the interstate can all slap themselves for not taking the time to enjoy those special brief moments that mother nature offers.

Speaking of mother nature. It sure was not kind to the Midwest this weekend. The Grand Rapids Area received anywhere from 6 to 8 inches of snow along with excessive winds all weekend. It was a bad weekend for what the "Crew" had planned. It seems as the weather has cut into our plans one way or the other for the last couple months.

The "Crew" planned on sturge fishing the Rainy River on Saturday, but the discharge reports at Manitou Rapids put a stop to that on Thursday. It sounded as the Rainy might reach record levels for the weekend. Last Sunday's rain did not help the fact.

We looked forward to our secondary plans: Shed hunting the Isabella area for some moose and deer bone and getting our boats prepped for the MN fishing opener.

Well, we woke up to 8 inches of snow on Saturday morning. That put the kibosh to shed hunting. It also put a hold on washing and waxing the Lunds. I brought my Lund to Rays Sport and Marine in the morning, though. There they installed my new Lowrance HDS 7 with structure scan. Topper and I are pumped to use and learn structure scan as soon as possible. Hopefully the weather will turn around soon and kick the ice off the lakes. There are only 4 short weeks left until opener.

Friday was a more productive day for the "Crew" as we took Godfrey Taxidermy pictures out at my parents place. Godfrey just finished Colt's hog buck from the 2010 rifle season. We took pictures of his buck, a couple of mine, and a couple others; all which Adam mounted. The pictures turned out amazing. Great hog bucks and awesome taxidermy job Godfrey.....

written by Brock

Rainy River Excursion - 2nd Weekend of April 2011

The day’s dream of slamming hundreds of large pre spawn walleyes over the course of the weekend came to an abrupt halt when fishing reports turned from increasing to no bite at all. The weekend of April 8th was set for a Rainy River excursion. However, things changed suddenly with rising river levels and muddy waters. The walleyes reported that they were struggling to find fisherman’s jigs. The “Crew” decided to grab the big poles and target sturgeon for the weekend.

I anxiously waited for 1 o’clock Friday afternoon, as I was all set to meet a couple of my good friends, Ethan Karppinen, and Ryan Neururer. They arrived shortly after 2:30 p.m, as the boat was hooked up, groceries were bought, and we were on the road. The plan was set; we would meet up with Ben Olson and good friend Andrew Kraft, take it easy that night, and head out to the river early Saturday morning.

We arrived around 8:30 p.m to Andrew’s house. There we excitedly talked about massive sturge and listened to Andrew tell stories about past trips. We were all super excited as this was all our first Rainy River sturge outing. However, before fishing could be done, we decided to hit up the bowling alley and loosen up our arms for the beating they would take the following day.

The alarms went off at 4:45 Saturday morning; we all jumped out of bed excited for what the day would bring. Driving through downtown Baudette it was apparent that everyone was still shacked up in their hotel rooms. That was good because it meant we would not have to walk miles back to the boat ramp after we parked the trucks. Once at the landing, we talked with a few boats who said they had done well the week before and were up for round two. We had a few words and headed out onto the river.

Ryan and I followed Andrews’s boat down river for a mile or two until we came to our first spot. Once anchored and lines cast out, we patiently waited for the first bite. Let me tell you, it didn’t take long at all! Ethan connected within 15 minutes as he fought his first ever sturge. Ben set the hook into one that seemed a bit larger. DOUBLES!!! A 35in and a 45in were landed seconds apart. Ryan and I moved around a few times before falling back into the first spot. Minutes later, Ryan laced into a sturge that seemed to be a bit larger than the other two we had seen. Sure enough a good size dino appeared at the surface of the water; I wrestled with it a bit and drug it into the boat. A 55 inch sturge was lying in the bottom of the boat. Ryan’s first one and it was a beauty!

The rest of the day proved to be slow, even for the sturgeon bite. We did end up catching some walleyes, suckers, and even two eel pout. It seemed as though we were going to hang up the rods for the first day when Ben called and informed me they had found a good hole that was hot. We buzzed over and sure enough Ben and Ethan had both landed a few good sturge. The action was hot for the last 2 hours as Ethan went on a tear, landing 4 more sturgeon, the biggest being 52 inches. NOT BAD!!

Frustration came over me as we headed off the river for the day, we had spent 13 hours in the boat and I had bites from every fish that swims BESIDES a sturgeon. We ended the day with 12 fish. Ethan had 6, Ben landed 3 and Ryan also had 3. The biggest of the day was Ryan’s 55 inch.

We all went to bed that night exhausted and looking forward to the next morning. Once again the alarms went off at 4:45 and we rolled out of bed and hopped into the trucks. The weather was chilly, with a little drizzle mixed in. We all threw on the bibs and rain gear as it called for 70% chance of rain for the day.

Once in the water, we headed to the same area we left off the night before. As we arrived, I checked my phone, 6:00 a.m. Let me tell you, I couldn’t believe when Ryan set the hook on his first fish at 6:04!! I had barely put my line in the water and I had to help him land his first struge of the day, a thick 55 inch that I could barely haul over the side of the Lund. This luck stuck with Ryan for most of the morning as he caught 5 additional sturge from 6:15-8:45. The biggest was a stud of a 60 inch that I wrestled with for quite some time before getting it into the boat. I ended up breaking the “Anderson Sturge Curse” by capturing two small ones around 10 o’clock. Ethan, Ben, and Andrew also had one heck of a morning, landing 8 sturgeon; the biggest being a massive 61 inch tank! Ethan fought this fish for upwards of 20 minutes. The 61 inch hog creature refused to come up off the bottom!

With long drives ahead of us, some with sore arms, we decided to pack it in and head out around 2pm on Sunday. The weekend was a success as we all caught fish (some of us more than others) but most of all we all everyone had a blast! The “Crew” looks forward to the rest of the month’s STURGE SLAM!

Written by Colt Anderson

Clearwater West Ontario, Canada - You Can't Slam Fish Every Trip

The purr of my Vexilar, the flutter of the Slurpie on the end of my Fireline, and the beautiful Ontario scenery are still fresh in my mind on this Monday afternoon. Wow, do I ever wish I was still there. Why couldn’t the trip have been longer? We should be continuing to drill more holes, explore new spots, and experiment with new lures? The trip sure did pass quickly and we certainly worked hard for a few fish. Sometimes the agony of defeat is more motivating then the thrill of victory.

Do you ever feel that way when you return from a trip that you have waited a month to go on? I sure do. It’s always nice to come home and tell your family and friends about all the fish you caught. Well, this time we returned home to tell everyone how hard we worked for the few fish we did catch. It could have been better, but it also could have been a lot worse. We look at it that way. We always learn more on an unsuccessful trip then a successful one.

You know you put lots of effort into finding fish when you have to gas up both augers every morning of your trip. We only fished half a day that first day, but still ran them dry by dark. We fished shoreline breaks, both steep and gradual; reefs; islands; bars; rock ledges; points; sand flats; you name it from 25 to 100 feet of water. Nothing seemed to relay us a pattern to follow on that first day. One out of the two lakes that we fished the first day proved no better than the other. The outcome should have been alright on a chain of lakes we had never stepped foot on before if we would have landed all the fish that bit. The first half day churned up one lake trout, 4 misses, 2 broken lines, and 3 that got off.

It gave us great motivation as we awoke to Topper’s coffee brewing at 4:30 am on Thursday morning. We formed a game plan and decided to fish Clearwater West in the morning and then White Otter in the afternoon on that second day. Dan lost 2 nice trout in 80 feet of water right away in the morning as the bright sunny skies yielded another beautiful day. On spot number two, Dan laced into a good laker. After about a 5 minute battle, a healthy 27 inch chunky 8 pound trout lay on the ice. We took a few pictures and video and Dan decided the trout was going to be good eats.

Our Vexilars were blank on the next couple spots we hit that morning. We decided we better portage to White Otter and see what that was all about. Our confidence levels began to rise as a new lake was in sight. There is nothing the “Crew” enjoys more than exploring and uncovering new waters. We excel in that very category.

What we didn’t seem to be doing a very good job of was finding spots where trout were cruising. Our Vexilars showed no signs of fish as we sweep jigged from one spot to the next on White Otter. The only thing we could do was keep moving and switching things up.

Dan and I hit a small island out in the middle of the big lake as Topper and Craig disappeared into a bay. I drilled about 10 holes on the back side of the island as Dan yelled depths to me. Twenty-five yards lay between my first hole in 120 feet to my last hole in 30 feet. It was a steep break. Dan set up in 80 feet. I didn’t even have my Slurpie in the water yet when Dan’s pole bent in half. Fish on and oh no fish off. Another lost fish for Dan. Two minutes later, Dan’s pole doubled over again, this time at the cork and his drag peeled like a train for about 10 seconds. Yep, you guessed it, and it came off. I screamed at Dan to maybe try setting the hook with authority next time.

Topper and Craig pulled up and I told them about Dan’s misses. As I was explaining to them, I felt slack in my line as a trout must have taken a swipe at my Slurpie. I immediately reeled as fast as I could as I seen a flash behind my lure on the Vexilar. The trout crushed me 10 feet below the ice as I set the hook with much more pressure than Dan. A couple minutes later, my first laker of the trip lay on the ice. It was not huge, but I was happy with it. It had taken a lot of hard work to finally ice one.

We all waited out the spot for an hour longer with no additional action. What was going on? The little bit of action we were having was always within the first twenty minutes of arriving at a new spot. Were the trout just not cruising around? Were they just hanging in the water column waiting for an easy meal or were we fishing the wrong areas? The weather was beautiful and stable with high barometric pressure. Were the trout in a transitional period waiting for the ice to go off?

That afternoon we portaged back to Clearwater West. With potential for a 30 pound lake trout there, we decided it would be best to put our work into that body of water. We found a descent spot that afternoon where we CPR’d three trout right around the ten pound mark. We hit the same spot early that morning of the third day. We caught three more trout off that spot including a wide dark backed laker that Topper caught which weighed in the low teens.

The spot still wasn’t what we were looking for. The resort told us a descent day is when everyone catches ten plus fish themselves. Well, we couldn’t catch ten fish between the four of us in one day. We began exploring even more. The exploration burned the gas right out of our tanks on the third day as our confidence levels dropped with every hole we drilled and jigged.

That night Topper and I portaged back into a top secret walleye lake. The evenings proved to be the worst trout fishing so we decided to try our luck at some walleyes. That night we iced between fifteen and twenty marble eyes. It was fun to finally engage in some consistent action.

Back at the cabin that night, Dan and Craig had a huge meal ready for us as they told us about their unsuccessful evening of trout fishing. We played cribbage and drank cold ones till early in the morning. Craig’s frustrations of not catching a trout led him to cut a piece of trout meat off one of the fillets and tuck it behind Dan’s brim on his hat. We laughed ourselves to bed after that.

The morning came early as we hit the ice once again. We fished five spots before calling the trip quits. With no sight of a trout on the Vexilar, we figured we gave it all we had. It just wasn’t our trip to catch fish on.

Dan found the piece of trout in his hat on Wednesday. hahahahahahahaha What a good rot it must have had for four days!

Last Weekend of March - Late Ice?

Late ice; well for some of us this means hanging up the ice fishing twigs, vexilars, and augers and focusing on the upcoming walleye run on the Rainy River or the opener in May… Not for Hang Loose! Late ice means the “Crew” is hitting the hard water just as hot and heavy as if it were early season!

This last weekend the majority of the "Crew" was preparing for this week’s trip to Atikokan, Ontario. The pursuit for hog lake trout begins Wednesday morning. We are so pumped for rod bending, drag peeling, video action. Dan Neary will be joining us on the trip and that means pure success and good humor.

However, this weekend found me meeting up with Ryan Neururer and two other buddies from Itasca College at 5:00 in the morning on the side of highway 200. We were making our way to Leech Lake in search of aggressive tulibees. As we made our way onto the lake in the black of the morning we were challenged with rough lake conditions due to drifts and a very pretty full moon. We unloaded the ice houses and fired up the Strikemaster augers in the lantern light.

The tulibees were instantly attracted to the lanterns as the houses were folded down and several appeared on the vexilar. Ryan baited his lindy flyer spoon with the “medusa head” approach with wax worms and dropped down into 20 feet of water. Within seconds he set the hook with his signature 30” ice blues and held on for a great fight on light tackle. As the rod tip bent almost right back to the handle Ryan pulled up our first tulibee, a solid 17 incher. I was pretty excited about the quickness of the bite so I horridly baited my northland forage minnow spoon and sent it swaying back and forth down the hole. I was immediately met half way down and slammed, as my ice blues was also bent down to the handle I fought a beautiful 21 inch tulibee up the hole. Let me tell you, the action was ridiculous! From the time we set up till 8:30 that morning, each house easily had over 100 tulibees! I also hooked into a 33 inch pike, an awesome fight on 3lb micro ice.

As the weather heated up, we enjoyed sandwiches and constant tulibee action up until we left around 3 pm. If anyone wants to get out and experience late ice action, you need to get up to Leech Lake and seek out some tulibee! They are very easy to catch and very exciting!

Speaking of excitement, Scottie Thomas was on Lake of the Woods again this weekend and turned in his best success for the month of March. Numerous hog pike in the mid 30’s were caught and released with a couple big HOGZ over that 40” mark.

Written by Colt Anderson

The Rocky Anderson Benefit - 3rd Weekend of March

AS I MADE MY WAY WEST, a tear slipped down my cheek as memories spun through my head. I guess they weren’t really memories yet as they were still too recent. It was Monday morning and all I could think of were the events from the past weekend. Pictures of friends, family, and the community coated my insides. Each and every generous individual tickled my wet eye lashes. I pictured Jason (Shorty) and me engaging in a huge friendly hug as he donated his 3rd place winnings from the 2011 Smelt Jerk to my father. I remembered fighting back tears Sunday on stage as I made the announcement that Lindsey contributed her 50/50 drawing winnings back to the benefit. I pictured Dad embracing in laughs with his friends that he had not seen in decades as I struggled to slip my way through the hundreds of people at the benefit. Those thoughts were only the beginning ones as the weekend finally caught up with me as I drove my Chevy truck down the dreaded path back to North Dakota. All my tears of happiness from the weekend finally came out all at once on that very drive.

The weekend could not have gone any better. The two weeks leading up to this weekend were extraordinarily stressful. We only were given a short window to plan all the weekend’s events (Smelt Jerk on Saturday and benefit on Sunday) for my Father’s (Rocky Anderson) benefit. (Rocky was diagnosed with Stage 4 colorectal and liver cancer in May 2010. He went through two surgeries to remove his cancer. He has also had chemo and faces additional treatments in the near future.) At first, it appeared as if only a few friends and family members were interested in helping out in the benefit plans. As it got closer to the weekend, many individuals stepped up and started lifting the weight off of our shoulders.

Friday, Ben Olson and I started the morning off early. We had lots to do to get ready for Saturday’s Smelt Jerk. One of the many things we had to do was locate some active smelt close to King’s boat landing on Pokegama Lake in Grand Rapids, MN. This was the stage for the 1st Annual Smelt Jerk. Many people questioned this event as they found it odd and others impossible to catch smelt with a hook and line.

For what started out as an event where the “Crew” (Hang Loose Outdoors) was going to get some friends together, have some fun, and raise a few extra bucks for the Rocky Anderson Benefit; gradually turned into a much larger episode day after day. I was in charge of most of the preparation of this event and it was giving me a few extra grey hairs. Try to prepare an event while being a state away from where it’s actually going to take place. Ben and I found some smelt after about 40 holes that day. Hopefully, some people could hook them the following day.

Amongst catching them the next day, we needed lots more to fall into place at the proper time. The “Crew” had never planned an event like this before. In order for everything to work, everyone had to stand up to their words. Tike’s Trophy Sausage was going to supply the food and cook prime rib sandwiches and hot dogs. StrikeMaster was to deliver us a couple augers so we could swiss cheese a few hundred holes in no time. Crippa Music said they would rent us out a pa system, microphone, and a couple speakers. L & M supply guaranteed door prized. These were only a few of the major things we relied on as crunch time neared.

We breathed a huge sigh of relief at 12pm on Saturday as the “Crew” enjoyed the sweet aroma of Tike’s prime rib sizzling over the slippery ice as we tossed the football around. We were all set for the 1st Annual Smelt Jerk. We were prepared to raise money for one of the greatest Dads in the world. Each of us knew our individual tasks and we all were ready to mingle and have fun.

Jason Greer caught the first smelt of the 2011 Smelt Jerk and bit the head off earning him two Hang Loose Outdoor hats. One hat was for the first smelt caught and the second for the first person who bit their smelt’s head off (It’s tradition to bite the first smelt head off of the smelting season). Everyone seemed to be having a blast out on the lake.

At 3pm, all lines were reeled up and everybody huddled around my truck. It was time to count in. The individual who caught the most smelt would be declared the winner. Jason Greer caught 2 smelt and took 3rd place. Grant Grell brought up 3 smelt and claimed 2nd place. Jerry Topper who hid out most of the derby in the farther corner holes brought up a coffee can with sixteen smelt in it. Sixteen smelt topped the contest and earned Jerry Topper first place at the 2011 Smelt Jerk. It was an awesome feeling to see people catching smelt and enjoying themselves throughout the day.

It was emotional when Shorty stepped up and donated his 3rd place winnings back to the benefit. As soon as he did that, Grant and Jerry followed in his footsteps. Thank you to all you guys. There were other winners at the 50/50 drawing, hockey shootout, and golf chip that also donated their winnings back to Rocky. Amongst that, Tike cooked up 2 whole smelt, put them on a hot dog bun, and donated 50 dollars to the benefit if someone would eat the sandwich. Of course the sandwich was eaten thus starting a tradition at the Smelt Jerk.

The Smelt Jerk turned out to be a huge success. The event would have been impossible without the help of our wonderful friends, family, and community. A huge thank you goes out to Tike’s Trophy Sausage and Fresh Meats, Crippa Music, L & M Supply, StrikeMaster, everyone at Hang Loose Outdoors, and of course our beautiful girlfriends, (Katie, Lindsey, Staci) who never get enough credit.

Sunday was the Rocky Anderson Benefit at the Moose Club. An estimated three hundred people showed up and supported my father and family. It was a wonderful time. Dad and Mom were ecstatic. They were so happy to see how many people truly cared. It was amazing to see the community support amongst our all our friends and family. Thank you to everybody who donated items, volunteered their time, and showed their support. A special thanks to Judy Dick, Moose Club, VFW, and Mike Miller.

As I drove back to North Dakota teary eyed, it truly made me think what great friends and family I have. Where would I be without the exciting, caring, and passionate friends I do have? Where would you be without your friends? Sometimes you have to stop and think about what you do have in life. For me, that very drive made me realize how happy I was to have such a great “Crew” of friends and such a special family. Hold on to your friends forever! The weekend could not have happened without you all. Thanks so much.

written by Brock

2nd Weekend of March Madness 2011 - Blizzard Winds

Wind wind go away. Hang Loose or you will pay. Fishy fishy bite our hook. Hang Loose and don't just look. Pike pike please come and bite. Hang Loose Hang Loose and they just might!

We were pounded with wind, snow, and cold weather this weekend. The "Crew" felt it all the way from Grand Rapids, MN to the Northwest Angle. Another weekend of March was characterized as January. For the four of us on Lake of the Woods this weekend, the weather found its mark.

Friday proved very windy, but warm temperatures made for a tolerable day. Despite the wind not cooperating, the pike didn't either. Brock and Katie caught little pike and Topper iced a 23" walleye right at dark. For a full day of fishing, terrible was heard from all around. The highlight of the day had to be the igloo we constructed to defend the wind. After its completion, we enjoyed a few cold beverages over a couple games of cribbage inside its walls.

If you thought it was windy Friday, Saturday brought hurricane winds. We found ourselves eating breakfast at Sportsman's and contemplating a game plan. We decided it was far too windy for flagging. We set our sights to Oak Island in the Northwest Angle for an afternoon of walleyes.

The twenty-eight mile snowmobile ride was brutal cold. Once we had our houses set up on a reef to the east of Little Oak Island, we began to warm up. A half hour later we were cold again as we moved locations because of absent walleyes. Randy and Mama caught a few smaller walleyes while Katie and I managed a tulibee and an eel pout. Another terrible day of fishing was recorded.

We played multiple games of cribbage that night at the cabin. Katie and I absolutely schooled Randy and Craig. I'm pretty sure we won 7 of 8 games. Crib Kings!

Colt and Ben caught some jumbo perch on Leech Lake on Sunday. Adam took his spear house off Pokegama and packed his things for his trip with Gordon up to the Northwest Angle.

Smelt Jerk on Pokegama Lake this Saturday at 12pm. Food starts at 12pm. Tournament starts at 1pm. Word of advice to anglers: bring Vexilar, small jigs, and some wax worms.

The Rocky Anderson Benefit is Sunday at the Moose Club at 1pm. Spaghetti Feed, music, and awesome silent auction items. Please show your support.

See you all this weekend.

Slow Start to March Madness 2011

Twelve flags were strategically placed from five to eight feet of water in one of our hog gator spots on Lake of the Woods. The clock showed 8:30am and all of us were as pumped as we could get. The weather forecast did not show the warmest temperatures, but the wind was supposed to be light and variable. Light winds meant tip uping was still possible in colder temperatures.

All we needed now was that first flag, "FLAG", the sprint to the hole, and the excitement of that T handle burning. Well, on Friday morning that did not happen. Millions of things rushed through our heads. Where are the pike? Maybe they are here and they are tight lipped. Should we move spots? Should we move deeper? We could see a front moving in from Canada.

Adam moved 3 tip ups to 9 to 11 feet. At 1pm, we finally ran up to a flag that was spinning fast. It was Kevin's turn as he pulled the tip up from the hole and I screamed, "All the line is gone". He set the hook and the fight was on. Minutes later, Kevin held a beast of a 40" gator up for pictures and safely released it back. It got everyone's blood pumping. The move to the next gradual break proved successful.

The 40" pike teased us as we went hours without a flag. Katie slammed into a little guy around 4pm. Around 5:30pm, Staci caught our only other nice fish of the day, a 36". The fish put up an intense battle and pictures were taken in front of a beautiful sunset.

We packed up and headed back to the trucks at dark. As there were six of us and only two snowmobiles, Scottie and Staci volunteered to stay back. Kevin and Adam dropped off the gear at the trucks and headed back onto the lake to retrieve Scottie and Staci as Katie and I loaded the gear into the trucks.

A half hour later, I received a phone call from Kevin. They could not find Scottie and Staci as it was real dark now. Looking for 2 people out in the middle of Lake of the Woods at dark is like looking for a needle in a haystack. I told him to keep searching. An hour later they finally showed up laughing and screaming at each other. It was good humor. Scottie never lets the "Crew" down when it comes to providing us with laughs and memories.

Saturday we decided to set up in the same general area, but set our flags out a little deeper, eight to twelve feet. Both our fish Friday came out of nine to ten feet. We were pumped to see what was going to happen.

We had lots of dropped flags throughout the day and lots of down time to tell stories. The overcast and cold March day lowered our hopes with every passing hour. A few rats were caught around the noon hour. It provided some hope, but not enough.

Colt and Ben were flagging 4 Mile Bay in Baudette with a friend. They relayed us messages of the same type of fishing. SLOW SLOW SLOW SLOW. We got on the phone to other groups we knew as they told us of their frustrations as well. The low pressure front must of sewed the pike's lips shut.

We packed up that evening and piled all of us on the 2 sleds. We did not want to risk losing part of our "Crew" again. The Yamaha Expedition had 4 people on it. Scottie stood in the cargo box and held onto Adam's shoulders for 4 miles. About three quarters of the way back, Scottie lost his balance and struggled to stay on the snowmobile. He frantically jumped off so he wouldn't get run over by the Otter Sled. We yard- sailed Scottie-too-hottie... The Otter barely missed taking out his legs. More good humor from the "Crew".

That evening at Icky's Bar, we talked to many groups that complained about the overall pike fishing for the weekend. That is why it's called fishing and not catching! One group told us that Thursday had been the best day for them. Well....... Well..

We decided to leave the pike alone on Sunday and make the long drive back home early in the morning. Next weekend the pike will be biting as we visit another one of our hog gator areas on LOW! Stay Tuned!

written by Brock

Last Weekend of February 2011

Well, tomorrow cries out March 1st. I guarantee I jump out of bed as a new man tomorrow morning. I bet the whole "Crew" jumps for joy as we roll into the wonderful month of March.

Tomorrow the MDHA "Whitetails Magazine" March edition comes out with my article titled, "Rifle Hunting Minnesota's Public Lands". The article recaps the "Crew's" 2010 rifle season and talks about the ups and downs of rifle hunting public land in Minnesota. Check it out or order it by visiting this link Click Here...

We attended the 24th Annual MN Deer Hunters Habitat Banquet at the Timberlake Lodge in Grand Rapids, MN on Saturday. We had an excellent time. The MDHA did a fantastic job organizing the event and making it fun for all ages. The dinner was great also. We auctioned off a guided walleye trip that ended up going for $500. To top off the night, Mama won a Thompson Center muzzleloader. Woooooo Good times!

The weekend and the end of the week consisted of a lot more than that. I pulled into Topper's house on Wednesday evening looking forward to a four day weekend. Topper and I brainstormed on what to do come Thursday morning. Lots of subjects ran through our heads including the chase for lake trout at the Northwest Angle or the Quetico. Knowing we had to be back Saturday afternoon for the MDHA banquet, we decided to hold off on the long drive.

With two hours of sleep, we packed up the snowmobile and clam into Topper's truck Thursday morning and headed to Ely in search of lake trout. Two weekends ago the "Crew" hit Snowbank Lake. Limited success there pointed us in the direction of Burntside Lake.

Ten hours of fishing showed one miss and a fat six pound laker taker on the ice. Good Eats. We bounced around extensively throughout the day, but couldn't compete with the numerous smelt and other bait fish in our spots. The morning seemed to offer the most aggressive fish and best bite (if there even was a bite).

The morning proved to be the best laker bite on the Pit outside Coleraine on Friday morning also as Topper, Katie, and I dropped our lines right around 7am. Topper pulled a few small lakers in that first hour. Katie caught her first lake trout of her life. I missed one. After that first hour, it seemed as the trout closed their lips. They wanted nothing to do with our offerings.

We decided to head to Pokegama for the last walleye bite of the winter that afternoon. On our way there, we blew out a trailer tire. Of course, Topper lacked a 4 way and a jack in his truck so we were forced to leave the snowmobiles on the trailer on the side of the highway. We found some tools at his brother's and quickly slapped the spare on.

The flat tire cost us some valuable time so we were forced to fish a close hump in Tioga Bay. Katie caught the only walleye of the night. We graphed quite a few fish, but they just weren't hungry. We will have to wait till June now. WATCH OUT EYE BALLS!

Godfrey and Staci were on the ice on Saturday. Godfrey speared a monster of a 39 inch pike that morning. The fish had a 20.5 in girth. What a great end to the season. That evening they tried their luck with some eyes up north. Godfrey iced a fat 36 in pike on a tip up and they caught a couple small walleyes.

We will be on L.O.W this weekend chasing those hog pike! Stay tuned!

Written by Brock

February 19, 2011

The "Crew" was scattered about this weekend. Everyone seemed to have there own little things going on before the big March extravaganza. Planning on travel for five weekends straight takes a lot of preparation back home. That was basically this weekends occurrences.

Some of us were still out on the lakes and in the woods, though. Scottie Thomas fought the insane winds all weekend up on L.O.W. Pike fishing was on the slower side, but his time was greatly rewarded with two monsters: 39.25 and 40 inch hog gators. Scottie tried multiple spots around the Warroad area. Good Hogz bro!

Adam and Staci gave their spear house a shot on Saturday morning. The pike were aggressive, but only small fish presented themselves. They headed north of Grand Rapids that evening and put a couple nice eye balls on the ice.

As for me, I stayed around the North Dakota region for the weekend. I hung out with Katie and Mr. Shed Hunter himself, Matt Nelson. For those of you who don't know Matt, he takes his shed hunting quite serious starting right after the first buck is visible with one antler. Matt puts hundreds upon hundreds of miles on his legs each spring looking for bone. He hits multiple states, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana.

This weekend, Matt, Katie, and I braved the ND wind chills and put some miles on our legs. We walked fields, draws, woods, pasture, and wetlands. Anything that had minimal to no snow, we tried to find shed antlers. Despite lots of snow still on the ground, we found 9 sheds for the weekend. Matt and Katie both found really nice ones, while I held up the rear for the weekend with a little pocket shed.

The weather was definitely brutal this weekend, but we made the best out of it. Stay tuned for warmer temperatures and aggressive fish as we push into March.

The Return to Snowbank Lake - February 13, 2011

There I was, night class, bored out of my mind, when I get a text message from “Crew” member Adam Godfrey. The text read something like this “You and Ben better be ready for a hardcore lake trout adventure up north to the BWCA, no questions asked.” The destination was none other than Snowbank Lake, in the heart of lake trout country. I could not pass this up as Snowbank lake has great potential, plus the chance of snagging an elusive silver pike was ever so tempting!

As Friday night rolled around, plans were made and gear was piled up by the front door ready for an early departure. Ben Olson and I left the house off a slim two hours of sleep, as we talked back and forth making sure we didn’t forget anything, Ben yells “O s***! I forgot to get my trout stamp!” So after a quick stop into the Cohasset gas station and an all but pleasant talk to a very crabby worker yielded us a trout stamp. We finally arrived at Topper’s house right around 3:45am, gear was loaded into the Dodge, and talk of 20lb lake trout began to fill the air. We rolled into the Godfrey residence around 4:00am and the last of our supplies were loaded, the Arctic Cat jag and fish house were thrown on the trailer. With a few last stops for gas and munchies, we were off in the direction of Ely, Minnesota.

As we arrived in Hibbing, a short detour downtown was unexpected but Topper finally pointed us in the right direction. We arrived to Snow Bank Lake around 7:30am, the sleds and fish houses were unloaded and the crew began to dress in the brisk -10 degree temperatures. We looked forward to what the day would bring as the weather channel projected a 35 degree high. Adam and I took off for the first spot closely followed by Randy and Ben. Let me tell you, Randy and Ben on a single seat sled with zero suspension was quite the sight! Low rider style all the way! The first destination was, a steep funnel running the edge of a small island right around the 50 foot mark. Ben and I set up as Randy and Adam adventured further on to a hump topping at 40 feet. Lines were dropped and fish started coming in and out as fast as you could blink, these fish flew in and chased your bait like a shark up and down for what seemed like minutes without a single hit. I decided to venture out of the house and bounce around to other depths. Minutes later I heard drag peeling and the voice of Ben, “Fish on man!!” I sprinted over to help out incase the fish was one of the monsters we dreamt about. After a good spree of runs and shakes the fish was snatched out of the hole, first laker of the trip! A plump 24inch trout lay on the ice! Good eats!

The rest of the day seemed to be consistently tough, fish were seen as they came and went throughout the day. Adam and Randy bounced around to multiple spots, fishing for an hour or two at each. The second spot they arrived at, Adams bait got pounded by a good laker, the rod doubled over for seconds and then shook the hook. Later in the day another good looking fish was hooked and fought until it also shook the hook, this time just feet under the ice. I ended up landing a good looking 15 inch trout at about 2 o’clock.

That night, plans were made for the following day. The crew’s hopes were high as we conversed with Smitty, the local lodge owner. He gave us a few pointers and spots that would be a good idea to try. Hunger kicked in and we were forced to town, destination, Subway. All of us purchased two foot long subs as it was the only real food eaten all day. As Ben and I learned, one cannot be satisfied with Nutty bars and Pringles all day.

With full stomachs, and a warm dry room to stay, we kicked back, enjoyed a few cold ones, and listened to stories of Randy’s college days. Let me tell you, those are some good quality stories! Some good laughs faded into silence as we all crashed the second our heads hit the pillow. As 3:00am rolled around we were all awoken by Adams freakishly loud alarm which seemed to go on for hours until Randy finally canceled the racket. A few more hours were spent asleep until 6:30. We rolled out of bed, well rested and ready for a morning of fishing.

We arrived at our first spot; flags were set in hopes of snagging a big silver pike or even a hog laker. Holes were drilled from 40-80 feet. Adam was the first to connect with a fish, a small but feisty lake trout; good deal, we were on some fish! Seconds after, Randy set the hook on one of his own! Another trout came flying up the hole, this one about 13 inches. As 10 o’clock rolled around we packed up and headed to spot number two. With no trout to be found we called it a day, packed up the sleds and headed back to Smitty’s lodge. The ride back was an interesting one! Adam and I became airborne every few feet as the drifts became quite traitorous, I was about lost off the back multiple times, having to grab onto Adams jacket to save myself a rough landing. Ben and Randy had the same problem as their ride looked even rougher, keep in mind the no suspension thing.

Once back to Smittys, we thanked them for their hospitality and enjoyed the 50 degree weather for a bit before hitting the road. As we drove away, plans for upcoming trips filled the air and the excitement of another adventure was in the making! This will not be the last of the Snowbank lake trips, as Randy is determined to not let the lake get the best of him.

Written by Colt Anderson

February; Does anyone like this month? - February 5, 2011

How many people actually like the month of February? If you do, I want you to jump up from the computer screen right now, run outside, and dive head first into a snowbank ........ ............ .................. ...................... ...................... ..................... ................... .......................... I think most of you are still reading this while the one percent is freezing their a**** off stuck out in a snowbank.

I absolutely hate the month of February. I can think of only a couple good things about it. First, March is the next month. Second, March is almost here. Well maybe one more, the weather sometimes warms up off and on.

Because of last week's long travel to Rochester for Dad's surgery, and a short work week, I decided to stay in Jimmy Town. The only plus about staying in ND for a weekend is I save hundreds of dollars on that ridiculous thing called "gasoline". If anyone likes paying for gasoline, I want you to get up from this computer screen right now, take all your clothes off, run outside, and jump into the biggest damn snow bank you can find.

Worrying about Dad in the hospital didn't help my weekend out too much. But, he is a strong man and we hope to have him home this coming weekend. Dad didn't get the name "Rockstar" for nothing. He'll be kicking back in front of the Lund with a Budweiser in his hand, reeling walleyes in one after another, before you know it. 'Thoughts and Prayers always with you Dad' - HLO

As I hung out in my apartment all weekend working on Hang Loose stuff, I kept getting picture messages on my phone from the CREW. I mean they kept coming and coming. Pictures of hog crappies, walleyes, pike, and lake trout quickly filled the inbox on my phone. It was driving me up the wall. I couldn't handle it at one point as I laced up the shoes and ran outside. No, I didn't jump into a snowbank, I ran 2 miles. Got to get ready for the furious run to the "flags" come March. I will be ready pike ah!

The beautiful weather filled my lungs as I ran and thought about Dad and the stupid month of February. One weekend I don't go home, the weather is stable, the pressure is rising, and the fish are going absolutely crazy. Just my luck.

Well, that's how Hang Loose Outdoors operates. There is always someone out there giving it 110 percent. If a man or two are lost to family, women, or work one weekend, the others step up. That is how we develop our skills and talents. We learn from each other and work as a CREW.

Topper, Dan, Craig, and Adam surely stepped up this weekend. I'm not sure if they stepped up or the fish stepped up their game realizing it was February (and they would get one more feast in before going dormant till March). From the pictures I received, it looked to me that the fish were jumping out of the hole. Topper and Dan crushed 10 - 13 inch crappies on one of our favorite back lakes on Friday morning. It only took 6 holes with the StrikeMaster and the fish were flying up onto the ice. They said in 20 ft of water the fish would meet their jig before it got half way down. Would of been a great day to bring the kids. Can't beat that.

After their hands were beat up and their bait was gone, they jumped on their snowmobiles and headed towards Pokegama Lake for the evening walleye bite. Knowing the fish were slamming, and it was February, they knew exactly where to go (small shallow topped hump surrounded by some of the deepest water in the lake on all sides). There they put 4 beautiful walleyes on the ice during the short 20 minute bite. Dan CPR a mammoth of a 25 inch. The fish was almost wider than it was long.

Saturday, Topper, Mama, and Dave headed up north to try their luck at some lake trout. Yeah, they slammed those too. They caught 10 + lakers. Most of the fish were two to four pounds (excellent eats). They were very mobile all morning long and it proved to be the way to go. They covered 40 to 90 feet of water. Paying attention to their electronics was key as the fish were cruising.

Adam speared most of the morning. He informed me that the pike were moving. He speared one right around 10 pounds and seen one twice as big that played games with him outside his hole. Staci and him sat a few hours and seen a half dozen pike.

Scottie ram rode to L.O.W on Saturday morning to try and see if any pike were cruising the shallows yet. The only bad news of the weekend came from him. Him and his buddy struggled with ice conditions, pressure ridges, broken equipment, crushed Doritos, no pike, and lots of bad luck all day.

Colt headed over to Bemidji all weekend to explore some of my panfish lakes from the college days. Despite bad lake conditions and tough access to some of the lakes, him, Ethan, and Ryan, got into a mess of active panfish. The fish were suspending in 20 to 25 feet of water.

I ran again on Sunday to clear my head of fishies and get ready for March. If I could jump head first into a snowbank, hibernate like a bear for the month of Febraury, count me in. I would burst up and run out on March 1st with tip ups in one hand, Strikemaster auger in the other, smelt between my teeth, all the way to Canada.

written by Brock....

Find Your Own Ice Fishing Success During Those Tough Mid-Winter Months
January 30, 2011

As the New Year pushes into those cold and familiar Minnesota winter months, a little part of every ice angler’s drive and determination is slowly covered up by piles of white stuff and thick grumbling ice. Large amounts of snow, slush, cold weather, limited lake accessibility, and challenging fishing soon take their toll on each ice angler little by little. The tough conditions find a high percentage of anglers chasing the latest fishing reports or dumping their wheel houses off the nearest plowed roads.

Fish houses start to congregate on the common fishing areas on most known lakes. These areas typically attract attention as they stay plowed and are easily accessible. Some anglers looking for the best action view these gathering of houses to be where the fish might be biting. A lakes’ peak fishing success is almost always found away from the congregation of houses especially when lake travel is limited. This could be located down the shoreline a couple hundred yards or on another part of the lake.

This time of year, one has to ask himself/herself a simple question: What is successful fishing for this area during the mid-winter? Believe it or not, fishing can be tough during these next couple months, and the conditions will make it even more challenging, but steady fishing success is still very much achievable.

If one is looking for consistent mid-winter fishing then one has to be willing to work for it. Mobility is certainly the key ingredient to this success. This means exploring multiple lakes, drilling numerous holes, and jumping spot to spot, until active fish are located. With most areas’ walleye bite hit or miss from night to night, usually the best area action and consistency is found chasing perch, panfish, or pike. Sitting in a spear house watching nature’s flat screen provides great action too. Being mobile while targeting the fish species that are active this time of year is essential.

Mobility eventually yields to catching fish as opposed to joining the crowds of other anglers on a hit or miss bite. Mobility also leads to one finding his/her own spots. Fish do not feed on a single lake structure (point, underwater bar, weed bed, island, or deep hole). Pull out that GPS/lake contour chip or topographic map and examine potential fishing spots that are not occupied. Hook up that sled fish house to your snowmobile and break your own trail. Acquire that early season motivation once again.

If one really wants to get adventurous, find solid mid-winter fishing action, and possibly uncover a secret honey hole; do a little homework on a cold and nasty day. The instructions that follow are what my group and I have used for many years to locate consistent day-long ice fishing success all throughout Minnesota during those tough mid-winter months:

---Find topographic maps of the interested fishing area, or go onto the internet and search Google Maps or other available maps and aerial photos.
---Make a list of those smaller desolate lakes that you have never previously fished or may not have known existed. Make a note of those that are only accessible by 4-wheeler or snowmobile. (Many small Minnesota lakes are simply more accessible during the winter months when the landscape is frozen.)
---Search for those lakes on the MN DNR Lake Finder website (http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind/index.html). The MN DNR Lake Finder provides valuable lake information including: lake surveys, lake depth maps, lake water clarity levels, stocking reports, management plans, public access information, etc. Lake Finder also includes a useful interactive map called ‘Recreation Compass’ to search for lakes.
---Print off lake depth maps and take notes of present fish species and survey results. Make sure to look at the survey dates if they are available for the lakes you are researching.
---Don’t dismiss those small lakes which contain no information on the Lake Finder.
---Once you have a few potential lakes you’re interested in; pull up those Google Maps, aerial photos, or topographic maps once again. Plan out the easiest route into these lakes by snowmobile or 4-wheeler. Use an ownership plat book to assist your travel as well.

With a few maps and some valuable information, along with a bunch of motivation; it’s time to go find that honey hole. Plan a full and exciting day with some of your friends when it looks like the weather might cooperate for the best. Hook up your sled houses to your snowmobiles, gas up your ice augers, and charge those ice flashers. Pack a lunch, some snacks, some hydration, and it’s time to head out. Stop at the local bait store and grab an array of bait: crappie minnows, wax worms, and of course a variety of sized suckers for those tip-ups.

Once you arrive at your destination examine that lake depth map and survey the lake. Look for evidence of the lake being fished previously. If old holes exist it might be a good place to start. If not, fire up those augers, drill lots of holes, check depths, and begin fishing. Throw out a few tip-ups in the shallows for hog pike while you explore the deeper areas of the lake for panfish.

Be very mobile and use your ice flashers until you locate some active fish. Don’t get discouraged if you come up empty handed. Give a lake a solid and honest attempt for part of the day. If the lake doesn’t produce, pack your things and move on to the next one.

I guarantee this method of being mobile, exploring lake after lake, and being adventurous will eventually reveal a honey hole while exploiting a day full of excitement. One never knows what to expect, what journey will take place, and what fascinating results might be uncovered. The potential outcomes of finding your own slab crappie or hog pike lake are truly rewarding. Even finding your own spot on a common fishery is gratifying. So get out there, be mobile, and explore our 10,000 lakes while time allows during these mid-winter months. I promise this approach will yield more consistent ice fishing success during a period of time that can be ever so challenging, while also adding to your list of possible fishing lakes for the future.

Written by Brock Anderson
Published in the Grand Rapids Herald Review

Was it cold this weekend? - January 23, 2011

Despite the cold temperatures on Friday, I was bound and determined to bend my pole out on the ice. I was not going to waste a weekend back at home. I had to catch at least a few fish.

Colt and I headed out onto Pokegama Friday afternoon with temperatures plunging into the below 30 range. Our destination was not too far off the landing, but we played it smart and still brought the 4 wheeler. The last thing I wanted was my truck stuck in temperatures like this.

We didn't make it 200 yards from the landing and we were totally buried in slush. It was so deep, for a second, I thought we were going through the ice. The slush was over the tires. Colt and I worked and worked to get out as we knew we only had a few minutes before the dangerous cold temperatures would lock up all 4 tires.

It took all of 30 minutes, wet feet, and chin hanging icicles to finally get the Arctic Cat back onto solid snow. We quickly headed back to the landing knowing the tires could lock up at any moment. We took a deep sigh of relief once the wheeler was in the back of my truck.

Totally frustrated with the ridiculously horrible lake conditions of this year, we almost just headed home. We still wanted to fish despite our wet feet and cold temperatures so we pulled the house down the shoreline to a little spot of ours in hopes of some gill action. We managed to catch quite a few gills from 7-9.5in. We left at dark as the bite tapered off.

I headed over to Matzdorf's shop after fishing hoping a spot would be available in his heated garage. It took 6 guys to pull the Arctic Cat out of my truck and into the garage. All 4 tires were frozen solid. The wheeler looked like a green block of ice. It took all weekend to thaw the wheeler out. Sorry for flooding your garage Shane!

Saturday remained very cold, but the sun made it look bearable from inside the window. Godfrey and Staci went spearing in the morning hours and seen a few smaller pike. I did a few chores around the parent’s house and waited for the temps to warm up a bit.

Topper, Mama, Joel, Jeremy, and Dave attended the world's largest ice fishing contest in Brainerd, MN on Gull Lake, Saturday from 12 to 3pm. More than 10,000 people were in attendance. The "Crew" did not catch anything, but told me they learned a lot. They stated, "Next year we're coming back in a new truck (first place)."

Colt and I headed to one of our back lakes for the afternoon bite. We dragged the house out onto the lake. It was a lot of work, but was a whole lot better than getting the 4 wheeler stuck. We fished for 3 hours and caught 20-30 crappies. Ten fish were between 11-12.5 inches and the others were right around that ten inch mark. We kept four nice fish for pictures along with a few smaller ones for a meal. The bigger fish all went back down the hole to live another day.

Godfrey hunted coyotes once again on Saturday night. What a bunch of craziness hunting in -20 degrees. He or his uncle did not see anything.

Mama was the only one fishing on Sunday as he targeted trout. He caught six lake trout and missed two. The six he caught were only a couple pounds. The big ones eluded him the whole day.

written by Brock

BWCA Spearing Trip & January 16, 2011

On Thursday, Randy met up with a buddy, Judd, and two other avid darkhouse spearers, Swede Carlson and Doug Cogswell. Off to the great north they went. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area was there destination for the weekend. They were to do some darkhouse spearing and follow those dreams of thirty pound pike. They dumped their gear into the hotel in Ely and went out for beers and optimistic conversation that evening.

In the morning, they met Bob, who would be guiding them into the BWCA by dogsled. They helped Bob load all their gear, pack the three dogsleds, and hook up all 22 dogs. It took about an hour and a half. They then cruised along, lake by lake, and trail by trail. They finally reached their destination about ten miles and two hours later.

The sleds were unloaded and each set off through the deep snow and slush to cut holes and set their spear houses up. After about one hour of spearing, Randy was already walking back to camp to get a new sucker. A 40 inch pike unleashed like a beast and ripped his first one off. Randy didn’t get a second chance at the big gator the rest of the day, but seen about ten more pike. None of those ten pike were speared as they were all in the slot limit.

The stories back at the camp over supper in the wall tent consisted of consecutive monsters seen that day. Judd saw a 40 and 42 inch and many other five to ten pounders. Douggie missed a monster 44 incher and seen about fifteen other fish. Swede brought up the rear that day only seeing five, the biggest one being about eight pounds.

Good meals and good fishing never stopped for two more days. The beast 40.5 inch pike that stole Toppers sucker met his maker by way of spear about 10:15 Saturday morning. He saw tons of other pike and two more that were even bigger than the pig he speared the rest of the weekend. Judd speared a behemoth 40 in slob Sunday morning following a pretty slow day on Saturday. Douggy saw the most fish, but didn’t get another chance at the one he was looking for. Swede saw good numbers, but didn’t see anything over twelve pounds. Sunday they packed up about one o’clock and left the trip of a lifetime in the sled dust.

Craig made an evening trip to Leech on Friday and put some eaters on the ice. Walleye action was the best on Stony Point that night. Monday, Craig pursued lakers with Wolf at the Pit, icing 6.

Adam was out chasing coyotes again this weekend. He had a chance at a fox, but it didn't offer him a good shot.

Colt was out chasing panfish on back country lakes. Fishing was very consistent with lots of action. Numbers of fish showed themselves with an occassional big slab here and there.

Thoughts and prayers go out to the 'Rockstar'.

written by Randy

Where did the Vast Majority of Minnesota's Large Panfish Go?
-Published in the Grand Rapids Herald Review January 2011-

Written by “Brock Anderson
Area Fishing Guide
Hang Loose Outdoors”

Remember when your father took you ice fishing as a kid, drilled a hole for you and a hole for him, and you sat on a 5 gallon bucket and waited for your bobber to go down? Sometimes it never went down so you packed up and went back home. Other times, you couldn't keep a minnow on your hook as you endlessly pulled slab panfish hand over hand up the hole. Remember those times of pick poles with no reels, hand augers, and one, two, three, arm lengths bottom? I can remember those times as they were yesterday.

I can also remember the first time I was introduced to a fish-finder ice flasher. I was on Upper Red Lake during its crappie glory days when one of my best buddies showed me one in action. Not even a decade ago, someone who owned an ice flasher, developed into your best friend or fishing partner. Today, who goes ice fishing without their flasher? Who drops their fishing line before their flasher is positioned and turned on? There are some of us who don’t even drop a line unless our flasher indicates fish especially when the target species are panfish.

Speaking of panfish, do you remember when Upper Red Lake was kicking out slab crappies by the thousands every weekend? The majority of the Minnesota fishing population could be found on Red Lake during the weekend. I know I was one of these people. Wow, what a memory.

If you remember this then you also remember the gradual crash of the crappie population on Red. One year they are slamming and the next year they are few and far between. Well, that’s what happened when thousands upon thousands of fish were caught and kept out of one lake in one weekend for years and years. Was it more exciting to catch them or eat them? My most memorable ice fishing memories date back to the lakes’ crappie glory days. My personal opinion was the crappies on Red Lake tasted like mud. I would have rather ate 10 inch crappies out of a small bog stained lake. But I, like everyone else, kept those Red Lake crappies regardless of taste or without consideration of the fisheries’ future.

When the Red Lake crappie population crashed, many panfish fishermen gathered their latest technologically advanced ice fishing equipment, knowledge, memories and greed, and applied them to other Minnesota panfish lakes. People wanted to experience that same excitement that Red Lake once offered, if only everyone could have experienced that. One thing some of these fishermen forgot to consider was the future and sustainability of smaller lake fisheries and their ability to reproduce year after year; especially after heavy fishing pressure. They also didn’t realize that only certain bodies of water were able to produce large panfish similar to those of Red Lake.

As you all know, Minnesota is the land of ten thousand lakes. What you may not know is only a very small percentage of these lakes are capable of producing a consistent amount of large panfish. Some lakes just don’t have the sufficient habitat and satisfactory conditions to grow panfish to their full potential. It’s the same scenario as with other fish species and also with some game animals like the familiar Whitetail deer. Certain areas offer better environmental habitats adequately supplying deer with sufficient food, cover, and nutrients all year around, and only these near-perfect ecosystems and habitats can offer a Whitetail Buck maximum and sustainable antler growth year after year. Many other factors influence a habitat’s capability to produce at its maximum potential: its carrying capacity, predators, management, hunting/fishing pressure, state rules and regulations like limits and licenses, just to name a few.

We all like to harvest large-racked whitetails from year to year, right? Well, I like to catch slab crappies and bluegills especially during the winter months. In order for this to occur, we need to recognize the importance of population management. If we want large panfish or mature whitetails we have to release those bigger crappies and bluegills and pass up those 3 year old bucks. This is a difficult task for most, but it will yield bigger bucks and larger panfish for the future.

Before I proceed, I need to define my criteria of a big crappie, bluegill, or in general a large panfish. A big crappie in my mind and many others’ is 12-13 inches and greater and a big bluegill is right over that 8.5 inch mark. Crappies, bluegills, sunfish, etc. are all categorized as panfish.

How many lakes can you bang off the top of your head that you can currently fish in the winter, not the spring, and catch primarily 12 to 13 inch crappies or 8.5 to 10 inch bluegills or better? I’m talking 5 out of 10 fish caught meet my criteria of a large panfish. Time is up. Now, take the time to think of lakes 5 or 10 years ago that you could go to and catch these fish? I bet you have a longer list. Finally, take the time to think of lakes which yield 8 to 11 inch crappies or 6 to 8 inch bluegills at some point during the winter. I bet your head is spinning and your list is even longer than when pondering the previously asked questions.

These questions have been haunting my fishing partners and me for the past few years, now. Where are we going to go ice fishing today to target slab crappies or bluegills? Where can we go to catch, take pictures, and release those thrilling slabs; maybe keeping a few good ones along with a couple smaller ones for an adequate meal? Five to ten years ago, we didn’t bat an eye at this question. We pulled out the map, picked a new lake or two, and went exploring typically obtaining success on one of the new selections. If we didn’t feel like an adventure that given day, we simply chose our destination from our already acquainted long list of quality lakes. Most of these lakes were essentially near the Grand Rapids, Minnesota area as this was where most of us grew up and gained our fishing knowledge. I took the time to answer the same questions asked of you and they are as follows:

*How many lakes can you bang off the top of your head that you can currently fish in the winter and catch primarily 12 to 13 inch crappies or 8.5 to 10 inch bluegills or better, where 5 of 10 fish caught meet this criteria.
--Pokegama Lake, Big Sandy, Bowstring, Graves, one or 2 unnamed lakes

*Now, take the time to think of lakes 5 or 10 years ago that you could go to and catch these fish?
--Big Sandy, Bowstring, Hill, Smith, Big Splithand, Sugar, Bass, Spider, Dixon, Portage, Sucker, Larson, Upper Red, Little Ball Club, Jessie, Turtle, Balsam (that’ s just a few)

*Think of lakes you can go to and catch 8 to 11 inch crappies or 6 to 8 inch bluegills at some point during the winter.
--Most all small lakes around the Grand Rapids area meet this criterion during some point in the winter months…

My point is this; the number of lakes you can currently catch large panfish in Minnesota is dwindling very rapidly. Many factors contribute to this decline, but in my opinion new technology and I point my finger towards the fish-finder flasher, as the second leading contributor which has really put a strain on the population of these easily targeted fish.

Panfish are easily targeted in the winter because they can routinely be found suspended and feeding in the deepest parts of a lake. There is no better recipe for success than a flasher and a fully fueled gas auger (3rd leading contributor to the panfish decline). With a little determination, maybe the most recent fisherman hearsay along with a gps and a lake contour chip (4th), and the above ingredients; my bet is on the fisherman finding success. Once the fish are located, most panfish can’t resist a plumb wax worm or a squirming minnow on most days. With all the new technology and products like jigs (5th), ice poles (6th), comfortable fish houses (7th), and warm clothes (8th), most fishermen will hold their patience until they have knocked out a limit of panfish before they decide it’s time to head home.

The worst part about knocking out a limit or finding a new lake with good potential panfish is, a large percentage of fishermen will return the next day or a few days later, and they usually won’t be returning alone. It is all too common to bring 2 or more friends for additional limits. I view this as ‘greed’, which I believe is the number one contributing factor to the panfish decline of Minnesota’s fisheries.

There is nothing worse than fisherman ‘greed’ when pursuing this easily targeted winter species or any species to say. If one deems it necessary to harvest and eat an excessive amount of fish, they should go to one of the thousands of smaller lakes that aren’t as capable of producing large panfish and target those smaller crappies and bluegills. In my opinion, smaller panfish make a better tasting meal anyways.

For example, Big Splithand in Itasca County is one of those lakes that produce large panfish. Up until five years ago, it always had a healthy population of 12 to 15 inch crappies along with a number of 9 to 10 inch bluegills. The last few years however, the lake’s panfish population is on the rebound back from being nearly fished out. Today, there is a fair population of 8 to 11 inch crappies, but their future looks sparse as people continue to pound away without consideration of the lake’s past, its potential, and more importantly its future.

Most fishermen don’t realize they could move their wheel houses down the road a half mile to Little Splithand Lake, which isn’t as capable of producing large panfish, and they could catch all the 8 to 11 inch crappies they could ever want or need. This would allow its neighboring fishery the opportunity to produce at its full potential.

There are many correlating factors that play a significant role in a lake being able to reach its maximum potential, but if most fisherman understand just a few important concepts about how a population in a lake functions then maybe they could help out and educate others. As previously mentioned, only a small percentage of Minnesota lakes have an environment capable of growing large or trophy sized panfish. These lakes can only successfully reproduce and maintain a peak amount of crappies every year while operating at a healthy equilibrium.

For example, let’s examine a healthy lake’s crappies in pounds. Lake X at a healthy, balanced, and sustainable capacity can support 1000 pounds of crappies for example. Now, let’s again imagine these 1000 lbs of crappies broken into inch categories or relative year classes: 250 lbs of 2 to 5 inch, 250 lbs of 6 to9 inch, 250 lbs of 10 to 13 inch, 250 lbs of 13+ inch. If fisherman catch and keep 250 lbs of 13+ inch crappies in one year out of Lake X, the whole ecosystem is adversely effected especially the individual population. The following year Lake X’s crappie population might look something like this: 350 lbs of 2-5inch, 350 lbs of 6-9inch, 300 lbs of 10-13. I bet you are all thinking; why didn’t the 10-13 inch crappies grow and develop into the next class? Well, you must understand this class has fewer numbers of fish and a slower growth rate compared to the other size classes.

Growth rates in general are much slower in larger fish than in smaller fish. This is true for many species of fish, reptiles, and mammals. Just think about it. Did you grow taller from age 1 to 15 or 15 to 30? Your growth rate also decreases with age.

The panfish’ growth rate decreases with age so if a 13+ inch population is wiped out of a small lake in one or two years, it’s going to take multiple years to restore that size class. When one or two size classes are destroyed, the whole ecosystem is catastrophically affected and several years are added to the restoration process. One year of damage might mean 20 plus years of restoration. Again, lots of other factors influence a lake’s ability to rebound from fishing pressure or environmental alteration and produce large panfish, but many simple management strategies along with fishermen knowledge can help these processes out.

If fishermen care about the future of large panfish, one very important rule can be passed on from one fisherman to the other: release the large and trophy sized panfish in a lake. If a meal is demanded, keep the smaller sized fish and never ever let your greed take over (this can also be applied to other fish species). A common misconception among fishermen is the need to keep the large panfish in order for the smaller ones to grow bigger. This is not true by any means. If you want larger panfish, release the bigger ones, and let the fishery maintain and produce at its continuum.

The last 10 years has proven that fishermen have not been managing and protecting the majority of Minnesota’s large panfish to the point desired for future sustainability. Additional management plans and guidelines need to be introduced to protect and restore these important species to the lakes they once thrived in. As the number of lakes with large panfish continues to drastically decrease, many fishermen are starting to worry.

Do individual lakes need special panfish slot limits or regulations in order for them to produce at their maximum potential and sustainability? Why does the walleye have slot limits and not the crappie? Do new rules and regulations need to be quickly introduced so the preservation of Minnesota’s large and renowned panfish is secured for our kids and for future generations? Exactly what will it take for the Minnesota DNR to protect this important fishery to the point where large slab panfish are common in the lakes they once were popular in? Letters, petitions, even protests? I think so.

Edited by Scottie Thomas and Brad Nelson

A Little Bit of Everything - January 9, 2011

Friday was brutal cold as Katie, Colt, and I decided to skip out on fishing one of our back lakes and head out on Rice Lake over by Cohasset. It was too cold and windy for the long trip back to MTA. It was almost too windy and cold for Rice as our houses barely stayed up and heated. The fish were not cooperating either as we only caught a few small gills.

Katie and I headed out to Craig's spear house during the middle part of the day and got buried about 100 yards away. We walked the rest of the way and speared with Craig for an hour or two with limited Pike action. Craig pushed my Chev out and we headed back to the rents house. Craig sat till dark and seen nothing.

Saturday, Craig brought Jim and his boy spearing. They ended up spearing 2 fat Pike right over that 30in mark. They also seen a few smaller Pike, 2 fat eye balls, and an array of panfish.

Katie and I headed to Remer to one of the Hangloosers' back lakes for the afternoon bite. We hiked the house down the trail and out onto the lake. The Vexilar indicated numerous fish were suspended in the very first hole we drilled. We drilled a second hole and flipped the Clam over. We had a blast until the sun hit the trees. We caught right around 50 Crappies ranging from 8 to 12in. We kept a few for a meal and hiked back.

Saturday also found Colt and Ben up on Red Lake for the majority of the day. The only report I got from them was this via text message: "Fishing Sucks.. we've moved multiple times, graphing tons of fish, won't bite". Scottie was also on Red on Saturday with a few of his buddies and his report indicated about the same thing. His best catch of the weekend was a 14.9999 inch Crappie...

Saturday night we all played Cabelas Big Game Hunter over at Topper's house. We have to practice for this year's hunting season somehow. It's only 10 months away.

Sunday, Godfrey and his Uncle hunted Coyotes in the cold of the morning. They sat and called a handful of spots, but did not see a Coyote. On spot 2, they called in 2 Timberwolves; one black in color and the other one grey. They watched the wolves for about a half hour as the wind remained in there favor before they disappeared across the bog.

Sunday morning Katie and I sat with Topper in his spear house. The morning started off really slow as the few Pike we seen wanted nothing to do with our set up. Just before we were going to leave, a fat 31 inch came in to investigate our sucker. Katie's spear met the Pike right behind the head. She was so excited she almost fell into the hole. It was the first Pike she had speared in many many years.

Read the Grand Rapids Herald Review these next couple weeks as a few of my informational articles will be featured.

Good luck fishing and be careful out there. Snow and slush conditions are making travel difficult.

written by Brock

New Years 2011 Weekend - Fishing Reports from Mille Lacs and L.O.W

Happy New Year!!!!!!

Not a wonderful start to 2011 as snow, sleet, and rain swept through the whole state in excessive amounts. Most of us dealt with the weather for the majority of the weekend. I was stuck in North Dakota as the interstates and major highways were closed up from Thursday to Sunday. Even awful conditions didn't keep all of us off the sloppy ice, though.

I was supposed to be on Mille Lacs Lake all weekend with my girlfriend, Katie, and her family, but like previously mentioned, this was impossible due to closed roads. As I couldn't join them, Kades supplied me with the Mille Lacs report and it is as follows:

Kades spent Thursday through Sunday on Mille Lacs with her Mom and step-dad Tom. The bite was slow but entertaining, with consistent perch action throughout the day and scattered walleyes in the morning and in the late parts of the night. Tom caught a 27 inch pike and Mom a 23 inch walleye to top things off. Kades took home a few eaters as well as her parents. It was a fun way to start the new year. Their house is out of Hunters Resort.

Topper and Godfrey got a little spearing in with some success while Colt found time to catch some panfish south of Hill City along with a 33 and 37 inch pike on hang loose snagger rigs.

Colt and Scottie also were on Lake of the Woods most of the week and Scottie's report is as follows:

Fished 5 mile reef out of Warroad exclusively for 2.5 days. Tuesday, two guys caught 18 fish. 8 of the fish were walleye from 15.5 to 18.5. We went home with 8 keepers to cook and eat that night. Fished from 12:35 pm to 5:05 pm on Tuesday. Fish came mostly on the new Lindy Slick Jig - gold on front, gold on back, tipped with a shinner head.

Wednesday... another guy joined us: he knows LOTW well. We went out to 5 mile reef again. Fished a spot of his on the NW side of 5 mile; Near the NW hump in Muskeg Bay, but just to the east. It contained a nice break between the actual structure on 5 mile and the flats that make up the majority of the bay. Eyes and saugers seriously poured in there all day. We had to move 3 times to find this spot. Drilling 75 holes instead of 70 literally made our trip really worth while. 20 yards made a huge difference out there, even if there was no noticeable change in structure.

There were many people fishing 5 mile reef, mostly chasing reports, because that was the hot talk around every bar/bait shop in Warroad. People that went out there for the most part, seemed not as willing to work and thought they could pop a few holes and catch fish. Most fish we marked from 2-4:35 pm... crushed baits. I mean... not even marking them on the vexilar before they ate. Another note.... the saugers seemed to be very close (hugging) the bottom... while close to 30 percent of walleye were what I would consider 'suspended' if you reeled up to a walleye off bottom it would absolutely crush whatever offering you had. You just had to reel up to it quickly once it showed itself on your flasher. Some walleye were up to 15 feet off the bottom.... much closer to the ice than the bottom. It payed off in a big way to watch electronics.

It might also be noted that the fish we caught were most noticeably found on a transition line. I know everyone talks about it, but no one puts in the work to find it. You could very easily tell the difference between mud and cobble, at least on 5 mile reef. But that meant punching holes hardcore until you found it. If you found that little line, the fish poured in. I bet we caught 65 percent of our fish on that mud/sand/rock transition line once we found it. The evening on that mud/sand line was absolutely furious action. It was very frustrating to try find that (as you know Brock, thanks for your kind words throughout that day) but it paid off. I KNOW 100 PERCENT of our efforts paid off because people in the general area who stayed put on the 'flat' before the structure had a short flurry, but it wasn't anything compared to ours.

Thursday was brutal. We went out to five mile again. Lots of smaller saugers hugged the bottom bad. We had to work for those even. They were all 10-12 inches. No idea how many we caught in the AM, but not many to be honest. We decided to flag the shallows in some spots that were proven to be good in March. We only had 4 flags. 4 flags and crazy bad afternoon weather was not a good indicator of what it could have been in my opinion. Weather was not bad at all in town. When we got on lake... roads were closed... visibility was literally about 7-10 feet. No snow at all, but wind made the day terrible. The weather definitely shut the fishing down on Thursday.

written by Brock, Kades, & Scotttie

*Click here to read HLO stories from 2010*




Brock Anderson
HLO Guide Service

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Randy Topper
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