An armada of modern kayaks built for fishing slipped silently into the moving waters of the Mississippi River north of Clearwater early Saturday morning, as some 40 members of the Minnesota Kayak Fishing Association gathered to compete in a friendly competition based on the successful hooking and releasing of Smallmouth Bass.
Anglers worked shorelines, riffles, pools and island edges as their kayaks enabled them to deftly ply the moving and sometimes very shallow waters.
Born out of sealskin-covered craft first used for hunting and subsistence living by Aleut, Inuit, and Yupik peoples of the sub-Arctic and other northern regions, modern fishing kayaks are no longer the very tippy craft of yesteryear.
Todays kayak are built from modern polymers and other space-age materials and are designed like small fishing battleships, ready to take on any river, lake or ocean. New designs and improvements have allowed even wary skeptics the chance to counter the popularity of the motorized fishing boat in an affordable fashion.
Affordability has been the key to the success of these boats and the crowds have joined in on fishing tournaments and and kayak fishing clubs around the country.
The Minnesota Kayak Fishing Association is no different. It boasts nearly 500 hundred active members that gather for weekly outings and tournaments. Members meet to share ideas on fishing, rigging kayaks, and learn the latest innovations in rod holders, depth finders, trolling motors, downriggers and more.
Dan Meer, owner of Clearawters Outfitting Company, host of this years’ Bronzeback Classic Fishing Tournament said, “I’ve seen a rise in sales and rentals of fishing kayaks this year. Kayaking allows everyone to get into the sport at affordable prices compared to traditional fishing boats and motors. It’s a very quiet and gentle sport that has no boundaries. We have first-timers that get so addicted to kayaks that they enthusiastically talk the sport up, getting friends and family involved.”
This tournaments’ anglers, who traveled to the Mississippi from all over the Midwest, cast their lures in hopes to cash in on a host of prizes that included rods, reels, kayak gear and cash prizes. Two new kayaks were given away to winning anglers.
Tournament anglers met early Saturday morning at Clearwater Outfitting Company in Clearwater, loading kayaks onto the shuttle trailers under dim street lights. They were then transported to a starting point upstream to float the 9 miles down river in search of their three biggest fish of the day. Each fish was carefully measured, then photographed on cell phones. Images were e-mailed to the contest headquarters after the fish were released back into the river.
Tournament Recap by Paul M Hansen
Pictures by Mitch Kezar, www.kezarphoto.com
Article by Mitch Petrie, SPECIAL TO STARTRIBUNE.COM :
Wild coach Mike Yeo, backed by players Erik Haula, Keith Ballard, Matt Cooke and Justin Fontaine, took to the waters of Lake Minnetonka in the first “Mike Yeo Classic” bass tournament. The event, put on by the Minnesota Wild Foundation and Sponsored by Gander Mountain, is a fundraiser for the Angel Foundation and the Miracles of Mitch Foundation. Both organizations assist individuals and families in need of financial support as they fight cancer.
Teammates and Alumni from the MN Wild regroup after a day on Lake Minnetonka
Fans had the opportunity to bid online to be in one of seven boats. Others were drawn from a pool of season-ticket holders who submitted trophy shots of their fish while wearing Wild gear.
“The event came together quickly as part of our commitment to the community.” Explained Coach Yeo. “We’ve supported The Angel Foundation and Miracles of Mitch Foundation in the past and this is a great opportunity help raise awareness and money for both these great charities.” he continued. When asked about his support of cancer charities Coach Yeo explained, “Most of us have been effected by cancer in our lives and supporting families in this struggle is very important for me.” .
Anglers were competing for the best combined bag of five fish. “Our boat had lots of action and we caught tons of fish but couldn't find the big ones.” Said Yeo.
Wild Alumni Darby Hendrickson fished with Coach Yeo, season ticket holder Kurt Casby and his daughter Nicole. “It was a great experience to bring everyone together to talk hockey, fish, and raise money for some great charities.” said Hendrickson. “We caught our limit of bass but won’t be in the money.” He continued.
Both Yeo and Hendrickson expect the event to grow. “We started with six boats and a great sponsor in Gander Mountain and next year hope to grow the event to 25 boats”. Said Yeo.
Team leader Jason Zucker and guests Scott and Nancy Bonnema and from Zimmerman, MN. show off two bass over 3.5 lbs each. The fish on the left was the biggest fish of the day. Nancy won the opportunity to fish by submitted a picture of her in a Wild jersy holding a trophy bass.
Results for the event were as follows (All boats caught a 5-fish limit):
1. Team Justin Fontaine : 13.42 lbs
2. Team Matt Cooke : 12.92 lbs
3. Team Jason Zucker : 12.84 lbs
4. Team Erik Haula : 10.14 lbs
5. Team Keith Ballard : 8.04 lbs
6. Team Mike Yeo : 6.14 lbs
Biggest fish of the day honors went to Team Zucker with a 3.70 lbs bass.
Today I hand over the reins of my blog to Edina Senior/Intern Extraordinare, Seth Bartodziej….
At the end of May, Edina seniors have the opportunity to do a two week project or internship on a topic of interest. I wanted to do an internship with a company in the outdoor industry. I met Mitch Petrie, owner of Muddy Boot Outdoors, through a friend of my father. I enjoy watching fishing and hunting shows on TV and wanted to have a behind the scenes look at the outdoor-recreation industry. Two months after laying out my plan I started my May-Term Project as intern for Muddy Boot Outdoors.
One of my projects was to write a blog post on an outdoor experience. Mitch suggested I try out bowfishing and relate the experience in the blog. I know the sport is growing in popularity and have seen videos but have never tried it before. I was up for the adventure.
Carp are an invasive species that reproduce rapidly and if not taken care of will take over a body of water. They cause damage to our native fish species including our state fish, the walleye. Carp eat walleye eggs and cause a huge decrease in population in native game fish. When they forage they disturb sediment at the bottom of the lake that contains pollutants like phosphorous and nitrogen. Once disturbed these pollutants fertilize algae and weeds that negatively affect water quality. We also targeted bowfin (dogfish), though not invasive, they're classifed as a rough fish and can reek havic of fish beds as well. As a bonus, the sport is fun, enjoyed by people of all ages, and easily accessible in Minnesota’s many lakes and streams. How often is it you can have fun while helping the ecosystem of our local lakes, streams, and pond? Some may ask why are you killing them for no reason…it’s clear to me there’s a strong conservation argument to remove carp for lakes and enlisting sportsmen who volunteer for the task makes sense.
Our adventure started at Lake Independence MN, which coincidently is infested with carp and struggles with severe algae blooms each open-water season. When we arrived the conditions were not in our favor. Mitch got a shot off at a monster carp, probably 25 lbs; unfortunately he missed him and by the time I had a shot the carp was long gone. We perched on top of a bridge and scoped out the water for a while. After several unproductive minutes we decided to try a calmer and shallower spot. On our way it started to rain heavier but it didn’t matter as our spirits were high in anticipation of success.
Mitch led the charge down a rain-slicked embankment and through the woods to a creek he had told me about. As we walked Mitch told me the plan and what to expect. I took the lead along the creek in hopes of seeing a trophy swimming in the water. We got about 30 feet down the trail when Mitch spotted the first one. We stopped and tried to get a clear shot at him but never did. The fish spooked and swam upstream and we quickly made chase. We came up to a clearing and Mitch had a plan, there was a bridge about 50 yards up and I was to sneak ahead and post on the bridge. Mitch would walk on the bank and throw rocks and branches to push them towards me. The plan was perfect but unfortunately no carp swam past. Apparently the fish were able to sneak by in a deep channel in the creek.
We decided we should try one last spot a few hundred yards down the creek. As we approached the spot I had the bow in hand and crept down hoping spook any fish that might be near. I spotted a huge carp lying in a grass bed no more than 3 feet away from me. I drew back, but the fish saw me draw and swam away. At this point I was wondering how we were ever going to get one.
We continued to creep downstream where 50 yards later we found the mother lode of carp. There were so many, maybe 50, that I thought if I shot into them I couldn’t miss. Sure enough when I draw back the bow and shot, I missed! Needless to say I was disappointed. We saw a fish off to our left and Mitch took a shot and scored a huge dog fish; it weighed around 10 pounds. We pulled it up on to the shore and snapped this quick picture:
Mitch Petrie with a 10 pound bowfin (dog fish)
I was so excited watching it flop in the grass and when I remembered Mitch was still behind me shooting… As I turned around he had our first carp of the day hooked up. A few seconds later we had two on the shore! Seconds later, I see a big bull headed straight at me and draw back and release…it’s a hit! I couldn’t believe that I finally had one on but didn’t know what to do next. Mitch helped me pull the big boy in and congratulated me on my first carp.
Seth holds up his first carp taken with bow and arrow.
We wasted no time getting back to the shooting spree. At this point we realized the carp were stuck between a dam of trees and a big drain pipe feeding into the creek. As we moved upstream I saw a dogfish. I pulled back and wham, fish on! It was my first dogfish with the bow only seconds after my first carp. But the day wasn’t over… Mitch headed down stream to the dam and I started up top and walked in the water down towards him, hoping to spook a few him. It worked; he shot two before my drive was complete. I waded across the water to a little grass patch that had a back water cove where they were really loaded up. Sure enough I put a shot on a nice one, right in the back and brought on shore. After another half hour, we wrapped up our experience with a total of eight fish; four carp, four dogfish.
Author Seth Bartodziej and his mess of carp & bowfin (dogfish)
An experience like this has me hooked on bowfishing; I can’t wait for my next chance to go again!
For more information on bowfishing, check out the Minnesota DNR website.
6:48 AM marked the opener of the MN Winter Trout Season. I headed out to Lake Cenaiko with a few friends and my son to experiece what is an annual ritual for dozens, if not hundreds of MN anglers. The gates opened around 5:30 AM with about 20 cars lined up. The guy at the gate said previous years have seen lines all the way out to the park entrance.
By 6:30 AM there were hundreds of portable shacks set up with anglers chomping at the bit to get their lines in the water. We set up our Frabill Headquarters Hub for the first time. It was instantly christened "The Shangri-La". We could fit a small army in this shack but this morning it ws just an army of me and my son.
The recent cold added a few inchs of good ice just in the nick of time. We were fishing on good ice that was between 6" and 8" and there were a few areas marked off with thin ice but for it appeared as though the lake was 100% fishable. Once we started I found myself staring at this image for the next 3 hours with very little action:
My inaction was interupted by some hooting and hoolering from about 100 ft to my north. Aaron Dreyer from Elk River hooked into a 22.5" beauty. He fought the fish for about 5 minutes making sure not to break his 2# test line.
Aaron Dreyer - Elk River, and his 22.5" Rainbow Trout
While I was distracted taking pictures and talking to Aaron about his big catch my buddy Matt Bistodeau was busy putting fish on the ice. By mid-morning he had three around the 15" mark.
Matt Bistodeau exits the The Shangri-La to show off his catch
My son Theo was getting a little bored and I wasn't far behind him but we kept our lines in the water and hoped for a bite. We had something hit both our lines but neither of us hooked it. A few minutes later Theo picked up a blip on the Vexilar and hooked into his first rainbow trout. A brief battle ensued with Theo winning the fight. The trout is now resting comfortably in our freezer until tomorrow afternoon when we'll cook it up for lunch!
Theo Petrie holds his first rainbow trout
Most anglers were heading off the ice by mid-morning. We cut out about 11 AM but will definately be heading back. The season runs through March 31 with angling from 1 hr before sunrise to 1 hr after sunset. It's a stocked pond with over 3000 fish released this year. As Aaron proved this morning there are some slobs swimming around. No live bait is allowed other than maggots. It costs you $5 to park and $10 for a MN State Trout Stamp.
Great-affordable fun for the whole family. See you on the ice!
I had a great time hitting the Saint Paul Ice show last week and I wasn't alone. Attandance was at or beyond record levels as anglers perpared themselves for the upcoming ice season.
If money were no object I probably would have dropped about $75,000 on a new luxury house with a matching truck, snowmobile and ATV! Unfortunately I have Ferrari dreams on a Fiat budget but still managed to come away with some fantastic products that will undoubtedly result in great fishing this winter!
1. Strikemaster - HardWater Ware Polar Parka & Bibs- $330
After several years of wearing make-shift ice wear I invested in this set of winter wear to keep me warm. I'm excited to see how it performs but trust I'll be comfortable. I'm not saying this is the best product available, however, I think it is arguably the best value for your money. Available in size Small to XXXXXL....there's one that will fit you! I also picked up a pretty sweet zipper-collar Strikemaster sweatshirt for $20 which could be the bargain of the show.
2. Frabill – Headquarters Hub Shelter - $299.99
With 3 young sons I’m rarely fishing alone and usually with another of my kid’s friends or two. This year we’re trying out the Frabill Headquarters Hub Shelter. This gives us plenty of room to fish as a group. I anticipate we’ll use it like a HQ with holes in and around the shack. Frabill Camp Chairs @ $15/chair will replace my orange Home Depot buckets….the buckets will be officially dedicated to holding all our fish!
3. Irish Setter – Snow Claw XT Boots - $209.99
I generally use my rubber hunting boots for ice but this year picked up a pair of Irish Setter Snow Claw XT boots. They pretty much had me sold on 2000 grams of Thinsulate but the serrated cleats and Aerogel layer between my foot and the sole also sound appealing. This is a very substantial boot but amazingly light. I can see myself on the ice for many hours without cold feet!
5. Northland - Assorted Jigs & Impulse-Infused Baits - $40.00
I’ll be honest…I’d buy anything Chip Leer tells me to buy! I watched him demonstrate the new Impulse Tapeworm and heard the pitch. If Chip is a believer so am I. It will be a matter of a few days before I know for myself how the products perform! $3.69/10.
6. Strikemaster – Lazer Mag Express Auger - $480
I’m upgrading my vintage Strikemaster with a Tecumseh engine to the Lazer Mag Express based on my experience using a loaner auger last year when mine was acting up. I’ve watched a fair amount of tips/video from the pros and know drilling holes and moving frequently can increase your success. With the Solo I can seriously drill about 5 holes for every 1 hole with my old Strikemaster…and that’s with sharp bits!
The beauty of the ice show was seeing absolutely everything that an ice angler could imagine under one crammed roof. There were also deals to be had. I also spent some time checking out the Vexilar FL-22 with the new Fish Scout Camera/Case..retails for $1,200 with the case. I’ve asked Santa to consider my good behavior in 2011 and bring me one!
Good luck ice anglers; be careful on early ice.
Watch out fish…I’m geared up and ready to roll!