Ron Hustvedt

Ron Hustvedt is an outdoors writer and photographer who covers a broad array of experiences, individuals and events centered on hunting and fishing. He is also a professional educator. Please visit his website at www.WriteOutdoors.com.

Posts about Fishing

Wear sunscreen! Late ice tip-up angling for trophy pike on Lake of the Woods

Posted by: Ron Hustvedt Updated: March 13, 2012 - 8:27 AM

 

 

             The grips of winter are rapidly slipping across the southern two-thirds of the state. This is bad news for ice anglers who have been cheated out of a typical Minnesota winter this year.The good news is that, normally, it takes a lot more than a few warm days to put ice anglers out of commission along the northern edge of Minnesota.

            I wouldn’t dare venture out on most lakes in the metro area but there was little concern driving the truck several miles onto Lake of the Woods, specifically Muskeg Bay, this past Saturday morning to do some late season trophy pike fishing.

            My group accessed the lake from the beautiful city of Warroad where we stayed at the Patch Motel (named after a strawberry patch).  Lake of the Woods is a high-quality fishery with healthy numbers of smallmouth bass, walleye, muskie and northern pike, not to mention plenty of trophies for each of the gamefish species.
            I spent the first 30 years of my life never having fished the big lake, but in the last few years I’ve tried to get up there at least once a year. Since time is limited and opportunities must be carefully selected, this late ice bite has to be my favorite.
            Minnesota’s Canadian border is the last stand for winter. The ice between Baudette and Warroad is usually the last place to ice fish anywhere in the country.
 
Targeting big pike
            While the walleye and pike seasons are closed on nearly every one of the 10,000 lakes, they are open on Lake of the Woods. Spring is still in the air and the fish are beginning to transition from their winter haunts to their spring spawning grounds.
            Big pike are beginning to move towards the river mouths to spawn in the backwaters and wetlands. As they prepare for that rigorous journey, they stage off the mouths of the rivers feeding on the abundant supply of food in the lake as well as in the mud. That’s right, in the mud.
            Hibernating frogs take refuge in the mud and are dormant, making for a tasty, pre-spawn morsel that hungry pike are willing to nose through for a meal.
            Frogs aren’t the only meal on the menu with plenty of baitfish located throughout the lake. Schools of tuliebee are a pike favorite and many of those are still located throughout the main structure of the lake. A lot of anglers focus on the rivers right now, but many are realizing that some of the biggest pike in the lake are still cruising the mid-lake structures in search of tulibee, the energy bar of the baitfish world.
   
         My guides for the trip were Bryan “Beef” Sathre of Fathead Guide Service and his good friends Tim, Sandy and Sabin Rasmus. The Rasmus family staked a claim on the ice with a sleeper house while Sathre and I were land-lubbers who commuted to the ice Saturday and Sunday from Warroad.  
            The snow pack on Lake of the Woods was not very high but it was quite difficult to get around anyplace without being on a snowmobile or a plowed road. Our road was maintained by Jon Asp of Jon’s Plowing Service and K&A Hide Away Sleepers who spends his winter keeping a well traveled road open from Swift Ditch almost to the Canadian border. 
            The pike bite was solid Saturday morning with three fish in the neighborhood of 40-inches hooked and released by 9:30 a.m. A few other fish caught throughout the day were of a smaller size but still fun to catch and impressive nonetheless.
            One of their secrets for big pike success is the use of dead baits rather than live minnows. Smelly dead baits with lots of natural oils are their favorites like herring. These deadbaits can be purchased from baitshops and bait dealers who much follow very strict guidelines with regards to packaging and size.
            These large baits are affixed to a tip-up using a predator rig featuring a double yoke harness for putting two treble hooks in the bait. A benefit of the larger bait is that most of the pike you hook are still holding it in their mouths by the time you set the hook. This allows for easier hook removal, less time for the pike to be out of the water and an easier release.
 
           Pike of all sizes roam Lake of the Woods from little 12-inch “hammer-handles” all the way up to monster pike beyond 50-inches in length. By most angler’s standards, anything over 30-inches is a high quality pike and anything over 40 is a trophy.
            This size-class of pike is a rarity these days throughout the nation which is why it is such a phenomenal fishery. There is a protected slot limit on the lake and any pike between 30 and 40 inches must be immediately released. A needle nose pliers with a wire cutter, jaw spreader and multi-use tool are the essentials for assuring a quick release of these big pike.
            Big pike take a long time to grow so anglers are strongly encouraged to release those giants they catch over 40 inches. For those who want a wall mount but don’t want to kill a fish, a cloth tape measure is the best tool. Accurate measurements of the length of the fish and its girth, along with a decent photograph, are enough for taxidermy artists to create a fiberglass replica. These replicas look just as good as a real fish mount and last forever as compared to a mount that can deteriorate over time.
 
Worth the drive
            Lake of the Woods normally retains quality ice throughout the month of March and, in some years, well into April. This winter has been anything but typical and even though there were a solid 30 inches on the lake, the current warm up could make conditions along the shorelines quite slushy.
            The best thing is to call ahead and find out what’s going on before venturing up. Just because one of the landings is no longer accessible doesn’t mean all of them are and many resorts provide shuttle service via ice-track machines known as Bombardiers that can go through most anything.
            High temperatures for the upcoming week are in the 50s but nighttime lows suggest there will be some refreezing, thereby slowing down the thaw. It takes a lot of heat and sun to knock down three-feet of ice.
Just make sure to pack your sunscreen—that sun is as intense in March as it is in September. When it’s sunny on the ice you can get a burn twice as fast because of the reflection. You won’t need much, just enough for your face.  Trust me on this one!
 
For more information on the Warroad Area contact www.warroad.org or call 800-328-4455. Additional information on the Lake of the Woods area can be found at www.lakeofthewoodsmn.com. 

Nearly 1,200 youth turnout for 21st annual Perch Derby on Lake Bemidji

Posted by: Ron Hustvedt Updated: March 4, 2012 - 9:43 PM
        
            Bryan “Beef” Sathre is a local fishing guide and with Fathead Guide Service and Promotions and also a teacher in the Cass Lake school district. He’s a passionate angler who is especially passionate about getting kids on the water and on the ice to enjoy the outdoors. “I love promoting the sport of fishing! It’s great to see the kids get off the couch and away from the video games to learn more about the outdoors,” he said.
            A total of 1,192 kids did just that on Sunday, March 4 on the southeast side of Lake Bemidji just off the shore from the new hockey arena. The kids all participated in the 21st annual Paul Bunyan Perch Derby hosted by the Minnesota Darkhouse and Angling Association’s Paul Bunyan Chapter of which Sathre is the vice president.
            Add in parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts and there were well over 4,000 people on the ice participating in the event during a beautiful early March afternoon.
            “This is my sixth year being involved with the event and we try to make it bigger and better every time around,” Sathre said. In his first year as a volunteer, Sathre said there were around 700 kids involved. The all time record is 1,300 and this year was just shy of that.
            The event began 21 years ago as a small group of individuals looking to get kids on the ice and the event has only grown from there. “We always try to get more than 1,000 kids out there but it depends on the weather as well.” Last year, while a snowstorm dumped four inches on the area, they still managed to have more than 800 kids show up.
            Supporters of the event included StrikeMaster ice augers, Marcum electronics and a whole host of local businesses. “We gave away 125 bikes that were sponsored by local businesses showing how committed the community is to making this event a success,” Sathre said.
            Tons of prizes were given away at the event as a way both to attract more kids to the event but also to provide them with some of the tools they need to have more success on the ice. Almost 400 prizes were given away throughout the event.
            Bluewater Outdoors provided all the bait for the event free of charge and also provided many of the raffle prizes along with Taber’s Bait and Gander Mountain. All kids under the age of 15 were also provided with a free meal on the ice courtesy of the Paul Bunyan Chapter.
 
           The kids fished for two hours and at least 50 perch were registered, the largest one being an 11.6-ounce perch caught by Hunter of Bemidji. While plenty of chunky jumbo perch roam the depths of Lake Bemidji, Sathre put the StrikeMaster augers to good use in only five to seven feet of water.
            Why so shallow? “It’s a numbers game. The big jumbos are out deeper right now but there are a mess of very hungry perch in the shallows and we want these kids to catch fish rather than sit there and wait too long,” he said.
            Sathre said six-inch StrikeMaster augers were used to prevent little feet from stepping in a hole and making for a wet experience. “Safety is very important with kids on the ice and that is true when you just have a few kids out there much less well over a thousand.”
            High School students from nearby communities of Blackduck and Cass Lake helped out, some of them even fished the event when they were younger and now are helping carry on the tradition.
            “We are looking for volunteers to help out with next year’s event so if anybody is interested we’d love to hear from you,” Sathre said. The chapter’s website is on Facebook, as is Fathead Guide Service which includes updates on the event. Prospective sponsors and volunteers can also Sathre directly at 218-766-0095.

            “I can’t say how much fun it is to get all those kids on the ice,” Sathre said. “Even though it’s a lot of work, the support of the community and all those smiling faces today makes it well worthwhile.” 

Finding respectable walleye during the mid-winter groove

Posted by: Ron Hustvedt Updated: January 14, 2012 - 4:55 PM

 

Tim Schwartz of H2O Outfitters in Big Lake with a chunky Mille Lacs walleye he caught guiding with Roach's Guide Service

Tim Schwartz of H2O Outfitters in Big Lake with a chunky Mille Lacs walleye he caught guiding with Roach's Guide Service

 

 Late ice and early ice get so much attention it’s only fair that mid-ice gets its fair share of ink. After all, it’s the timeframe more anglers fish and it is largely neglected by the experts who are too busy debating the merits of early ice versus late ice.

            This scribe has wandered through that debate with some early ice fishing in December and a late March fishing trip last winter. Similar to other anglers, the majority of my ice fishing comes when the ice is at its thickest, the weather at its coldest and the lakes their busiest. This year has been “interesting” at best but the story remains the same.
            Why so little attention to this mid-ice timeframe?
   
The author's father (Ron Hustvedt Sr.) with an early morning walleye that made it into the frying pan that night

The author's father (Ron Hustvedt Sr.) with an early morning walleye that made it into the frying pan that night

         The answer to that question might be tough to find, but big walleye over 20-inches are thankfully not as difficult.
            Oh sure, a lot of work and a certain level of luck comes into the equation for finding walleye with of a respectable size, but anglers need not worry with a few tidbits of advice.
            This scribe recently chatted with fishing guide Bryan “Beef” Sathre of Fathead Guide Service out of Cass Lake and Bemidji for some advice on finding walleye big enough to give a good fight. The conversation took place during a furious jumbo perch bite on Lake Bemidji:
 
Bryan "Beef" Sathre with a beautiful golden walleye caught in the Bemidji area

Bryan "Beef" Sathre with a beautiful golden walleye caught in the Bemidji area

            Q: First of all, where can you expect to find walleye that measure 20-inches plus?
            A: It’s not like they hang out in a specific area away from the other walleye, but combine your location with the right presentation and you’ll find yourself catching a lot of walleye in that size range.
            On the lakes I fish, there are a lot of 20 to 24 inch walleye to be had with these tactics but you will occasionally find yourself with a walleye pushing the 28 inch mark or beyond. Don’t be surprised if you catch a hearty pike or eelpout as well. Walleye in that size range hang out in the same places as other large predators this time of the year.
            What I look for is a wide variety of locations, but my favorite is a transition zone where a soft bottom meets a hard bottom.
            You can use an underwater camera to find these areas, a high quality flasher will work as well but a simple weighted dropper is the cheapest way to go. Just put it on your hook and feel it make contact with the bottom. If it sticks after bottoming out, then you have a soft bottom.
            Soft bottoms have a lot going on with them including bug hatches, worms coming up and crayfish moving around. All of these activities attract baitfish and, in turn, larger predators.
            I also utilize the best mapping technology I can get my hands on to find breaklines, inside turns, underwater points, rock piles and donuts.
 
Author Ron Hustvedt with a hefty Lake Bemidji walleye

Author Ron Hustvedt with a hefty Lake Bemidji walleye

            Q: Besides what we had for breakfast, explain a donut.
            A: Large sandy flats are especially good for them but you can find them elsewhere on a lake. They essentially are areas of a consistent depth with a deeper hole contained in the middle. It might only be a 12-foot flat with a 15-foot hole in it, but that’s what you want to find.
            I like to fish these because they provide a natural edge that predators tend to like patrolling around. There’s often times a weedy edge nearby providing shelter for baitfish and cover for predators.
            Where there’s not a weedy edge, and when I’m on a spot I know has walleye regularly cruising by, I’ll toss down my structure on a string and create a weed bed. Perch and other baitfish come into the area and hold tight to the artificial weeds which is more incentive for those big predators to move in.
            If you find just such a location, try to figure out which direction the predators typically move in from. It’s amazing how the walleye can be almost like creatures of habit for the right location.
 
            Q: How deep of water?
            A: I know a lot of anglers who swear by deeper water, but I’m one who likes to stay shallow. There are some who fish as shallow as eight feet but I like the 14 to 18 foot range most of the time.
            Where I consistently fish is on the top half of a breakline. The depth drops gradually from eight to 12 feet and then fast from 12 to 15 feet. It’s gradual from 15 to 18 and then it drops off fast.
            Just make sure to stay away from the crowds and limit your movement. Noise is a big factor largely ignored by anglers but I’ve seen it time and time again on the ice.
 
Tony Roach of Roach's Guide Service on Mille Lacs with a quality mid-winter walleye

Tony Roach of Roach's Guide Service on Mille Lacs with a quality mid-winter walleye

            Q: What presentation tends to work best?
            A: If I’m fishing a tougher bite I’ll use a jigging spoon with a minnow head. If the fish are neutral and need to be willing to be coaxed into a bite, I’ll use an eye-droppers jig that has a stamped, spoon-shaped body tipped with a small to medium-sized shiner minnow.
            If you want to fish two lines, I like to deadstick the eye-dropper on a slip bobber rig while I jig with the spoon. With the eye-dropper, hook the shiner after the dorsal fin so that when it swims it has to put up a considerable effort and provides additional flash.
            In other situations when the walleye are steady but not strong, I’ll tie on a dropper spoon rig with a whole shiner minnow.
            A jigging spoon is the most versatile rig both with color and size. Tipped with a minnow head, jigging spoons can be absolutely deadly. If you have electronics, be sure to watch how the fish react to your presentation.
If they come in and hold, only to leave again, it could mean you have to slow your presentation. Be willing to let the walleye tell you how to react. Usually they want the action slowed down, but every once in awhile you can only get them to hit while aggressively jigging.
            Just be sure to pay attention if one comes in and leaves again because if you see that walleye once, and you didn’t try and set the hook in it, the chances are good that it will return.
 
            Q: Any other advice?
            A: With walleye over 20 inches be sure to practice catch and release as much as possible. There’s nothing wrong with a fish or two for a meal but let the rest of them swim another day.
            On yeah, watch out for the occasional pike using these tactics in these locations. They lurk around for the same reason as those larger walleye.
            I hate to say it, but there are also plenty of eelpout down there and that trophy walleye could turn into an ugly catch in no time. It might be slimy out of the hole, but under the ice a ‘pout provides you with an epic battle.
 
The midwinter bite is always hot up on Lake of the Woods

The midwinter bite is always hot up on Lake of the Woods

 

Life in the Ice Belt (a poem)

Posted by: Ron Hustvedt Updated: January 2, 2012 - 2:17 PM
 
Life in the Ice Belt
 
In the north, winter’s lots of fun.
The heat is gone but not the sun.
The weather is harsh, people nice.
Plenty of action on the ice.
 
A barren wasteland, some believe.
Ice fishing offers us reprieve.
Above the ice, not much to see.
Below the ice, things are fishy.
 
Augers are a special ice drill.
They tap the ice, unlock a thrill.
Pop a few holes, clear out the slush.
Get ready to fish. Feel the rush!
 
Drop down a lure, give it a jig.
Watch electronics for something big.
A flasher shows action below.
A camera lets you watch a show.
 
Get a bite. Fish on! Set the hook.
Rod bent, drag screaming take a look.
Down the hole, as it nears you’ll see.
What’s on the line? Shout,  “Yippee!”
 
Guide the fish into the ice hole.
Reach down, grab it and get control.
Sunfish, crappie, perch, walleye, pike.
Take a photo for friends to like.
 
Ice fishing is such a fun sport.
Six months of winter, way too short.
The ice calls to you. Give it a try.
Ice fishing helps winter whisk by.   
Poem and photo by Ron Hustvedt

Poem and photo by Ron Hustvedt

Make somebody's year with a simple gesture

Posted by: Ron Hustvedt Updated: August 17, 2011 - 2:24 PM
Every fish is a trophy when the fishing is meant to bring smiles to everybody's faces

Every fish is a trophy when the fishing is meant to bring smiles to everybody's faces

Few people understand the significance of the things that they do in their lives. Little things like kind gestures and volunteering a little bit of time might seem insignificant at times but they are anything but that. Scott Roesner was reminded of that the other day when he fielded what started out as just another mid-morning phone call.
 

Any catch is a trophy but there are some true trophies caught as well

Any catch is a trophy but there are some true trophies caught as well

As chairman of the Brainerd Lakes Chapter of Fishing Has No Boundaries, his phone has been ringing a lot lately but not as much as he’d like. The chapter’s annual event is coming up on August 27th and there are not enough volunteers just yet to make the event as successful as he’d like. The phone call was from a woman who has been participating in the event for the past few years and was excited that it’s coming up.
 
She told Roesner that people need to hear what huge differences can be made in someone else's life by caring just a little bit more for someone else than ourselves. “It was one of the best phone calls I’ve ever had,” Roesner said.

 

The woman began by saying "The Fishing Has No Boundaries annual event is the number one thing I look forward to every summer.  It is so much fun!"  She then said, "It is the foundation of mental health for me.  And I think it does the same for everyone that is disabled. These sort of things are what keeps you mentally sane." 
 
Roesner said she wanted him to share her thanks to each and everyone that is involved with Fishing Has No Boundaries.  In closing, she said, "Fishing Has No Boundaries is very significant because it brings a lot of life back into our World. Thank you so much for doing that for us."
 
If you’d like to be a part of this event and this experience, please sign up today to help make this event a success. We are in dire need of boat captains and volunteers. Please go to www.BrainerdLakesFHNB.org and find the form under the volunteer tab. Print it and fill it out but don’t mail it. Time is short and it needs to be faxed to 218-828-2618 or e-mailed to Ron@WriteOutdoors.com
 
It takes a lot of people to make the event possible and more volunteers are needed to make August 27th a success this year.

It takes a lot of people to make the event possible and more volunteers are needed to make August 27th a success this year.

Look to Wisconsin's Lake Winnebago for consistent, multispecies action

Posted by: Ron Hustvedt Updated: July 18, 2011 - 10:25 PM

Flat calm conditions are not normal on massive bodies of water like Lake Winnebago covering 137,708 acres of east-central Wisconsin. A massive body of water 30 miles long by 10 miles wide, it is a lake fed by the Wolf River and Fox River and drains north into Green Bay.

The lake is full of a wide variety of game fish and an impressive forage base—enough to keep the game fish growing large and chunky. I recently had the opportunity to fish this tremendous body of water and was impressed with all that it had to offer.

Troy Peterson was my guide for the day and a mixed bag was what I was hoping for us to pursue. A professional angler for over a decade, Peterson’s nickname is “Mr. Bluegill” because of his affinity and skill at catching massive bluegills.

“There are big bluegill in Winnebago and there are great lakes in the area but today we’re going to go after smallmouth bass and then walleye,” he told me upon meeting in the morning.

I had the option to go after whatever, but having never fished Winnebago or the area lakes, I was open to whatever he felt was best.

He came highly recommended from the Fond du Lac Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Not only did those folks help me find a guide, they also helped me find a great room and showed me around town. Their office in town is a great place to visit to learn more about the amenities in town or you can visit them online at www.fdl.com.

We started off the morning in pursuit of smallmouth bass on a large boulder field in 15 to 18 feet of water. Three and four-inch tubes were the lure of choice and it wasn’t long until we’d both caught half a dozen chunky smallies.

After a few hours chasing fat, green smallmouth bass, we headed out to the mud flats in the middle of the lake in pursuit of walleye. Like most lakes around the upper-Midwest, Winnebago is about two weeks behind schedule for typical summer patterns.

“The mud bite just got going earlier in the week and we might have a tough time out there finding them, but it’s where the walleye are going to be for next few weeks so I think we’ll do good,” Peterson said.

Wisconsin allows three lines per person so we put planer boards out, three on each side of the boat, armed with spinner rigs of varying colors and blade styles. As a native Minnesotan, I’ve only fished one line per person in the boat. I’ve run boards before, but Peterson provided me with a quick refresher and it wasn’t long until I was proficient at setting them up.

It’s a tactic that would work with multiple anglers in the boat, no matter what size boat. With six lines out and multiple doubles, we still managed to reel in fish after fish without a single tangle. It’s simply a matter of thinking three dimensionally and being able to slide rods up and down the rod holders as the fish dictate.

We caught a ton of sheepshead, a species prevalent in the Winnebago system, in addition to two limits of walleye. None were over 24-inches long but all were healthy and chunky, not to mention strong fighters (especially for walleye).

Before I left, Peterson showed me a great new baitshop in town called The Reel Shot. It features an 11,000 gallon demonstration aquarium stocked with fish and accessible to anglers for sampling lures, reels and rods.

He also extended to me an invitation to return for his favorite species to pursue, big bull bluegill which, according to Peterson, are prevalent in that portion of Wisconsin.

.

The Lake Winnebago Area

There are several cities located along the shores of the lake including Osh Kosh, Appleton and Fond du Lac. For my trip, I stayed in Fond du Lac and fell in love with the town.

I had a Hobie kayak along with for the ride and spent a few hours plying the waters along the southern end of the lake. The Supple Marsh is a beautiful series of channels surrounded by wetlands chock full of fish and birds.

Located in the middle of town, I might as well have been in the middle of nowhere. It was a great place for some solitude and peacefulness in the middle of an otherwise vibrant city.

Even though I had a great room at the Country Inn and Suites in town, and needed to be up at 4 a.m. for a morning fishing expedition, I found myself sliding through the waters of the marsh until well after sunset. I’d probably have stayed longer but the mosquitos urged me to get some sleep for the night sooner than I was ready.

Another great town on the lake is Osh Kosh, which is where I met my guide and where we set off for the day. More than just the brand name of kid’s clothing, Osh Kosh is a great city that truly embraces the lake as part of the town.

Still, Fond du Lac is my city of choice because of its unique location on the south end of the lake. There are massive beaches, numerous parks all along the shoreline, delicious restaurants, canals and river channels enough to shorefish and explore, and a great view of both the sunrise and sunset.

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