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

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.

Time for annual ‘running of the bulls’ on your favorite bluegill lake

Posted by: Ron Hustvedt Updated: June 25, 2011 - 4:55 PM
True bull bluegill have that classic hump by their head

Some people don’t like it when bass are called “bucketmouths” or muskies are called “water tigers” but that’s a different argument for a different day. Those same folks might not like it that big bluegills are called “bulls” but I know how to change their mind.

Let them hook into one and try to battle it.

Big bluegills defy the term “panfish” because they exceed the size of your average pan. I’m talking trophy fish in the 10-inch and above range. The kind of bluegill that has a big bump on its head and looks almost freakish compared to the small ones that tend to hang out at every dock in the summertime.

"When these massive creatures turn sideways after a solid hook set, the term “bull” makes complete sense," said Bryan "Beef" Sathre of Fathead Guide Service in the Bemidji and Cass Lake area. Sathre is a bluegill trophy hunter who loves to tie into big bluegill, wrestle with them for awhile, snap a quick photo, then watch it swim away to fight another day.

"Pound for pound, bluegills are the toughest fish in the freshwater world. I tied into one the other day and swore I’d hooked into a pike until I got it closer to the boat," he said.

Right now is one of the best times around for catching big bluegill, Sathre said. That's because this is the time of the year when they are sitting on their beds and are extremely aggressive. It’s also the time of the year when they are at their most vulnerable state.Be sure to release that big bluegill to fight another day For that reason, if you go after these bull bluegills, please be sure to practice catch-photo-release. "If you want a meal of sweet-tasting bluegill fillets then keep a few smaller ones for the frying pan. Anything 10-inches or larger should quickly be released in my boat. It’s a good rule to consider in yours too," Sathre urged.

He fishes for them like they do for tarpon in coastal areas, "We’re sight fishing a lot of these bluegill locations. What I look for are transition points in the bottom in shallow bays and flats. My Costa del Mar polarized sunglasses help me find their nests that stand out as sandy holes." This is the result of the bluegill fanning out a nest that they guard very vigorously.

Another fantastic location is in the six to eight foot emerging cabbage beds or reeds adjacent to this deeper water. This is where they stage before spawning and hangout as they recover and is a fantastic secondary location. Big bluegill are a blast to catch "I’ll move in with the trolling motor until I’m 20 to 30 feet away and then cast to them with a slip bobber and small jig tipped with a waxworm or panfish leech. An ultra-light rod makes everything so much more fun and I really like the castability of the Bionic panfish line in four-pound test. It has low visibility but is strong enough to handle the largemouth, smallmouth, crappie, perch, pike and rock bass that are bound to hit your lure in these locations," Sathre said.

For lure selection, Sathre said he likes a 1/16th to 1/32nd firefly minnow or small jig. "If it’s windy I’ll go with the larger size. You don’t have to worry about spooking them with the cast or getting right on top of them. Get it close and they’ll come to you," he said.

Another great tactic is to go baitless and throw panfish Slurpies tubes on a float system. Case it up there, let the jig sink, reel it in a few feet, wait for the jig to catch up, pause, and repeat the process. Author with a high quality bluegill "Super pro bobbers from Northland Tackle do a great job in all conditions. If it’s windy then I use the weighted bobbers. Either way, balance the bobber so that you can detect a subtle bite. The other day I had it so my bobber was barely above the water making for very little resistance once a bluegill hit my jig," he said.

Where does Sathre pursue these massive bluegill? Most anywhere in the state has the potential for big bluegill waters. Around the metro they are a well guarded secret but go ahead and try asking your local baitshop. Lake Minnetonka or Waconia might be the best bed in the west metro while Bald Eagle Lake and the Mississippi River backwaters might be the best choice in the east metro.

"In my neck of the woods up here in Bemidji I like lakes such as Turtle River, Rabideau, Grace, Wolf, Andrusia, Grant, Irving and Blackduck," Sathre said.

Just remember to catch-photo-release these trophies so they can continue to raise the next generation of bulls.

Bryan Sathre with an impressive bluegill

What is your favorite baitshop? Be sure to frequent your local Mom and Pop baitshop this summer

Posted by: Ron Hustvedt Updated: April 30, 2011 - 10:59 PM
The May/June issue of the “Lake Country Journal” arrived in the mail today and I was very excited to read an article within about Mom & Pop Baitshops. I was absolutely stunned by the layout of the article and how well the art director did with the layout of the article. It really captured that old-time feel that you can only get from a good-old fashioned Mom & Pop Baitshop. In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote the article and took the photographs that went along with it. That said, writers don’t usually get to see the finished piece until after it’s published so it’s always fun when a publication really does a good job utilizing the writing and photography you worked hard on. I’m not writing to brag up the article, however. I’m writing to encourage everybody to visit the Mom & Pop baitshop nearest their fishing area this summer. These locally owned stores have their fingers on the pulse of fishing in the area. They also have a great supply of bait and are more than willing to set you up with the best information for having a great day on the water. Some of their prices might not be as good as the local big-box chain store, but throw some business to the little guy. These local baitships are a dying breed and they will not survive without angler support. In the article I wrote I included two of my favorite baitshops in northern Minnesota—S&W Bait in Brainerd and Bluewater in Bemidji. The owners of these shops are first-rate and know their stuff. On multiple occasions they have provided me with the right insights for a successful day on the water. Please use the comments section of this blog and post your favorite Mom & Pop baitshop. Don’t forget to mention the town it’s in and some of the best lakes nearby. I’m going to do some fishing around my home this week so that means stopping by Marv’s Minnows in Zimmerman just off 169.

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