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.

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

Posted by: Ron Hustvedt under Recreation, Fishing 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 under Family activities, Children, Recreation, Fishing, Family Fun 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 under Weather, Recreation, Fishing 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 under Recreation, Fishing 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

Ice on Mille Lacs productive for those in the know

Posted by: Ron Hustvedt Updated: December 26, 2011 - 10:07 PM

 Tony Roach is well known for his ice trolling abilities on Lake Mille Lacs, to the point where he'll pop several hundred holes a day with his StrikeMaster and not even blink an eye. "I like to stay mobile on the ice and work locations in the winter as much as during the open water season which requires drilling a lot of holes," Roach said. 

Roach sets up his clients in the early morning hours Monday

Roach sets up his clients in the early morning hours Monday

 

This writer ventured out with Roach the day after Christmas, and three days after 20 anglers were rescued on the big lake when the ice they were fishing on went adrift. "You have to pay attention to the conditions out here at all times and you have to stay on top of the good ice that's out there," Roach said. 

Joining me on the trip were Bryan "Beef" Sathre of Fathead Guide Service, Jamie Dietman of Brainerd Signs and Steve Ladany of Lake-Link.com. An experienced ice fishing crew, to say the least, our attention throughout the day was on the quality of the ice. Ice depths were consistent and all of the ice we fished was solid with depths ranging from eight inches to over a foot. 

Driving a Polaris Ranger 4x4 across the ice loaded down with three Otter sleds, camera gear, a ton of electronics, two augers and plenty of bait, we were ever cautious. It was a bit surreal watching the ice superficially crack as you drive over it but it is not as bad as it sounds. Earlier in the week, I walked across a frozen pond with six inches of solid ice and the same thing happened. According to the Minnesota DNR, six inches of ice is fine for a person walking as well as an ATV. Pressure on the ice causes small cracks within the layers. Those aren't the cracks that will do you in. 

Roach pointed us in the right direction as well as the folks at the baitshop in Malmo. The way to stay on top of the latest conditions is to utilize experts like Roach or the numerous baitshops and resorts that operate throughout the winter all around the lake. "Conditions are always changing out here but there's also been a very stable, solid area of ice that's been safe to fish on and productive as well," he added. 

 

Near Garrison there are tons of shelters out on the ice

Near Garrison there are tons of shelters out on the ice

Still, as Roach moves around, drilling holes for clients and roaming as he does to stay on top of the fish, he looks longingly at the ever-changing ice further out and wishes he could get out there. Right now, the perch and walleye fishing out near the middle of the lake is at its peak. The only problem is that the ice isn't safe enough to venture out that far. "It means we're stuck on this shoreline ice fishing the transition zones," Roach said. "While we're having some great fishing both for numbers and size, I can't wait for a solid cold snap to make the entire lake solid."

 

The ice fishing on Monday was better than being at work, which is to say that while it wasn't hot and heavy, a half dozen walleye came through the ice and as did a dozen jumbo perch. Buckshot rattle spoons in a variety of colors, so long as it included gold, were the best tipped with a minnow head. The eurolarvae and waxworm bite hasn't yet picked up though a few perch bit on rigs tipped with those tasty morsels. 

The author with a nice walleye that had to be immediately released

The author with a nice walleye that had to be immediately released

 

Those who venture forth onto the ice should follow a few simple rules: 1).Make sure to find out the conditions for the specific area you plan on fishing. 2) Pay attention to changing wind conditions as it relates to the section of lake youa re fishing. 3) Avoid crossing over pressure ridges and significant cracks in the ice. 4) Be sure that somebody not on the ice with you is aware of your location and estimated return time. 

Those who play the game right and follow all the rules can expect to catch some fish while also keeping safety at the top of the line-up. "It's still better fishing than sitting home on your couch," Roach said. 

For more photographs check out www.RonHustvedt.com

Two trophy whitetails of 2011

Posted by: Ron Hustvedt Updated: December 18, 2011 - 10:48 PM

The 2011 deer hunting season is drawing to a close and all indications are that it will be pretty average for most hunters. The weather has been rather mild throughout the season and that's been fine for hunter numbers but late season lovers have expressed a lot of disappointment with the lack of cold and snow. 

Anybody who has ever hunted the late season, with some consistency, comes to enjoy the regular schedule whitetail tend to keep when December does what it's supposed to do. Coldness and snow force those deer into some regular habits of movement and feeding. When it feels like November most everyday, those deer don't tend to alter their schedule very much. Why does it need altering? After the firearms season, a lot of the more mature bucks and does shift to an almost exclusively nocturnal schedule. 

My 2011 deer hunt was also an average one full of opportunities and should-haves rather than much success. Friends and relatives fared much better I'm happy to report. Take this one, for example. 

My dad's cousin David Hustvedt shot this buck on October 22, 2011 with his compound bow near Blackduck, MN.  The buck was an eleven-pointer with a 18.5 inch spread weighing in at 180 pounds fully field dressed.  Hustvedt took the shot at a heart-racing distance of 10 yards and it's the largest buck he's shot with his bow. It's one he had been watching for a long time on his trail camera.

 

Another great deer was arrowed by a former student of mine. Brody Boese of Elk River has been bowhunting for only a few years but has managed to do quite a fantastic job in a short time. In addition to bagging a few does this fall, turning 16, getting his driver's license and having his braces off--Brody arrowed a massive drop-tine buck the Sunday of the firearms season. 

I'll provide a full rundown of the epic hunt in an future blog cowritten by Brody and myself. The photo below should do enough to whet your appetite until then and his story is a lot of fun. Being both an outdoor writer and a teacher affords me some fun stories to share with my students and this is one of my favorites. I was in my deer hunting woods hunting when my phone buzzed in my pocket with a text from Brody. His text said he stuck a nice buck and wanted my advice on how long to wait for it to go down. We exchanged a few messages and then I didn't hear anything for a few hours. 

Adding to the drama of the story was a rather ridiculous Facebook debate that launched earlier in the weekend. Apparently, one of Brody's "friends" was ribbing him about the lack of a trophy deer at this point in the season. The anonymous "friend" posted some pretty dumb remarks and I joined the conversation for a bit before departing it due to the ridiculousness of it all. That kid had to eat some crow come Sunday when word spread fast of Brody's trophy. If you have a great deer hunting story from 2011 get ahold of me and we can share some blog space as well. Post a comment here on the blog if you want to share! 

 

Brody Boese of Elk River with a trophy drop-tine buck he arrowed in November

Brody Boese of Elk River with a trophy drop-tine buck he arrowed in November

 

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