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.
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.
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.
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
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!
For Ann Raiho and Natalie Warren, paddling the 1,800 miles from Fort Snelling to Hudson Bay was just one part of the journey known as “Hudson Bay Bound.”
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