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

Search for 'larger than average' bass not always elusive

Posted by: Ron Hustvedt Updated: July 20, 2010 - 1:42 AM

 

Ron Hustvedt with a dandy largemouth bass

 
           Anglers tend to go through a natural progression—first they are satisfied to just catch fish; second, they are satisfied if the number of fish they catch is high; and third, they are satisfied if the fish they catch are big.
Ron Hustvedt with a dandy  largemouth bass

Ron Hustvedt with a dandy largemouth bass

            That seems to be how it goes for most anglers, though not all. The trouble with this progression is often in making the step from being happy with numbers to desiring bigger fish. For a whole variety of reasons, it seems that a significant number of lakes around the state have a similar size structure when it comes to bass.
            Green Lake near Spicer is a great example of this phenomenon. There are a ton of smallmouth bass in the lake, the bulk of which are three-pounders. For proof of this look no further than the standings from a recent bass tournament. Take the average weight and divide by the number of fish and the figure is right around three pounds.
            Perhaps Green Lake is a bad example because not many lakes are known for having such an impressive average. On most lakes with healthy largemouth populations, the average tends to be in the one to two pound range. These bass are always willing to bite and are fun to catch, but spend a day catching nothing but one to two pounders and many anglers begin wondering if they can do better.
            This is the point where regular anglers and tournament anglers have in common. While catching fish is the name of the game, there’s that desire for larger fish.
For tournament anglers, finding those larger fish is the difference between taking home a payout or going home with nothing but good stories. For average anglers it’s the difference between a good day on the water and a day you remember forever.
            The challenge for both the regular and tournament angler is pinpointing locations and presentations for those larger bass roaming the lake. It is a pursuit that sometimes pays off, literally and figuratively, and sometimes doesn’t.
     
John House with a meaty Mississippi River smallmouth

John House with a meaty Mississippi River smallmouth

       An angler has to stay incredibly open-minded and you can always follow seasonal patterns where the fish should be but at any given time you need to be able to switch it up and use something a bit different to catch that fish that’s a little more difficult to catch.
            It’s the old versatility game but it is much easier to talk about it than to apply it and be successful. There are days when being versatile and open-minded works and there are days when it won’t—both for the fish and the angler. The key here is to realize that fact and not let it frustrate you.
           
Leaving the comfort zone
            For a lot of bass anglers, a favorite method is pitching a jig tipped with plastic. The jig remains the most versatile of lures because it works shallow and deep, along the rocks, under docks and in the weeds. There will be days, however, when you won’t get a single bite on it.
            Most anglers have their chosen methods of fishing and those lures they are confident in using. There comes a time, however, when one must leave their comfort zone either to get on bigger fish or to figure out why there isn’t a bite.
            There comes a point where you say, this is my bread and butter and what I’m comfortable doing, but it’s not working and I need to switch. When is it the best time to switch? When you are not satisfied with the results.
            Though not preferred, most anglers are more versatile then they imagine and have the ability to switch gears for larger fish. Those who don’t have this will achieve it with more time spent on the water.
            A lot of bass anglers throw plastics in the spring, jigs in the summer and spinnerbaits in the fall. That right there is three different techniques making you a versatile angler—as long as you keep those applications in your back pocket you can pull them out at anytime.
Tom Braaten with a six-pound largemouth bass from a lake known for "producing lots of small bass"

Tom Braaten with a six-pound largemouth bass from a lake known for "producing lots of small bass"

 
Bass all over the place
            This is the time of the year when bass can be found almost everywhere on the lake or in the river. They are up on the inside weedlines, in the sloppiest weedbeds, along the weed edges and on the deep breaklines.
            If you want to catch fish all day, the shallow locations are generally better because you are target fishing. Anglers who want to catch some fish with size, however, should go to the deeper water where bass tend to school up.
            You won’t catch fish consistently all day but you have the opportunity to catch a bunch of fish in a short time and if you find the right spot you could catch 15 to 20 of them and they could be all different sizes or a bunch of four-pounders.

            The thing to remember is that versatility is the key to success and to not get frustrated if the fish don’t cooperate. That’s just the nature of fishing.

 

 

The author with a "rockin' big bass" as his two-year old likes to call it (caught by the two year old legitimately)

The author with a "rockin' big bass" as his two-year old likes to call it (legitimately caught by said two year old)

 

Grand Marais still my favorite side of Boundary Waters

Posted by: Ron Hustvedt Updated: July 12, 2010 - 12:25 AM

 

Sunset over Grand Marais as seen from the scenic overlook along the Gunflint Trail

Sunset over Grand Marais as seen from the scenic overlook along the Gunflint Trail

 

Apparently the construction on I-35 in Duluth and scattered locations along the North Shore’s Highway 61 is keeping some people from visiting the region. I just returned from a week trip along those very roads and my assessment is that it’s being overblown.
 
Is there traffic? Yes. But no more than usual it seemed, and I drove through on the way up during the Grandma’s Marathon rush in Duluth. Was there construction? Yes. But this is summertime in Minnesota and construction is a given.
 
Our trip took a stop in Grand Marais like it always does simply because it’s one of the best cities on the face of the earth. Such an eclectic mix of people, culture and cuisine.
Rainbow over Artist's Point in Grand Marais

Rainbow over Artist's Point in Grand Marais

There is also the strong presence of majestic Lake Superior. If you haven’t seen the lake from Grand Marais then you haven’t yet truly experienced Lake Superior! My favorite sunsets over Superior feature the Sawtooth Mountains, the lighthouses to the harbor and the beautiful trees along Artist’s Point.
 
Grand Marais sunsets feature plenty of blue, gold and orange

Grand Marais sunsets feature plenty of blue, gold and orange

Grand Marais is also my preferred way of accessing the BWCA Wilderness Area. Oh I’ve been through Ely and will again. There’s nothing wrong with Ely, but it just feels more touristy and traffic-ridden. The tough part about Ely is there’s such a high concentration of entry points in a single area. You have to go a day or two in to get away from the crowds.
 
On the Grand Marais side there are several main roads to the edges of the BWCA and the ever-popular and winding Gunflint Trail is 50 miles of staggered entry points. Driving along the Gunflint Trail is a magical experience with wonderful twists and turns through spacious woods. It only takes part of a day to get away from the crowds on the Grand Marais side of the BWCA.
 
A variety of experiences await in Grand Marais

A variety of experiences await in Grand Marais

While on my most recent trip we stopped by to visit our good friends Dave and Nancy Seaton who own Hungry Jack Outfitters about halfway up the Gunflint Trail. They are great people and run a top-notch business. Like most every outfitter up there, they offer both full and partial outfitting services.
 
I know there are many other high-quality outfitters, but my family will never go anywhere else. Both Dave and Nancy are BWCA paddling enthusiasts and they have traversed most every path imaginable throughout the Gunflint area. They are always good for a tip about the best fishing hole, the secret blueberry patches and the best campsites on any given lake (and the campsites to stay away from!).
 

So maybe there will be a closed lane or two along the way. Maybe there will be a line-up of cars that slows your journey by 10 minutes. Any time lost in construction traffic on the way to Grand Marais seems to be returned tenfold once you arrive and that makes it all worthwhile.

My family's traditional Lake Saganaga group photo

My family's traditional Lake Saganaga group photo

 

Find the last of the "secret" hotspots this summer

Posted by: Ron Hustvedt Updated: June 29, 2010 - 11:32 AM

            Big boats and big lakes are all you seem to read about in magazines and fishing reports these days. Baitshop owners, writers and internet posters love talking about the bite on waterbodies like Mille Lacs, Leech, Gull and the Mississippi River but you hardly ever see anything about smaller lakes, streams and rivers.

            As an outdoors writer who has written his fair share of “hot spots” articles I completely understand why.

 

A hefty largemouth caught in the waning daylight on a "secret" Forest Service lake

A hefty largemouth caught in the waning daylight on a "secret" Forest Service lake

A hefty largemouth caught in the waning daylight on a "secret" Forest Service lake

 

 

            If it’s a hot fishing location I discovered myself on a smaller body of water, I’m not eager to give up such a honey hole. Especially when the bite is going good on those larger bodies of water. Tell somebody to fish a sunken island on Gull Lake and they can take their pick. Tell somebody to fish a sunken island on a smaller lake and there’s only one choice.
             When I chat with a fishing guide or baitshop owner about hotspots in their area, they always tell me about a wide array of lakes that are going good. When they mention the well-known fishing haunts they are very open with information. But when their voice lowers, and they tell me about a secret spot they found, they also mention that should I ever tell anybody about that spot they’ll never help me out again.
            I’ve visited several online fishing forums over the years and it’s not uncommon to see posers berate each other when somebody reveals a spot that’s a little too secret for the whole world to find out.
            If you want to start a fight with somebody, tell the world their favorite “secret” fishing spot.
            In the end, there are very few genuine secrets in the fishing world today. For one thing, that lake you fish that nobody else knows about is probably all in your head. You just aren’t seeing the other anglers who visit it when you aren’t around. Chances are they think its their secret spot too.
            Mapping programs like LakeMaster have done wonders for learning a waterbody. You can find every inside-turn, sharp break, sunken island, twist and turn in a lake without any effort. It’s fantastic for fishing a new body of water but it can be frustrating for guides and locals who took years to learn the lake. Still, if you haven’t obtained a LakeMaster chip I highly recommend it.
            LakeMaster has spent thousands of hours on Minnesota’s most popular lakes mapping every nook and cranny with amazing accuracy. They even have smaller lakes on their chips but there are hundreds of lakes not on any of their chips and probably never will be meaning some lakes will always remain a “secret.”
These are the lakes to find yourself that, if you are able to keep your mouth shut, can remain honey holes for many years to come.
            Throughout northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are millions of acres of Forest Service land. Within these tracts of land are tons of small lakes that dot the map or aerial photograph. Most of them don’t even have official names but almost all of them hold fish.
            And those are fish that have hardly seen a lure in their lifetime.
            Okay, so that’s not a great secret—but it is a fishery that even folks who know about it don’t fish as much. There are also more lakes than people who know about it so it is still possible to find a “secret” honeyhole and have it all to yourself.
            I have found a few myself and was rewarded with largemouth bass averaging three pounds and crappies averaging 13 inches. Catch and release was the name of the game so such an untapped resource can continue that way.
            I’ve spoken with other anglers about their “secret” lakes and while they won’t tell me where they are located, they have told me what they’ve caught: northern pike over 40-inches, bluegill of double-digit length, the darkest and most golden walleye in the world and muskies that don’t seem to know how to follow—they just bite
            Where are these spots? Let’s just say that one of my favorites is in northern Minnesota near Bemidji and the other is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan near Watersmeet. Did I give anything away? Hardly.
            The reason these hotspots tend to stay that way is because they aren’t easy to access with the average fishing boat. They require anglers to carry in a canoe, kayak or rowboat.
            I’ve fished each of those Forest Service lakes with a Hobie Pro Angler. It’s a very portable watercraft that provides plenty of space for fishing gear, electronics and six fishing rods. I’m able to work these lakes and cast without having to do any paddling thanks to the Mirage Drive system that allows you to paddle with your feet.
            I’ve made several videos of my experiences on these watercraft and I encourage you to check them out at www.writeoutdoors.com or at www.YouTube.com/WriteOutdoors
            Do some digging, log some miles this summer and do a little trail blazing of your own inbetween fishing trips on the big lakes. I’ll never stop fishing those big bodies of water because they are fish factories, but I’ll also never stop looking for those secret hotspots.
            Please don’t share your “secret” hotspots but please feel free to share your experience with these diamonds in the rough.
           

 

The first opener of the spring

Posted by: Ron Hustvedt Updated: April 22, 2010 - 7:57 PM

A healthy central Minnesota brook trout caught on a spinnerSTONY BROOK, LAKESHORE, MN—The early ice-out of 2010 seems to be all that anglers can talk about—everybody except for trout anglers.

These lovers of moving water don’t worry about ice-out. Most of their favorite waters are free of ice all year long. Now that Minnesota’s trout season is open those miles and miles of stream are primed to go.
Actually, the trout opener is a big deal in towns alongside trout streams but never as big as the walleye opener. That’s partly because trout season has already been open for catch-and-release angling throughout much of the state’s trout waters—and partly because there just aren’t as many trout anglers out there.
Something that is just fine by most trout anglers. 
There’s something about the elegance and challenge of moving waters that draws anglers to trout streams. It is said that trout don’t live in ugly places and Minnesota’s 1,900-plus miles of trout streams, each with their own look, are anything but ugly.
Minnesota is home to some of the finest, and often most over-looked, trout fishing in the nation.
           Author Ron Hustvedt wrestles with a brown trout near Brainerd The Department of Natural Resources has worked closely with conservation organizations like Trout Unlimited to secure land adjacent to trout streams and ensure public access to these blue ribbons winding through the wilderness.
Waters that were once untouchable are now accessible giving trout anglers more opportunities than ever. Creel surveys conducted by the DNR indicate that 30 years ago it took seven hours to catch a stream trout while today the rate is a trout an hour.
            A feature unique to Minnesota is the diverse menu from which you can choose your setting and surroundings. These include: rugged and rocky streams along Lake Superior’s North Shore; bluffland rivers and brooks carved into deep valleys in the unglaciated limestone of the southeastern corner; quiet spring-fed streams surrounded by big walleye waters in the central portion of the state; prairie streams of the southwest; and, streams of the Twin Cities that have remained trophy fisheries despite a sprawling metropolitan area.
Minnesota streams are home to three main species of trout including rainbow, brown and brook. The brook trout is the most sensitive of all species usually found in the cool, headwater portions of a stream. Brown trout are the most prevalent with fishable populations found throughout the state. Rainbow trout are stocked in the southeast and naturally reproduce along some streams of the Arrowhead region.
The largest concentration of trout streams and best potential for a trophy is in the southeast corner. Try the Whitewater River near Elba and the Root River near Preston. Most streams originate from springs and stay cool throughout the summer with frequent hatches of mayflies, caddis flies and midges providing an excellent forage base.
Along the North Shore, rivers such as the French, Sucker, Baptism, Temperance and Cascade are among the most consistent. There are also trout streams further inland near Duluth including the Blackhoof and Cloquet.
Prairie streams of the southwest are small and short but virtually untouched and untapped. The Brainerd Lakes area holds Stony Brook and Cory Brook, two of my favorites. I hesitate mentioning such small streams in a very popular fishing portion of the state, but like many anglers who regularly fish these streams, the hope is that sharing their richness will only inspire more anglers to protect them in an area otherwise enveloped in sprawl. 
Speaking of sprawl, the Twin Cities area is home to the Vermillion River and the Kinnickinnic (just across the Wisconsin border).
Always consult the Minnesota Fishing Regulations for season dates, limits and restrictions. Trophy trout streams get that way through careful management and regulations change from year to year. Regulations are even different on different stretches of the same river. The best place for detailed maps, access points and easements is the DNR webpage at www.dnr.state.mn.us.  
Minnesota’s trout fishing streams are sensitive ecosystems requiring diligence of anglers for future opportunities. Where catch and release is not required, it is strongly advocated. Just don’t forget that a meal’s worth of trout is a trophy in itself.

Rainbow trout are stocked in streams throughout
southeastern Minnesota and northeastern Minnesota

 

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