It All Comes Down to Enough Time and the Right Weather

I’m writing this post after badgering 6 other people to get their portions of a group assignment in to me so I could cobble the bits together into a cohesive whole. And after writing my portion, plus a 4 page paper.

Matt and his buddy Bill got out a few times for bowfishing during the week (albeit more sober). Bill managed to shoot some gar, which we almost never see. And certainly not at this size.

Bill with his biggest longnose gar

Bill with his biggest longnose gar

They got into a few more gar and carp on Friday night while I was at work. Thunderstorms on Saturday afternoon kept me from fishing like I’d hoped to do while Matt was at the radio station’s golf outing. Instead, I spent Saturday afternoon at the Dane County Farmer’s Market. Not wild by any stretch, but still a fun day.

Bagpiper

Bagpiper

Excellent doughnuts

Excellent doughnuts

Cows on the concourse

Cows on the concourse

Calf

Calf

Pretty Jersey cow

Pretty Jersey cow

My haul.

My haul.

The meats you see are a smoked rainbow trout and a whole butchered rabbit. Domestic, of course. I cooked it for dinner Saturday night. If we ever do take up rabbit hunting, I plan to not cook it on the grill. Even a domestic bunny was kind of tough cooked over the flames. Braising it is.

Only one more week of this class.

Much More Successful Bowfishing. Less Than Successful Kayak Fishing.

With the way the ends-of-the-month end up playing out at work, I usually end up having the last several days of the month off. The same thing happened this past week, and I got Saturday and Sunday off. I worked Friday night, but was out by about 9pm.

I got home about 15 minutes later, and saw Matt with the truck hooked up to the boat. Bill was there too. I walked over from where I park, and Matt says “Thank god you’re here. We’re drunk. We’re going bowfishing. You’re driving”. And from there it went about how you’d expect. I’d never driven a trailer anything in my life. Plus the tail lights were burned out. Nervous to begin with, it didn’t help when, driving down the road and slowing to cross some rough train tracks, I heard something slam and then begin grinding into the asphalt. I came to a stop and felt a few jerks and lurches. Freaking out, because, hello, bad luck with boat trailers, I’m horrified that we’ve blown out another tire or something. Matt and Bill hop out, but it turns out they hadn’t attached the hitch all the way, and it jolted off the ball. And the winch tower banged into the tail gate. Good thing old trucks are ok being dented. We get down to the boat launch with no further problems, thank heavens. The water clarity was great, but we were rusty. One fish this first night.

GE

So we all go to bed. The next day, I met an old buddy for lunch to catch up, then took my kayak out for the first time. While bowfishing, we saw all the bass and panfish on their beds. Turns out I need an anchor. It was windy, and Waubesa was packed with people and everyone was making huge waves. I was out for four hours without more than two bites, because the wind and wakes were pushing me towards the north shore- my bait wasn’t staying in place long enough, and I was just dragging it across the bottom. I’ll pick up a folding 5lb anchor like the one we use for our decoys.

SAMSUNG SAMSUNG

I got back from fishing and we turned around and headed right back for Waubesa for more carp. The water clarity wasn’t as good, but then it had been pretty stirred up all day. We were shooting better, too.

Four of these are mine.

Four of these are mine.

Bin o' fish

Bin o’ fish

But our 8 were nothing compared to the haul on some people we helped out. A purpose-built bowfishing boat was stranded, and flashed their emergency light at us around 1am. We towed their (much bigger) boat back to the launch. With our little wooden 14 footer and 3hp motor. They had thirty between the two of them. Obviously, we need to get better at shooting. We definitely saw enough fish.

Midweek Catch-all

After figuring out what to do with the hide last weekend, we didn’t have much to do. A cold front had moved through, so we went from the mid-90s early in the week to the 80s, and the high Saturday was in the 60s. Overnight it dropped into the 40s. Totally out of place for mid July in this part of the country. Also why all our pictures from the weekend show us wearing sweatshirts.

Saturday evening, we went fishing, after attending a short work-related function for Matt. We didn’t catch a thing, and when we tried to bowfish after that, the water was too murky to see more than a few inches. We got spoiled with the water clarity last year- it was hot and dry, and though the levels were feet below normal, they were undisturbed and clear to the bottom. I did nearly catch a baby gar with my bare hand, though.

Sunday evening I had to work, but on the way to the work function Saturday, we saw a yard sale with some pretty awesome stuff. They said they’d have more out the next morning. Sure enough, they did. Hand-forged antique sturgeon spears (we put in for our permits last night), antique fishing poles, a 150 pound cast iron cauldron, old tobacco pipes, axes, hatchets, antique woodworking tools, wooden longbows. Basically, it was a small estate sale for an outdoors enthusiast. Do I even need to say we took some home with us?

image

Two sturgeon spears, a Masai lion spear, a longbow, a broadhead axe, and a pipe.

I hope my estate sale is half as intereting as this fellow’s was. That wrapped up our weekend.

I went shore fishing on my own yesterday, but didn’t catch a damn thing. A kid next to me on the breakwater caught the biggest bluegill I’d ever seen. In the two hours I was out, I watched a fishing tournament get going, a scuba club head out, and four families with children let their kids chuck rocks into the water by my lines. I was less than thrilled.

image

From the north shore of Lake Mendota on a gray day

image

Some kind of fishing boat jamboree

On the docket today is a run to one of the smaller Madison farmer’s markets (Saturday’s one on the Square is too early for me) and racking that wine. Last night, we put in for some permits. Applications for Fall turkey and Winter sturgeon spearing on Lake Winnebago were due by the 31st. Matt also put in an application for wolf harvest, and discovered he has only 3 preference points for black bear. His home area requires a minimum of 9 points. The area just south of there requires 5, and just south of that requires three. Bear populations get correspondingly smaller the farther south one comes from Lake Superior. And even still, the area with any bear is two hours north of us here in Madison.

Today’s my last day off before a new month starts, and I work all through the weekend. Since my boss was ignoring my un-availability on the weekends this past month and a half, my weekend availability for August goes from 8am-2pm Saturday and Sunday, so I can still do something with my life, rather than working 11 hour shifts and crashing. This weekend, however, has one of those 11 hour beasts of a shift, and I’m not too sure how much I’ll have to write about come Monday. At least some interesting seasons are getting closer, as is our replacement vacation. I am refusing to do any planning until I’m sure this one won’t be cancelled on us.

A Bowfishing Trip That Wasn’t an Utter Disaster.

Since we had a wedding to go to on Saturday afternoon, we were worried that fishing and outdoors activities might fall by the wayside this weekend.

We had a hotel room for Saturday night after the festivities, but we checked out a little before 11 Sunday morning and were back in Madison before one. It was a pretty sticky day out, but we did some yard work, and futzed with the old Mercury some more. At some point in the mid-afternoon, we decided on bowfishing instead of going back out to catfish some more. It being the solstice, the wait for nightfall seemed interminable. While we waited we did some honest to goodness planning for this trip to Texas, something we’ve been meaning to do for months now.

Anyhow. Dark came, and we packed up and headed out. I neglected to bring my camera or the video cameras, and at first I was pretty bummed. However, as soon as Matt fired up the generator, I wasn’t sorry any more. Some sort of insect is hatching from the lakebed. Tiny winged things all over, even at head height for me and Matt ( five and six feet, respectively). They were attracted to the lights, it was miserable. I was breathing them in, they were in my ears, up my nose, in my eyes, I had bugs in my everywhere. Eventually Matt and I stopped talking to keep them out of our mouths. To top it off, the water was too murky to see more than a few inches. Possibly an algae bloom, but we’ve also had a few days in a row of hot, windy weather, with southwest winds. We were on the northern end of the water. The old Merc still didn’t want to start, which is troubling on its own, so we couldn’t test out the southern end of the lake.

We trolled a little ways toward the north along the shore. In about 3 feet or less of water, we could make out the gravel on the bottom. We saw plenty of little painted turtles- they chase after the boat lights and dive down to attack the trolling motors, which never fails to utterly slay me with cuteness. It didn’t take long for us to turn the boat and head to an area along the western shore, south of the boat launch. The water was still murky, but this side has a steeper slope, and to be in two or three feet here meant being maybe 5 feet from shore. There were quite a few felled trees in the water, forcing us to zig-zag down the shore and back up.

I typically man the front trolling motor; behind me I heard Matt shoot over the noise of the generator. Somehow, he’d caught the movement of a carp in the water. Astounded, I turned to see him dumping it into our carp bin. It was the only one I saw all night, though Matt said he saw at least two more carp shapes in the murk.  I still don’t know how he managed to hit it.

DSCF5347

 

After being up till the wee hours the night before, we were too tired to weigh or measure this thing before we hit the showers and went to bed. Cleaning it this morning though, I discovered we did our lake a small service- this was a spawning female. The entire body cavity was full of eggs. So much so that all the other organs except the swim bladders were shrunken down. My dogs are pretty gross and love smoked carp, so this thing is smoking now to feed to them.

My bowfishing bow, so the image with this post doesn't have to be a carp in a bloody fish bin.

My bowfishing bow, so the image with this post doesn’t have to be a carp in a bloody fish bin.

Besides the motor not working, this trip was miraculously free of mishaps. The trailer and boat are both in one piece, and there was no need to call a flatbed to get everything home. I’m calling that a win.

Sometime soon, I want to find out if Madison has anywhere to dispose of these things. Cleaning carp is no easy task, given how thick their scales are, and the number of bones. It’s even more of a hassle on the nights we get more than one or two.

Otherwise, any readers who may hail from Texas, feel free to recommend saltwater fishing guides, gar fishing guides, and hog hunting guides! We’re thinking of heading to the Houston-Galveston area, and I contacted a few businesses in the area. Matt’s timeshare has a hotel we could use down there, which would be a nice break for a night from sleeping in the camper.

We Can’t Catch A Break

Ugh, this boat trailer. The bad luck continues- I finally got it in to a specialty rim/wheel warehouse to see if the hub or rim could be replaced. Within about 20 seconds of looking at it, the guy at the counter says the hub can’t be replaced. And the only 13 inch rims they have? Are for front-wheel drive cars. According to the warehouse guy, the lug studs are in wrong, and would cause the same amount of wobble, and blow the tire again. They’re only approximately the same size, as with everything else, because we couldn’t find exact matches to the ones we had. They won’t seat flush with the inside of the hub. Our only option for keeping this trailer now is to replace the entire axle, hubs, rims, and tires. For around $200. We paid about the same amount for this trailer. I told him that if we decided to go that route, that I’d order it by Friday.

Matt managed to push the boat and trailer out of the driveway and into the middle of the front yard. Now I can at least get the Bagster picked up, and we can shuffle things around. We’ll pull the big boat forward to block it up and patch the hull. Sadly, this means no bowfishing this weekend. We’re headed down to my home in Illinois so I can see my family, celebrate my sister’s birthday, and finally meet my nephew. We wanted to bowfish for Asian carp. Now we can’t.

The Worst Gondola Ride Ever, and Bad News Fireworks.

It’s been a very long weekend. I forgot momentarily that it was Memorial Day, and that that meant Matt would have a 4 day weekend. So often, he’ll have a 3 or 4 day weekend lined up and work will just veto it. So when he actually gets one anymore, I’m always surprised.

Friday evening I was at work, and on track to get done pretty early around 8pm. I stepped into the office in the midst of closing my last tables and doing side work to text Matt that I was getting done earlier than expected. He replied to get my butt home ASAP. I wrapped everything up at work as quickly as possible, and hurried home.

I found Matt’s buddy was there. We hadn’t seen him since we still had to drill through 18 inches of ice to reach the fish. Turns out, the three of us were headed out to bowfish that night. Matt had even gotten my gear out for me. His buddy (M) was telling us about going out on Waubesa a night or two before, how incredibly clear the water was, and how many fish they’d seen.

We arrived at the launch, and got up to where M had seen lots of fish. Last summer, we’d always seen lots of carp in this same area. For most of the ride over to the spot, I was steering the front trolling motor and trying to think how I would write this very post. Would I describe the familiar weight of my bow in my hand? How long it had been since I’d nocked the heavy bowfishing arrow? Maybe my camera would cooperate and I would get a decent shot of some of the underwater critters we always see.

DSCF5242 DSCF5243 DSCF5244 DSCF5247 DSCF5251

It soon became apparent that not only was my camera not working with me, but neither were the fish. We saw maybe 5 carp. Most of them in 8-10 feet of water. When we normally see about 10-20 carp in less than four feet. Part of the challenge of bowfishing is correcting for refraction. You aim below the fish because of the way the water bends the light. Once you get deeper than about 4 feet of water, it becomes extremely difficult to make a successful shot, due to refraction as well as drag on the arrow and line traveling through the water.

We saw 5 other bowfishing boats out on the water that night. A new high from usually seeing one or two besides ourselves. But it was getting chilly. It had been relatively warm during the day on Friday, but a slow front was moving through, ready to cast steely clouds, chilly temps, and steady rain over the entire weekend. The temperature was dropping, and we were getting pretty cold, in addition to not even seeing anything to really shoot at. But that was just the beginning of our troubles.

As we turned back for the launch, the trolling motors were losing power noticeably quickly. Matt began trying to start the gas motor. The trolling motors were soon providing absolutely zero thrust. Luckily, we were close to shore and there were plenty of deadfalls in the water. M and I each broke off a long branch and began to push the boat along, all while Matt stubbornly tried to start the motor. The motor never did start; the sparkplugs were probably a bit gummy from our last boat outing, when we mixed the fuel too rich. We gradually made our way to the launch, and laughed at this bit of silly bad luck. It could have been worse, we figured. M quipped about the element of surprise Matt always brings, considering he flies by the seat of his pants. I joked that it was the crummiest gondola ride I’d ever experienced. We got the boat back on the trailer and headed home.

When we were about 4 miles from the house, though, I heard an odd sound. I pointed it out to the guys. It was coming from the driver’s side trailer tire. The one we’d had issues with, and which we’d recently replaced. They shrugged it off. We’d gotten it fixed really well this time. They barely finished saying “We’ll just try and get it home, then look at it”, when all of a sudden, our clunky little boat trailer was emitting a literal rooster tail of fiery yellow sparks taller than the Durango pulling it. A police officer going in the opposite direction didn’t even stop to pull a U-turn. Luckily, it was roughly 1am, and there were no other vehicles on the road. In astonished disbelief, we pulled over and clambered out of the truck to see what the hell had happened.

DSCF5253

There are still flecks of previously-melted rubber stuck to that side of the boat.

It had blown out so quickly, Matt never even felt it pull. The rubber had wrapped around the suspension so tightly that it locked up the rim, grinding one side flat on the asphalt. I joked about the crappy gondola ride being followed by bad-news fireworks. We threw our hands up in total resignation, and went home. We called a flatbed the next morning.

It’s still sitting in our driveway on a jack. The tire and rim I ordered from Discount Tire doesn’t fit it. The circumference of our lug studs is too small for the holes in the rim. The trailer is apparently a really old one. As of now, the plan is to completely replace the hubs on the trailer with a more common pattern, and then get tires for it.  We’ll be ordering the parts for it later on this afternoon.

We Take the Bad with the Good. And Catfish.

Yesterday, after posting about our dismal failure on Saturday, I mentioned we were taking the boat out. We packed up our tackle, poles, some waders, a few drinks, minnows, everything we needed, and headed on up to our favorite boat launch on Cherokee Marsh. We wanted to test out the motor and batteries on a smaller body of water.

We got the boat in the water, no problems. We even remembered the bung, which has been an issue for us in the past. The batteries and trolling motors worked great, and the outboard even started on the first pull. Which, for an old Mercury from 1949 that sat empty all winter, is a big deal. It ran ok, though we mixed the fuel entirely too rich. We couldn’t math with fractions yesterday. We cut off the outboard and trolled to a spot towards the center of the marsh, near the bank.

In Summer and Fall, this part of the marsh is filled with water lilies.

In Summer and Fall, this part of the marsh is filled with water lilies.

We were sitting for maybe 30 minutes, until. Well. I’ll let this video tell the rest of the story.

Fishing season opens up next Saturday, the 4th. We can catch and keep catfish and panfish year-round.

We had planned on doing some line fishing and testing the motors here on Cherokee, and then heading down to work the northern shore of Lake Waubesa with the generator and lights. We’d hoped the water would be clear enough to do some bowfishing. However, it was not to be. Remember how happy I was that we had fixed the trailer tire? Unfortunately, there must have been some damage to the rim that the tire techs didn’t see. We were headed down towards Waubesa, and we had a blow out on an overpass. We limped it down the exit ramp and into a parking lot (again), and took out everything that wasn’t bolted down.

I spent a good hour and a half early this morning calling to tire shops all around Madison. I finally found one over on the west side that carries both the rims and tires we would need for our trailer. A new rim and tire, mounted and balanced, will run me about $105. I planned to pick it up after my quick lunch shift at the mediocre bar job I have, since I had this evening off at the golf course. I sat down to cut that video before work, when I got a phone call. Surprise day off! So, the video got edited, this post got written, and I’m going to clean up the house really quick-like before I run to the other end of town to get this tire, so Matt can put it on the trailer when he has a break this afternoon. But instead of focusing on the negative, here’s a picture of me holding my biggest catfish from yesterday. A 17 pounder. The other was 12 pounds.

DSCF5064

Disregard my messy kitchen.

 

They both got filleted up and stuck in the freezer. They’ll be grilled or fried at some point. We smoked the remainder of the carcasses for the dogs, as they have a deep, abiding love for fish parts. Also, they’ll dig them out of the garbage and make a huge mess, so it’s easier to just give it to them up front.

First Boat Outing of the Year.

After yesterday’s epic fail, we went turkey scouting this morning. Then this afternoon we grilled brats for lunch, did a little yard work, and got the boat we *do* have cleaned up the rest of the way. We’re going out fishing, and we’re going to try to bowfish tonight. It’s a little over 70 today, and it’s lovely. Wish us luck!SAMSUNG

Slow Weekend #2

Another slow weekend at our place. Saturday was the first sunny day we’d had in over two weeks, but it was below 50 degrees. I picked up an extra shift as a favor for somebody at work, so we didn’t do much of anything during the day. Today (Sunday), was snowy/rainy/chilly in the morning, and cleared up in the afternoon. We ran some errands in the early afternoon. We priced tires for the boat trailer, and I picked up some more seeds for my garden. This is what my south-facing front window looks like.

Until mid-May.

Until mid-May.

After all that, we tried some more fishing. Without looking for anymore bank fishing spots, we had to go back to the bridge from last week. We tried a small dock on the opposite side we used last week. It was windy and chilly, but the water was down considerably from what I’d seen driving past earlier this week. We plunked our lines in and waited.

SAMSUNG

We saw a couple carloads of other anglers come and go. We didn’t pull anything out, and neither did they. We didn’t stick around too long- the wind was more or less in our faces, and with nothing biting, repeatedly re-positioning the lines didn’t seem worth it.

Fishing season for everything opens back up in about a week and a half, which is generally after most fish spawn up here. We’re wondering exactly how that will work out for fishing this summer, if the low water temps have messed with the spawn with how cold and wet this Spring has been. The Madison chain of lakes has wonky fishing already. I’ve been hearing that the steelhead runs have been washed out with the floods.  We’re still hoping to make it down to fish the Root River anyhow- probably in mid-May after our turkey tags are up, on a weekend when we have to be down in Milwaukee anyway.

Speaking of turkey tags- our tags start May 8th and go through the 14th. I’ve already put in my work availability for May, and it’s structured around hunting in the evening for that week. My boss was 100% OK with it, which is fantastic. We’re still needing one more bit of land to hunt. However, Matt has a line on a possible area from his LakeLink membership. Someone on that forum offered to let veterans hunt his land for free. Hopefully we hear back from them. We’re finally getting to part of the year where we aren’t twiddling our thumbs, waiting for things to get going. If we can get the boat trailer back together, we can try to go bowfishing next weekend.

Lessons Learned: Always Buy A Boat Cover

On Sunday, Matt wasn’t feeling great again. We got back from Goose Lake, and watched some of the promotional dvds he got from the Deer and Turkey expo. Mainly, we watched one about Safaris in South Africa.

Around 2 in the afternoon, he finally started to feel better, and we decided to do something about the boat. Well, last year we never got around to buying a boat cover. The joke was on us, though, as all the snow we got this year ended up condensed into a huge, boat-shaped block of ice. And it wasn’t melting very quickly. He started chipping away at it, being careful not to puncture the bottom of the boat.

SAMSUNG

After removing a good bit of the ice, we took off the grass and framework that had made up our floating duck blind. We also opened the hatch of the compartment by the motor in back of the boat. We’d even left a battery in there. It was in a waterproof box at least, and came out easily to be recharged. I ran out into the thunderstorm just now to snap some pictures. There’s still some ice in the front under the platform:

DSCF5029

All winter, the boat was left tipped forward, so the snow all ran down to the front of the boat, and would re-freeze. We’ll almost certainly have to re-do the wiring for the bowfishing lights. I mentioned how a few weeks ago we took the bung out of the boat so melt water could run out. Well, there was still standing water. It had to be tipped farther back. Matt proposed lifting the the hitch and setting it on three cinderblocks, the third of which would be stacked long-wise. He bent to lift the boat, and I was ready to slide the cinderblock in. Either he didn’t lift quite high enough, or I didn’t have the cinderblock just right, but it didn’t go in, and he wrenched his back. He was out of commission the rest of the day. And Monday. He still hurts today.

This is as much as we could tip it.

This is as much as we could tip it.

Further progress was made on the busted tire before Matt hurt his back. All last week, I’d been going out with some rust release spray specifically made for rusted bolts. I sprayed down every lug bolt on each tire, every day. We were able to loosen some of the bolts. We will have to wait to take the tire off until most of the ice is gone, though, so we can have it level without melt water pooling in the bottom. The ground is pretty soft, so any jack would just sink down into the mud. He’s already enlisted the help of his buddy (the same one that helped me lift MeatBox) to help us take the tires off as well as tilt the trailer further to get more water out. And we may still have to find a way to pump it out. Dick’s sells hand operated bilge pumps.

I’m really wanting to get the boat and trailer set so we can make it out to fish (or bowfish) whenever we want. Yesterday was about 60 degrees, and even with a small cold snap late this week, the ice will be coming off the lakes rapidly. This is really going under lessons learned: buy a boat cover. It’s been such a huge pain in the ass that it will hopefully never happen again, and that’s even setting aside the issue with the tire.

I’m really ready to be done writing posts on (and doing) repairs and preparation for the coming seasons, and writing something about actually getting out and doing some of this stuff. Although, being beginners with a lot of this stuff, we’re learning a hell of a lot from our mistakes.