More Solo Fishing

I had originally requested this past weekend off, thinking Matt and I were headed down to bowfish for Asian carp on the Illinois river back by home. Turns out, Matt forgot he had work to do both Saturday and Sunday. So I had the three days originally requested, plus two more. That was a lot of days to fill.

Friday, I volunteered to drive to Racine and pick up the new gas tank for the ditch boat. We gave up on the old one, given that the sealing kit barely covered half of it. We got a new, plastic one for under $200. Shipping would have been almost as much as the tank itself, so I drove down for the day. After wedging the tank into the VW, I headed to the river there to fish. I went to the Steelhead facility, where Matt and I had been fishing before. Everyone I asked said there was little trout activity, and I wasn’t surprised- the water was pretty warm. So I cast for bass and whatever else might bite. I did find some bass. But there was a surprise in store for me.

Little bass

Little bass

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Little bass

Little bass

Whoa, hang on a minute.

Whoa, hang on a minute.

Yup. A 6 1/2 muskie fingerling

Yup. A 6 1/2 muskie fingerling

My first muskie was about as big around as my index finger. Though, at this point, I think I have cast for one a few thousand times. Maybe my next one can be a little bit bigger. I released him & told him to go get bigger.

Finally Broke the Kayak in.

This one’s just a quick one:

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I got my first fish in my kayak! And my first bass on the Madison chain. I called it pretty soon after this- no more bites, plus the wind picked up to around 20mph. Not fun to deal with those waves, even in an anchored kayak.

Wild Food: Barbecued Venison Ribs

I haven’t written a post in over a week. With most of the seasons we’re interested in closed, and weather that’s making getting out on the ice to at least chase panfish seem iffy, we’ve spent the last weekend or two mostly relaxing and starting to get the house in order.

Case in point- I spent Saturday scooping all the dog poo out of the back yard (two hours and 5 garbage bags. yikes), and then Tuesday afternoon cleaning up the front yard and porch. Random litter, sticks, sweeping, and everything else I could manage with the ground being pretty frozen still. With a wedding in Minnesota to attend this weekend, I don’t really know how much else we’ll get up to.

I set out a side of venison ribs Tuesday afternoon for dinner. Believe it or not, we’re getting down to the end of our venison. There’s a few steaks left, two football roasts, and two more packages of ribs, in addition to some packages of bones to make into stock. I’ll have to start stretching the venison with store bought chicken, pork, and maybe even beef.

The ribs I intended to grill. I figured they’d be tough, though, so I cooked them in foil in the oven for a few hours first. I made a short marinade inspired by a recipe for Korean beef short ribs. They were only in that for about 30 minutes before I sauced them with some altered barbecue sauce (Ray’s with some “Saipan Sizzle” nonsense Matt had lying around, some ginger, and sesame seeds). They cooked for a good long time in there until I had coals in the grill (2-3 hours), then another hour in the packet on the grill, and then I sauced them some more, and let them char a bit over the coals.

In the end, they were pretty tasty. But the next incarnations of deer ribs, I will be sure to trim every bit of fat off- it definitely has an off flavor, even in small amounts. I’ll also wrap it in some bacon ends before cooking. But it did look pretty impressive on my plate. These were from the smaller, younger doe so they were still pretty small. The ones from the bigger doe will be larger and meatier.

Verdict: Barbecued deer ribs will make you feel like a cavewoman (or man).

Big, Adventurous News

Matt got some big news last night. It looks like the earliest part of our bow season is going to be interrupted.

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Since the wait for his home area up in zone B is 9 years, and he ended up skipping a couple of preference point deadlines (deployments, they suck), he opted to take what preference points he did have and apply for a tag for zone C.

black-bear-management-zone

 

The northernmost boundary of C there at Rt. 64 is maybe 15 miles north of Wausau ( we take 64 part of the way to get east to Matt’s hometown), putting it about 2 hours and 15 minutes away. Since he got a tag for a zone where we don’t know anyone with land to hunt, he’s going to hire a guide. That could put us closer to three hours away if that guide happens to be out in the western counties like St Croix or Polk. It also means we won’t have to be driving to and from every week to replenish bait piles. Not only is that a lot of gas, but bear bait can get very expensive.

I’ll be picking up a Class B license, which allows me to accompany him and assist him in hunting activities like baiting and tracking. I’d also have it in order to sit with him if I could to film. Since we haven’t figured out exactly how it will work with a guide yet, it’s still up in the air.

The season for C runs from September 3- October 7. Zone C you can’t run bear dogs (not that we could- we don’t own any, and I don’t even know if you can hire a guy with hounds). What’s the bear population like there?  I had to do some reading on that one. The area we spend the most time in has plenty of em- remember the poo piles? But it’s a different zone. Anyhow, according to this article from the WIDNR, there’s even an occasional incidence of bear sightings in the northwest of Dane county where Madison is located. As the bear population has expanded south, it looks like they’ve become abundant or common in most of Zone C.  According to another DNR article:

“More than 104,000 hunters applied for 9,015 permits in 2012, making the wait to receive a harvest permit approximately 5 to 9 years, depending on the bear management zone. However, when one finally receives that permit, the opportunity to harvest a bear is better than 50 percent and some of the biggest bears in the country are taken in Wisconsin. Several bears registered by hunters each year top 600 or 700 pounds!”

Granted, that’s for all of the bear hunting zones put together. It’s looking like Zone C usually has the fewest bears killed. I’m going to guess that this is a combination of a slightly lower bear population, a higher human population with a shorter wait for permits, and mostly, a much, much larger spread of land area. Zone C covers the southern and central 2/3 of the state. At the bottom of this .pdf  there’s information from the 2012 season. 810 for 2/3 of the state doesn’t seem too unfavorable, especially considering 2012 was that awful drought year for the southern portion of the state.

In addition to normal tagged registration like any large animal taken (deer, sturgeon, etc), we’ll have to provide a tooth (a premolar) for aging, and part of a rib for population counts if we’re successful. Apparently the DNR has volunteers place baits laced with dyes that show up in the bones of bears, enabling them to track population growth. It looks like we have a busy year ahead of us. We’re gonna need a bigger freezer.

 

 

A Chilly January Fishing Weekend.

Another weekend fishing is on the books. There isn’t a whole bunch to report. The Fisheree was fun but uneventful- fishing was slow for us, with just three fish between Matt and I. M’s family was out, and they got quite a few throughout the day, but nobody else’s tipups were taking off. Just as I was heading toward my lines to bring them in, I got a flag and pulled up my first northern, though. We had a good time anyway.

After a slow Fisheree, we decided to head out Sunday as well. We went out for trout to one of my favorite places- Devil’s Lake. So far, I’d only been hiking here, never fishing. But it’s a gorgeous park. We had one fish here- a 13 1/2 inch largemouth early in the afternoon. We marked a lot of fish, but nothing went for our bait. No trout, either. Some pretty picture opportunities, though.

The head of the east bluff.

The head of the east bluff.

Bright and sunny.

Bright and sunny.

One end of the east bluff from the top of the snow

One end of the east bluff from the top of the snow

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The west bluff sloping to the lake

The west bluff sloping to the lake

A visitor's center

A visitor’s center

My bass. I almost lost it- Matt valiantly and quickly reached into the icehole to catch it when it came off the hook.

My bass. I almost lost it- Matt valiantly and quickly reached into the icehole to catch it when it came off the hook.

Snow drifting over the tracks.

Snow drifting over the tracks.

South shore of the lake

South shore of the lake

Our truck and shanty.

Our truck and shanty.

GE GE

Fox Lake Crappies, and One That Got Away

Saturday was our last warm day for a while around these parts. Forecast to be around 30F, right before a drop off into Arctic weather, we were headed out to ice fish. We met our fishing buddies, and headed up to Fox Lake, about 45 minutes from Madison. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones with that idea.

Hundred of people out.

Hundred of people out.

GE GE

We stopped in the town of Fox Lake for bait, and the owner of the bait shop/liquor store assured us there was a good 15 inches on the lake, and it was safe to drive on. Sure enough, all these people had their trucks on already. We still drove on with the windows down, listening for cracks. We were headed away from the crowds over the deep part of the lake, to the water offshore from a very specific lakehouse promised to be a regular honey hole.

Matt setting a tip up for northern

Matt setting a tip up for northern

Carefully manicured icehold

Carefully manicured icehold

Approx 15 inches of ice.

Approx 15 inches of ice.

We got set up, but fitting 4 people in the shanty was a bit crowded. So Matt and I left our jig poles in some holders, and stood outside. It wasn’t so cold anyhow, and we had tip ups to watch. We checked on our jigs from time to time. It was a good thing, too. Within 20 minutes, Matt had something on. He’d gone into check the bait on his jig, but when he began to reel, it took off on him. It was stripping the 2lb test line something fierce, and bending his pole nearly double.

GE GEMatt got it up to the bottom of the ice twice, and we caught flashes of mouth- it was a pike, and a big one. On 2lb fluorocarbon without a leader. He finally wore it down to reel it to the top of the ice, and M was ready to reach into the water to gill it.

GEHe had his hands on it just in time to hear a little ping. The line snapped, and the fish escaped. We wouldn’t see any more northern that day. Heartbreaking.

We would, however, keep slaying fish on crappie minnows. And they were pretty much all crappies themselves. Big ones.

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Cannibals, all of you.

Cannibals, all of you.

In addition to pulling crappies off our tip ups, I caught my first walleye. I had a crappie minnow on my jig pole. I went back into the shanty to check on it, and the line was at an angle away from the ice hole. I picked up my pole, set the hook, and pulled up a little walleye. He was about 2 inches shy of being a keeper.

GE GEIn the end, we’d take home 6 crappie. It made for a pretty decent day on the ice.

GE GE

My Second Impression of Ice Fishing was Far Better Than My First.

Well, I have to say this feels oddly full-circle.  Sunday afternoon and evening were spent doing the activity I started this blog on back in January. We got out on the ice for the first time since early March.

Originally, we had planned on hunting Sunday evening, since the CWD antlerless hunt is going on right now. But between really wishing for a buck, and some more extreme cold weather, we decided at the last minute to head out ice fishing with our friend, M. We packed everything into his truck, and headed up to a spot he knew near Portage, Wisconsin. It was a sunny day, if cold. The high for the afternoon was about 10F, and we reached it at noon. We arrived at the frozen-over launch around 2:30, dragged our sleds out onto the snowy lake, and got to drilling some holes.

Matt cleaning out an ice hole

Matt cleaning out an ice hole

M boring a tip-up hole.

M boring a tip-up hole.

Shanty and our stuff scattered all over the ice.

Shanty and our stuff scattered all over the ice.

I finally drilled my first complete hole through the 4 inch thick ice.

I finally drilled my first complete hole through the 4 inch thick ice.

In single digits, water freezes quickly.

In single digits, water freezes quickly.

We were in fairly shallow water, 6-10 feet or so. And the ice was rather thin, about 4 inches. Safe enough to walk around on, but definitely not the 18 inches we were drilling through last February. The rules about number of lines still holds, so we usually do two tip-ups per person, plus one line inside the shanty, jigging.Our tip ups had minnows on them, and we were using jig heads tipped with wax worms inside.

The action started inside the shanty. Matt was on some bluegills, and had the first three fish of the day, which all went back in the water.

GE GE

GE

But soon after, we had two flags on our tip ups. We rushed out to get those in, and it was more bluegills.

GEWe headed back after all that to get warm by the Mr. Heater and to continue jigging- the fish were biting! And then I finally got my first fish through the ice. Last year was a rough season, and in the first 45 minutes we’d tied, and then exceeded last season’s catch.

GEMatt would pull out a couple more fish, as would M and myself. Only 7 or so were keepers of the bunch, and but for a couple perch, they were all bluegills. The bite slacked off along with the daylight, so we called it around 5:30, and packed in our gear in the cold. It was a clear day, though, and we’ve got fish to fillet, some of them nice and big.

GE

My biggest 'gill of the day.

My biggest ‘gill of the day.

When it's this cold, the world is your ice box. Our catch, on ice just outside the shanty door.

When it’s this cold, the world is your ice box. Our catch, on ice just outside the shanty door.

We’ve already marked two fish derbies on our calendars, too. One on January 18th on Lawrence Lake, and then the one on Lake Waubesa in late February or early March. Hopefully, we can start pulling out some pike and bass in addition to the panfish.

 

 

Matt’s 200 Yard Shot.

The video is cut and edited. Matt took a 185 yard shot on this deer on Thanksgiving evening. He successfully hit the big artery in the neck, dropping her immediately. We would see another 8 deer this evening. Some of them may have been bucks, but it was too dark to pick out any headgear. We ended up hunting over the gut pile the next day for coyote, but we didn’t see anything.