Weeknight Solo Fishing

It turns out a good way to get stared at is to drag your kayak briefly through part of a park before launching it into a lake, and then be a girl fishing by yourself. Wednesday I was called off at work. The day started cool and cloudy, and eventually a small thunderstorm cell ripped through part of town, dropping hail. After the thunderstorm passed, I packed up the kayak and my gear, and headed to Lake Wingra for some panfish.

Looking north toward my launch point from across the lake

Looking north toward my launch point from across the lake

Looking west toward part of the UW Arboretum

Looking west toward part of the UW Arboretum

Getting there from my side of town is always fun, with the oddball streets and 5-way + intersections on the isthmus, but we’d fished here before with good results. On top of that, this lake is also bordered by Madison’s small zoo. From my fishing spots, I could hear a rooster crowing and the lions roaring. I wasn’t necessarily looking for lunkers- I just wanted to catch something. And did I ever accomplish that.

My first bass, a 12.5 incher, within 5 minutes of my first anchoring.

My first bass, a 12.5 incher, within 5 minutes of my first anchoring.

A nice 6 inch bluegill

A nice 6 inch bluegill

And another

And another

And another

And another

My second bass

My second bass

My thumb all chewed up

My thumb all chewed up

 

All in all, I would catch 15 bluegill and lose easily another ten, which would have made for a day limit for one person. I caught a third bass, but didn’t get a picture. None of the bass were big enough to keep. I could have held on to some of the bluegills, but I didn’t want to fillet little 6 inch fish, and literally all of the ones I got in the kayak were 6 inches. I also forgot a stringer or basket for them.

Even starting my fishing trip well before dusk, the fish where biting extremely well. I made it around the lake in about three and a half hours, and then got everything back in the car and headed home.

 

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.

GE

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Deer Camp and Thanksgiving

I finally make my return after a several day absence. We returned from Deer Camp and Thanksgiving late on Saturday night. This will probably be the first of three or so posts on the last weekend of gun season. On the one hand, we had incredible luck- we returned from northeast Wisconsin with two deer strapped to our cargo carrier. On the other hand, we had what I can only call Pech. It’s the German word for bad luck, but it’s also the German word for pitch (pine tar, not the action in baseball). The German word for good luck, Glück, only really has positive connotations, and making the straight antonym of it doesn’t quite reach as far as I’d like. Pech describes our circumstances so much better, both because of the negative connotations, as well as the idea that it just sticks to you and doesn’t come off.  The bad luck enters when I didn’t fill any of my tags or see deer, when Matt backed the truck into a tree, mangling our cargo carrier, and when the scope on my rifle came loose. Oh, and the fact that the week before we arrived, most of Matt’s younger cousins had been running amok all over the hunting land. The roads were rutted all to hell from inexperienced teenagers attempting to drive off road, we found bottle rocket leftovers in front of the cabin, they’d shot two porcupines, and the deer were spooked for miles around.

Short linguistic tangent and rant about Kids These Days over, I’ll sum things up with words before throwing up a huge gallery of photos. The two deer were both Matt’s work. I got video of the first, as we were sitting next to each other on the edge of an unused cow pasture. The video is saving as I type, and I have yet to even upload it to YouTube- it will go up this afternoon, I suspect. It was a great shot, and he was happy to get it out of the way. That one he got on Thanksgiving day, as we headed out from dinner at his grandparents to hunt that pasture down the road. She was a little doe- probably a yearling.

We hunted that same pasture Friday night after helping his dad with some projects, and getting the blower fan in the truck replaced (in other news, the Durango has heat for the first time since we bought it. Hooray!). However, Friday night, his dad and his youngest stepbrother also hunted the pasture. Poor little kid has both inadequate gear and instruction in hunting- it was about 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit all day, and he got cold fast. He was shivering audibly, and left his stand with about 35 minutes of light left. His stand was right on the trail the deer came from on Thursday night- we weren’t going to see anything. I doubt anyone told him he has to stay out until damn near full dark.

Saturday morning, we hunted but didn’t see anything. The trail camera we put out over a bait pile the night before picked up images, however, so it was heartening. The deer were getting unspooked after a couple quiet days. Saturday afternoon, we replenished bait piles that were gone Saturday morning, after not having been hit for days. Saturday evening, I didn’t see a thing, in spite of heavy sign and a rub near my stand. I would hear Matt shoot, and that’s when he got his second deer- a much bigger doe we had captured at the same bait pile the night before, and I suspect the one I passed on back in September. She’s a biggun. Lengthy summarization over, let there be photographs.

So, the video should go up this afternoon. Tomorrow I’ll have a post about the last evening of gun season down in Madison tomorrow. Black powder rifle season started at sun up today, and goes until this Sunday. We basically get a chance to fill any tags left over from gun season. According to Matt the moon phase today and tomorrow is good for hunting- I may make it out tonight. This weekend we hope to be heading to a kind acquaintance’s out in Richland Center to hunt with our muzzle loaders.

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.