Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Lady and the Bear

The Lady and the Bear

Bear Season is right around the corner. I have never hunted for bear, and I don’t really have a desire to, but a friend of mine told me a bear-hunting story I will never forget. I wrote this story based on what she told me. I hope you enjoy it.

Chris grew up hunting and fishing. Her Parents and Grandparents taught her at a very early age and it has always been a huge part of her life. As each season passed, she looked forward to the possibilities that would follow, whether it is the opening day of fishing season, or the start of the next hunting session. Bear season was no exception.

It was fall of 1970 and opening day of bear season. Her usual hunting partner was her husband Darrell, and they both looked forward to the possibility of tagging a bear.  They planned to hunt the land near Chris’s Grandfathers camp near Conover, WI. Back in those days, there was not a limited number of bear tags sold, so the opportunity to hunt bear was there if you wanted it.

They left at sunrise and decided to go to a nearby old railroad grade.  It was rumored that bears had been sighted in that area. The morning was cool, and just like every other day of hunting, Chris was excited. The feeling that the possibility of something exciting could happen at any moment hung in the air like the morning dew. They didn’t speak as they started on their way, but Chris knew Darrell was as excited as she was.

The railroad grade was somewhat elevated over the land around it and they could see a good distance ahead. The colors had started to change, and bits of yellow and red were overtaking the green landscape.  As they walked, they were able to scan both sides of the tracks, looking for the black fur of a bear.  They hoped the scent of fall would turn into smell of bear. Often times, the first clue a bear is present is the awful pungent sour smell that precedes them.

As the morning continued, the sun came out and it started getting warm. As they carried their jackets, it seemed the longer they walked, the more the excitement drained away. The possibility of success waned as the sun rose high in the sky.  Disappointed, they turned around and started walking back to the truck.

While walking back, Chris started to hear running water. She came upon a stream that crossed under the tracks and meandered around a corner. They were both surprised they didn’t notice it when they walked by the first time. They decided to explore and followed the stream for a short ways.  From above, Chris looked down into the water and sure enough, she saw a few nice trout. The disappointment of not seeing a bear was quickly replaced with the possibility of catching a fish. Fishing gear was always in the truck and Darrell offered to walk back to the car to get the rods. He left, and Chris found a place along the bank to wait for him to return.

Chris sat there in the quiet with only the noise of bubbling stream gently rolling over the rocks.  She put her gun down next to her and took her boots off, rolled up her pants and put her feet in the cool water.  She looked up stream to the hole she saw the trout in. The rocks made the water pool, and she sat there assessing where she would make her first cast. She laid back and relaxed feeling the warm sun on her face and the cool water on her feet. The thought of fresh trout came to mind while wondering what the dinner plans would be. It felt good to rest, and soon she started dozing off.

KaBOOM. A single shot rang out. Startled, Chris sat straight up and looked around. It sounded close and it did not come from the direction Darrell had walked. She froze there for a moment not wanting to make any noise.  She quietly picked up her gun not knowing what was going on. Suddenly the sound of branches snapping and something crashing was coming through the woods right towards her. The sounds came closer and a second later, a large black bear came charging out of the woods right into the river. The huge animal was directly in front her where she was sitting with her bare feet in the water. She raised her gun and fired off three quick shots with her .30 - 06, bang bang bang. The large black mass dropped in a heap right in the river, directly in front of her.

Chris sat there in a daze.  “ What just happened” Chris thought. She felt like she was in a state of shock, in total disbelief of what just happened. Her heart was pounding as she stared at the bear. Still not wanting to put the gun down, she slowly stood up.  She watched the bear looking for any signs of movement. She didn’t want to be caught without her gun ready to go if the bear was not dead.  As it lay there in the water, it was less that 10 feet from her.

Within minutes, Chris heard more crashing thru the woods, but this time she heard voices. Again she knew it wasn’t Darrell, as it was coming from the same direction of the bear. She stepped back out of the water, still holding the gun, just as two men came out of the woods right behind the where the bear laid dead.

One of the men was younger, and bounded through the trees first.  The second man was older and both looked out of breath. The younger guy yelled, “That’s our bear, we just shot it! Chris replied, “the hell it is, I just killed it! ” The moment was tense. Chris wondered how long before Darrell would return and was thankful she still had the gun in her hands. Both men were holding guns, and neither looked too happy. The younger man seemed more angry and shouted, “we shot it first Lady!” Chris paused for a minute and then said, ”Well, its not my fault you winged it, I shot it dead.”

There was a pause and for a minute Chris didn’t know how this was going to turn out. As she stood there barefoot, she felt even more vulnerable; being out numbered two to one. She didn’t want to back down, she knew it was rightfully hers, but she did not want it to get ugly. She was on one side of the river and the two men stood on the other side, the bear was right in the middle. Time just seemed to stand still and nobody spoke.

Soon she heard Darrell come running towards the river from up on the tracks. He tore thru the woods and when she looked at him, she saw a look of terror in his face. He heard the shot when he was walking back with the fishing rods, and couldn’t imagine what had happened. He thought Chris may have shot a bear but when he heard the man’s louder voice, he didn’t know what to think.

Once Darrell was present, things seemed to calm down. Chris told Darrell what happened and before long the two hunters agreed that the bear belonged to Chris. They even helped drag the bear up the hill to the railroad grade so Chris and Darrell could drag it back to the truck. Dragging the bear back to the truck was a chore. By the time they got it loaded and got back to camp, it was nearly dark.

When they got back to camp, Chris told the story again and again. The Parents and Grandparents couldn’t believe that had happened.  They laughed and celebrated the successful hunt that came with a bonus of a good story. The other two men must have went back to their camp, and I can only imagine what story they had to tell.

Chris love to Turkey hunt also.

Chris and her hunting dog Sadie

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Mentor

No one is born knowing how to fish. At some point, someone handed you a fishing rod
and the journey began. It is like a journey down a road with many turns. Some roads
lead to small tid bits of information and other roads lead to an garden oasis where
knowledge hangs in the air like ripe fruit on a tree ready to be picked. Many anglers
have had the benefit of having a parent or relative that was proficient in the sport and
started them out early. They were provided with endless opportunities for fishing
adventures and their skills were improved upon on every trip. Others walk the road
alone and hope they take the right turn, often times discovering things that donʼt work
and occasionally finding things that do.

The old saying goes, 10% of anglers catch 90% of the fish. Iʼm not sure if that is true but
I do know there is a huge range of skill among the anglers on the lake on any given day.
I have seen people fishing from shore on the banks of a rushing deep river with the bait
two feet from the clip on bobber. I have seen a steel leader tied to a small pan fishing
jig and once someone brought a net to go ice fishing.

Its easy to laugh and walk a little taller knowing you hold a few pieces of really nice fruit
that you found along your road when the poor soul you are watching must have been
walking on a pretty baron path. The great divide as I see it. The winners and the losers,
the catchers and the non catchers, the haves and the have nots. Lets talk about the first
group, the winners, the catchers, the haves, the 10 % so to speak.

Ah the ones who get it. The ones whoʼs basket is over flowing with juicy ripe fruit, able
to go to any body of water and find fish even when the wind is from the east and the
cold front moved in. I have seen many people who fit into this category and I have
recently decided they come in three variations. Great anglers, including guides and
professionals fall into one of the three categories below.
The first category is the hoarders. Similar to a 5 year old that does not want to share the
toys. The instinct is to keep all the information to them selves. After all it took a long time
to collect all that information. Walking down those roads picking all that fruit. Maybe they
did get burned once sharing a honey hole only to come back the next day and find 10
boats fishing the area that used to be empty before you told that friend. I have seen
many people like this. They just will not share anything they know. They do not want
their fish to be caught by anyone but them. There knowledge is locked up tight like a
national security secret.

The second category is the little bits. The ones who share a little bit of information here
and there. They will give vague general information, maybe a subtle hint of a detail,
maybe share the hot color of the day. Maybe they will share additional info with a close
friend or fishing partner. Much of the information is given out with a bit of hesitation and
small tid bits are given here and there.

The third category I call the Mother Theresaʼs. The ones that go out of their way to help
out a fellow angler. The ones that take the neighbors fishing just to share the passion.
The ones that will shout to the non catching boat next to them to drift a half a crawler
with two split shots. Sure enough it works and now both boats are catching fish. The
ones who will actually talk to a stranger in the bait store and point out a hot bait or a
area or method to try. The ones who stand above the others by doing clinics for kids or
working with groups to really help others be successful. There are people like this. I
have seen one saintly angler toss the other fish-less angler a special crank bait to try
and five minute later they were catching fish too. I have seen proʼs give clinics for free
when they surely could have charge a fee. I have seen GPs coordinates shared and
very specialized techniques taught.

I have had times in my life where I have crossed paths with all three of these types of
anglers that I will always remember them. In addition to sharing fishing techniques,
modeling conservation practices also have a big impact on others. I remember in my
early ice fishing days, I was standing around a tip up along with 8 or 9 young men, while
a seasoned angler carefully fought and landed a 29 inch walleye and immediately
released it. That left a big impression on me and I know the young men who witnessed
it were shocked that the fish was released so quickly. It was obvious that seasoned
angler had done that before and I wanted to be to the level where catching a trophy fish
would not have to entail 10 minutes of photos or a trip to the taxidermist.
Now we go to the other group. The losers, the non catchers, the have nots, the 90% as
they say. These I place in three modeling also. Of course this is just from my personal
experience over the course of time and I will admit that I have been in all three
categories so I do not let myself off the hook here.

The first group is in the land of denial. These are the ones that will not admit they do not
know something and go thru the motions of being an avid angler but donʼt have a fish in
the freezer. Even with an upgrade to a St. Croix rod, the new Lund boat, the stickers on
the truck yet there is not a lot of catching going on. They do however have the verbiage
down and have the plethora of excuses ready to roll off the tongue. Its slow today, yeah
that cold front really shut things down, oh we got a couple of shorts. The problem is they
wonʼt drive down some other roads because they continue to pretend they know a lot
more than they actually do. Many of these end up going golfing instead.

The second group is the give me the answer crowd. They just want you to tell them
where to go, what to use, how to use it, and what time to try. They donʼt general
information they want the GPS coordinates. They want to go right to where the fish are
and tomorrow they want you to tell them where they are again. It may change from day
to day and they keep asking for the answer. They donʼt want the equations, or a map
they want you to bring them to the tree full of fruit so they can pick it.

The third group in this category are the sponges. They ask questions. They ask the bait
store workers, the people at the launches, the fishing forums, the person at the store
wearing a fishing shirt. They watch videos and read articles and get several magazines
in the mail each month. This is the group that feels that there is always more to learn
and the more they know the more they want to learn. In additions to doing all the home
work, they are putting time in on the water. They watched the drop shotting video and
now there are going to go give it a try. They even go fishing alone, it a passion and its a
focus and once they get into this category they donʼt last long before they convert into
being one of the 10 %.

Over the course of my fishing career, I can remember those who have really had an
impact on my fishing techniques. The man who I saw caught the big walleye and let it
go, Pro Walleye Angler Marianne Husky and successful guide Harry from
Harry's Hot Spots Guide service have all gone out of there way to help me improve
my skills. I feel like I am a funnel, and what I learn gets funneled to all the other women
in our fishing club, who then take their kids and their grand kids, and then the neighbors.
We even have women whoʼs husbands wait for them to come back from a clinic so she
can share the latest info with him.

Fishing brings such excitement and joy for me I want to share it with as many people as
I can. I hope my basket of fruit stays full so I can continue to walk down the road keep
handing it out. I hope that you will join me and there will be less pour souls walking
down baron roads. I hope to also be handing out examples of environmental
stewardship, caring for the resource and environment as we go. Modeling catch and
release and shoreline clean up, staying within possession limits and being a resource
for others. I believe the more you give the more that comes back to you. Kind of
reminds me the story of the loaves and fishes. There will be plenty for everyone so keep

Check out this great article on the Outdoor Hub about this blogs author.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Women On Winnebago Media Event, Day 1

I am very excited to be in Fond Du Lac WI to attend the Women on Winnebago media event.  Check out their web site I was invited by Carrie Stollenwerk / Director of Sales for the Fond du Lac Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. I was one 10 people invited to experience all that Fond Du Lac and Lake Winnebago has to offer. This happens to be the opening weekend of Sturgeon Spearing and the entire city becomes a buzz. 

When I was first getting to town, I saw what appeared to be small silver space ships being towed by cars trucks and yes mini vans. The exterior was all silver which is a tin materiel that is often chosen for spearing shacks. Everyone is prepping for the opening day of the spearing season which as as much if not more anticipation as deer season. Lake Winnebago is the largest lake in Wisconsin and goes from Fond Du Lac all the way North of Oshkosh.  It is huge. In the summer and winter, storms can blow in quickly and having your bearings is very important. I could feel the excitement in the air and the snow storm just made thing better.

As is usually the case, my day to explore the lake was also the day of a huge snow storm. I was fishing with my friend Art, who lives on the lake year and it very familiar with it. Art said just last week, the entire area in front of his house was open water. High winds a few weeks ago caused a pressure crack to open up and open water was visible in several areas. This was really bad news for all the people who Sturgeon Spear, which is a time honored tradition in this area.  Some wondered if the season would be a total bust. Cold temps prevailed and although caution is advised, ready or not here we come.  Since

We headed out onto Lake Winnebago via snowmobile . I was sitting behind Art and the first thing he said was “ hold on”. The next thing I knew we were jumping a crack with open water with. the sled splashed through and away we went. The  snow storm was suppose to end by noon, but apparently it had a mind of its own. I was very thankful I was wearing my Arctic Armor suit, knowing at least I would float if I fell in one of the cracks we were jumping.  The snow was blowing  side ways and it made visibility terrible. As we zipped across the lake,  ice shacks would come into view, many of them just getting set up for the big Sturgeon Spearing Season which opens Saturday.  The space ships I had seen being pulled behind the cars now all had  hitches sticking straight up in the air. The build them so they lay on their sides and when they get flipped of the trailer, the hitch is up in the air like some antenna. It looked like you were on the moon with the uneven surface of jagged ice and snow, winds whipping and blowing snow in circles like mini tornadoes. It was awesome. I wanted to take a few pictures but I was hanging on for dear life and didn’t want to remove my Frabill gloves even for a second.

We got to the first spot we were going to fish. When I had arrived at Arts, I had my rod bag, tackle box, sonar unit and a bucket. Art quickly said all I needed was one rod and two baits, a swedish pimple and a Jigging Rapala. Good thing I had both. He took one look at my rod and was impressed with the St Croix Legend I had, but tied a long fluorocarbon leader onto my braided line using a blood knot. The lure was tied direct. I had never traveled so light, one rod, two lures and my sonar.

Art quickly punched a few holes and within 5 minutes he decided time to move. Away we went about 150 yards from the last place in the main lake basin. Art explained that the fish will roam the maim lake looking for bait fish. On this lake, feeding walleyes will suspend about 8 feet down in the 13 - 14 feet of water. I was surprised as I always found walleyes closer to the bottom.

When we would stop to check an area Art would ask if I was marking any walleyes on the graph. I had marked fish on the bottom, but Art said those were crappies, again opposite from what I had seen in the past. One the fourth spot we tried, bingo, the sonar was light up like a Christmas tree. I began to play cat and mouse with the red marks on my sonar and low and behold Art was right. The marks I jigged up from the bottom were crappies and white bass.  Large red marks would come in high, like 8 feet down and I would quickly try to get above them and sure enough, a walleye whacked the bait and soon was on top of the water. It got to the point where I would only jig between 6 to 8 feet below the ice and the Crappies would come up to get it and the walleyes would cruise by and whack it.

The whole time we were fishing there was a blizzard going on all around us. I felt the ice pelting me in the back as I sat on the sled with the wind at my back. You could not see anything as there was little to no visibility. It was like you were sitting in a snow globe in a world of your own, kind of like a fish heaven. By the end of afternoon, I had a big pile of fish at my feet, all covered in snow as it was really coming down. I have never traveled so light on any fishing trip, we didn’t even bother with an ice scoop. Art says he does better if there is some slush in the hole when he isn’t using a shack. We didn’t even tip the lures with live bait.

As it approached darkness, we headed in. I was thankful Art was so familiar with the Lake  as he was able to weave around pressure cracks, avoid some thin ice area’s and got me back to my truck dry and in one piece. The bag of fish was another nice bonus.

My friend was telling me how much he loves to fish Lake Winnebago both summer and winter. He said it was a fish factory and it is just loaded with fish. I really enjoyed the experience and will be back again I am sure. The next part of my weekend adventure is Sturgeon Spearing. Wish me luck on that. This is a great body of water to explore. I am really looking forward to the weekend. Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Wolf River Adventure

I decided that 2011 would be the year I really learn more about fishing. That is one great thing about this sport no matter how much you know there is always more to learn. I can’t believe all the fishing opportunities there are in Wisconsin right out my back door. I have always had a “thing” for walleye fishing. Maybe because its always been so hard for me to figure out and I am prone to take on challenges. Seems I don’t have any trouble catching Northerns or Bass, but that subtle tick tick of a hint of a walleye bite, if you can find them, always proves evasive. But this year is going to be different. ( didn’t I say that last year?)

One thing avid anglers do, is read the fishing reports and follow the information on the “walleye run”.  We monitor water temperatures, current and water levels and try to figure out the best time to go to get on fish. One great  place to fish the Walleye run  is the Wolf River. I had only been there once prior, and this time I was invited by my friends Chris and Betsy. Now Chris, a member of our fishing club, is one of the club matriarchs who always catches fish and if we give out trophies at an event she always takes one home. She has fished the Wolf River before, and so has Betsy.

The plan was to meet and launch in Shiocton WI. I  had my 2011 Lund Impact that turns heads where ever I go. There were three walleye tournaments on the Wolf this weekend and I looked the part. Also in my truck were my trusty side kicks and fishing pals Keeper and Roxy. Those that know me, know that we are always together, and they are usually partaking in all of my wild adventures.

A section of the Wolf at flood stage
When we met at the landing we were shocked at the high water level. We knew the water was high from the spring run off but we had no idea that it was that high. Right next to the launch there was a bridge that crossed the river and after you launch the boat you had to go under the bridge. Well to me, it didn’t look like enough clearance to even make it under the bridge without getting the boat wedged. We decided to look for another landing and spoke to some local guys that were just launching a smaller boat. They sent us to another landing up the road so off we went.

We got to the second landing and the entire parking lot was under water. Some guys were launching small boats between the no parking sign and the picnic table. We couldn’t tell where the original launch was even suppose to be, so we decided to keep looking. All the trees in that area were under water. I could tell the water was still rising because one truck that was parked in the lot had water all around it. I’m sure it was all dry when the person parked it there.

So off we go to find yet another launch. We were headed to Fremont WI when we saw a sign for a boat launch and turned off to follow the road. We found Barker Park, just south of Shiocton and third time was the charm. During the spring there are no docks or piers in the water so its waders or wet feet to launch in these high water conditions.        
Before long, the five of us were on the river floating in the current. Without the motor running the current was taking us over 3 MPH. That is fast. The water covered trees, deer stands and wooded area on both sides of the river. The Hummingbird electronics worked great in determining where the main river channel was. A wrong turn and you would have been drifting into a farmers field or worse yet through a swamp. This section of the river is pretty wild. Lots of trees and wilderness. Its always a little nerve racking floating so fast in a river that you are not familiar with and I had no idea what was around the next bend. The river  really winds around in this section. The main channel was about 12 feet deep. Big sticks, logs and debris were floating down stream because of the high water. You definitely had to pay attention.

We came to a corner and decided to try to fish the bend. Anchoring in the fast current is always a challenge. Having the right anchor, the right rope and putting it in the right spot are all really important. I have yet to perfect that. Boat control and boat placement makes a difference on if you catch fish or don’t. We tried to anchor right out of the path of the fallen trees and the debris field coming fast in the current. When anchoring in these conditions always have a good knife in your pocket in case you have to cut the anchor line in case of an emergency.

We fished that area for awhile. There was the bend in the river with some current breaks and areas that looked like they would be holding fish. Finding the right weight jig to hold in the current was difficult. I talk to other anglers and they speak of fishing with a 1/4 oz jig in that current. I don’t know how they do it. We tried a variety of tactics but no bites. As we were fishing we saw an animal across the river. It looked unfamiliar to all of us at first and then Chris said it was a Pine Martin. It was sure cute. Roxy spotted and and gave it the biggest stay away from my boat growl she could muster. A couple of large sturgeon’s rolled near by but we never got a hit.

We continued down the river a bit and began to see some rafts. I have heard of people fishing from rafts on the Wolf and I had envisioned a pontoon boat with a deck on it with a couple rod holders. I was dead wrong. These rafts are like house boats. Small structures are erected on a platform set on a bunch of plastic barrels. There are decks  all around the structure and rod holders with huge cane poles set in the rod holders. I couldn’t believe it. Betsy works with a gal named Debbie that has a raft. She and her husband Steve have lived in the New London area for years and they invited us out to fish off their raft.  We were suppose to meet them the next day to have them show us to the raft. We decided to pack up for the day and to regroup for tomorrows raft adventure.

The next day we headed out to New London for our next day of adventure. We stopped at the local bait shop called  Cash’s The Little Shoppe of Bait. Its right on Hwy x in New London right next to the boat launch.  We could see how high the water was in the river and some of the houses nearby, looked like islands with water all around them. There was a big tent sent up in the launch lot and apparently it was  the big Whopper weekend, a local walleye event. How fun is that! They sold buffalo burgers and had a drawing and a fish contest. In the bait shop we found two  Women working and they were very helpful. We bought some of the hot parrot jigs based on they’re recommendation along with heavy weights to hold in the current. I was glad to see a nice selection of lead free weights to use. We told them we were going to fish off a raft. They both had their own rafts to fish off of and told us we were going to have a blast and would become addicted to the experience.

We continued out to meet our hosts Debbie and Steve. We met off of a gravel road and they were going to lead us back to a private boat landing. This is a remote camping area of the campground owned by Wolf River Trips. They provide a service to raft owners where they store and launch the rafts on a yearly basis. In a field,there is a parking area for all the rafts, and we worked our way through the maze to the boat landing that was packed with cars. We  packed our gear and launched our boats to head out to the raft. Steve warned us that there was no land near the rafts due to the high water so in order for the dogs to go to the bathroom they would have to be boated back to the landing so they could do their business. All part of the adventure.

The launch here was flooded as well and it seemed odd to be driving a boat by signs that are usually on land. Once we got to the main river channel the water was really ripping. You could tell where the main river was by the edges of the current bubbling at a high rate of speed. Once the boat got to that line it took us like a shot, thankfully in the direction we planned on going. We headed down stream from the launch and saw a variety of rafts. Some were very nice and some looked pretty junky. The one that was ours for the night was great. Really really nice. We landed the boat and parked next to the raft. Now that is not an easy task.  Remember the current is ripping and you have to account for the speed of the current and really be a good judge of where the boat is going to end up. It is not easy especially when you don’t have a lot of experience boating in ripping current. For some reason I did it perfectly and made it look like I knew what I was doing. I even thought, that wasn’t to bad. Little did I know the worse was yet to come.
This was the raft we stayed at

So we unpacked and got the tour from Steve. What a great little cabin on a raft. The outside was surrounded by a deck much of it with rod holders. All along the front, tall cane poles stood upright in rod holders perched on the deck railing. The tallest ones must have stood close to 20 feet in the air. The poles on the left were taller and as they went left to right the poles got shorter.  They had a specific amount of line on them so when the poles were lowered the lines were laid out in a manner to cover more water and not get tangled with each other.

The deck area to the right, or down stream was the area you stood on to jig fish. First we got the tour on how things worked. He showed us how to light the external gas lighting, how to light the furnace, how the bathroom worked, and even said help your self to the frozen pizza in the freezer.  The inside had a car stereo, lights with switches, a stove with an oven, two bunks and a futon, a tall table that looked out a big picture window that faces the river and the cane poles. It reminded me if an ice shack, a camper, and a houseboat all in one. It was really nice. It was equipped with battery power, a solar battery charger, a cb radio, outside speakers for the radio, a minnow live well and just about everything you could ever need.

You could tell it was set up for serious fishing.  Rapala’s on long mono leaders hung from the top cupboards. A rod holder was perched from the ceiling so you could set your rod there and change out the jigs and such. Clippers, jig heads, stinger hooks and leader line were all with in reach. Steve showed us how to to rig up our lines and grabbed a couple of his poles that were all ready set up and handed them to us to show us the technique. I noticed just about all of his rods were Ugly Sticks and were equipped with basic open faced reels. The equipment was well used and I am sure they have caught more fish than any of my rods have. Steve moved fast and I could tell he was dying to get a line in the all of us were. He handed us each a rod and they were all equipped with a 1/2 oz jig with a stinger hook. We used Emerald Shiners and once you were baited up, just a little flip cast was all that was need to drop the bait off the side of the raft about 25 feet out. Steve showed us how to “pump” the rod so the jig was raised up and down and held out in the current. He said you should feel it hit the bottom and if you ever feel anything set the hook. Often debris from the river would hit the line or get hung up on the jig.

Any fish is fun to catch
Before long I had a fish on. I could tell it was a Sturgeon.  The ugly stick was practically bent in half. I immediately wished I was fishing with my own rod. I was unfamiliar with his and it was hard to judge. I know mine so well and have landed big fish on them before. The fish felt big and was really pulling hard. I could tell it wanted to stay deep and I could hear Steve yelling to “keep it up”. The whole time I was thinking dang I wish I had my rod.  Before long the fish took a dart into the current and  the line snapped. I was bummed. I went to get my rod set up before I tried again.  We were getting bites but they were biting very light.  Steve lost one and  Chris had a nice fish on soon there after. It was very exciting and looked like the bite would be good. In short order Chris had a nice 20 inch walleye on the deck. I was able to get my own line in the water and a sort time later had another fish on. I could tell it was big but it didn’t feel like a walleye. Soon after, I landed a big ugly carp. We had not even been there for an hour and the action was hot. We could only imagine what a great night of fishing would lie ahead. It was all very exciting.      

Steve and Debbie had to head out and the three of us along with  Keeper and Roxy were left alone to spend the night. We went inside and began to check out the inside in more detail. It even had nice fish curtains and all sorts of little extras to make it feel real homey. Cell phone chargers, can crushers, card games, pillows and blankets, all sorts of things that made you want to stay for a week. Since the raft was surrounded by water, the dogs were not able to go out to go to the bathroom. I’m sure Roxy could have been easily convinced to pee on the deck but Keeper would rather die than commit such a violation.

Chris and I decided  we better load them up and head to the boat launch to give them a break before night fall. We got to the landing and I took them for a walk to be sure there would be good for the night. We hopped back in the boat to head back out to the raft.

 It had started getting dark and you could see the rafts that were occupied by the lights shining inside. Some had big spot lights on the outside. If it wasn’t for the sub freezing temperatures it would have had the feel like  we were in a mysterious southern bayou. We had big smiles and were totally loving our adventure. As we approached the bend in the river where the raft was, we could see the lights shining. We began to approach the same side ( up river) that Steve had directed us to when we first landed. I remembered a couple big white buoys there to park against. As we got closer to the raft suddenly I was confused. Some man shouted something from the Raft but  I didn’t hear what he said. That confused me even more because the only one on our raft when we left was Betsy. My mind whirled for a moment thinking our raft had been boarded by strangers but then I realized were at the wrong raft. The area to land the boat was completely different than the one we had left and I immediate tried to put it in reverse to back out of the situation. The current grabbed the back or the boat and swung it around and we were headed right for the corner of their raft. The guys all seemed to be on the opposite side and didn’t come over to the boat at all. I tried to reach out and grab the raft to keep the boat from hitting it and that was a huge mistake. The back swung around from the current and caused the boat to swing against the  front of their raft. Their raft was designed so the rod holders and poles went out right in front from the bottom portion of the raft and not the high deck like ours did. That made them just off the level of the water. Next thing I hear is a terrible cracking noise and I thought for sure the boat was ripping apart. Then there was a loud snap and one of the cane poles had busted off from the holder. There were numerous poles all in the line and we just cracked off the first one and the boat was headed down the line towards the rest. The guys on the raft began to holler and I put in in drive and hit the throttle to get us the heck out of there. Soon we were safe back in the center of the raging current and both of us had eyes the size of saucers. Holy Crap. Roxy sat there good as can be with her ears pinned next to her head knowing something was a miss so she wasn’t about to move. I was thankful I was wearing my Arctic Armor Suit that floats if need be.

We looked up and realized that our raft was right next door but no lights were turned on yet. Steve had showed us the deal with the lights, and not Betsy, and it was light when we left so we hadn’t lit them. Now I was afraid to even attempt to pull up to our raft even though I did a great job earlier this last fiasco made be nervous. We decided to land the boat on the back side of the raft and come up from the down stream side which is much easier. Still lots to learn I guess. I was shaken up by the whole ordeal that is for sure. I yelled to our neighbors whom I had just crashed into and said I would pay for the damage to the pole. They were nice about it and told me to talk to the owner tomorrow. I was afraid to look at my boat.

I was in a daze the rest of the evening. It was raining and cold and we stood on the end of the raft pumping our rods to the beat of the soft jazz music that was coming out of the outside speakers. All I could think about was the crash and how lucky we were that it didn’t turn out worse. I felt as if I violated the unspoken word in the land of the indigenize raft people. Maybe they would bring me before the tribal counsel and I would be voted off the island. ( Of course I tend to be a little hard on myself) A few beers later we did start to laugh about it. We continued to fish hard and  decided to wrap it up for a night since no one was getting any bites.

Well by 5 am we were up and fishing the next morning. The weather continued to be terrible. Wind gust were up to 40 mph and it was about 32 degrees.  It seemed even colder than the day before and the only time it quit raining was when the rain turned into ice pellets.  We could have  dealt with the temperatures much better if the wind wasn’t so strong. At one point I set my pole against the railing to fetch another minnow. The wind took the pole and whipped it to the ground and my jig head went flying and landed embedded in my cheek. Chris was able to pull it out as the barb had not gone through the skin.  These conditions were really rough. Good thing we were on the raft.

As we were fishing, we saw a boat come from another raft and find a patch of land about 6 feet long directly across from where we were. Soon there after a big lab jumps out and goes to the bathroom on the little section of land. That soon became Roxy and Keepers little bathroom oasis as well. They were very god through out the whole adventure.

We continued to fish all morning and the action was very slow. I had a big fish on for a short time and soon there after Chris was fighting a monster. I grabbed the camera and began to video tape. I have great footage of her fighting the fish. The fish jumped out of the water, ran down stream, came back and Betsy landed it in the net. It was really fun. Check out the video.

Betsy lands a nice one
We decided we wanted to stay another night and our other fishing buddy Holly was going to join us. We had to go back into town to restock supplies as we had only planned on being out there for a short time. Once on land, Chris had a family emergency and had to leave. That left Betsy and I along with the dogs. Holly was to arrive later. Betsy and I got back out to the raft and a short time later she hooked into a nice 20 plus inch walleye. She was thrilled. I missed one and the bites were very few and far between. It continued to rain and be down right miserable.

Steve and Debbie came back out and we began to talk about rafts and how they work as far as storing them, buying them and about the whole raft culture. It is a pretty amazing experience and if you ever get the chance to go, don’t pass it up. Debbie had brought us a pot of soup.  We told them the story of the night before when we crashed into the neighbors raft and broke his cane pole. Steve said things like that happened and one time he had 3 poles cracked off at the same time. He said  not to worry about it and I felt better. Steve fished for a bit and then they left to go out for a fish fry. A short time later we packed up the dogs and headed back to the landing to pick up Holly. The rain had started to freeze and it felt as if your were getting shot with a BB gun in the face when I was driving the boat. Even with the windshield it still managed to pelt me as I drove.

We picked up Holly and went back out to the raft. It was fun to watch her experience seeing the raft village for the first time and she also said it felt like we were in a bayou. We landed with out incident this time but pointed out the area we had crashed into the night before. The three of us donned all of our rain gear and began to fish hard for the rest of the evening. We never even had a  bite. I couldn’t believe it. It was one of those things that if we would have owned the raft, we would have said the hell with this and went to  our real homes, or out for a fish fry  with the rest of the WI residents. We felt we had to take full advantage of the situation as the opportunity would not come up again soon. It was windy, cold, rain or freezing rain, depending on the minute, and they were not biting. That my friends, is the story of my life. It is always, “you should have been here yesterday” along with some drastic extreme weather condition. It never seems to deter us as we keep coming back for more. One of these days things will change and everything will come together. We hit the sack for the night feeling defeated  and when we woke up the next morning the pouring rain continued.

We again donned the rain gear and fished hard for a few hours. A boat pulled up to the raft next door and I asked the guy if he owned the raft. He said he did and I preceded to tell him I broke one of his poles. His reply was “yeah I heard”. I told him I would be happy to pay for it and just to let me know, or tell Steve and Debbie and I would be happy to make it right. He said don’t worry about it. We fished for a couple more hours and finally we decided to bag it. Betsy tended to the inside clean up while Holly and I packed the boat and continued to fish when ever we walked by our rods.  Just as the last pole was loaded in the boat the rain turned to snow. Betsy shouted last call for the cabin and I got the dogs in the boat and we gathered the last minute items. I looked over to the neighbors raft and he was “pumping” on the side of his raft and sure enough bang, he had a fish. He pulled up a nice walleye, put it on a stringer and started fishing some more. He no more than got his line back in the water and bang, another fish on, which was soon another fish on the stringer. I immediately yelled to my pals, “hey maybe since the rain turned to snow the bite turned on. Lets keep fishing” Betsy said she locked up the raft with the keys inside so there we were, locked out, the bite was on but now we HAD to go. I couldn’t  make Keeper and Roxy sit in the boat getting pelting with snow as it was already covering the seats and the floor and Roxy was shaking in her coat as it was.

 So we left never knowing if we should have been there an hour later. But that’s why they call it fishing, and not catching.  We drove back to the landing, trailered the boat and drove into the Big Whopper Weekend tent and had a buffalo burger. And by the way, once the boat was trailered, I was able to check it for any damage from the dreaded crash incident. I am happy to say that the boat ended up only having a minor ding. Based on the force of the impact I was expecting  some major damage or even a hole but the boat held up to its name....Impact....leaves one and can take one. All in all it was a great experience in spite of the weather.  I would love to own one of the rafts of my own and get more women out there to have that experience. Of course better weather and biting fish would be helpful. Next time we will hammer them. Didn't I say that last time?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New Years Eve in a Sleeper Shack

WI Women Fish
New Years Eve in a Sleeper Shack
By Barb Carey

Our Women’s Fishing club recently had a trip to Lake Mille Lac’s in MN. The plan was to spend New Years Eve weekend in a sleeper shack and be able to fish 24 hours a day for the holiday weekend. To some, the idea sounded dreadful but to 20 brave souls it was the perfect way to bring in the New Year. We had Women join us from WI, MN and IL and some came from quite a distance.

Lake Mille Lac’s, along with several other MN Lakes has the reputation of having acres of frozen water with plowed roads, road signs and colorful ice shacks placed throughout the landscape. It often brings back thoughts of Grumpy Old Men and the history of this type of winter recreation goes back for generations. The Ice Houses these days are equipped with a variety of luxuries and some even have a satellite dish mounted on the outside. They come in a variety of colors and on your first trip out onto the ice it is not unlike visiting a foreign country where small different colored huts make up a village. There are some that are on special trailers that drop right down onto the ice and others look like mobile homes. Team loyalty is evident by the MN Viking shack as yes there was even a Green Bay Packer shack.

Our expectations were high which is a common symptom of most die hard anglers. Many of us had been looking forward to this trip all year and the video of the monster walleye catch from last years trip here teased us into a mouth watering frenzy.

The day came for us to leave for the trip and where I left from in South Central WI, it was pouring. I was confident in the fact that I was traveling 6 hours North and thought for sure it had to be snowing at our destination. The closer we got to Mille Lacs the harder it seemed to rain. I couldn’t believe it. As I drove on the way up, my cell phone started ringing and all the nervous callers where wondering if we were going to be able to go ahead with our plan. I contacted our hosts, Hunters Resort, and they told me the ice roads were closed to protect them but the ice was perfectly safe and they would get us out to our shacks with out a problem.

We arrived in Isle MN, home of Lake Mille Lac’s and it was just pouring. We stopped in the local bait store to get our out of state license and the clerks were kind enough to go in the back room and dig out some rain poncho’s for us to stay a little dry. We continued on to the the meeting spot, the bar at Hunters, and everyone pretty much was in a state of disbelief. The excitement could not be contained and it was obvious the show was going on no matter what Mother Nature threw at us. There was a 68 degree difference from this year from last year. Last year during our weekend there it was 30 below zero and now the temperature was 38 degrees.

We began the caravan out to our rental sleeper shacks which would be home for us for the next 3 nights. As we followed our escort out to the shacks we could not believe how much water was on top of the ice. As the trucks moved forward, a wake was created and it was of upmost importance to keep the speed under 10 mph to avoid doing more damage to the ice roads. For a minute I thought the TV show, Ice Road Truckers, has nothing on us. I has the urge to stop the truck and put on my Arctic Armor because a floating suit seemed like a good precaution in these conditions.

Our first stop was the 10 person shack, where many of the followers were to bunk. As we got out of the vehicles I noticed that there at least six inches of water on top of the ice. That meant as you walked on the ice your boots were actually under water and the water was so deep, it was coming over the top of my boots. This is when my thoughts went to our liability insurance policy and I hope I had enough coverage. The rest of us went to our shacks which were two 6 person shacks. The three shacks were set up about 2 miles out and were placed in a big triangle.

What surprised me at this point is that the excitement was still present, and there was a buzz in the air that couldn’t be suppressed. As soon as we were unloaded, my next problem was finding a place for my little 15 pound dog Roxy to go to the bathroom. If I put her down on the ground she would have had to swim in the icy water. I found a patch of snow still remaining in front of the shack and it was about that time when Wendy said “hey we can set tip ups there”. Sure enough the next thing I see is Wendy and Tara setting tip ups in the one small area of snow that remained in our area. As they knelt down on the snow it looked as if they were kneeling next to a river running as the wind was blowing the water to look like an actual current.

We managed to get unloaded in our shacks and began to peel off the wet clothes and boots. The first order of business was rigging up some clothes lines. The heat in the shacks is controlled by a a thermostat so we could set it where we wanted. As we nestled in our shacks we noticed that the temperature outside began to drop and the rain stopped.

The next morning we woke up and the lake looked like a normal frozen lake but there was not a speck of snow on it. Creepers were a must and everything that was left outside in the water was frozen into 4 inches of ice, including the trucks which had to be pulled out to dislodge the hold the lake had on them.

Friday was spent fishing of course and welcoming in the few that were unable to join us the night before. Once everyone was settled I went to check out the other shacks to see how things were going. I stopped in at the 10 person shack and found everyone tucked in tight. Some of the bunks were stacked three high and gear, food and women was scattered about. They had underwater cameras set up and flasher units going. There were crock pots and dice games and banners and smiles on everyones faces. The underwater camera showed big rocks and perch milling about with an occasional walleye. A variety of baits were put in from of their noses and it was soon determined that the smallest jigs were necessary to get any of the perch to bite. The walleye remained tight lipped.

In the other 6 person shack all the women were from MN so it was kind of their turf. As I visited with them I heard tales of last weekends outing where 40 - 50 walleye were caught on a different lake and it had a familiar feel like the old adage “ you should have been here yesterday”. I did find they were quite good anglers and a fun bunch to be around. We talked about having an outing on Saturday out to the “flats” to see if the fishing was any better out there and having them be familiar with the lake was a huge help.

Meanwhile back at our shack Wendy and Tara were tip up machines. From 6 am to midnight, they had tips ups in and checked them every 30 minutes. Many times the bait had been picked and they probably had over 25 flags over the weekend. Some of the flags there would be about 6 inches of line out and the bait would be gone. At one time we had 3 flags at once. The third flag was the charm, and a 20 inch walleye was hauled in by Wendy. Several big perch were caught as well the biggest being just shy of 12 inches.
So Saturday rolls around and the fishing is far to slow for our liking so we make a decision to head out to the flats to see what is happening out there. Now the temp is about 10 and its lightly snowing and after making the announcement I was shocked to see that there were 15 takers on the road trip. Our caravan started out and we were in 5 vehicles. As we left base camp the snow seemed to hover just on top of the lake in a manner that it looked like smoke. It would twist and turn and make little mini tornados.

The MN gals led the way and it seems as if we drove for miles. We crossed pressure cracks that were bridged, and it seemed like a lonely desolate place thats for sure. After we drove about 5 miles we began to see shacks on the horizon and stopped to have a brief consult and take a look at the gps map. We found a nice bit of structure in the flats and headed that way. Sure enough as we got close we noticed that there was a group of shack there, many permanent ones. We stopped on the spot and began to set up portable shacks. We had pop up shacks by Eskimo including a six, four, and three person types. These women jumped out of the vehicles and began popping up shacks and drilling holes and before you know it our own little red village was erected on the mighty Mille Lacs. With conditions such as these, you want shacks that go up fast, and the ice anchors that hold the shack really do the trick. The funny thing was is after we got all set up other shacks started arriving and setting up around us as if we were right on the hot spot.

Beth brought her under water camera and we had a view of the murky mud flats and spotted an occasional walleye milling about. The fish seems like they were not into eating anything and would not even react to a PK lure which always catches me fish. We up sized and down sized and changed baits and the fish seemed few and far between. The occasional sighting of one on the camera gave us hope but not a fish was caught out there. We did have some laughs, one at Barb’s expense when she almost took sail in her pop over shack. Good thing she fell out of it or it would have been more like ice boating. We did get a text from Tara with a picture of a jumbo perch and she said they were getting flags at base camp while we were gone.

Sure enough two hours into it the snow started and then the wind and before you knew it there was white out conditions. We made the call to bail out and before you knew it the shacks were down the trucks were packed and our caravan was on the way back to the sleeper shacks. This is one of those time when the magic of women working together really shines through. Every person pitched in, knew exactly what to do, and got the job done quick. I was so impressed with everyones ability to chip in and get things done in a Jiffy. And speaking of Jiffy, we just LOVE Jiffy’s new propane auger. One pull and it starts even in the extreme weather conditions.

The ride back was like you were in a desert but instead of blowing sand it was blowing snow. We passed a full sized passenger van that looked like it was lost and I think our caravan helped them get their bearings on where the road was. Thanks Cindy for leading the charge.

We all made it back safe and sound and got tucked into our sleeper shacks during what seemed like a mini blizzard. There was even a rainbow around the sun as it went down. It was beautiful. The night came upon us and a few wild card games were had and lots and lots of laughs. The women talked about how it felt like we were on a trip to the Arctic Circle and the conditions were so extreme we felt a sense of accomplishment for just surviving. That is one thing that some people don’t realize. This kind of stuff makes you feel alive. Its danger and excitement and hard work. Its takes fortitude, and courage and a passion that not everyone gets to enjoy. It would have been awful if just one of us would have been there but as a group, as a team, its a challenge that we were up for, that we conquered and are better because of it. We have made new friends, have wild stories to tell our Grandchildren and we did it. WE DID IT. Not bad for a bunch of old ladies and I use that term proudly.

So as far as the fishing it wasn’t that great. Several small walleyes, one 20 inches and numerous small perch. Most of the perch were very light biters, 5 inches or so and I wouldn’t have even been able to catch them if it wasn’t for my St Croix Ice Rod with the spring bobber. Four perch were of noteworthy size and somehow I ended up with them. Thanks gals. It was some consolation that the top guide that works out of there was also struggling to catch fish. We finished up the weekend with an awards ceremony. Once again Holly out did herself with the hand made trophies. Wendy and Tara’s non stop tip up dedication paid off and they took top walleye, top perch and the big fish pool. Pat received a special trophy and there are some things you just have to see in person to believe. I can safely say that everyone had a good time, new friendships were formed and WI Women Fish just got stronger. Women who ice fish are a special breed and I am proud to be one of them.

Barb Carey
WI Women Fish

Monday, April 5, 2010

Fishing Vacation - volume two

Georgia is beautiful this time of year. At least it is at the place I am staying. The large open porch overlooks channel off the main lake. In the channel, all sorts of wildlife seek refuge from the main lake. Majestic Blue Herons arrive down the center of the waterway suspended about 10 feet off the water going right past the pier. They land near the edges and fish for food. Cranes and an assortment of water birds meander throughout the cove. The birds are singing all the time and the rat a tat of the woodpeckers rounds out the assortment of birds sounds. All the bushes are blooming and the leaves are popping out on the trees. Tall pines and Oaks stand between the house and the water providing much needed shade. Trees with pretty purple flowers over look the water and the reflection bounces back off the water doubling the burst of color.

Even though I am on vacation I find myself getting up before 6 am. The early morning calm on the pier is to much of a draw to stay in bed. There are plenty of fish to be had without even having to go into the main lake. In fact, later in the day I can hear an occasional speed boat or jet sky and find I have no desire to leave the pier in search of fish elsewhere. Beside I am on a mission, to catch the ever evasive cat fish that stole my pole 3 years ago. I have affectionally named her Esmeralda. The cat fish not the pole.

It doesn’t take to long on our early morning fishing outing to land our first fish. Holly yelled fish on and I saw the tip of her pole bending and knew it was a good one. What ever it was, it wanted to stay at the bottom and it took some effort to get it to come to the surface. We thought it had to be a cat fish but when we scooped it in the net we both saw what looked like a bull head. The body was a yellow color and the tail area looked flat and rounded. It was the biggest bull head either of us had ever seen and rounded out at 18 inches. We let it go and continued to fish. Before to long our hosts, Trudy and Clare joined us.

Trudy had a piece of paper and pen in hand and was ready to keep track of all the fish that were caught. Neither Trudy nor Clare are very experienced anglers and we helped them get their rods set up to fish for pan fish. Trudy had her line in the water for less than five minutes when she pulled out a 9 inch blue gill. She was just dropping her line right next to the pier on the shore side and was able to catch several and so was Clare.

I was fishing with my St Croix Avid 9 1/2 foot “noodle” rod. I had a barrel weight, a bead, followed by a barrel swivel with a 3 foot leader line to my hook. My bait of choice was liver. That is what I was using when I lost my pole so I figured that is what the big cats ate. As my friends pulled in one blue gill after another and continued to get slash marks beside their name as I continued to not catch a thing. Imagine the ribbing I took from my friends who never fish, as I fish all the time and yet they were out fishing me 10 - 0.

Well the afternoon went on and everyone else caught fish. Holly pulled in another big one and we saw that it was another bull head. My friend Trudy said “that’s a cat fish.” We were planning on having a fish fry that night as we had brought some Walleye and Northern from Wisconsin as a treat for our friends. So we decided to keep that latest “cat” and Trudy caught another to add to the mix. She also landed a real nice 10 1/2 inch blue gill and Clare was able to catch a few to add to the dinner. So now in the live well we have about 10 nice blue gills and 2 big “cats” and I still have not caught a fish. Suddenly my pole bends, my bell rings and I grab the rod and yell ” fish on “. The drag on my rods squeals and after a quick adjustment the fish is headed my way. I could tell is was a big cat how it hugged tight to the bottom and the fight was on to bring it up. It started to head towards the shore and when there wasn’t much I could do to stop it. The next thing I knew it was under the pier I was standing on and a moment later my line was snapped. AH crap. Dang. And Trudy says, “so Barb how many have you caught”. Ergh....

I tied on a new set up and sticking with my chicken livers, threw my line back out there. A short time later my bell rings again. This time I am reeling in I can tell its a good size one but not the weight of the last fish I had on. I had total control this time and was confident I would soon be on the board. As it got near the pier and began to surface I have to admit I let out a scream. A turtle! Yes I had just caught my first turtle. We netted the poor creature and cut the line at the mouth as it had swallowed the bait beyond our ability to retrieve it and we didn’t want to hurt it. We let it go and it swam away.

That was it for the day and I was still not on the board. We had to stop and clean our days catch and get ready for our dinner party. We did fry up the four kinds of fish and it was fun to do a comparison to see which people liked the best. The winner by a land slide was the walleye. I felt lucky I lived in a place where they are available.

So day two at our little private resort. I still had not caught a fish and was to stubborn to attempt to redeem myself as well as my reputation. I could have changed over and began to fish for blue gills just to prove that I could catch a fish. But my grudge with Esmeralda was greater that my embarrassment of not catching any fish so far. The day went a little better as I was able to catch a couple more of those yellow looking cat fish and I did land a blue gill so at least the pressure was off to actually catch a fish. We were getting a little to much sun and decided to take a mid day break and try our luck in the evening.

We got back out onto the pier about 5 P.M. and I started to get my rods set up. I noticed a plastic pop bottle in the water and went to get the net to retrieve the litter floating near the shore line. As I walked toward the bottle all of a sudden it shot under water and disappeared. Holy Crap. What the hell! Then it dawned on me that sometimes people in the south “jug” fish and this could be someone jug with a fish on it. Of course I immediately felt bad for the poor fish and shouted to Holly to alert her my find.

We both scanned the water looking for the bottle to pop back up and sure enough, down the shore line about 75 feet it popped out about 2 feet off shore. We ran off the pier and down the shore line following the pop bottle down the shore. Holly jumped in the water and almost had it in reach but it shot out about 10 feet and started headed toward the pier. Sure enough it got right next to pier but by the time we ran back over there it had disappeared under the pier. Holly decided to jump in the Kayak and I grabbed the net and stayed near the shore. Sure enough we saw it pop out again 25 feet away and Holly paddled over towards it. The bottle doubled back headed for shore and ended up in a cement area near the boat house. I grabbed the net and was able to trap the bottle next to the cement and hold it there till Holly arrived and grabbed it. She pulled the bottle up and low and behold there was Esmeralda. A beautiful grey cat fish 28 inches long and 8.8 pounds. Now this was a cat fish. And a nice one. I still felt bad for the poor thing and can see now why some states ban jug fishing. There doesn’t seems to be a lot of control over the “jugs” and who knows how long the poor fish has been swimming around stuck to that bottle. Needless to say the fish earned its freedom and was released. The funny part was that we realized that, THAT was a cat fish and the other yellow things we were catching ( and eating) were bull heads. AS Holly said , well they tasted good so who cares. We have one more day here before we head to TyBee Island to fish the ocean. I hope my luck improves there. We also realized that we forgot to take any pictures of Flossy, our plastic geo cache find. I wish I would have thought of it at the time as we could have set on on the back of the big cat fish we caught. I will also try to upload some of the photos I have taken onto the blog photo slide show. In the mean time I think I’ll take a nap. I love vacation.