Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cadillac-too cold to fish!

   Last week i was ice fishing on Lake Mitchell in Cadillac. The days and nights were extremely cold. With winds blowing at 5-mph the wind chill factor dipped to -25. That's cold.
   So cold that when tip ups were pulled from the ice the line froze solid as a rock within a couple of minutes.
   Fish didn't flop on the ice. Instead, they folded up partially and went into a dormant state until released back into the water.
   I was going to begin this by asking what is the most important piece of equipment an ice fisherman should have but thought better of it with those cold temperatures.
  Those days on the lake probably a good face covering of some sort; balaclava, knitted scarf or some other protection was vital to protect the skin was almost immediate frost bite.
   A portable shack of some kind was required just to break the wind. And as good heater to take some of the cold off was also on that list.
   In past days, I would sit on a bucket fishing out of Bayport or Caseville in weather similar to this. But not anymore. With age has come the need for a bit of comfort.
   By the way, we did see one person sitting outside on a bucket. That is true dedication!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Can't ski? Head for the Zip line at Boyne Mountain

Zip lines are like the newest in thrill rides that requires no skills for the thrills it provides. Read this Sunday's column to see what "zipping" is all about and get your questions answered about this activity.
And if that isn't on your bucket list maybe snowshoeing might be a good way to go if you absolutely won't or can't ski.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Everyone is talking weather

   These cold temperatures we've been experiencing have been the talk wherever you go. At Cadillac this week, anglers from around the state attending Mark Martin's ice fishing school were well prepared for cold weather.
   Or so they thought. When 7a.m. rolled around Monday morning, the first day of fishing, snowmobiles, ATV's ice augers and other related ice fishing equipment just wouldn't start.
   Some machines took a lot of coaxing before finally turning over then starting. It became such a concern that many anglers left machine running while they fished.
   Other equipment that was affected by the weather were heaters, reels, rod guides, tip ups and zippers on ice shacks. Whatever could go wrong did go wrong.
   Fishing with Casey Miller and Mike Russell our breakdowns were ice shanty related in the form of support poles freezing up.
   Then there was the fish, the reason we were gathered on Lake Mitchell to begin with. Action was spotty. Some caught one legal-size fish while others caught a pile of really small panfish and perch.
   I fished from 7:30a.m.-6p.m., without even having so much as a bump. I changed lures several times, different jigging methods were tried and even the use of live bait wouldn't bring them in.
   We changed locations thinking we might do better on another part of the lake that had been productive on previous outings. The result was the same-zero.
   That make for a long, cold day. So long that you run out of stories to tell. The onset of sub zero weather definitely put a crimp on the fishing action for a few days around Cadillac.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Fish not biting? Don't be afraid to change

   CADILLAC-Change is something many of us have a difficult time dealing with. We get comfortable with doing the same thing over and over whether it be in the workplace or home life.
   The same is true when ice fishing. We get in the habit of cutting a hole, setting the shack up, getting the heater going, then sitting down for hours of jigging.
   Up and down, up and down the rod goes. Sometimes the jigging method is changed; like a couple of sharp raps or pounding the bottom to stir things up.
   The pro staff at Mark Martin's Ice Fishing Vacation School all said the same thing when asked to talk about their individual experience.
   Don't be afraid to change. If something isn't working in a few minutes then change it up. Try a different lure or color, when possible go top lighter line. Keep changing and moving around, maybe just a few feet, then try it again.
   Don't count on sitting in the shack until you find fish. An when you do, cut a second hole for a dead stick.
   That's a rod with a lure or maybe a piece of bait on the hook lowered down to just a few inches from the bottom. While you are jigging in another hole, this rod or dead stick hangs there.
   When fish come in, usually they will look at the bait that is being jigged then shoot right over to the dead stick and take off with it. You'll may find you'll get more fish on that second rod than the jigging rod.
   Change it up. Go to another color., different lure or move a few feet or a couple of yards and try it again until you find fish.
   Good luck!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Losing someone, never easy

   Losing someone close; a family member or a good friend, is never easy. It's especially made all the more difficult when the loss of someone has nothing to do with poor health or otherwise natural causes.
   With long time ice fishing buddy Dan Winsemius from Twin Lakes near Muskegon death wasn't the cause of anything natural. No, this was done intentionally.
   Dan and I hit it off right away after meeting about 10 years ago. We've shared an ice shanty at one of Mark Martin's Ice Fishing Vacation Schools ever since.
   Dan and 10 of his friends were on a motorcycle trip after exiting the ferry in Wisconsin. Somewhere around Fond du Lac,  driver in a car headed the opposite way, swerved into Dan's lane taking out all 10 motorcycles. Dan died at the scene.
   Dan was a careful, experienced motorcycle rider. This was a tragic situation. Far from an accident it is being described as intentional.
   There aren't enough laws, nor punishment for someone who would do something like this. This senseless act was and continues to have far-reaching implications for those who knew Dan and his family.
   My condolences are with the Winsemius family. My column will have more about Dan in this Sunday's Oakland Press.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

It's alway the little things that count

   "Take a look at those rods and how they are rigged. Don't just glance at them then pass them around," a passionate Mark Martin instructed the audience of students during a seminar at Lake Gogebic for ice fishing.
   Martin's point to be sure was walleye professionals that were assembled were actually showing their equipment, how it was rigged, and how they are successful through the ice.
   "They all have a little different method," Martin said. That's the beauty and one of the secrets for attending these schools. No matter how much experience you have, there is always something to learn.
   "Look at the line on those rods. Pay attention to the terminal tackle and the leaders. Look at the length of the leaders. They are random; some two feet, others three inches. They are cut to a certain size for a reason," Martin said.
   "These guys come here with their tool boxes (tackle box), open them up and show you what they use and what works. You need to pay attention and take some notes," he said.
   After all, this is a little like school. You're there to learn. That is the best advice I've heard in a long time; take some notes, and secondly pay attention. Don't just pass a rod around.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Zipping" around Boyne Mountain when snow becomes iffy

    A lack of snow at Boyne Mountain last week didn't keep some folks indoors.  Some went horseback riding, while others hit the trails either snowshoing or Nordic walking.
   Nordic or race walking is simply walking with ski poles. Sounds weird to be using poles without skis, but it's been around for sometime and in countries like Germany, is a way of life.
   Poles give walkers more of a workout because the arms become engaged more to move the poles. Besides being a good addition to walking, using poles is great for older walkers who may have balance problems or others recovering from injuries.
   Nordic walking actually came about when Nordic or downhill skiers became injured and couldn't ski while recovering.
   To maintain conditioning, athletes determined that walking with poles helped to  maintain aerobic endurance thereby making an eventual return to actually skiing a much easier transition.
   But if none of those activities do much for you, make a reservation to view the ski slopes from a zip line.
   Boyne Mountain, near Gaylord, has ten zip lines, nine of which are in operation over the winter. So what is a zip line?
   It's a cable stretched between two trees. The cable is high above the ground or ski slope and often runs through a wooded area.
   Persons using a zip line do so under the individual supervision of a guide. The guide makes sure your harness is worn properly, is adjusted to fit you, and when in comes time, sees that you are connected to the cable in a proper and safe way.
   Two different heavy duty cords-one with a pulley and the other with a clip-attach to the front of your harness. The guide hooks the pulley on the cable then follows up with the second or back-up line that clips over the pulley.
   You, the rider is standing on a platform waiting to be told it's OK to go. You'll step off the platform dropping down a few feet until the cable takes hold, your pulley kicks in and you are off for the ride of your life.
   At the other end are two more members of the guide team. One slows and eventually brings you to a stop by operating a brake. The other guide makes sure you are standing before unclipping you from the cable.
   About the second line we were hooking up to, or guide explained how to ride upside down. Later, he showed us ow to do a somersault.
  There's no pressure. You leave platforms when you are ready. Ride the lines in the harness or try some of the tricks you see others do.
   So, never fear if snow conditions become desperate. If you are visiting Boyne Mountain near Gaylord or Boyne Highlands near Petoskey, head for the zip lines. It's a different view of the slopes and a guarantee of an exciting ride.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Real Magic works like magic

   The next time the zipper on your ice shack freezes up so you can't close the door all the way give it a spray of Real Magic.
   Real Magic is the same stuff anglers use on rod guides to prevent ice forming in the guides. Real Magic has been used for years to keep reels operating smoothly.
   The next use for Real Magic has been to spray it on line to keep it from forming memory. It does not prevent line twist.
   But it will help make those long casts smooth, and waterproofs any kind of line and even flies to make them float better. UV protection is provided making the damage to line minimal extending line life.
   Walleye professional Mark Martin uses the stuff liberally even spraying it in the hole he's fishing from to keep the hole from freezing,
   "I spray it right on the line on my reels," he said. "You should use it on anything with a zipper like boots or shoes or jackets."
   If it's good enough for Martin it's got to be good enough for us amateurs.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

High winds affects tip up action

  Monday morning ice anglers on Lake Gogebic were greeted with 20 mph winds with gusts much higher. On the ice it became difficult to see due to blowing snow.
   Using power augers, holes were rapidly cut for tip ups only to fill in with snow and slush practically refreezing.
   Once tip ups were placed they became difficult to locate due to high winds blowing snow back over them cover flags and all the rest. In fact several flags went up indicating a fish, without anyone knowing as they were covered up.
   Another difficulty for tip up anglers occurred when they lifted the tip up out of the hole. Almost immediately the reel and all the line on it froze solid in a ball making the rig useless until it could be thawed out.
   Tip up tip: In these conditions, if you fish with tip ups as soon as you pull one out of the water immerse it in a minnow bucket that has water in it. The cold water will prevent both reel and line from freezing.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Lake Gogebic-a fishing challenge

   Many anglers coming from downstate have heard what a great fishery Lake Gogebic is. It can be all of that or it can go the other way and make you work for what you get.
   We are in the first day of Mark Martin's Ice Fishing Vacation School. So far the fish are ahead on the scorecard.
   Yesterday afternoon, Sunday, the class sat in a classroom and listened to several anglers discuss their own methods of ice fishing, how they rigged their lines and what lures produced for them.
   But all through these lectures, safety was always stressed. For some reason a couple of people in the group couldn't understand that we all left, fished and returned together. None of this going off on your stuff.
   After Martin interjected some pointed thoughts directed at the people who thought they new better, an understanding was finally met. It came when Martin told them, "If you don't like it then go home. We don't want you here."
   Following the presentations, staff were available the rest of the afternoon, until supper time, to help students rig lines and tie baits on.
   Monday morning following breakfast a line of 4-wheelers and snowmobiles were lined up, chomping at the bit to try out the things they had learned so far.
   With winds reaching 20 mph, anglers were in a hurry to cut holes and get fish shacks up to break the strong winds.
   While there were many bites reported there were that many short fish caught. However a few large perch, some eater size walleye and the occasional northern pike made up the morning catch.
   We'll see what the late afternoon bite has in store.

Friday, January 4, 2013

No ice is safe ice

   Sadly, with the recent tragedy here in Oakland County, another lesson is hopefully learned. That is there is no such thing as truly safe ice.
   Several inches may be OK for walking only while several more may allow for the weight of ATV's and snowmobiles. But there are a lot of 'if's' that involve having  safe experience on the ice.
   Wearing a PFD or life preserver is paramount. That means it's the first piece of vital equipment anyone venturing onto the ice should consider wearing.
   This is definitely not the time of the year when a PFD can be stowed in a spot in the shanty or in your bucket. This is the time it needs to be worn.
   If you should go through the ice you won't have enough time to put it on, snap the buckles while at the same time trying to get yourself out of the water.
   In the years I've been ice fishing I've probably seen two anglers wearing a PFD. One was on Saginaw Bay and the other I can't remember.
   The guy on the Bay stood out from everyone else because of his use of a PFD. But no one pointed it out or teased him for wearing it. Instead, many of us were thinking maybe we should have one on.
   Wearing a PFD won't guarantee safe ice. But it will allow you to gain a little time should the unfortunate befall you.
   You're going to need all the extra time you can get to save your life or someone else's. And those 'if's" previously mentioned?
   How thick is the ice and what if it's snowed, has that affected conditions? What if there are underground springs or running water in the form of a stream or river running through the lake/ How will that affect conditions?
   The list goes on. What appears to be good, solid ice where you are currently standing may be open water or very thin ice just a few steps in either direction.
   Be safe on the ice. Break the PFD out, toss a length of rope in your bucket, and carry ice picks or a couple of screw drivers hung around your neck on a length of thin cord or some other material.
   Don't become another statistic this winter. Safe fishing!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Resolutions-good idea or not so much?

    The beginning of the new year brings on thoughts of resolutions. The feeling seems to be that with the new year, a new start in life is a good thing.
   Almost like going to confession or observing Lent, many people resolve to give something up they enjoy or begin doing an activity they have been putting off.
   Quitting smoking, losing wight and beginning an exercise program rank near the top of the list people annually mention as resolutions.
   Without a firm commitment, dedication to making a positive change, or a realistic view of what it is you wish to accomplish, you're probably already doomed to fail.
   Gyms are probably full of well intentioned people who sign up with hopes of losing weight and getting in better shape.
   By the time February rolls around the ones that remain will be the same people that have been there well before the new year with the exception of a few hardy souls that stick it out.
   One other factor that can account for success is to surround yourself with people who think similarly to you.
   If you are going to get back to physical activity get in a gym with qualified trainers. Forget treating the gym experience as a way to pick up a new date
   You're there for ulterior motives, namely to improve you health, change lifestyle, and live better allowing you to do more things than you once were.
   Remember, you don't have to wait for New Year's day to make positive changes in your life. Once you decide to make a change commit to it, stay positive and surround yourself with like-thinking people.
   The results will speak for themselves.