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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Toast to a Good Dog

Those that know me well, know that I place dogs above most humans in terms of my respect [Dogs]. A good friend recently lost his best friend, and I was at a loss for words on how to console him. Consoling isn't something guys like to do over the phone or via text, especially when it involves the loss of a dog. There is nothing that helps better than a fire, a stiff drink, and re-telling of old hunting stories that each has heard over a dozen times.

Yet, when you have hunted over another person's dog, you share more than the hunt. You get to watch how they react as kindred spirits; the hunt is but a small part of how the two behave together. So I felt that the story telling we all share needed something more. After much time spent searching online for an appropriate toast in which to bemoan the loss of a best friend, I was at a loss.

So, I decided to write my own. Please feel free to share and use as needed:

To bird dogs old and new
and the good ones, which are so few
Tonight we raise our glasses,
in remembrance of hunts in tall grasses
May you meet birds flying far and wide
yet, know it means nothing without you by my side
I can't wait to see you again, my friend
so we can get a few more birds 'round the next trail's bend

Dogs truly make everyone around them better people just because of their very nature. They love everyone that even shows them the littlest bit of kindness; whether it be a treat, a pat on the head, or the squeal of excitement a kid lets out when a dog comes running up to lick them. There is no lack of love in a dog’s heart, and though they live far too short of lives, they can teach us so much.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Long-Line Slabs

Long-Line Slabs
Bob Bohland

Spring crappie fishing is some of the easiest fishing most anglers will ever experience. Crappies move shallow and are more than willing to bite any offering that comes within reach. Yet, when the spawn comes to an end a large majority of anglers have no clue how to target them once they move off of their shallow beds and spread out in the water column.

As the spawn wraps up, the crappies will push out onto mid-depth flats and spread out. They have expended a lot of energy and need to rest and regain the calories they have burned. Luckily, the end of their breeding activities coincides with many bug hatches. So they can suspend along these flats and gorge themselves on insects and the baitfish that also come to feed. Finding areas that are holding these fish is fairly simple with today's electronics, cruise around flats adjacent to spawning areas and look for balls of bait and scattered marks.

Early in the season, a slow non-aggressive approach is best, as these slabs are simply looking for an easy meal. Later in the season, crankbaits and stickbaits can work wonders, however, before Mid-July I prefer a large plastic such as a Lindy Watsit Grub on a 1/32 or 1/48 ounce jig. The movement this seemingly oversized plastic gives with it's six small insect-like arms on the sides and a thin tail that ripples and undulates in the water just demands crappies attack it. Trolling at speeds from .25 to .75 MPH seems to work best, but don't be afraid to experiment with speeds and turns. If you are getting bites on a rod on the inside of every turn, that means you should slow down your presentation. Conversely, if you are getting a bite from the outside rod on turns, speed your boat up a bit.

One of, if not the most important aspect of this type of fishing is the action of your rod. A fast action rod, will cause you to lose a lot of fish. They are called “Papermouths” for a reason, and if your rod doesn't offer enough give, hooks will rip right out of the fish's mouth as you are reeling them in. While I prefer a longer rod (up to 11 feet), a six footer is plenty as long as it has almost the same action as a wet spaghetti noodle.

Most of the bites you get from crappies while trolling in this manner will not feel like a bite. There will just all of a sudden be weight as the rod bends back. At this point, you don't even have to set the hook, just simply start reeling the fish in. By using underwater cameras in clear water, we have been able to watch how the fish bite, and all they do is speed up a little to catch the bait, open their mouths and stop to look for the next easy meal to happen upon their location.

Color selection is generally based on water clarity. If the water you are fishing in is clear, go with more natural colors such as brown and orange or black and chartreuse. If your water is dirty or bog-stained you are going to want a color that attracts attention such as pink and white. Contrast of colors can also make a big difference, so I will tend to use a different color jighead that is different than the color of the Watsit Grub I am using. As a general rule, most of the crappies that you catch in this manner will be larger. It isn't very often that smaller fish will suspend on these flats due to the predators that will also inhabit these areas. The smaller fish tend to stick near the safety of the weed edges.

Now is the time to get out and explore those mid-depth flats. The larger crappies will hang out in these areas until the end of August, so get out there and establish your pattern for these big, lazy fish. Trolling for crappies means the difference between sorting through smaller fish for a meal and showing off photos of slabs to everyone back at the landing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Livewell Blog Mid-Summer Edition

I recently moved to northwest Minnesota, which is a little bit of a culture shock, as the town I currently live in has only 40 people. The hardest part though, is learning all these new lakes and small ponds. Anyways, it is time to get this Q&A going, I would like to make this more regular, so, if you have some questions, ridiculous or not, send it to me via Twitter: @dropshotbob with the #livewellblog hashtag, or for questions that cannot be contained by 140 characters, by email at I will try to do my best to answer them to the best of my abilities, hopefully you find some information that you can use on the water, as well as a little humor.

What are your top three crappie lures?

This is a tough question to answer, as there are a variety of ways to fish crappies depending on the time of year. However, here are three that should catch you fish at some point:

Rebel Tracdown Minnow.

This stickbait allows an angler to cover a large area relatively fast. This is especially necessary right in the spring as panfish are spread out over weedy flats chasing down prey. At this time of the year, it is very unlikely to come across a concentration of fish, so the more water you can cover, the more aggressive fish you are likely to come across. I prefer the 2.5” size, but they are made in sizes from 1 5/8” all the way to 3.5”.

They also work great for trolling in mid summer when the crappies are sitting along weedlines in ambush points waiting for prey to stumble by.

Lindy Watsit Grub

The first time I tried this bait, I thought it was so ridiculous looking that I almost refused to even bother. Imagine a creepy crawler experiment gone awry, that is what this plastic looks like. However, the slow fall and undulating parts somehow turns into crappie suicide when it hits the water. Need to fish it deep, put a heavier jig on, wanna go shallow, just pair it with a lighter jighead. Whether you plan to cast it, pitch it, jig it in deep water, or troll it, crappies get stupid at the sight of this goofy lure.

Hair jig and a bobber

This old standby is a classic for a reason, when you need to hover a bait in front of inactive fish to get them to bite, reach for this combo. I tie my own hair jigs, but you can buy a huge assortment of them from almost any baitshop. Pair them with a clip-on foam float and you are ready to catch panfish until your hands are raw!

If I catch too many walleyes, can I have a couple of them self-identify as northerns?

Hmm, not entirely sure the DNR would go along with this idea, especially since fish don't start to talk until you have had at least 15 beers in you while in the boat. But, if you want to try it, let me know if it works. I am curious to see if you get a simple fine or locked up in the looney bin.

What do you do to prepare your rods, reels, line? New line every year?

New line every year?!? That just seems crazy, I have to spend a dollar or two per year on every rod and reel combo I own? Let's forget that some of these combos can run upward of $300, and that the line is the only thing standing in between you and losing a fish, $2 once or twice a year is ridiculous, especially considering how much you might spend on a fishing trip when you include gas, resort, food, bait, and new tackle that a local bait shop suggested.

Sound ridiculous? This idea is far more prevalent in the majority of fisherman than you might think. On reels that I use mono, copolymer, or fluorocarbon, I will change them two to three times a year, sometimes even more. The sun can wreak havoc on these lines drastically reducing their strength over time, so the longer you have that line on, the more likely a fish is going to break you off.

As for the so-called “superlines” such as Fireline, Spiderwire, and Sufix, I will only change once every 3-5 years depending on how often I use it. These lines last forever and the sun has very little effect on them. One great trick you can use to extend the lifespan of braids is to reverse them on the spool. Do this by taking an empty reel and tying the line from a full reel and spooling it on to the empty one.

Are you unsure about the age of your line or worried it might have become nicked while reeling in a fish, or in my case a stick you snagged, cut the last 5-10 feet off and stick it in your pocket. The last few feet of fishing line always receive the brunt of the punishment.

What is a better boat beer: High Life or PBR?

Pabst Blue Ribbon? Seriously? Are they still hanging onto the one award they won back in 1893? Maybe it is time to move on guys. I am not sure why hipsters chose such a terrible beer to bring back ironically when there are so many actual good beers available. PBR in a boat is now only consumed by guys wearing a sportcoat and swim trunks while putt-putting around on daddy's antique wooden boat.

Miller High Life is a great beer to have in the boat, second only to Premium in my opinion. The great thing about living the High Life, is that when you get into a school of fish that are biting like crazy and you forget about your beer, High Life still goes down smoothly when it is warm. Whereas, PBR, will make you gag more than a little unless it is ice cold.

This question is based entirely on these two beers and enjoying them solely on a boat, which is ludicrous. It is 2015, there are so many amazing beers available now. You just have to remember the basic beer rules, the warmer it is, the cheaper your beer is allowed to be. If it is over 100 in early August and you are on the water, I will not look down on you for having your livewell filled with nothing but ice and Lost Lake Lager. Just make sure you have a tetanus shot before drinking that swill (seriously, if you have tried it, you will understand).

As far as outside of the boat, this is when the craft beers really shine. When you are cleaning a mess of fish for the fish fry that night, it is pretty difficult to stop and take a sip of beer with hands covered in fish slime, scales, and blood. But, when those fish hit the batter and go into their hot oil bath, nothing beats a good IPA or stout.

When will there be ice?

Hopefully very soon, until then all we can do is think cold thoughts. It's not that I don't like summer, it's just that I hate biting insects. They drive me completely insane. In winter, all you have to worry about biting you is snow snakes, and Snowshoe Grog is a much better repellent than DEET or a Thermacell.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

On Mn Statute 86B.13

Picking Apart MN 86B.13

Bob Bohland

The Minnesota Legislature passed a law involving invasive species that goes into effect January 1, 2015. While many elected official may think that something like this is the solution to the problem, the problem lies in the fact that elected officials know little to nothing about biology. Granted, there may be a few representatives that have a biology background, perhaps even fewer that have an environmental background, however, the majority voted on this (whether their vote be yay or nay) based on constituent feedback or even worse, political motivation.

So, here I sit, bored with nothing to do, and more than willing to pick apart every single part of this bill. And, it is just that, political legislation, not designed by biologists from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, but from elected officials. The same elected officials that just want it to appear that they are doing something, whether it be the right thing or not, to their constituents.

Here is the entire bill as it pertains to Minnesota law, effective January 1, 2105 with my notes beneath the subdivisions:


Subdivision 1.Establishment. The commissioner shall establish a statewide course in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species. The commissioner must develop an educational course and testing program that address identification of aquatic invasive species and best practices to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species when moving water-related equipment, as defined under section 84D.01, subdivision 18a.

Of note, while the current commissioner (Tom Landwehr) is a fantastic individual for the position and has done more than his share of good for Minnesota's natural resources, the commissioner's office is politically appointed. While I am not entirely sure, at this time, what a better way to appoint a natural resources head would be; the fact that an elected official has the ability to put any chrony in charge of the most valuable thing the state of Minnesota has scares the hell out of me. The potential abuse of this power should concern everyone that hunts, fishes, or uses our public lands.

Subd. 1a.Training for offenders. A person who is convicted of or subject to a final order for a violation of chapter 84D involving water-related equipment must successfully complete the training course in subdivision 1 before continuing operation or use of water-related equipment.

So, the only fine/sentence for not complying with the law that requires you to take such a class and place a decal on your trailer would be to demand you take the class and place a decal on your trailer?

This is the equivalent of the police pulling someone over that does not have a driver's license and then telling them that they need to go take a course to get a driver's license. There is no bite in this law. Unless you are willing to punish the people that break this law, there is not a single person that will abide by it.

Subd. 2.Aquatic invasive species trailer decal. The commissioner shall issue an aquatic invasive species trailer decal for each trailer owned by a person that satisfactorily completes the required course of instruction.

Oh great, I really hope this will be different than the last trailer decal that the DNR was forced to issue to the public. How many thousands of dollars that could have been spent towards clean water initiatives, land acquisitions, or habitat rehabilitation were wasted on this boondoggle that was almost immediately scrapped?

Furthermore, this decal as the statute states is only needed for each individual trailer. In my family alone, there are more than 11 people with the capabilities to tow one of our boats. So only the primary owner of the boat needs to take this online class? What about children of the owner of the boat? So, the mother or father takes the class, gets the decal, and now the moron 16 year old-whatever child of theirs is immune to the rules of this new law unless by happenstance they get checked by one of the few Conservation Officers the state employs?

Subd. 3.Contracting for services. The commissioner may contract for services to provide training and testing services under this section.

The commissioner may... Well, since the Minnesota DNR doesn't really have the budget to employee a contingent of IT professionals that are able to set aside the GIS projects that are truly needed for this state; they will have to farm this out. Great, more money taken from the limited budget the DNR has to police the outdoors of this state, obtain new lands, and continue to improve existing lands.

Meanwhile, the legislators are demanding taxpayers build them a new office building that costs almost $100 million dollars. Let that sink in for a second. $100 MILLION DOLLARS!! Can you imagine what the environmental community could do for our resources in Minnesota with even half of that? This building wasn't even put to a vote for the general public.

Subd. 4.Aquatic invasive species trailer decal display required. (a) A person may not transport watercraft or water-related equipment, as defined under section 84D.01, subdivision 18a, with a trailer unless the person has an aquatic invasive species trailer decal issued under this section. Temporary authorizations valid for seven days can be requested by persons that have not completed the required course of instruction.

(b) Aquatic invasive species trailer decals are valid for three years.

(c) The aquatic invasive species trailer decal must be adhered to the side of the trailer frame tongue near the hitch in a manner that it is readily visible and does not interfere with the display of any registration requirements under section 169.79.

(d) Aquatic invasive species trailer decals are not transferable.

(e) Violation of this section shall not result in a penalty, but is punishable only by a warning.

Temporary authorizations for seven days? I am not sure about you, but in a good day, I can fish 4-7 lakes during open water when I am really searching out a pattern. On top of that, will this information be available to all potential tourists traveling in or through the state? Again, a new website, decal/license program will have to be created by the DNR to allow for these temporary authorizations, money that isn't coming from/nor added to by the state legislature.

Valid for three years, but not transferable? How are you able to prove that? According to every part of this statute the only thing that will be checked is the trailer decal. There will be no provision to place the proof that you completed this program on your driver's license like there is with Firearm's Safety, Snowmobile Safety, ATV Safety, etc.
And here we come to the most poignant part of this ridiculous statute: “Violation of this section shall not result in a penalty, but is punishable only by a warning.”

Really? So, we are gonna go through the trouble of passing this law at the expense of the taxpayers. Not just once though, we are also paying for when the legislators when they are in session voting on such a ridiculous bill, we are also paying for DNR enforcement of this new law (which amounts to nothing but shaking a finger at an offender), the cost to institute the online class for both residents of Minnesota and all the tourists, the cost to print the decals, etc. Keep in mind, that we already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on printing now defunct decals required by the same legislature be place on boats.

All this amounts to is a giant, “look, we tried to do something, don't blame us” from the Minnesota legislature. The funny thing is, that with all of the smoke and mirrors the Minnesota legislature works, all of the blame and shame will be passed on to the Department of Natural Resources. Keep in mind that there is a very large cost associated with this new law. Some of which will be forced onto the consumers of our state's natural resources, due to the fact that the DNR needs to hold some money back to actually do what they are supposed to do: protect and manage our outdoor community. The DNR does not stand to gain a dime off of this new law, at best, they will only have to eat half of the cost of this program. But, at what cost to the environment they are supposed to help protect?

Maybe, just maybe, it is time to take the responsibility of the greatest resource our state has out of the hands of people that received their positions based on empty promises and lies, and place them in the hands of the biologists, the natural resources professionals, and the nonprofits (Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, The Ruffed Grouse Society, Recycled Fish, etc.) that have spent their lives studying the science of protecting what we have, and what we need to protect to continue the legacy of outdoors the voters on Minnesota swore to protect with Constitutional Amendments passed in 1998 and again in 2008.

Another thing of note, these are the same people that set up the State Lottery for the protection of our natural resources. They then later amended this statement to include economic resources. Due to their pillaging and plundering only 6 cents of every dollar spent on lottery tickets is spent on natural resources, while according to the Mn Lottery website, "The remaining 60 percent of net proceeds is allocated to the state General Fund to pay for programs related to public education, health and human services, and public safety, among others."

60 PERCENT! The lottery was originally passed as something to fund the DNR and natural resources protection. This lottery started in 1989, and already they have found a way to take more than half of the proceeds from its original intent.

Repeal this stupid law, and hand the real punitive action to the people that actually and understand the science of it all.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Livewell Blog: Odd Times on the Ice

While this winter, may be a little weird to some, this is the greenest my lawn has ever been! There are lots of fun things going on in the fishing world currently and you want to hear aboot them, right? So, if you have some questions, ridiculous or not, send it to me via Twitter: @dropshotbob with the #livewellblog hashtag, or for questions that cannot be contained by 140 characters, by email at I will try to do my best to answer them to the best of my abilities, hopefully you find some information that you can use on the water, as well as a little humor.

What is proper etiquette when a buddy invites you to meet him up north & spend the weekend using his Ice Castle? 6 pk of beer? Case?

How big of a partier is your friend? If he is the kind of guy who worries more aboot catching bottle bass than actual fish, a case plus a bottle might be in order. I don't think you need to bring him a case of craft beer or anything, just whatever kind of cheap domestic he prefers. To be honest, if he knows you well enough to invite you up fishing for the weekend, you damn well better know what kind of beer he prefers. If someone invites you for several days of fishing in a confined space in the middle of nowhere and you don't know them well enough to know their beer preference, you shouldn't go. Otherwise your organs will be harvested for the North Korean black market (yeah, I said it, you whiny little douches, come hack my blog, your gibberish might provide some actual good content that people will read).

Now bottle choice is dependent on your tastes. This is where you get to show off with your “fancy taste buds” all the while knowing that you would never buy a bottle of Maker's Mark or Buffalo Trace for yourself, that crap is expensive! Best to save those purchases for deer camp and the occasional fishing trip, you know, when it is time to experience the finer things in life like sitting in the middle of nowhere in silence.
Now, if your friend isn't a huge party guy, but just enjoys having a cold beer in their hand to help balance out the weight of the fishing rod in their other, then it is time for craft beers. In this case, a 12'er of something nice would be fine. I don't expect you to know your friend's preferred IBU tastes (that's something that even married couples don't know). There are a couple other things to keep in mind when arriving at your destination.

1.Always bring something for yourself. Yes, your buddy said don't worry aboot beer, I keep the fish house stocked all the time. Do you want to risk having to spend a weekend drinking Old Milwaukee or Doe Pee? Yes, Doe Pee is the actual name of a beer, look it up.
2. Snoeshoe Grog is always a necessity on long fishing trips. It has been proven to be the only cure for the venom of the vicious snow snakes, also it doubles as a mouth wash in the mornings and helps mask the nasty fart air that can accumulate in fish houses after a few days.
3. History. If you aren't headed to a premier destination like LOW or Red Lake, know how good of a fisherman your buddy is. If he is constantly catching big fish, then it is fine when he says that you are gonna bring the wheel house to some little lake off of a minimum access road. If he barely knows which end of the fishing rod to hold, maybe it is time to bow out before spending an entire weekend parked on a duck slough that has never even held fish.

If I invite you to come with on a weekend of fishing, pack some High Life. It is the champagne of beers after all. Also, it is widely known that when a High Life is opened it beckons the Crappie Gods to favor your fishing.

What's the oddest thing you've done to pass the time when fish weren't biting?

Oddest? What are you trying to say? I am not odd, everything I do on the ice is part of a grand plan in the long run. For instance, I have found that if I have stopped marking fish, I pull my phone out and check Twitter and fish will immediately arrive. I am convinced they are attracted to the cell signal being used, it makes sense in my head, trust me. Nothing is too odd if it somehow makes the fish appear and bite. Believe me, if it happens once, you immediately store it for future reference, if it happens twice, you will be doing it on the majority of your fishing trips.

Fishing for as long as I have, and knowing all the crazy people I have met along the way, there are some stories. I will try not to use any that are too incriminating or ones where the statute of limitations has not yet run out. Crap, I am really making it so that I can't tell very many.

We invented full contact tip-ups one year. The rules were simple, everyone places a couple tip-ups out and we sit together in lawn chairs. When a flag goes up, everyone has to fully chug a beer before sprinting to touch the tip-up. First person there gets the fish. There are only two rules. No ice cleats allowed and try not to put anyone in a coma.

One night in a fish house near Bemidji, we decided to crank the heat as high as we could to see if we could peg the thermometer hung on the wall. Once it hit around 120, we decided this was a stupid idea and we all had to go outside to try and catch our breath.

Another of my favorites is to put on an airplane jig to try and catch my buddy's line when he isn't paying attention. Depending on the intelligence level/blood alcohol level, you can keep this funny little game going for quite some time. And if your co-angler is seriously impaired, you can do it multiple times in the same trip!

Probably the oddest/funnest event was at Eelpout Festival one year. Remember, I have said previously never to go to Eelpout Festival, as crazy and dangerous things happen. A friend of mine bought a crappy spare bit for his auger and decided to have a little fun with it. So while we were setting up the fish house and getting things unpacked, he set to work. He drilled his auger halfway through the ice and left it there. He then drilled a hole next to it with another auger and started scooping water into the half hole. We all thought he was insane/drunk already. The next day, he woke everyone up excitedly saying that “it was ready!” (There may have been bottle rockets shot off inside the fish house). We piled out of the fish house to watch him start up the auger, sit on top of the power head and hit the throttle. It only took aboot a half dozen revolutions before he was thrown clear of the machine. He didn't die, so of course we all immediately grabbed a beer and had to try it for ourselves! How no one got brain damage from those auger rides is beyond me. I am pretty sure that is the same year my brother and I got drunk and started sword fighting with fish.

See? Nothing odd to going on here, all part of the master plan.

Is it sometimes/never/always ok to tell your wife that you are going fishing when you know damn well they're not biting?

ALWAYS! You know damn well they aren't biting? Yeah, well you better go prove it. Is your wife the author of those weird fishing solunar tables? No? Then how the hell would she know anyways? She may think you are a crappy fisherman when you constantly come home without any fish, but there are much worse things your wife thinks aboot you during her every day routine. Bad fisherman is the least of your concerns.

Or, you could do your best to convince her you are a huge conservationist that wouldn't dare keep a fish, lest it throw off the ecological balance of the lake. You could begin citing her scientific studies showing the growth rates of crappies in lakes with a strict size limit, maybe throw in a few Aldo Leopold quotes. Seriously, try this and let me know how it goes. She will pretend to listen for approximately 30 seconds before she walks away. Unless your wife likes to fish, she could care less what your reasons are for going. This is your guy time, just smile and ask nicely. Though, it might be a good idea to check the calendar first. If you ask her to go fishing before you see in big bold writing that you are scheduled to be at a birthday dinner for her mom, you might never get to go fishing again!

So the fish may not be biting, darn! I bet the ice on the lake will at least keep your beer cold. Plus, I am fairly certain the FDA just approved ice auger exhaust as the cure for the winter blues.

Is it ok to tell your wife that a buddy really needs you there fishing tonight when he is using the same line with his wife?

This is a tough one. You have to be very careful on the wording of why your buddy NEEDS to go fishing with you. In fact, avoid the phrase 'needs to go'. Trust me, the wife will want to know and if you use phrases like, “he just NEEDS to get away from the family” or “he NEEDS some time to talk things out” your wife will think the worst. Then a whole phone call/texting chain starts, and no one needs that drama.

Alright, so you need to give her a backstory. Start with something along the lines of “Travis just picked up this new sonar, and he wants to see if the frequency from my Marcum interferes with his new Humminbird and he wants to do it before the time frame in which he can return it runs out. He got it a few weeks ago and it has this cool new zoom feature that everyone is talking aboot...” She is now tuned out. So, as long as she doesn't need you to accompany her to some party or do something you have been promising to do, you should be free and clear.

If you coordinate this story, both wives will tune out and their next conversations will only be aboot whether you guys had fun together. No questions of how things are going in their relationship, etc.

Something your wife will never admit to is that she loves your fishing time also. She gets her time away from you to sit on the couch with a glass of wine and binge-watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix without you constantly asking questions aboot the plot line; not that this has ever happened to me (seriously though, why did it take Lorelai and Luke so long to start dating?!?).

Note: get your honey-do list in order before you ask to go on a multi-day trip. If you tell her you plan to head to Lake of the Woods for three days, but still haven't cleaned out the garage like you told her you would do six months ago so she could park her car in the garage during the winter, all the stuff from the garage will be laying in the driveway when you get home!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Livewell Blog: A Long December!

What a weird winter so far! This season brought the earliest I have ever been on the ice, and the next week it is 50 degrees, with thick fog. Meh, no matter, I am still fishing regardless! I know there are more of you out there that have some questions you would like answered? So, do you have a fishing-related question you would like answered? Yes, you! Send me some questions, ridiculous or not, send it to me via Twitter: @dropshotbob with the #livewellblog hashtag, or for questions that cannot be contained by 140 characters, by email at I will try to do my best to answer them to the best of my abilities, hopefully you find some information that you can use on the water, as well as a little humor.

When fishing a new lake for panfish, do you start with weeds or other structure (if it exists in that lake)?

While structure is easy to see on maps, bottom content and weed structure is not. This response will be quite controversial, but if you are new to a lake (and don't know how to read maps or are unwilling to drill several hundred holes), find an area that others are fishing. Then, when you have familiarized yourself with the fish in that location, find something similar in the map and go and try that area.

The more you practice this, the more you will begin to understand lake maps and the less you will need to go fish where others are first. Bottom content has way more to do with where panfish reside during the winter months than an interesting looking lines on a lake map. Mud = aquatic insects hatching, transitions between mud and weeds are where minnows travel to eat and hide.

Where can I meet a chick on the ice?

This question hits close to home for me. Partly because, I am an avid outdoorsman and have very little time for the bar/single scene, but mostly because I met my wife while out fishing (more on that later).

First, we have to define what kind of “chick” you want to meet on the ice. Do you want a one night fishhouse stand? Perhaps, the kind of girl that will introduce you to crazy fun for a few months, all the while your fishing time suffers as she drags you from bar scene to musical venue, and you are constantly trying to catch your breathe and long to stare blankly down a hole in the ice? Sure, those girls are a dime a dozen. Just go to Eelpout festival in Walker, just remember, this is a young man's game. Unless you are well-versed in Jag-bombs, chugging frisbees full of beer (they hold way more than you would think), or doing pout shots (yes, it is exactly what you think it is), steer clear of those girls.

Unbeknownst to me, I had met my future father-in-law several times before I had met his lovely daughter. He was always at the weigh-ins for an ice fishing league I was involved with (the Ultimate Panfish League) and we had spoken several times. Well, whether it be fate or the Crappie Gods intervening, he brought his daughter (my now wife) with him to one of the tournaments. After an embarassing 8th place finish, I didnt really want to talk to anyone, but a buddy convinced me that since I had driven that far, that I might as well go fish with a small group of people on a hole that was holding some good crappies. It might have been my hilarious sense of humor (we all know this is a blatant lie), or the fact that I was on 8 hours of sleep in the last 48, but I had a few carp I caught on tipups a few days prior in the bed of my truck. I placed these carp conveniently close to the road, and as people drive past, we all remarked on how we were slaying carp in this spot. And she laughed.

I kept telling myself, she is too young, don't hit on her. Then another vehicle would drive past, and another buddy would tell them how great the carp were biting. And again, she laughed. Put it out of your mind, Bob, there are crappies to catch!! Finally, my buddy Brandon and I headed to a different part of the lake to try for some big bluegills. We caught some mediocre fish but he talked me into having a burger and a beer back at the bar on Rush Lake.

I walked in, and there was the angel with the ponytail and the laugh (yes, I am sappy, I am married now, I don't have a choice) with a beer in her hand and the only thought that popped in my mind was “fair game!!” So, all of us sat there together bullshitting and having a few beers and eating dinner. She excused herself to go to the bathroom and without missing a beat, I looked her dad directly in the eyes and told him, “I hope you don't mind, but I am going to ask your daughter out.”

Luckily, he wasn't too offended or shocked by my bold statement and he tried to play matchmaker the rest of the night. We got to the door at the end of the night and he told me that she loved ice fishing and was always looking for someone to take her fishing as she did not have an auger of her own. To which I uttered the single greatest (although, I would doubt this would ever work again) pickup line known to man. I looked her knowingly in the eyes and said, “I will auger any hole you will let me.” Everyone began laughing, I had no clue what was going on. It wasn't until my drive home that I realized how colossally stupid that sounded, but it worked. A few days later, on our first date, we almost killed Dave Genz, caught catfish, ate spaghetti and lost a loaf of banana bread in my truck, but that is a story for another time.

I don't know what this story is supposed to teach you, other than don't pick up “chicks” at the Eelpout Festival. I just started typing, and my wife's feet are on my lap, and she is snoring, and kicking in her sleep (no doubt chasing her dog that is chasing a pheasant), so I got carried away.

She can walk on water!!

What is the best flasher? Vexilar/Marcum/Humminbird/others, why?

What is the best truck, Ford, Dodge, Toyota, or Chevy? Exactly! This question is as ridiculous as the truck debate. They all catch fish, provided you know how to use them. Personally, I fish with a Marcum LX-7 and I love it. Give me a vex or a bird, I can still catch the same amount of fish, it just takes a little getting used to the display and features.

However, while they may all catch you fish, it is 2014-ish, why stick with old technology? Having the ability to customize the display to my fishing preference is indispensable to me. Granted, some may be fine with 30 year old technology, I just prefer a something a little more cutting edge. So, my vote goes to Marcum.

Detail the difference in growth rates between bluegills and crappies. Why do lakes have stunted panfish?

The difference in growth rates among panfish is entirely dependent on the forage available to them in a given waterway. Some lakes just have fast growing panfish, while others it seemingly takes forever to grow decent sized crappies and bluegills. And yet other lakes never seem to grow decent panfish no matter the year. Again, it is all forage, forage, forage, and a little bit of genetics.

Generally, stunted lakes happen due to two reasons: 1. Fishing pressure. Remove all the big fish out of the lake, and they aren't there to be caught or reproduce (more on this later), and 2. Available Forage in the lake. Like every other animal in the world, if a fish doesn't have enough food to make them grow big, they won't.

It is important to remember that while they are both considered panfish, bluegills and crappies are distinct species. This difference is most present in how they reproduce. In crappies, the females are the bigger of the species, one small male can breed several females. With sunfish, the male is the larger of the species and generally stop growing once they reach sexual maturity. So, if you take out all the 10” males out of a waterway, then all the 9” fish need to start reproducing and put all of their energy towards this. When all of the 9” fish are gone, the 8” fish start reproducing, and so on until the fish reach a size that anglers no longer deem “keepable”.

Crappies also seem to cycle in lakes, there will be a good spawn/year-class produced every few years with not much for reproduction in between. This is due largely to weather activities. Crappies are one of few species of fish, where if the weather isn't exactly right for them, they give up and the females will reabsorb the eggs.

A long story short: keep medium sized panfish and let the big ones go to reproduce. Big panfish make more big panfish. Also, check these guys out: RECYCLED FISH

I need a portable ice shack. How much money do I really have to spend? And what do I really need?

Ideally, I would say you really only have to spend a case of beer. That's what I paid for my first fish house. Granted, I had to patch up some holes in it to make it fishable, but it served it's purpose for a couple years before I decided to upgrade. Nowadays it only takes a few days searching on that list named after some guy Craig to find something that will fit your needs for a reasonable price. However, understand that you are getting someone else's hand-me-down.

While I will not badmouth any brand of fish house, remember you get what you pay for if you plan to buy new. I like to fish in comfort and a little extra weight is not a concern for me. Rather, I want ridiculous durability (as I tend to beat on my equipment), so for the last 10 years I have fished out of an Otter. My current model is a full thermal lodge. It has two padded swivel seats and enough room to fish a third person should the need arise. If weight is more of a concern and you are the type to go it alone, check out the Eskimo Quickflip series.

When it is all said and done, just spend what you are comfortable with. Some may be willing to spend over $1000 on a fish house, some just want something to keep the wind off their backs and a little heat inside. If you are just getting started, it doesn't hurt to buy new and then upgrade every few years once you know what you like/don't like about a particular model.

What's the best method to target crappies after the sun goes down?

What has worked for me is to start out where they are during the day (maybe a little shallower), and then switch to live bait and glow. This is difficult for me as I am not a fan of bait, since it is hard to keep alive, and increases the time it takes to get your lure back down to the fish.

Night time fishing for crappies is generally geared towards numbers. If you want size, fish during the day and fish shallow weeds. But for after work fun, crappies after dark can be a fun way to unwind. I recently discovered a lake less than five minutes from my house where the crappies will bite all night long. The size isn't the best (one in every 10 crappies is over 11 inches) but you can get constant action without the trivial noises/questions of the real world, and isn't that what we are all after when we go fishing?

Ask around, especially at the bait shops, and you can get on some good fishing, just don't expect the best for size after sunset. Just get close and call them in with noise, glow, and live bait.

The night time can be the right time: 

Friday, December 12, 2014

"Frozen" Ice Fishing

Frozen Fishing Song

For no reason that I can explain, I have had a song from the popular movie “Frozen” stuck in my head all day. As I often do, when I have a song stuck in my head, I begin to change the lyrics to fit the hunting or fishing that I am currently doing; think of me as a redneck Weird Al Yankovich. After several unbearable hours of “Do You Want To Catch a Crappie” rattling around my brainpan, I put my complaint out into the interwebs and was astonished by the sheer number of grown men that were willing to help provide lyrics to my fishing version.

I first tweeted out my complaint with this tweet: “Have had the Frozen song stuck in my head all day, it has now morphed into a fishing song. Do You Want To Catch a Crappie?”

I Had an immediate response from the always crazy Adam Johnson with: "@AJOutdoors or maybe go the conservation route with: "Let it go, let it go..."" My response to this was anger, now I have these two competing sings stuck in my head, each one trying to shout over the other, until I got Adam's next reply: "@AJOutdoors if it makes you feel any better, I did it to myself too." Ok, I have calmed down slightly at this point, then the next tweet comes through and I am now at the point where I can't stop laughing because vengeance is mine! "@AJOutdoors plus, I'm about to head out to the bow stand. Hours of quiet with nothing but those songs blasting away in my head."

So, seeing the appeal of how many people I can try and make something like this stick into their heads the rest of the day (trust me, the best way to get a song out of your head is to get into as many other people's as possible) I posted my predicament to Facebook. I never realized how many grown men knew the song and were willing to contribute their own fishing version of the lyrics to help. As @Freeman_ej commented on Twitter, “It's beautiful."

The lyrics kept getting better and better as the comments came in on Facebook (to the point where this could probably go to Broadway) with a few missing the mark entirely, when a buddy of mine posted a video of himself singing along on his drive to the ice fishing show in Duluth this weekend. If you haven't seen this, it is a must watch, as Jason is beyond fantastic in his rendition. Jason, when you read this, know the crowd demands more!