Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hook, line, and sinker...

From the north side porch...

I had the fortunate opportunity to introduce a youngster to the most awesome world of ice fishing today.  He is the oldest son of one of my very best friends in life and there is no question that there will be plenty of memorable times ahead.  So for today, the story is all about Mr. Trout...

We arrived at the family camp in the midst of a surprise snow shower and put fifteen traps in just before ten o'clock.  Mr. Trout at five years of age jumped right into the process clearing the holes of ice and slush, making sure no spot in the cove went without a footprint, and raising my dad's blood pressure since he was convinced that Mr. Trout would somehow circumnavigate any trap which would result in unforeseen immersion...

Shortly after set up, I opened camp and fired up the stove.  It was somewhat colder than yesterday, but I wanted to make sure our rookie ice fisherman was a happy ice fisherman.  Now all I needed was a flag...

That flag came in due time and we embarked on the single most impressive challenge of the day, making sure Mr. Trout brought in the fish.  With persistent coaching and encouragement, Mr. Trout pulled the brook trout from the ice...



video


With all the newness of the experience, he wasn't quite sure how to handle the importance of this landmark achievement.  On one hand, here I was doing my best to get a photo while a proud dad was taking the moment in.  I'm still sure that my father was worried that the exposed hole needed to be filled in with cement so the youngster wouldn't get immersion hypothermia.  Needless to say, one kid had a few minutes of mayhem and excitement that forced the day into a success...

The excitement of the catch...

Excited son and proud dad...
From that point on, I had help with tending the gear and knew he had been caught hook, line, and sinker especially when he asked if my girls were coming the "next time we go ice fishing"...

Several highlights for me were of the comical sense.  Perhaps the favorite was when my buddy took Mr. Trout to the outhouse.  I explained that the "poop house" was the most important spot in the compound.  As Mr. Trout neared the structure and I opened the door he proclaimed with gigantic eyes, "wow, a house made just for pooping".  Classic and awesome at the same time.  Another highlight was when a second flag went up and Mr. Trout aptly offered to "handle this one".  Unfortunately this one yielded only a hit bait, but still I'm thrilled with the zeal in the excitement on the ice...

We packed up at one and made the voyage back.  As we rode, Mr. Trout who sat next to me in the back smiled and explained to me that he had caught the only trout today.  I look forward to our next adventure, the kids are getting to the age where they can join in on the action...

Take care,


The Downeast Duck Hunter

Saturday, January 29, 2011

One hour, one lake, two men, six trout, thirteen flags

The limit...

So my dad decides he wanted in on the trout action and joins me this morning for the half-hour commute to Lake St. Brook Trout.  The landing was turned up quite badly with minced snow (if snow can be minced) and it took some time, towing assistance (given and received), and a few hand shakes to finally get started.

The men who took part in the snow run fiasco were packing up and graciously offered their spot, extra bait, and some information.  They had scored 5 trout from 8 flags and felt more were there.  With that, we quickly set out ten traps with smaller shiners in hopes that we would be as successful.

What a terrible move, by 9:20 we were fishing and one hour later we had acquired the last trout.  On several occasions we had two or three flags at once, line running everywhere, and when the damage was finally assessed we weren't quite sure what had happened.

My father took first blood with a nice 10 inch trout quickly followed by mine first score, a nine inch brookie.  After several flags, stripped hooks, and continual checking, Dad yanked out his limit with a 9.5 inch beauty.  Once his traps were taken out, I still needed one trout.  However, my mind was on getting the champion so after catching & releasing two smaller trout, I finally took the best one of the day measuring a clean foot in length.  One hour had transpired and we were on our way home.  I backed out the entire access road and then took the GMC out of four wheel drive for the quick voyage back to the rock.

Here's some phone footage of our day which includes both of my dad's scores and some photos as well.

We are heading to the family camp tomorrow as the weather turns a bit more chilly (it's 27 right now but little wind).  Let's hope for at least one fraction of the fishing action tomorrow!  The lake holds brook trout, brown trout, yellow perch, and small mouth bass...

Take care,

DEDH

 Trout number one
video 

Trout number two for Dad
video



My second trout...

Dad's first ever trout through the ice...

Reeling in trout number two...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Braving the elements...

The view after the storm and my limit...

Without any fishing buddies, I embarked on a solo ice fishing venture to my favorite trout hole.  I can't blame anybody for it was utterly and amazingly miserable.  But I would not be deterred simply because I wanted to go fishing.  So I set forth in the snow storm that had canceled school and was making headway speed topping out at 35 mph.  By 10:30 a.m. I had reached the landing and began the several hundred yard trek out to an ice shack owned by one of my former students.  Without his generosity, this day would not have occurred.  I suppose in life it's who you know and how you build lasting relationships.

Once out to the shack, my first plan consisted of building fire.  I had brought some of my own timber, basically to not feel like a complete mooch.  With the blaze starting, I commenced drilling five holes in a small circle just in front of the shack.  The wind was ripping and it was 20 degrees when I left home, the chill had no intentions of hiding.


The first flag...
After setting out one trap, I quickly returned to tend to the fire and begin the first of many back and forth scurries for the sake of warmth.  Apparently, no one was nearly as ambitious or clearly stupid as me for I owned the lake.  In terms of the fishing, the conditions were lousy.  Snow was on the ice, drifting snow fell into the hole, slush resulted, and things froze up.  Things weren't perfect, but it didn't matter for I was doing exactly what I wanted.

The first trout via lame self photo op...

With some diligence to the fire and continual maintenance of the gear subjected to the elements, time actually flew by.  I scored a nice ten inch brook trout early, then battled stolen baits & tripped flags.  Before I knew it, the cell phone read 12:56 p.m. and my intentions were to be finished in one hour with or without a limit.

Within the hour I cleaned the shack, extinguished the fire, and readied all the other gear for a faster transit to the landing.  The plan was to pull the jet sled around, toss the traps in without "frigging with the rigging", take a minute to warm up in the shack, and then navigate my way back to the truck.  Fortunately, I had another trout chasing a bait up the first hole so I quickly dropped it back down.  Within a minute, I had my limit.  But a minute of the elements meant a couple more in the shack.

10 inch and 10.5 inch brook trout limit
I eventually got back to the truck, battled some crazy snow drifts on the way back, and came home to meet two little girls who wanted to go outside because it had stopped snowing.  So I had a cup of coffee, and within minutes I was out in the elements again.

Take care,

DEDH

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Early Duck Power Video...



This older video was from the early development of our duck hunting crew several years ago.  Life is a little different now and it seems almost impossible to compile another video of our good work.  Enjoy!

Duckpower Mix


Take care,

DEDH

Friday, January 21, 2011

In celebration of the 50th post on the new DEDH site...

Having spent a good time thinking about my options for a small but mighty achievement in the world of amateur outdoor writing, I couldn't help but think of who I am, where to I want to go, and how do I get there?  Not exactly the best sentence (rather question) I've compiled over the years, but it's true.  One of my favorite professors in college, an outdoorsman in his own right, taught me about the varying possibilities around this educational development called reflective practice.  Basically, you look at improvement, put a plan in action, let it roll, assess, retool, and let rip once again only to go around the racetrack until your happy.

Life is a bucket list, without dreams, hopes, visions, and aspirations I'd be nothing more than trudging through life without passion, energy, and focus.   A long term plan is to save for Arkansas- there's something about being there in late winter chasing mallards that entices me like none other, but much needs to be done on the home front.  For that, I dedicate my 50th to my oldest who is my aspiring Maine Munchkin Guide.

A few months ago I wrote this for my friends and family to see.
6 years ago at 4:30 p.m., one girl made the biggest impact on my life. She instantly made me love above and beyond whatever I could imagine, taught me responsibility like I've never believed, and gave me the best job I love to do... Thank you Lauren Marie for making me the man I dreamed to be, your daddy... 
The first official diaper, worse than dressing a deer...

My second buck as a dad, opening day 2005...

Rock wall climbing 2010...

Spring school hike on the preserve...

First trip in the Ambush...
First trout- 2008
 
So sweetheart, your sister and you are my ultimate bucket list dreams.  Pursuing anything in life without having you two on my mind is impossible, for my life is you two.  I look forward to helping you cross off the items on your bucket list even though getting Barbie dressed isn't on my top 10 things to do before I die.  But it is on my top ten list for today...

 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sub-zero adventure...

The view from the ice shack...
As I neared the abode of the Rabid Outdoorsman, I happened to notice the temperature on a bank sign proudly displaying the almighty goose egg.  Thirty-two degrees below zero and already the trip promises the first official challenge:  combat the cold.  Through the years I’ve figured out the proper layering system, implementation of heat packs, and choosing sensibility over stupidity.  On the other end of the logical spectrum would put two able outdoorsmen out in the field with similar and different abilities.  It would still be a memorable run.

After unloading my entire arsenal of hunting, fishing, and outdoor gear including my extra dogsled, the Rabid Outdoorsman strutted down the stairwell and offered the traditional day late dollar short question, “you need any help buddy”?  Aside the fact that I know he waits that certain amount of time like a hunter waits for a shot deer to expire, he mumbled some lame excuse why he had not been down sooner.  I believe that he may eventually run out of viable mitigating circumstances to aide one in need.

Once settled, I offered my Christmas present to make up for the one I had consumed over winter break in hopes that he’d forget how much I enjoyed his present.  The GSI Bugaboo Back Packer was in my opinion an excellent choice for my friend who honestly has a fine collection of all things outdoors.  He seemed somewhat pleased and explained how this would replace his current cooking system that he had stolen from his brother.  At least now, Matt Diesel can know the whereabouts of the gear he’s been looking for for over two years now.  In return, Rabid proudly displayed a hand woven duck call lanyard that he formed out of parachute cord.  I look forward to using this next season and do appreciate the fact he spent two hours making something for me, especially since he hasn’t finished one for his brother.

With all proper ceremonial circumstances aside, Rabid suggested we sneak out on the half moon to see if we could garner a coyote.  This suggestion in all actuality formed from the fact that his mother-in-law was watching her soap operas DVR style in the guest room and would not be finished until late.  Translation, either go out and do something or stay inside and listen to a series of spun half-truths and tales of pious humor.  I had not planned on night hunting nor did I purchase my permit, however I agreed to venture into the woods for a nightcap of coyote on ice as an observer.

Overlooking a frozen beaver flowage, the moonlit expanse proved agreeable to spotting and potentially acquiring a coyote.  After the first series of wounded rabbit calls on the remote electronic call, a chilling response from multiple coyotes resonated the frozen landscape.  I’ll have to admit, a sense of excitement won over the effort to stay warm while motionless. 

The game continued, but the response from the hunted faded into nothingness.  I surmised that either 1) they were gone or 2) getting to that point where I should be seeing some action. 

No sooner than I had started thinking about the what next, a mass of coyote calling startled me with an instant charge of adrenaline exactly like when the dominant buck resorts to aggressive grunting and is clearly on your way.  As I felt the heart pumping and I maintained an effort to settle my breathing, Steve leaned over and informed me that the last coyote series “was him on the call”.  I’ll admit, the call had me convinced or better yet, fooled.  Shortly after, Steve shared some advice he took from an old hunter about when the coyotes start off with howls and yelps, they’ve picked up something wrong.  Since the response came from where we had entered, they knew that tonight’s offering must have been too good to be true.  After almost two hours, we conceded and made the trek back to base camp.

The next morning proved colder pushing temperatures around minus five degrees, but this morning would not be futile.  We readied the four wheeler and pushed out towards the same spot as the night before.  Our plan would be different than of the evening as Steve placed a motion woodpecker decoy near the remote call.  Without hesitation, I loaded the rifle and prepared for the possibility of adding something new to my experience list.

As the sun broke over the trees, I noticed that with every exhale the moisture was freezing leaving a glimmer that would then float downward.  There was no question, this was cold, very cold.  In order to be best prepared for this morning, effective layering with wool and down feathers helped repel the continual cold while my hands and feet were hidden in leather mittens and Arctic Sport Muck Boots.  With extra assistance of HeatMax hand and toe warmers, the chill did not win.

Although no coyotes came during our tenure on the flowage, I did happen to watch an owl literally swoop onto the game call, retreat onto a close limb, and watch the decoy with interest.  After almost two hours time, we forfeited the hunt and began discussing the ice fishing odds.

For us to make into the lake, we would have to hike for at another 15-20 minutes in, set up, and still be quite some time from base camp.  At the temperatures we were playing with, I suggested we wheel back to the house and figure out another plan and warm up. 

As my rifle acclimated to the temperature in the basement, I could help but notice it was covered with a film of frost.  I’ve seen when metal will evaporate water quickly after being run under hot water, but I have never really witnessed the opposite.  It would take some time for the Ruger to thaw out.

We opted to find a lake where we could fish from our trucks preferably at a landing, still catch some decent fish, and minimize our efforts.  Our choice was Lake St. George in Liberty, Maine which has several restrictions including a two trap limit, one salmon which must be 16 inches long.  Typically salmon can be kept at 14 inches and usually you can use five traps.  Without argument, we accessed the lake by the state park and commenced fishing.
First flag on the Hello Kitty tip up...


Although cold, the day wasn’t severe.  We checked our traps fairly often and talked about everything imaginable.  After one flag at our furthest tip up, I chose to move the other two out which only resulted in the furthest one in scoring the salmon to Steve.
16 inch salmon on flag number two...


In all, I enjoyed the experience although I personally put no points on the board but then again that’s why they call it hunting not shooting & fishing not catching.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mid-day update!!! Live from the landing!!!

46 words per minute in camo!!!

I did find a wireless connection...

So the coyote hunting went okay except the -3 degree temperature that honestly took my breath away.  When I would exhale, you could see the shimmer of freezing moisture.  I looked over at Rabid and his face  resembled that of the abominable snowman.  It was cold but we held out for about two hours.

Once back to the four wheeler, we opted to return to base rather than hike the twenty minutes into Plan A Pond.  Our new plan brought us to Lake St. George in Waldo County which stricter state regulations put us on a two trap limit, and one salmon each at a 16 inch minimum. 


So far, we have had two tip ups, one stolen bait, and one sixteen inch salmon, all garnered by the Rabid Outdoorsman.  My question at this point then becomes who is visiting who and why is Rabid catching fish with my gear?

The Great Fisherman

Monday, January 10, 2011

Choices...

So here I sit sick as a dog with a sinus infection that has left my ears plugged & popping, my equilibrium as sound as a drunkard, and a head that just might explode if you were to perform a simple judo chop to my forehead.  However, rather than be the typical ultra tough guy that I profess to be, I chose to go to the doctors and get treatment.  Two reasons fostered this move, 1) work was miserable and I wasn't doing anybody any good by being sick, and 2) I've got plans for this weekend.  So here are the preliminary possibilities right now... Oh and by the way, I'm hanging out with my buddy The Rabid Outdoorsman which will lend itself to some potential ridicule and harassment.  Hopefully this time it will be me flogging the unfortunate outdoorsman, but time and reality will tell.

Plan A- Predator hunt followed by ice "trash" fishing

Lately Rabid has been on the predators and pulled off a nice bobcat which has officially garnered my curiosity.  We can get set up on the ice, spend the early morning with the game call, see what's up, then drill holes for some ice fishing action.  The trash fish we joke about aren't completely awful:  yellow perch, pickerel, bass, and sunfish, but for us ice fishing demands efforts towards the togue (lake trout), landlocked salmon, northern pike, or the other trout.  On any account, good plan which will fall directly into the Rabid Outdoorsman expertise level and allow me to once again be reunited with the one I let live.

This one still lives at Plan A Pond and should be very afraid...

Plan B- Pursue the monster northern pike

I'll be honest, I want a seriously huge northern pike and spend about one hour trying to get it in.  Rabid has had some success in this venue and can attest to scoring one wall hanger, but the ice in the areas we may need to get aren't confirmed as "safe" whereas it would take travel, time, and energy to pull this one off.  Who knows, with some proper scouting this plan may become the official plan of action.

The only pike from last year's two day Great Pond trip...
Rabid with his monster northern pike at North Pond... Note it gets bigger every year...

Plan C- Go to the L.L. Bean in Freeport and Cabelas in Scarborough

Nice plan, will end my life since I neglected to inform my wife of this plan.  If followed through upon, there will be no blog entry nor will I allow the one who calls himself Rabid to chance.  The potential of this venture; slim, nil, and dangerously ignorant.

On any account, be ready for a public flogging will take place... pick your all-star either the Dashing Downeast Duck Hunter or the Reckless Rabid Outdoorsman... two heavyweights (well at least light heavyweights) clash in central Maine.  Stay tuned!!!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

First day out on the ice...

Real Men Use Hello Kitty Gear...

I opted for ice fishing even though the sea duck season is running out of time, however there always exists that bit of anticipation every time a new time of year comes around.  With little sleep, I lurched out of the driveway before daylight and made way to my buddy's house who would be on his first ever ice fishing venture.

The local trout hole...
After acquiring our small shiners for bait, a pit stop for fuel & other provisions, and making the short trek to one of my favorite trout holes, we made quick work of getting the holes drilled and traps set.

13 inch brook trout after three stolen baits
Our first flag sprang just as we finished the tenth tip up, and we took the time to video tape a neighboring crew who was enjoying their youngest pull up a nice 11 inch brook trout.  Shortly thereafter, we had two more flags and line out before I was able to nail down a beautiful 13 inch brookie.

video
The day didn't last long as we needed to get back for munchkin basketball program, and packed our things by ten o'clock.  Nevertheless, I'd qualify it as a good day and hope for continued success on the ice.  On taps for next weekend, a pike venture with the Rabid Outdoorsman.

Take care,
The Downeast Duck Hunter

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Freshwater Readiness: Mallard Minions

My recent efforts to expand my puddle ducking arsenal...

You can't take the sea out of this duck hunter, but you can add some freshwater to the mix and that's exactly what I've been up to for the upcoming 2011 duck season.  I would like the readership to know in advance that every purchase in this post came through Cabelas, which has been a wonderful company to deal with and also has a store in Scarborough, Maine.  The post is link heavy so that you may reference the items that I have purchased or am considering.

I've been very interested in building an arsenal to allow for more duck hunting possibilities, especially when the weather does not cooperate with the sea ducking schedule.  So with some research, smart shopping, and a pretty Mrs. Claus, I've started my preparation against the puddle duck.  So here's how I got the ball rolling...

After a few seasons hunting with my buddy the Rabid Outdoorsman in central Maine, I opted to steal a few tricks out of his hunting bag.  First and foremost, I decided that a MOJO motorized decoy was the ticket.  Not only did we draw in reluctant ducks with it two years ago, I witnessed a neighboring group utilize two motorized decoys while ours was useless with a lost wing.  The ducks seemed magnetized to the spread and at this point, I would have one or two or twelve.

The 2009 set up in central Maine

So I tell my wife I want one for Christmas, but notice the Baby MOJO drake/hen combo on sale at Cabelas for $99.99.  After some research, this move seemed to outweigh buying just one regular MOJO.  When we got around to putting the order in, the sale price had dropped to $79.99 which realistically floored me.  They were on backorder, but still came before Christmas.  They can be bought right now at Cabelas for $118.99 but I'd wait for them to go on sale.  I didn't stop there after Christmas as I discovered the replacement parts kits on sale for $10.09.  I'm not even going to wait for a disaster, I intend to be ready from the start.

Baby MOJO Twin Pack
There exists a multitude of available decoy sets for mallards and I went with a brand which I've used before.  I purchased the Greenhead Gear Life-Size Series Mallards that came with 4 upright drakes, 4 how head drakes, and 4 hens.  They currently are offered in the Cabelas Bargain Cave for $55.99 and seem to have a good quality about them like the two dozen bufflehead sets I own.  I do intend on getting some feeder sets and right now I'm patiently waiting for the mallard surface feeder set also by GHG.

Mallard Surface Feeder Set by GHG

I also discovered while putting out and retrieving Rabid's mallard sets that he had some GHG Keel Grabber Decoy Weights with Stretchee Cords.  I opted for the 7.5 ounce version as I will use these on tidal waters as well.  My only testament to the effectiveness of these is that Rabid has used these for three years now and loves them.  For me, they were a breeze to use.

The purchase that I felt was the most impressive deal actually were the decoy bags in Cabelas Bargain Cave.  The mesh decoy bag was listed for $4.99 and currently at $8.99.  I'm usually skeptical about this type of purchase, but figured it might be a good move.  I liked the first one so much, that another one found is in transit.

Finally with some tarred nylon decoy cord, I feel somewhat prepared to enhance my puddle duck skills in my general area and adjoin the established spread that my duck hunting partner already utilizes.  There is no question that on the first day of duck hunting next year, there will be an abundance of material to share.  The overall cost of this set up ran me just under $200.

Thanks for reading,

The Downeast Duck Hunter
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