Tuesday, February 20, 2018

For Week Ending Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018

Tuesday, Feb. 20 (from Ron)...After four days off the water, I went for a therapy session at the "Milldam Clinic." Got a prescription of mood-altering therapy. Started with a nice 2-5 bass, followed by two dinks just under a pound apiece. Also boated a small crappie and white perch before I found the first serious pole-bender of the season: a 7-lb 14-ounce bowfin! Made my day. Couldn't have asked for a better outing. All now is right in the world. Didn't mark a single fish in the main or feeder creeks. Water was clear and about 60 degrees. Caught all fish while casting to shoreline and points on the XTS. Not a single tap on the trolled beetlespins.

Wednesday, Feb. 21 (from Ken)...My first trip to the water each season always causes me certain fears, and today was no exception. Nevertheless, I was up before dawn, getting dressed, and gathering my tackle, with hopes of catching a few fish before the end of the day. Decided to change my plan when I arrived at West Neck Marina this morning and saw the muddy conditions, along with a bunch more trees that Steve has taken down in recent days. Figured this would be a good time to go check out the new ramp at Pungo Ferry. Don't know how anyone else feels, but I personally give the new ramp two thumps up. Have never had my boat slide off my trailer with such ease before. That being said, I decided to try Albright's today and ended up fishing my way from the mouth to a fair distance in the back. Lost the first fish I hit on a point with a cranakbait. He came unbuttoned beside the boat, without my ever getting a look at what he was. A good while later, I finally boated a small yellow perch, also on a crankbait. Not long after that, I was cranking another point with a chatterbait, when all of a sudden, the shaking stopped, and I set the hook on something that had a little weight but didn't feel like a fish, and I was right. What I lifted out of the water was an old, dirty beer can that the chatterbait hook and my line had entwined. Once I had untangled everything and was ready to toss the beer can in the bottom of my boat, I saw some kind of movement near the can's pop top. Close inspection revealed a little baitfish that was too big to slip out of the hole (check it out in my accompanying photos). I carefully enlarged the hole just a tad, and the happy little baitfish flipped out on my deck. I immediately picked him up and dropped him back in the water, where he wasted no time taking off. Near the end of my day, while still working the chatterbait, I had a solid hookup with what turned out to be one of Ron's favorite fish: a bowfin (about 4 lbs. worth). I quickly unhooked him, then wrapped up my gear, and headed for Pungo Ferry. Bottom line: The day wasn't anything to write home about, but I dodged a skunk and had a little fun, too.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Finding Lost Bobbers Floats Wisconsin Man's Boat

The late-Ronald Robert Frisk and his wife, Irene, retired to Prairie Lake, in Cameron, Wisconsin. A former steel-mill worker, Ron was an avid fisherman and outdoorsman his entire life. He also enjoyed making his own jigs, which he reportedly shared with many. In retirement, he added a new hobby to his repertoire--collecting fishing bobbers--which became the subject of at least one newspaper article prior to his passing March 20, 2015, at the age of 76. I recently stumbled across that article by accident and decided to share it here and honor the memory of another fisherman who lived life "his way."

By Meg Jones

Ask Ronald Frisk why his collection of bobbers is so large, and he'll tell you it's because some anglers, especially those who head out onto Prairie Lake, don't know what they're doing.

Weekends are big because the novices, amateurs, first-timers, and clueless are out on the lake on Saturdays and Sundays, leaving behind the stuff they just bought. Holidays are busy, too.

Frisk's collection of fishing bobbers numbers 1,550 (as of May 23, 2009, when this newspaper story was posted) and counting. Those are just the ones he's pulled out of Prairie Lake behind his home in Cameron in northwestern Wisconsin. He's found a lot more, but he gives some away to friends.

Pretty much every heavily fished lake in the state has lots of fishing gear that once graced tackle boxes but got snagged, lost and caught, prompting the angler to get disgusted and leave without it.

"I don't know why they leave them," Frisk said from his backyard.

"Because they've got money," chimed in his wife, Irene.

Aside from the bobbers, he also has a sizable collection of jigs, spinners and lures.

Some bobbers look like they've been in the lake since a retired Dwight Eisenhower fished in northern Wisconsin (in 1956), and some look like they were taken out of the package five minutes ago. Some come from Hungary, a couple light up, one says "Wisconsin DNR Help Keep Our Lakes Clean," and a few are made from wood and cork. "Some are at least 50 years old," Frisk said.

Kneeling down over the pile of bobbers, he plucked out a few. "Here's one that says 25 cents, this one is 30 cents. Here's one with a happy face," he said, noting that bobbers now go for 50 cents to a couple of bucks, with lighted bobbers costing around $3 apiece.

Frisk made himself a bobber retriever out of a 16-foot aluminum pole and a beer-can-sized wire-mesh basket. He uses it to free bobbers from trees, where they got snagged after inattentive anglers cast without getting the lay of the land.

Three times, he's seen birds in trees entangled in fishing lines. He rescued two of them, both chickadees with hooks in their mouths, and the third bird was dead when he discovered it.

After weekends and holidays, he heads out on Prairie Lake to look for bobbers, jigs and lures that he sees floating in the water or along the shore, in trees and caught on debris. A lot of times, finding one wayward bobber leads to the discovery of more. He's been doing this for two decades.

"I'm out here on the lake all the time. People pick up litter off the road. I thought I'd pick up on the lake," he said.

Before Irene married Ronald 49 years ago, her soon-to-be mother-in-law gave her a tip, which turned out to be true. She said, "You won't see him much during the summer."

That's because Frisk loves to fish. He said he's been fishing since he was in diapers, figures he's caught 100,000 or so. He bought a home on Prairie Lake, which is part of the Chetek chain of lakes, after he retired from his steel-mill job in Indiana, just so he could walk out his front door and fish whenever he wants.

Does he catch and release? "I catch and release them in a bucket. I catch 'em to eat 'em."

Frisk also makes his own jigs in a small workroom in his garage. He sells them at local taverns under the name Link Lures.

The odd part about his collection of bobbers is that Frisk doesn't fish with them--he prefers adjustable torpedo bobbers, and he's never managed to find those while scouring Prairie Lake.

Irene Frisk doesn't mind her husband's vocation, nor the fact that he's out on the lake so often.

"It keeps him busy. It keeps him out of my hair. He enjoys going out after the weekend and cleaning up after the people who can't throw straight," she said.

About the author...Meg Jones is a journalist and war correspondent who frequently writes about the military, history and veterans issues for her hometown Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. On four trips to Iraq as an embedded reporter and another four trips to Afghanistan, between 2003 and 2014, Meg followed Wisconsin troops as they performed their missions in war zones. Born in Rhinelander, Wis., which officially makes her a Hodag ("a fearsome critter," according to Wisconsin folklore), Jones grew up in Milwaukee and earned degrees in journalism and history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she worked as a reporter and photographer for campus newspapers, played in the UW marching band, and rowed on the Badger crew team. She was a reporter for daily newspapers in Marinette, Shawano and Wausau, Wis., and worked for USA Today before being hired by The Milwaukee Sentinel shortly after The Sentinel merged with The Milwaukee Journal. She taught journalism at Marquette University for more than a decade. Jones was a Pulitzer finalist at The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as part of a team that covered the outbreak of chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin's whitetail deer herd.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

A Mouthful, With No Room to Spare

One May, Wichita, KS, resident Bill Driver happened to see a kid's 8-inch basketball bouncing around a little strangely in a lake near his home, and he went to investigate. It turned out that a flathead catfish obviously had "bitten off more than he could chew," and the ball had become lodged in its mouth.

The fish was totally exhausted from trying to dive but not being able to because the ball kept bringing him back to the surface.

Bill tried numerous times to remove the ball by pulling on it but was unsuccessful. He finally had his wife, Pam, cut the ball to deflate it and release the hungry catfish.

Following are the photos Pam took to document the account, which I happened across on JeffBridges.com. An expanded version of this story also appeared in The Wichita Eagle. For the benefit of any "doubting Thomases" out there, this fish story was verified as true by Snopes.com.

Be kinder than necessary, 'cause every living thing is fighting some kind of battle.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Proving That Bad Luck Can Indeed Become Habit-Forming

Once a bass tournament is in the record books, especially one held in the heat of summer, it's not unusual for participants to feel extremely tired, grouchy and hungry, among other things. In many cases, we're also fighting a giant-sized headache. I figure it's probably safe to bet that the overriding thought on most of our minds is something along these lines: "Dear God, please just let me get my gear cleaned up and everything put away without any problems."

No one deserves to find themselves in the position of one tournament angler I recently read about. It seems he just had backed his boat inside the two-car garage and unhooked the trailer from the truck. He subsequently had to run some errands, so he climbed back in his truck and eased down the drive a ways before hitting the remote to close the garage door.

Glancing in the rearview mirror to check the door, he noticed that, instead of closing, it was going back up. "What the hey?" he wondered, but instead of getting out to check the situation, he simply reached up and pushed the door opener a second time. Unfortunately, he watched the door once again start down but stop and go back up.

It seems reasonable to think that most people, by this time, would have gotten out of their vehicle to see what was going on. Not this fella, though. "Nope," he said. "My tired, dumb arse reached up and pushed the door opener a third time. And I'll be darned if the door didn't again go down, then right back up."

By now, the gent was mad, so he finally climbed out of the truck to see what the heck the problem was. "OMG!" he thought. "I forgot to collapse the trailer tongue."

As a result of the garage door repeatedly smacking the trailer tongue, the door's aluminum panels were crumpled beyond repair. A new garage door set him back to the tune of $2,100.

That expense, however, isn't the only one this angler has had to endure; rather, it's just the most expensive one.

In another incident, he once ran over his bicycle tire with a wheel on his trailer. He also has run over the mailbox while turning out of the driveway with his boat and ended up having to replace both the wooden post and the mailbox. He further has ripped molding off the garage with one of his trailer fenders, and finally, he once hit and broke the taillight-lens cover to his wife's SUV with a back corner of the boat.

Don't know how the rest of you feel, but if I had incurred that much damage trying to get my boat in and out of a garage, I tend to believe I would have been investigating other alternatives for storing my "toy."

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

I Woulda Been W-a-a-a-y Past Messin' in My Skivvies

I've never been brave, especially when I'm out on the water. That's why I always duck and run for shelter anytime I see a storm heading my way, or if I meet up with one of those "big boys" pushing a lot bigger "wall of water" than I'm comfortable with. And even at that, there have been a fair number of times over the years I've still had the bejesus scared out of me. Those instances, however, would pale dramatically in comparison to the predicament a couple of anglers from Roanoke, VA, found themselves in one July day.

As explained in the article I read, a bass fisherman and his partner, a physician, made it to an open tournament on Lake Erie. Before the practice-day launch, another competitor offered them one of his water socks, saying, "It'll slow the boat in case it gets caught in the wind." The launch was no problem, and the two Roanoke fellas headed into Lake Erie--for the first time ever.

Once on the lake, the swells soon climbed to 4 feet, but the two anglers weren't having much problem with them, despite the fact they never had fished such waters before. Like everyone else practicing in the same area, they bobbed and weaved.

But then, with no warning, no increase in the wind, no storms, no nothing, they looked up and saw water above and all around them. In the blink of an eye, those 4-foot swells had swollen to 8 feet. At this point, in case you haven't already figured it out, is where a pair of messed up skivvies would have been the least of my worries.

Water came crashing over the transom, flooding the engine compartment and the console area. The two anglers held on as a second wave soon followed. Quickly, one of the men grabbed a 5-gallon bucket that happened to be on the boat and started bailing, because they knew the bilge pump wasn't powerful enough to deal with this much water.

In the meantime, a third wave crashed aboard, ripping the seats from the Champion bass boat and causing the transom to go under. The outboard by now had cut off, so the boat owner grabbed the water sock and his three Steez rod-and-reel setups (valued at $3,000), and both guys climbed out of the boat and held onto the sides. The bow of the Champion didn't totally sink, thanks to all the foam in it, coupled with the fact the forward compartments all were closed.

Fortunately, other bass boaters in the area saw what was happening and made a distress call to local authorities who contacted the rescue boat for assistance. When it arrived, both anglers still were holding onto the side of the Champion and bouncing in what now was 4-foot waves again. The 8-footers had disappeared as fast as they had arrived.

The Champion bass boat and two first-time Erie fishermen subsequently were towed back to the ramp without further incident.

Several different theories were offered as to what happened. The tow-boat captain suggested the problem may have been big storms somewhere else on the lake, causing waves to build as they slapped across the lake. "Guys who fish this lake," said the captain, "know to turn their boats into these big waves. Once you get hit in the stern, there is very little you can do but hope for the best."

The captain also went on to explain that pros who fish Lake Erie always have two or three bilge pumps on their boats.

The Champion and its 225-hp Mercury motor turned out to be a total loss, despite the fact it never sank. The owner also lost $1,500 in tackle, plus two Lowrance side-scan units and his MinnKota trolling motor.

The most important aspect here, though, is that no one was injured or killed. I also see one very important "lesson learned" for all to consider: Do your homework BEFORE fishing unfamiliar water. Know exactly what you're getting yourself into and plan accordingly.

Monday, February 12, 2018

For Week Ending Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018

Monday, Feb. 12 (from Ron)...Fished North Landing in search of panfish, but didn't find any. Couldn't find any largemouth in my usual hot spot, either. Had to settle for some pole-bender striped bass. Caught four of them, with two reaching the 18-inch mark. They gave a great fight, even the smaller ones. 'Twas a bit breezy, with light rain and temps in the upper 30s. Great evening!

Wednesday, Feb. 14 (from Ron)...Didn't notice anything different at the Pungo Ferry launch, but it is nice and convenient. Fished Albright's, and the water was surprisingly clear and a bit low. Lost one, caught a dink and a white perch. Not a total waste of time.  Marked a lot of bait. Always nice to be out.

Thursday, Feb. 15 (from Ron)...Fished Milldam Creek from about 4 until dark. Marked a bunch of baitfish in the main creek but nothing in the feeder creeks. It was in the feeder creeks, right up against the shore in the shallows, that I found four bass: a 1-1, 1-2, 1-14 and a 2-5. Didn't get any hits trolling. My lure of choice was the XTS Minnow, as it runs so shallow (1 foot max). Surprisingly, no panfish or chain pickerel. Was really nice to be out without hat and gloves.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

All Set for a New Season on the Water...Well, Almost

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting at the dining-room table, helping my wife assemble a jigsaw puzzle--something I haven't done for longer than I can remember. Suddenly my cellphone rang, and it turned out to be Wayne, my boat mechanic. "Ready to get your spring service done?" he asked.

Knowing that the latest weather forecast I had heard hadn't sounded too promising for any outdoor activities, I asked if I could call him back early this morning with my reply. A check of The Weather Channel revealed chances of some showers this morning, but only between 5 and 10 percent until 11 o'clock, when the chances jumped up to 50 percent, with the possibility of some thunderstorms thrown in for good measure. It wasn't exactly the kind of forecast to give me a warm, fuzzy feeling.

A subsequent call back to Wayne, though, was all the reassurance I needed; he said he would be done in an hour and a half...max. I gulped down my breakfast, grabbed some rain gear, and headed for West Neck.

A half-hour after my arrival there (not bad for me, considering I was going slow, so as not to overlook something), I was on the road to Wayne's house.

Once there, it was the usual: spark and compression checks, change oil in lower unit, install new plugs, spray some cleaner, install new fuel/water separator filter, service the tilt/trim (probably will have to be replaced in due time), then hook up the garden hose and run the outboard for a few minutes. A check of trailer-tire pressure followed, and I was on my way back to West Neck Marina. Time elapsed: exactly 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The way I see it is that you can't beat a mechanic who does quality work and keeps his promised delivery time to boot. If only I could get the same thing from my auto mechanic.

In conclusion, let me explain the "well, almost" part of my headline. I have a couple new registration decals to apply one of these nice warm days. Could have done it today, but that was something I forgot to grab before heading out the door this morning. Just have to make sure I get this job done before my first trip on the water because I'm long overdue for a check by the game warden--can't remember the last time I had one of those, either.

Now comes the itch that can only be scratched with that first trip to the water of the new season. I can hardly wait.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

It's Official...

The gates at Pungo Ferry have swung wide open again, and you once more have 24-7 access.

For the Week Ending Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018

Friday, Feb. 9 (from Ron)...Made a quick trip from 3:30 until dark. Spent some time playing around with a new fish finder, which I concluded will take time to figure out. In any event, it didn't help much in the way of my totals. I managed four or five chain pickerel to 20 inches and a 1-8 bass on the XTS jerkbait. Oddly, didn't find any panfish.

Saturday, Feb. 10 (from Ron)...Headed out for a Milldam trip at about 11 a.m. Rain was forecast at 3, but it arrived early, and the wetness, along with the wind and cold, drove me off. However, I still managed a 2-lb. 5-oz. bass to avoid the skunk. The water was very, very murky. Am keeping my options open for perhaps going back out later in pursuit of some stripers.

Sunday, Feb. 11 (from Ron)...To find wind protection, launched at  Lotus Garden for Muddy Creek. At the 2-hour and 47-minute mark, I had my first hit and reeled in a 2-3 bass. Ten minutes later, I stumbled across a 1-5, and that was all. The wind was a bear, but at least it was warm.