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2017 Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Opener By Gary Howey

  Jack, the DeBruyckere’s English Setter methodically worked his way through the thick CRP cover, as he picked up the running birds scent he would pause and then move forward slowly as he worked his way towards the running bird and the end of the field.

   Jamie DeBruyckere indicated “He’s getting birdy” as she moved up behind the dog, as Jack, had the bird holding tight.

  We were attending the 2017 Minnesota Governor’s Hunt held this year in Marshall, Minnesota.  On this hunt, KWAT Outdoors radio host Don Fjerstad, Watertown, S.D. and I team up with Arlyn and Jamie Bruyckere on their CRP field about 5 miles outside of Marshall.

  This was seventh annual Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant hunting opener, Minnesota Governor Mark Drayton created the Governor’s hunt in 2011, his first year in office and in 2015 he convened the Minnesota Pheasant Summit introducing a ten-part action plan to expand pheasant habitat and increase the number of pheasants in the state.

  The pheasant opener would kick off Saturday October 14 and there were other events held on October 13.

  On “Friday the 13”, Don and I headed to the Sporting Clays range at Shooters Sporting Clays to try our luck on their Sporting Clay range  Going on at the same time, on the opposite side of the property the SMSU High School Trap Shoot Challenge was going on.  In this event, the top ten participants from five Minnesota High School Clay Target leagues would face off in a 250-target showdown for the bragging rights of this inaugural event.

  If you are not familiar with Sporting Clays, there are several throwers strategically placed out in front of the shooter where several clays come out from the throwers in several directions, which include one on the ground, the Bouncing Bunny, simulating the shots you might face in the field.

   It had been some time since I had been on a Sporting Clays course and it did not take me long to remember why I had not pursued this sport, as it was not pretty, but it was enjoyable.

  Also on Friday, we had an opportunity to attend the dedication of the James Meger Memorial Wildlife Area just down the road from Marshall. Pheasants Forever and more than a dozen other conservation groups and large donors made this Memorial Wildlife Management Area (WMA) possible.

  The memorial honors the late James Meger, from the Marshall area who was a renowned wildlife artist. His artwork raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for wildlife habitat as well as conservation groups.

   This WMA lies along a creek with a 155 acres of public access land located just a few miles northwest of his hometown, where the land will bear his name and have one of his works of art at its entrance.

   Marshall, in Lyon County as well as this area of southwestern Minnesota actively promotes hunting and outdoor recreation. One will find numerous public hunting acres within 25 miles of Marshall, as there are 37 Walk-In Access areas totaling just less than 3,000 acres, 20 Waterfowl Production Areas with approximately 3,779 acres and 132 Wildlife Management Areas with another 24,407 acres of public access hunting land. In Lyon County alone, you will find 47 Wildlife Management Areas totaling 11,184 acres. All are open to public hunting.

  As the 10:00 am start of the 2017 Minnesota pheasant season approached, we made our way out to one of the fields that we would hunt.  Approaching the drainage ditch and field, I talked with Arlyn about the land we would soon be hunting.  Arlyn indicated, “we have several areas with good habitat; this one has 10.8 acres of thick CRP, a shelterbelt and a drainage ditch running along the edge of one side of the property for a total of about 35 acres.” [Read more…]

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Return to Zippel Bay Gary Howey

  With the onset of fall, the colors on Lake of the Woods and Zippel Bay begin to    change to take on their beautiful fall colors. (Gary Howey Photo)

   As I walked from the log cabin, the calm waters of Zippel Bay mirrored the colors of the Northwood’s trees lining the far shore line.

   In the distance, the beckoning call of Canada geese resonated throughout the bay as the flock made their way out to feed.

  We had traveled north on I-29 through northeastern South Dakota and Watertown, my old stomping grounds on our way to the annual Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers conference on Lake of the Woods and had headquartered out of good friend s Nick and Deanna Painovich Zippel Bay Resort.

  While we were there, Nick had invited us to do some walleye fishing with him him and Jase Lamberson one of the charter boat captains for the resort.

  That afternoon as we made our way through the bay out into Lake of the Woods, and we could hear the gulls chattering on Lighthouse Point as Lake of the Woods opened up before us.

   Moving out onto Lake of the Woods, it was obvious that this was “big water” the sixth largest freshwater lake in the United States, which created the border between Minnesota, the United States, Manitoba and Ontario Canada.

  The Lake is enormous, 68 miles long, 59 miles wide covering 1,679 miles with 65,000 miles of shoreline with more than 14,552 islands found throughout the lake.

  We passed several groups of anglers as we worked our out to where Nick and his other charter boat captains had been fishing. Just outside of the bay, we could see all modes of fishing craft, charter boats, big fishing boats as well as a few kayakers working the rock piles in search of walleyes.

  Moving from our old lacation into an area not too far from several other Zippel Bay Charters who were busy landing fish out of the 29-foot depths.

  We rigged up, using one quarter-ounce jigs tipped with frozen shiners starting to work our jigs in and among the rocks for walleye.

  It was not long before Jase indicated that he had a bite, he set the hook on our first fish of the trip, one of those nice walleyes that would make for some good eating.

  Then it was my turn as I connected with another fish, a close cousin to the walleye, one of the hundreds of thousands sauger that call Lake of the Woods home.

  As my fish came into the boat, Nick set the hook on another nice walleye, one in the 17-inch range

  The bite continued as we boated some good fish, with the larger ones we released back into the lake to fight another day.

  Jase had the hot rod and continued to pull walleye and sauger up from the depth, but Nick and I were not far behind.

  When the bite slowed, Nick heard from other charters on the lake that there was a good bite not too far from where we were, we pulled the anchor and moved in that direction.

  Once we arrived we could see several boats and charters anchored in the thirty-foot water over the rock piles that were scattered across the bottom.

  As before, we would be jigging among the rock piles our jigs tipped with frozen shiners and no sooner than our jigs hit the bottom, Nick set the hook on the first big walleye, a healthy 18-incher with Jase and I each landing good size walleyes in between sauger.

  On this day, all of the boats and charters around us were into the fish, with nets coming out of the boats continually bringing fish into the boat.

   It did not take our crew long to put the fish we were looking for in the boat, with several healthy 15 to 17-inch walleyes as well as our limit of sauger.

   With the onset of fall, the colors of Zippel Bay will become brighter and more beautiful with the fall walleye and sauger bite going strong. [Read more…]

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The Primitive Fish of the North The Lake Sturgeon Gary Howey

  The Rainy River located on the Minnesota Ontario Canada border flows into Lake of the Woods with both the river and the lake premier destinations for anglers.

  I was one of several hundred outdoor communicators that made their way north to attend our annual Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW) 2017 conference held on Lake of the Woods.

  They keep us quite busy at the conference, but there was still time for several side trips including sturgeon fishing, walleye fishing, grouse and waterfowl hunting.

  Since I had never fished for Sturgeon, I was looking forward to tangling with one of these primitive fish that inhabit the waters of the Rainy River.

  Lake Sturgeon, are one of twenty-five species of sturgeon found in North America. They are a prehistoric looking ancient bottom feeder. Their skeleton is primarily made up of cartilage. They are streamlined with their armored coated body having rows of bony plates on both sides and their back and when not handled right cut like razor blades.

  They feed using its elongated snout that has taste buds on and around its lips which protrude down from their head. They, like catfish have  barbells coming down from their mouth, which helps them to locate food.  Their main diet is made up of insect larvae, worms, leeches and other small organisms it picks up from the muddy river bottom. [Read more…]

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Pheasant Hunting 2017 Gary Howey

  It will not be long before the upland Game Bird season opens up. Several of the states are reporting that their pheasant numbers are down.

  I have talked with several wildlife biologists about this and they have given several reasons for the decrease in pheasant numbers.

  First is the fact that in some areas, they had dry year and moisture, the dew that the young chicks needed was hard to come by.  Secondly was the fact that last season’s numbers were also down.  Lastly, but probably the most important reason is the fact that much of our CRP had disappeared. When commodity prices were high and the dollars the government gave per acre for taking the fields out of production, into CRP were low and much of the CRP plowed under.

  Without the habitat, we just are not going to see the bird numbers others and I saw while growing up in Watertown, South Dakota during the “Good Old Days.”

  The reason that South Dakota has birds is simple; they realize the thousands of dollars their State bird, the Ringneck Pheasant brings into the state’s economy.

  South Dakota definitely have more habitat than Nebraska, the state I reside in and In Much of South Dakota; they farm for pheasants taking care of what habitat they do have.  They do a number of things to enhance the habitat, making it more attractive to wildlife.

  In South Dakota, you will see sloughs; some hold water while others are no more than muddy swamps.  When they plant trees, many of them are specifically suited for wildlife. Many farmers will leave a few rows of corn or sorghum in the field each year, helping wildlife to survive during the harsh South Dakota winters.  This habitat helps to assure that the birds have cover to protect them from predators flying overhead and the food and cover needed to make it through the long winter months.

  This, along with the fact that game preserves stock birds heavily helps to ensure good bird numbers during the season.

  Some folks have the misconception that pheasants can live in the row crops, the corn and bean fields.  Maybe, in years past, but not today as the row crops no longer have pigeon grass and weeds between the rows, they are clean.  Sure, pheasants will move into them to feed before harvest and on what little waste grain there is after harvest, but row crops do not cut it for wildlife habitat.

  In areas where there was dry weather, successful hunters this season may have to hunt areas adjacent to water.  It really does not have to be much, as a small slough, creek, or pond will work.

  Another tip that is worth listening to is to hunt the smallest tracts of land, patches of weeds etc. The larger CRP fields or state hunting grounds are hunted hard.  As soon as one group comes out one end, another group is heading in the opposite end of the field.

  Most hunters tend to pass up these small weed patches or small clumps of trees.  These places can really hold good numbers of birds, those pushed from the larger fields, find safety, and shelter in these small tracts of land.

  It does not take a Rhodes Scholar to figure it out, many of the larger tracts of land are hunted hard and the birds are looking for a place to rest and get away from all the noise and shooting. [Read more…]

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Small & Largemouth The Bass Gary Howey

  Bass, both the smallmouth and largemouth bass are one of the top predators in any body of water as they’re some of the most aggressive fish in the body of water.

Largemouth

  The largemouth inhabits most bodies of water from small farm ponds, gravel/sand pits, to the Missouri River Reservoirs of South Dakota and Nebraska. Where’s there’s water, you’ll find the largemouth, including in the numerous lakes found throughout Minnesota and the “Glacial Lakes” of northeastern South Dakota.

  As mentioned earlier, largemouth can be very aggressive and will attack almost anything they might think they can get into their mouth. Among several of the things that bass are known to eat include snakes, frogs, lizards, salamanders, ducklings, crayfish as well as other fish.

  Bass are aggressive feeders, in the spring before the “Dog” days of summer; you’ll find them shallow in preparation for the spawn.

  The male will create a nest with their tail in one to three feet generally less than ten feet from shoreline where the fertilized eggs are deposited. The male will guard the fingerlings until they’re capable of fending for themselves.

  Because the male has been busy keeping predators away from the nest, he hasn’t had an opportunity to eat and one of the final things he’ll do before leaving the nest is chase the fingerlings from the nest by gobbling down as many of the young as possible. This not only allows the male to feed, but it may also show the young fish that they can’t trust anything, not even their father.

  After the spawn, the female moves into the deep water to rest and recuperate from the spawning ritual.  During the cool time of the day and after the sunsets, the females will move from the deeper water up shallow looking for a quick meal.

  In the summer, all largemouth will look for more comfortable water temperatures, this may be deep, adjacent or in the weeds or in the shade of a dead fall or stump lying in the water.

  As summer moves into fall, bass like all fish will start to feed heavily, as they need to bulk up before winter sets in, feeding heavily until water temperature decline when these cold blooded creatures metabolism slows and they ride out the winter.

  Some of the preferred baits for taking largemouth include; jigs and pig, spinnerbaits, buzz baits, Texas rigs with Berkley Gulp, PowerBaits and Carolina Rigs,  dropshot rigs, crankbaits like those manufactured by  Bagley and in some cases live bait rigs.

    The largemouth records for the states mentioned above vary with the South Dakota record for largemouth being 9 lbs. 3 Oz. with the Minnesota record fish coming in at 8 Lbs. 15 Oz. while the Nebraska record tipping the scales at 10 Lbs. 11 Oz

Smallmouth

The smallmouth bass can be even more aggressive than their cousin the largemouth bass are. Called the Bronze-back, a name given to smallmouth because of their aggressive nature and the way they fight once hooked, pretty much describes the fight an angler has on his hands once the fish is hooked. They run hard, test your equipment and come from deep water in a flash, dancing along the surface trying to dislodge the hook in their jaw.

  They inhabit numerous lakes throughout Nebraska, with excellent populations in the Missouri River reservoirs as well as on Merritt Reservoir and other smaller lakes.

  The South Dakota Reservoirs, Lewis & Clark, Lake Francis Case, Lake Sharpe and Lake Oahe all have huge smallmouth populations as do the “Glacial Lakes” in the northeastern portion of the state that include Horseshoe, Roy Lake, Reetz Lake and Enemy Swim.

   In Minnesota, you’ll find numerous lakes where these “Bull Dogs of the Deep” will test your equipment and your fish fighting skill. [Read more…]

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Multi Species, Multi Lakes & Mega Opportunities It’s Alexandria, MN. By Gary Howey

  The bobber rig on the end of my line was about to reach the boat, when a dark shadow, a huge muskie rose up from the depths, paying little attention to my 1/16 ounce jig and leech as it slid by my lure and into the cabbage weed in the deep water.

   It was a “BIG” fish one that appeared to be at least 36 inches long, not a giant on this lake, but one any angler would love to tangle with.

   Our guide Joe Scegura indicated the waters around Alexandria, MN. offer some of the best opportunities for anglers to catch a trophy muskie with one exceeding 50″ not uncommon.

  We had headed north on Tuesday, Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member Larry Myhre, Sioux City, IA, videographer Garrett Heikes, Wayne, NE. and as we worked our way up, Larry who had fished these waters before, clued us in on what we might expect. The fish found there, the lakes he’ fished and of course all the big fish he had taken there.

  Within a short drive of Alexandria you’ll find more lakes than you could count, most having excellent fish populations.

  The main structure on the lakes would be cabbage weed as well as some rocks, with good visibility down to twelve feet or more; these lakes hold walleyes, muskie, crappies, pumpkin seed panfish as well as northern pike.

  We’d be fishing with Joe Scegura, jsguideservice.com a, lunching from the east shoreline and as Joe headed up to park the truck and boat trailer, we spotted several species of fish working in and around the dock, a good indicator as to the number of fish found in the lake.

  Joe who had been on the water the previous day showed us some photos of the fish his groups had taken from this lake using slip bobber rigs.

  Slip-bobbers are unlike the standard bobbers that snap to the line as they have a hollow stem going through the bobber, with your line running through that stem, allowing the bobber to slide on your line.

  Slip bobber rigs are a simple set up, we used a small 1/16 ounce jig tipped with leeches or minnows, with the size of the jig you use can be smaller, use one you’re comfortable with, a clear leader leading to a swivel. It’s tied to the main line; Berkley Fireline, a small bead, Thill slip bobber slid up the line and a bobber stop attached to the line, which is generally, a small knot that slides through the guides on your rod.

  The weather reports weren’t very good, with thunder storms predicted that afternoon, so we were anxious to get on the water, and as we motored across the lake, Joe kept a close eye on the locators.

   As bad weather approaches, fish seem to sense them ahead of time and have a tendency to feed heavily before the storm, and because of this, we should be looking for some great fishing.

Author Gary Howey with guide Joe Scegura with one of the numerous walleyes took using slip bobber rigs while fishing the one of the many lakes in and around Alexandria. MN.

  I fired my slip bobber rig towards the outside edge of the weeds, my bobber hit the water, came to rest against the bobber stop, stood up, wiggled a bit then darted to the side before disappearing underwater as the fish attempted to dive deep into the cover of the cabbage weed bed.

Reeling up the slack, I felt the additional weight on the line; rearing back setting the hook hard, and if the way the fish was fighting, was an indicator, it appeared to be a good fish.

  As the fish came close to the boat, it let us know it wasn’t ready to give up the fight, peeling off several yards of line as it dove back under the boat.

   Gaining on the fish, I worked it towards the net, where Joe scooped up the nice 21 ½-inch walleye, one of the many fish we’d land on this trip.

 The weather we were facing, overcast skies and slight wind cutting the light penetration, allowed the fish to move shallow to feed, with the wave action allowing us to float our rigs into the wed line ,as Joe held the boat well away from the water we were fishing with his bow mount.

  Moving from one location to another, looking for the big fish, we were working the weed bed openings, when Larry’s slip bobber disappeared, he set the hook connecting with another decent walleye. While this was happening, Joe fought a fish up front, as I was fighting one at the back of the boat, our first of numerous doubles and triples we had on that day.

  A light shower moved in and didn’t last long, just long enough to force us to don our rain gear. The shower passed with the storm clouds moving away, with the sun coming out, which slowed our walleye action. In several hours, wed landed numerous walleyes with the two largest a 24 ½” and a 20″ fish. 

  As the sun moved higher in the sky we moved to different part of the lake to fish shallower water hoping to find some crappies.

  Garrett was the first to spot the huge schools of minnows using the area and then the crappies and other predator fish lying in ambush in the weeds.

  If you can spot the fish, they surely can see you, so fishing clear water required that you position the boat out and away from the fish, making long casts in front of where they’re located and let the wind drift your rig to them.  There were all kinds of fish in this part of the lake as we landed crappies, other panfish, walleyes, both large and smallmouth bass, as well as northern pike in the short period of time we fished that area.

  We called it early, as we needed to do some filming at the Arrowwood as well as some sights in Alexandria as well as to pack for the return trip the following morning.

  As we headed back, Joe had mentioned to and Garrett that there was a good smallmouth lake not far from where they were and they decided to do a late afternoon- early evening smallmouth bass excursion to another lake. Even though the wind picked up, they were able to boat several big smallmouths with the largest in the 20″ range.

  We caught all of our fish, numerous species in a short period of time with Joe putting us on the right spot, with the right rigs.

  The Alexandria, MN, area offers Multi Species, Multi Lakes & Mega Opportunities for both open and hard water fishing, visiting and vacationing and is an area all of us plan to return to in the near future.

  More information on all that the Alexandria, MN has to offer is available at explorealex.com.

You can contact Guide Joe Secgura at (320) 260-9056 or on line at jsguideservice.com.

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The 15th Annual Paralyzed Veteran’s of America &Fireman’s Fishing event By Gary Howey

  What does it take to have the ability to take dozens of paralyzed veterans and other individuals fishing on the Missouri River? It’s a monumental task, which is pulled off each year in the Missouri River waters adjacent to Chamberlain/Oacoma, S.D.

  Our destination, Arrowwood, Cedar Shore Resort, which located on the west bank of the Missouri River near Oacoma and as  we pulled into the parking lot, there were vehicles from several states including; Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado, North Dakota and Texas.

   The resort was the headquarters for the 2017 Firefighters Paralyzed Veterans of America North Central Chapter Joel Niemeyer Memorial Walleye Fishing event that was held May 25 and May 26.

  This event, the 15th annual would give disabled veterans and other individuals the opportunity to get out in a boat to do some fishing, for some; this would be their only opportunity of the year.

  Sponsored by numerous Fire fighters organizations, the North Central Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, local sponsors, several veterans groups, numerous volunteers, that included up to thirty boat commanders and first mates,  who’d volunteer their time, boats and equipment to take these folks out onto the river to fish. [Read more…]

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Jigging the Big Lake, Lake of the Woods, MN. By Gary Howey

Lake of the Woods is a pristine 50,000-acre lake along the Minnesota and Canada borders. There you will find, 65,000 miles of shoreline, numerous bays and over 14,000 islands, and some of the finest fishing available in North America.
This would be our destination where we Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member Larry Myhre and I would join Nick Painovich, Zippel Bay Resort to walleye fish on the big lake.
When we arrived, shortly after noon, our plans were to spend a couple of days fishing on Lake of the Woods, but as we looked at the extended forecast, it looked like it could be a one day trip and we had better not waste any time, as a severe weather pattern was heading our way.
It didn’t take us long to stow our gear in one of Zippel Bays thirty foot charter boats and make our way out of Zippel Bay into Lake of the Woods.
Nick motored out to one of the areas where they had been picking up some nice fish during first week of the Minnesota walleye season.
Dropping anchor, we positioned ourselves along the edge of the rock pile, tied on our jigs, tipped them with salted minnows and begin jigging. We were fishing along the edge of the rocks, hopping to pick up some of the post spawn walleyes making their way out into the deeper water.
The smaller males as well as the sauger were eager biters, some of which would join us at our fish fry that evening. As Nick and I were catching our dinner fish, Larry set the hook on what appeared to be a good fish and after a short battle, a twenty-seven inch slot walleye slid into the net, had her photo taken and then was released. Larry, who claims to be a multi-species angler, also landed a smaller northern. Not to be out done, Nick hooked another good fish, another of the slot fish, twenty-five inches that had her photo taken,
As the bite slowed, Nick would bring up the anchor and move onto another rock pile where we would work our baits off the rock pile down along the edge where it dropped off into deeper water. [Read more…]

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Big Stone Lake’s panfishing secret exposed By Larry Myhre

ORTONVILLE, Minn. | Big Stone Lake is a 26-mile long fish factory. Long known for its excellent walleye fishing, and in the past few years an exploding perch population, few anglers are aware of the excellent fishing for other species.

Take panfish, for instance.

When Artie Arndt, owner of Artie’s Bait and Tackle, told me that 10-inch bluegills were common here, I admit to being skeptical.

Turns out the first ‘gill we caught was taken by his son Tanner and it measured 11 1/2-inches. And that was right in front of the public docks and boat ramp right in town at the south end of the lake.

“Kids fish from the docks here and catch them all the time,” Artie said. [Read more…]

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PANFISH ON THE ROCKS ON BIG STONE By Gary Howey

Ortonville, MN. It was not long ago, when I made the remark, “bobber fishing is not one of my favorite ways to catch fish”, but that all changed last week. On that day, Team Outdoorsmen Adventures Member, Larry Myhre, Sioux City, IA. and I would meet Tanner Arndt, a guide from Artie’s Bait Shop, Ortonville, Minnesota to do some bobber fishing.
We were on Big Stone Lake; a twenty-six mile body of water located in northeastern South Dakota along the border with Minnesota is an excellent lake for walleye fishing and for its perch bite.
On this trip, it would not be the walleye or the perch we were after, as we were looking for panfish, crappies and bluegill.
The first afternoon, we launched from the public access near the rearing ponds where many of the bluegill we were after had started out as fingerlings.
With the wind picking up, we made our way across the lake, heading for some of the more protected bays behind the many islands on Big Stone.
As we approached one of the calmer bays, a pair of Canada geese greeted us, let us know we were trespassing on their territory, while several white pelicans perching on the rocks, paid little or no attention to our boat.
Both anchors were deployed as we begin to probe the shallow waters of the bay. We were anchored off one of the numerous islands in the lake, where the panfish, the crappies and bluegill had recently moved into in preparation of the spawn. As I was taking it all in, all that was around me, I gazed across the bay at the islands, its rock-strewn shoreline and the clear water. Glancing back at my bobber, it darted off to the right disappearing into the wave; taking up the slack line, I reared back on the rod, expecting to see a small panfish come flying out of the shallow water. [Read more…]