Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fishing Gitchee Gumee from your kayak

One thread that I want to come back to in this crazy blog thing is fishing from the kayak. I figure as long as you are paddling you might as well be dragging something behind the boat. The best time for we kayakers to fish the Big Lake is in the early spring and the late fall when the lake is turning over and the baitfish are in the shallow water. Being forced to use anything like a Dipsy Diver or a downrigger to get your lure down deep is a major pain in the ass in a kayak. That being said I caught a nice Lake Trout on the surface last July that was eating June bugs from a bug slick off Herbster, WI. Lake trout, Brown trout, Steelhead, Chinook salmon, Coho salmon (tastiest fish in the lake in my opinion) and also walleye and Northern are all very catchable during those times of year. This northern, which is estimated at around 22-25 pounds and 40+ inches.....I sure as hell wasn't going to try to lift it to weigh or measure it in my kayak.....was caught in Lake Superior and released. The mark is some kind of fungal infection according to the DNR fisheries guy, not a lamprey scar as we assumed. More later on the nuances of fishing the Big Lake and some equipment options in later posts. My guess is the trout and salmon will start to bite in around 2 weeks or so on the South Shore.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Safe and/or fun?

My basic truth about sea kayaking is simply the bigger the waves the more fun and more thrilling the sport can be. I have a friend in Ironwood MI (he does own a kayak) who's motto is, "If you took the time to do everything safely you wouldn't get nuthin' done!". And yes, he is still alive although there have been countless close calls. My idea of balance between the safe and the thrilling is to have good gear (wet or dry suit, radio, pump/float, spare paddle, tow line, etc) and the set of skills necessary to deal with the big water. A solid wet exit and reentry is crucial but if you go over in big water I think you need a rock solid brace and a bombproof roll. Plenty of people don't and thats fine 95% of the time. But trying to do a paddle float reentry in 4' - 6' seas is shaky at best. I also think that 'roll for show, brace for dough' is a key point also. If you have a solid high, low, sculling, and maybe even a static brace you might never have to roll. Unless your paddle breaks, as mine did while testing my new Valley Aquanaut last spring. It was a couple high braces on the left, a couple on the right and on the last one I heard a snap and was upside down before I knew it, a half mile off the entry to the Port of Duluth. THEN you need to know how to roll, although I was with another guy, the seas were calm, and a reentry would have been a piece of cake. Anyway, in the thrill v safety debate you need to remember, as always, that the lake is the boss.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

March Blizzard

Even though ice out is just around the corner we did get hit with a classic early March blizzard. 23" were measured at our hunting camp southwest of Port Wing. The snowshoeing was fantastic and the evergreens were spectacular with their covering of the white stuff. Deer, Fisher, Porkie, and raptor sign was all over the woods. No wolves this time however, even thought the rednecks would have you believe the woods is crawling with them and that they have eaten all the deer. Yeah, right.

Park Point in Duluth was buried when the big lake decided to throw some 60mph winds at it and the ice was piled up 15' to 20' high along the north shore and on the ice shelf edge out in the lake. Before that there had been little snow on the lake and a skater a couple miles out from Duluth, looking down through the ice, discovered an unknown shipwreck. Just another of the many faces of Gitchee Gumee.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Ice out is coming fast!

I snuck down to Long Lake in New Brighton, MN with a sandwich and a folding chair to enjoy the unseasonable 60F weather in March. The ice is black and completely gone around the shore. My guess is open water in 3-4 days. With my dry suit and hood it will be time to practice rolling in the natural lake environment. Although I attended a pool session and a instructional rolling session taught by Greenland paddle guru's Freya Hoffmeister and Greg Stamer I still loathe chlorine infused water, the whine of the pumps and filters, the hard geometry of the sides and edges and basically everything there is to dislike about indoor pools. I'd rather be cold than chlorinated and we should be paddling on the lakes in this neck of the woods in a week or so. I can't wait!