How to Miss a Turkey – Extend your season…here are some TIPS!

  • No matter where you hunt, turkey season is short and bag limits are small.
  • NOT filling a limit, there is a reward, your time afield is maximized, the hunt is extended.
  • The important thing is being “out there,” a day or two away from work, the anticipation for another hunt.

By Mike Schoonveld

I have made lots of hunters happy by explaining the best techniques to completely miss the shots they fire at the game they are stalking. The seasons are short and limits are small.

A competent hunter with a fair amount of accuracy with his shooting iron can find himself sidelined by success.

Any hunter will tell you the “kill” is secondary to the hunt. The important things are being afield, day or two away from work, and pitting human skills against animal instincts. Not bagging a deer or not filling a limit of ducks insures your time afield is maximized and the hunt is extended. In short, a good clean miss can be what makes a season a success.

I don’t hunt turkeys, but I do shoot shotguns and can offer plenty of advice at how to fail at what would seem a simple task. The task is to blast a 20-pound plus bird that is standing still or moving slowly with a gun designed to pepper pellets into a duck flying 40 miles per hour.

It can’t be that hard, so when a turkey is fired upon and missed, one of two things happened. There was equipment error or there was shooter error. If the gun went “bang” when the trigger was pulled and a load of pellets flew out the end of the gun’s muzzle, that pretty well eliminates the equipment error.   A more certain ploy to insure a full season of fun during turkey season is to rely on yourself to cause the missed shots. Here are some very reliable methods.

You can get overly excited when you first see that gobbler heading your way, responding to your seductive calls. Don’t worry about the distance. Never mind that the bird heading ever closer, thus making the shot easier. Blast away as soon as you see the Tom. Out past 40 yards or so, your pellets will slow to the point that they’ll bounce off the feathers and the rest of the pattern will pepper harmlessly into the forest.

You can take this to the other extreme, as well. Let the bird approach to within 10 or 15 feet and try for a head and neck shot with a pattern that measures about 2.7 inches across. Shotguns are designed to be “pointed” not aimed; but at extremely close range, you better learn to aim.

Then there’s the ol’ shoot through the brush trick. The gobbler is in easy range. You can see it strutting through a screen of the forest understory. Fire away, I guarantee you’ll miss.

Even with an open shot, only a half dozen of the pellets you fire will hit a vital spot on the turkey. So you aren’t really trying to force hundreds of pellets through the brambles. Most were destined to miss, anyway. What you are trying to do is thread those half dozen pellets which are on target through the maze and you only need to have a half dozen sticks or twigs in the way to insure a clean miss. A turkey behind a screen of intervening shrubbery is as safe as Capt. Kirk being attacked by a bevy of Klingon torpedoes when the Enterprise shields are up.

The most acceptable way to miss a turkey is to try to get a better look at your target. Shotguns don’t have a rear sight to use for aiming because, as I said earlier, you don’t aim a shotgun. Your eyes become the rear sight as you look down the barrel and point the gun. Can’t see the turkey real well because you are looking down the barrel? Just raise your head a few inches off the stock and you can see it clearly. Of course, now your “rear sight” has been adjusted to make the gun shoot high. The more clearly you see the bird, the higher you will shoot. Simple, effective and the best part is you get to keep on hunting.

So try one or more of these tricks when you hit the turkey woods in the next few weeks. Want to ensure you get to keep hunting, combine some of these techniques. You’ll thank me and be happy if you don’t get the bird on opening day, the rest of the season is still available for you!

THE END

Sick Raccoon Near Your Home? What to Do.

  • There has been a drastic decline in raccoon harvest by America’s hunters and trappers.
  • Lack of proper wildlife management can cause wild animal diseases and can hamper human safety.
  • Call the proper authority to handle ANY Sick Wild Animal you may encounter to do your part in this modern world of conservation.
Nose-to-nose, dog inside, raccoon outside, I snapped this cell phone photo before sweeping the raccoon off the deck.

By Mike Schoonveld

Our dog Molly was barking more than usual on the back deck a few nights ago while outside on her evening “duty-call.” Investigating, it appeared that she cornered a raccoon, perhaps attracted by the residual odors of grilled pork steaks I’d cooked on the deck earlier. My wife opened the slider door and yelled for Molly to get inside. Surprisingly, the dog came in, leaving the raccoon. I expected the raccoon to beat a hasty retreat. Instead, it continued to sniff around, apparently unconcerned, as if being accosted and nipped by a dog is usual.

I flipped on the interior lights so the raccoon could see through the glass patio doors where both Peggy and myself, as well as Molly, were watching. Instead of scurrying away, it came over and peeked through the glass, nose to nose with the dog. It appeared as though if I’d slid open the door, the raccoon would have just walked right on into the house.

I have no nearby neighbors, the closest a quarter mile away (and they don’t have a pet raccoon). Other neighbors live a mile away. I was sure it wasn’t a stray pet, and even a pet would run off if cornered by a strange dog.

There was something “off” about this raccoon – most likely, it was diseased. Luckily, in our area, though possible, raccoons are very infrequently infected with rabies. The last rabid raccoon in my state (Indiana) was back in 1979. Farther east in the US, raccoon rabies is much more common.

Raccoons are susceptible to many other diseases, though some are more common than others. Likely, our deck-invader had either distemper or parvovirus, the same bacteria or virus found in cats and dogs, but closely related raccoon-only versions of those diseases.

Balance Will Prevail

For the past several years, the prices paid for raccoon pelts in the fur market have been meager. Though natural fur is still a fashionable choice, shorter-haired fur, such as mink, is now the popular trend. International trade policies, sanctions, and still-struggling economies in some areas are adding further downward pressure to prices paid for raccoon pelts.

Fur is a global commodity. The biggest markets for raccoon furs in past decades were in Greece, until their economy collapsed; Russia, also with economic issues, as well as international trade sanctions; and China, until the Chinese government imposed high tariffs on imported pelts.

The result has been a drastic decline in the number of raccoons harvested by America’s hunters and trappers. Without any profit incentive, casual raccoon harvesters stopped hunting or trapping completely. Without any profit incentive, many recreational hunters and trappers drastically scaled back their effort expended on setting traps for raccoons or hunting them.

As with many species of wildlife, good stable populations require proper scientific management activity for good health. A regulated harvest is a part of that management. With no human intervention, nature takes over management responsibility, and nature’s way is decidedly inhumane. Overpopulation is handled by disease, exposure, or starvation – often in combination – and none of these deaths are particularly quick or painless.

In raccoons, parvo and distemper are the primary diseases that play a role in cutting populations back when human management efforts fail. For squirrels, it’s likely to be starvation or mange leading to exposure. In coyotes and foxes, it’s mange, heartworms, or other diseases. Nature has a plan for every species, whether you like the program or not. That’s why legal and regulated hunting and trapping are vital to maintaining healthy and abundant wildlife populations.

I live in the country and had the freedom, tools, and wherewithal to handle my back deck situation myself. I grabbed a broom and a .22 Smith and Wesson.

I basically “swept” the raccoon off the deck, down the steps, and into my yard. I thought, perhaps, a couple of pokes with the broom would send the animal scurrying. It didn’t scurry. Instead, it just sat there looking confused.

Many diseases can result when raccoons are not properly managed – in a populated town or in the wild country.

Happily, it showed no aggression towards me, just as it hadn’t when Molly was nipping and barking at it. Even after I swept it down two steps onto the sidewalk, it didn’t dart off into the darkness. It just sat there like a punch-drunk boxer until I pulled the trigger.

There are plenty of raccoons living in urban areas where it would be unwise or illegal to use a firearm to put down a sick animal. A person should not assume every sickly raccoon or any other wild animal will be docile. They could just as quickly have a nasty attitude towards dogs, brooms, or humans coming after them.

If you ever have this problem on your back porch and are unable or unwilling to handle it personally, the best bet is to call your “most local” law enforcement department. Whether it’s the city police or the county sheriff, they’ll know if there are animal control officers, licensed experts, or Conservation Officers available and get them headed your way.

Don’t ignore it. If the diseased animal does retreat on its own, in so doing, it (and you) may be helping spread the disease to other animals, even to pets they could encounter before they eventually die.

THE END

 

 

Are Coho Salmon the “NEW SALMON” for LAKE HURON?

  • Kings, Cohos, Atlantic Salmon, Steelhead, Lake Trout…and their forage base
  • Atlantic Salmon and Steelhead have more extended lives and thrive on different forage
  • The Michigan DNR has an essential decision to make, in 2020: is the King dead?
Will cohos put the bend in the fishing rods of Lake Huron anglers in 2020?

By Mike Schoonveld

After the results of the coho salmon stocking experiment in Lake Michigan a few years back, the test was a success. Control of the overabundant alewife population had been established in Lake Michigan, so cohos were stocked in Lake Huron next. There, the experiment was also a success, but two things worked to keep the Lake Huron success in the background.

First, they were second. Who placed second at the Daytona 500 last year? Who earned a silver medal in Olympic ski jumping? Few people remember runners-up.

More importantly, after the resounding success of coho stocking in the Great Lakes, next came the stocking of chinook salmon. There’s a cute maxim about Great Lakes salmon: “A coho is a silver, a chinook is the king!” Coho and chinook are the names given these species by the indigenous people, explorers, and settlers to the Pacific Northwest who called them silvers and kings.

The emphasis in this aphorism is on kings, since king salmon are usually two or three times larger than cohos and two or three times harder to bring to net, even at equivalent sizes. Once kings entered the picture, few anglers put much effort into trying to catch cohos.

In Lake Michigan, cohos gained a loyal following – especially in the southern end of the lake – near Benton Harbor and New Buffalo in Michigan, and again in Platte Bay in October, when Michigan’s cohos show up for their spawning run. Lake Huron coho fans were much smaller in number, and far fewer cohos were fished for and caught. Add to this the expense of stocking cohos is roughly triple the cost per fish of stocking king salmon. It was an easy decision, 30 years ago, for the Michigan DNR to discontinue the coho program in Lake Huron.

The Michigan DNR reintroduced coho salmon in Lake Huron and they will be ready to catch this season, in 2020.

Things changed in 30 years, most notable was the collapse of the alewife/chinook salmon dominated ecosystem in Lake Huron. Sure there were lake trout, steelhead, walleye, bass, perch, even pike, muskies and smallmouth in certain areas, but the primary forage fish was alewife, and the central predator feeding on the alewives was king salmon.

The demise of the alewife/chinook ecosystem in Lake Huron is well documented. There were many moving parts in the collapse, but basically, king salmon numbers went up due to natural reproduction, and the resulting kings ate all the alewives.

Chinook catches crashed to near zero despite continued MDNR stocking in select locations. Biologists learned that most of the stocked fish that would hopefully provide a minimal background chinook fishery for Huron anglers had migrated to Lake Michigan, where alewives were available by the time they were big enough to catch.

The chinook/alewife connection proved to be unbreakable. When alewives were eliminated, native forage species (which had been suppressed by the abundant ales) flourished. Sticklebacks, sculpin, herring, and others increased, as did non-native smelt and invasive round gobies. Kings turned their nose up at eating these alternatives.

Not so with Lake Huron’s other predator fish. Walleyes, lakers, and others quickly responded by foraging on these alternate, often more nutritious prey fish.

Fishermen, by and large, weren’t as interested in fishing for lake trout, walleyes, and other species. It was king salmon that attracted the crowds and provided customers for charter captains, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses. Fishing license sales attributed to Lake Huron anglers dropped dramatically.

Can anything be done? That’s the new question the MDNR hopes to answer.

One potential answer is to stock more steelhead.

Steelhead are more opportunistic feeders, seemingly as content to slurp beetles and moths off the lake surface as they are chasing shiners or other small prey fish.

Another potential answer is to stock Atlantic salmon. The Atlantic salmon program run by Lake Superior State at Sault Saint Marie in the St. Marys River, which flows into Lake Huron, seems to be vibrant. Perhaps the Atlantics could fill the void left by the shortage of Huron kings.

Perhaps an idea based on the concept “everything old is new again” could entice anglers back to Lake Huron. The MDNR recently stocked almost 50,000 coho salmon at Port Sanilac and another 50,000 at Alpena.

Food studies have shown cohos aren’t nearly as picky eaters as king salmon. They spend their first year of life, or longer, in the hatchery. When stocked at only seven or eight inches in length, they feed more on bugs than prey fish for much of their second year of life, and even in their third and final year (they spawn and die at age three), they will eat insects as well as smelt, gobies or most any other fish they can find.

The angling results of this experiment will be known this year. By spring, these cohos should be two or three times as large (16 to 22 inches), and many will be four to six pounds by mid-summer.

When it comes to Lake Huron salmon, a take-off on another familiar dictum may be appropriate, “The king is dead…long live the coho!”

THE END

 

 

LIVE & LEARN about LAMPREY’S, there are Many Species

  • Lampreys, lampreys everywhere…some are part of nature
  • Native species vs invasive species are always a concern for understanding
  • Lampreys live in the Great Lakes, isolated northern lakes, the Mississippi River, other places

By Mike Schoonveld

A couple of years ago I fished for sturgeon on the Rainy River in Minnesota, just upstream from where it flowed into Lake of the Woods. As luck would have it, I caught one and it came with a surprise.

My Lake of the Woods sturgeon came with an attached Silver Lamprey, see the wound right above the dorsal fin.

Last fall I fished for largemouth bass on the Mississippi River near LaCrosse, WI and one of the bass we caught that morning also came with a surprise. Each of these fish flopped on the deck with a lamprey clinging to their side.

I have not lived a fish-sheltered life. I’ve fished every Great Lake and dozens more not quite so great lakes. I’ve studied, fished for, and caught nearly every game fish available in these waters. When I landed that Minnesota sturgeon, the tag-along lamprey was an unexpected surprise.

As a Great Lakes fisherman, I am very familiar with sea lampreys, an invasive species from the Atlantic Ocean, now present in all five Great Lakes, as well as New York’s finger lakes.

It’s not a surprise when I catch a trout or salmon with lamprey scars, or even with a live lamprey still attached.

Sea lampreys in the Great Lakes are invasive species, and they kill thousands of trout and salmon each year.

My Rainy River surprise was a mystery. How had sea lampreys moved from the Great Lakes to Lake of the Woods and why hadn’t I ever heard about them damaging the fish populations there as they do in the Great Lakes?

Mystery solved; it wasn’t a sea lamprey. The lamprey suctioned to the sturgeon I caught was most likely a silver lamprey, one of four native species of lampreys found in Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and the other Great Lakes states. Two of them, like sea lampreys, are parasites. Chestnut lampreys – the other native parasitic lamprey – have been found in Minnesota, but have not been seen in Lake of the Woods.

I identified this silver lamprey after the fact. I was trying to get a grip on it so I could treat it the same way I treat the sea lampreys which come on my boat attached to a salmon or trout. They come aboard in one piece; they go back to the lake in two parts. Lampreys are slick and squiggly, and the sturgeon-sucker squiggled back into the river before I could decapitate it.
Neither silver or chestnut lampreys are protected species in Minnesota so that I wouldn’t have been in trouble had I put it on the chopping block. Since then, I have now learned they don’t deserve to be hacked into pieces as do sea lampreys in the Great Lakes.

By the time the lamprey came on board the boat with me on the mighty Mississippi, I knew better. It could have been either a silver or chestnut lamprey. Both are endemic to the big river. I released it, all in one piece, soon after snapping a photo (shown here).

This native Chestnut Lamprey was released back into the Mississippi after I plucked it off a largemouth bass.

NATIVE VS. INVASIVE

Why was I so soft-hearted about the bass-sucking lamprey encountered on the Mississippi River and why am I so ruthless about the sea lampreys “vampiring” on lake trout in the Great Lakes? Aren’t the silver, chestnut and sea lampreys all doing similar things? Aren’t all of them blood-sucking parasites potentially and probably injuring or killing the fish they attack?

Absolutely! The difference is the silver lampreys in Lake of the Woods and the chestnut lampreys in the Mississippi River have never wiped out entire populations of fish where they have been found. Invasive sea lampreys did that in the Great Lakes and would still be doing it if not for lamprey control programs in the US and Canada. Even with silver and chestnut lampreys there is still plenty of sturgeon in Lake of the Woods – along with walleye, lake trout, pike, crappies and other fish. There is still plenty of fish in the Mississippi River as well.

Native lampreys and native fish all evolved together and co-developed a host/parasite relationship and achieved a natural equilibrium. The long and short of it is through a complex web, which involves many more species than just bass or sturgeon and lampreys, there aren’t ever enough native lampreys in a system to overwhelm the fish on which they feed. Nature is a savage place. Big fish eat little fish, herons and ospreys eat bigger fish. For the most part, nature is always interacting to maintain the balance. Native lampreys parasitizing native fish are as much a part of that balance as an osprey snatching a pike.

THE END

 

Spent Oriole Nests prompt Quick Shooting Lesson

  • We created a happy oriole colony around our home by providing grape jelly feeders
  • Abandoned (used) oriole nests are never used again by the orioles
  • The nests proved to be surprisingly easy to “harvest”

By Mike Schoonveld

We created an oriole bird colony around our country home by providing grape jelly feeders.

How often have you watched a scene in an old western movie where a good guy is about to be strung up by an evil sheriff? The hero comes along, often on horseback, pulls out his six-shooter or Winchester and fires a shot which blasts through the sturdy rope, saving the good guy’s life.

Similar scenes occurred often enough, so the crew from the Mythbusters TV show decided to see if it was even possible. Could Clint Eastwood have really pulled off this stunt with a single bullet?

Of course not. I’m not dissing “the man with no name’s” shooting ability, but the Mythbusters, not surprisingly, couldn’t sever a thick hemp rope without hitting it with several bullets.

When I spotted the basket-like nests made by Baltimore orioles in the leafless treetops of two of the maple trees in my yard, I wanted them. Each nest was about 30 feet off the ground, nowhere near the trunks where I could climb the tree or even erect an extension ladder. Short of hiring a bucket truck to elevate a worker high enough to snip them free, the only thing I could think of to remove the nests was to shoot them down.

Then I thought of the Mythbuster’s episode I’d watched. How many shots with .22 bullets would it take to gun down the nest? I was pretty sure, as the Mythbuster stars proved with the rope, it would take several hits to completely cut through the narrow branch. The shooter or shooters wouldn’t have the advantage of being able to shoot from a rest and even a slight breeze would up the difficulty, as the wind would make the twig a moving target. I bought 1000 cartridges.

In the past several years an oriole colony has been “created” around our country home by putting out oriole feeders at our bird-feeding station. It started when we spotted a Baltimore oriole trying to suck a bit of the sugar-water “nectar” we’d poured into our hummingbird feeder. I’d heard orioles were attracted to oranges, so I fastened orange halves on the bird feeder stand where the oriole could find it.

It did, but two things happened quickly. First, the oriole quickly ate the fruit part of the orange and in a day or two, what was left looked pretty much like a weathered orange peel. The oriole moved back to fighting the hummers for the sugar-water.

A quick check and click or two on my Amazon Prime account had an oriole feeder heading my way. “Instead of sugar water,” said the instructions, “fill the food receptacle on the feeder with grape jelly.”

I don’t know what the attraction to grape jelly is for orioles. Most bird feeders just make a ready and steady supply of naturally available foods the birds would otherwise have to hunt to find. I don’t know of a natural supply of grape jelly.

The oriole quickly figured out the new feeder and was a happy bird. It soon became even happier when a female oriole showed up and both of the birds enjoyed regular visits to the jelly bonanza. By late June, their fledglings joined the parents for another few weeks, before they disappeared to wherever they migrate to in fall.

Used oriole nests are abandoned by the orioles after use, they proved to be surprisingly easy to “harvest.”

The next spring (late April) they were back. Were they from the same family? I can’t say, but there were more of them and even more the following year. (We now have three oriole feeders and buy bulk, generic grape jelly to keep them all happy.)

Orioles don’t reuse their unique nests so removing them from our tree wouldn’t disappoint our birds, but my wife thought she could use them decoratively in our house. When my son, son-in-law, and daughter were home for Christmas, I pulled out three .22 rifles and we all headed to our country farm.

Disclaimer: My house is in the country, I have one neighbor a quarter-mile away and no others within .22 rifle range. We assessed where our spent bullets would go before firing any of the guns.  First, we sighted in the rifles to make sure they were zeroed perfectly at 30 feet – about the height of the nests. That took about a dozen rounds. Each rifle was fully-loaded, but before any of the magazines were emptied, my son hit the supporting twig and down came the nest. Just luck?

We moved to the second nest, reloaded and began firing. In less than a minute that nest dropped to the ground, as well. Total ammo used? Forty-eight bullets! Move over, Clint Eastwood.

THE END

 

 

 

NO Truck BRAKES…on the Boat Launch!

  • Saved by a Smartphone App
  • Add $14 for Trailer Tow Care
  • Sleep better at night

By Mike Schoonveld

Launching a boat from a trailer isn’t supposed to be an exciting task. Getting in the boat, heading out to the lake, catching some fish, now that’s fun and exciting. But just backing down the ramp and floating ol’ Wave-Whacker off the bunks is a rather mundane chore.

Unless the brakes on the tow vehicle decide it’s time to malfunction! All of a sudden the slow descent down the ramp, the boat floating free, and the rest of the procedure turns into a power launch. That’s what happened to me recently.

I suppose I was lucky. A few minutes earlier, I was speeding down a busy highway filled with other cars and trucks. Had the brakes failed then, I would have been in a bigger pickle than just shooting my boat off the trailer. When the boat floated free, the last ounce of brake fluid left in the system actuated just enough pressure to slow and stop the truck. I didn’t want to power-launch the tow vehicle!

So now what? The boat was floating nicely. The truck and trailer were safe in the parking lot. There was a little puddle of brake fluid dripping from the ruptured brake line, and I was 50 miles from home. What would you do in this situation?

Here’s what I did.

I pulled out my cell phone, scrolled through the apps showing on the screen until I found the icon with the BoatUS logo. I clicked on it. In a few seconds, I was connected with a person who was ready and able to help. I told her the problem, provided the marina name and location, and I told her there was no hurry. I’d traveled to the lake to go fishing, the boat was floating, my fishing partners were due any minute and the truck wouldn’t be any more broken in early afternoon than it was right now at dawn.

As the information was relayed back and forth, she went to work. Fifteen minutes later, my phone rang and Terry, from a local towing company, was on the line.

“I’m sure this is a bit strange,” I told him. “I imagine most of the time when you get a call it’s because someone needs your help and needs it as soon as possible.” I explained what happened and then asked, “Can you meet me at the marina at 1 PM?”

The meeting scheduled, all I had to do was concentrate on picking the best place to fish and the best lures to use. We had a great fishing trip, and I was back at the dock in plenty of time to meet up with Terry and the tow truck.

I’d already moved the truck and trailer to a deserted spot in the parking lot and disconnected the trailer. When Terry arrived, we quickly hooked up the trailer to his flat-bed and he backed my boat trailer down the ramp. Soon the boat was loaded, the gear stowed, and the boat and trailer were road-ready.

We then disconnected the boat and trailer, winched the truck up onto the flatbed and chained it secure. Then we reattached the boat and trailer, and I was on my way home.

I’d called the garage where I take most of my vehicles with mechanical issues and made an appointment. So we dropped the boat off at my house, and then hauled the broken-brake truck to the mechanic.

Once done, I asked Terry what the procedure was to pay him. “All taken care of,” he said. “The boat place paid me with a credit card.”

“Just curious,” I asked. “What’s the bill?”

“Hook-up fee, mileage, truck and trailer at five bucks per mile, comes to $600,” Terry said.

I buy a BoatUS membership each year for the same reason I belong to the National Rifle Association, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, and other groups. I believe in their mission.

I add $14 to my annual dues check to get the “Trailer Assist” option from BoatUS (the smartphone app is free). I trailer my boat thousands of miles each year and there is a myriad of things that could go wrong. Tires, wheel bearings or blown brake lines on the tow vehicle. Is it worth it? You do the math.

It’ll make a great gift at any time of year for someone you might know that trailers their boat. Go to BoatUS.com for details.

 

 

TEKOTA-A, a Reel Winner on my boat

By Mike Schoonveld

When the new braided lines were introduced and became popular with saltwater anglers, reel-makers adapted. They quickly developed new models specifically for the new skinny line. These braid-crankers were scaled down in overall size, fitted with relatively massive drag systems, and engineered with super-high gear ratios. Physical size, strictly to increase line capacity, wasn’t needed. Six-hundred yards of braid will fit on a reel with only a 200 yard capacity for monofilament.

The Tekota-A has a gear ratio of 6.3:1 and picks up roughly 37 inches of line with each reel handle turn.

Just half-filling a reel with braid is a lousy option. A reel with a full spool of line may wind on 24 inches of line with each turn of the handle. The same reel with only a half-filled spool will wind on only 12 inches per handle revolution.

By the same token, a tough fighting fish pulling line off a reel at 10 feet per second, spins the spool against the drag mechanism twice as fast with a half-filled reel. A drag system that may handle 100 rpm’s may fail completely at 200.

Reels for the Great Lakes market didn’t adapt. Though the use of braid (or equally skinny wireline) has increased, almost all the braid and wireline guys continued to use the same reels they formerly spooled with mono. To make it work, they wound on enough mono to nearly fill the reel’s spool, then topped off the spool with braid or wire. The line under the braid or wire on top was filler used solely to insure a reasonable amount of line was retrieved with each turn of the handle and to make the drag work efficiently.

Anglers can work big fish or retrieve lengthy line sets back to the boat with greater comfort, less effort, which makes fishing more fun for everybody.

I don’t know if Shimano’s newly designed Tekota-A models are designed to specifically to bridge the gap between braid and mono, but they do, and quite nicely. Shimano Tekotas (the original model) are, in the opinion of many, the best Great Lakes trolling reel ever made. I have Shimano Tekotas on my boat, I’ve fished with them on other boats and have nary a complaint about them. So why change to the Takota-A?

The change isn’t just cosmetic between the old and new versions. Available (at this writing) in 500 and 600 sizes with the same line capacity as the “non-A” Tekota 500 and 600, that’s where the comparison ends. The originals had a gear ratio of 4.2:1. The “A-Team” has a gear ratio of 6.3:1. (Rough math comparison, with full spools, the A model winds on 37 inches of line, the original will retrieve 25 inches with each handle revolution.)

The drag on the original Tekota’s maxed out at 18 pounds; the Tekota-A torques down to 24 pounds. The increased power means the drag will perform better, more smooth, more reliable, no matter how tight it is set, no matter how full the spool.

My test reels (Tekota 500A’s in the line-counter version) have performed flawlessly for two seasons now. I spooled one with a 30-pound braided line, the other with 40-pound 19-Strand Torpedo Wire. I needed a bit of monofilament backing to bring 500 feet of wire and 200 yards of the braid to reach “full spool.” The reels were mounted on diver rods and used for diver trolling.

I formerly used Tekota 600’s for trolling divers with the same amount of braid or wire but needed more mono backing under the top to fill the reel to the right level. I needed the full spool diameter to give me an adequate line retrieval per crank. The high gear ratio on the Tekota A more than made up for the smaller diameter spool on the smaller 500-size reel. In use, the smaller 500A is noticeably lighter, the drag holds nicely against the pressure on the troll and slips smoothly when a big fish hits the lure. I ran each diver, at times, with as much as 200 feet of line out. I really appreciated the high speed retrieve when reeling in just the diver and lure – no fish – on the longer line sets.

Tekota lovers, if you are buying another reel, the Tekota-A are as good or better than the original Tekota’s, the “better” means you can easily get by with the smaller 500A if the line capacity suits your needs. There’s a reason the Shimano Tekota-A reels won Best of Show at the 2018 ICAST event and has been a winner on my boat for the past two seasons.

Those Goofy Golf Balls!

  • The WORLDWIDE BAN-THE-DRINKING-STRAW movement started with a single turtle’s straw-clogged nostril video…WHAT ABOUT GOLF BALLS?

By Mike Schoonveld

I confess to being a recovering golfer. I think I’m fully recovered since my urges to hit the links are now exceedingly infrequent. I haven’t owned a set of clubs since I got out of high school and hand-me-downed my hodge-podge collection of Wilsons, MacGregors and Spaldings to my younger brother.

I did play a few rounds of golf in college and after graduation with borrowed clubs, but as I matured, my recreational pursuits moved to more fishing and hunting, and less to “chasing the little round ball.”  Little did I know I was saving the Earth by jonesing on golf.

I was never a threat to Tiger Woods (back then, it was Arnold Palmer), so when I was golfing and encountered a water hazard, I frequently took full use of it. I’ve plunked my share of balls into the ponds, rivers, or lakes guarding the fairways where I played. So do most other golfers.

A recent Internet post puts the number of golf balls littering America’s water-bottoms at 300 million. I don’t know if that’s a total number or that many accumulate each year, but like many Internet statistics, it’s likely a just-plain-guess either way. Either way, that’s a lot of golf balls. Put them all together, and they would fill Yankee Stadium (actually, I just made that up, but feel free to repeat it as fact).

No wonder golf balls have gained the attention of environmental worriers. A stadium full of golf balls can’t be environmentally safe.

But why I wondered? My first thought was perhaps riparian creatures like otters, muskrats, or water snakes were mistaking golf balls for eggs and eating them. Wrong! 

Researchers seeking facts about the aftermath of lost golf balls aren’t much worried about snapping turtles in golf course ponds mistaking them for food, at least so far. However, if the lost-ball scientists could document just one turtle with a golf ball clogged system, it would be revolutionary. After all, the worldwide ban-the-drinking-straw movement started with a single turtle’s straw-clogged nostril video.

If only some cute (or turtle-ugly creature) would turn up with golf-ball-it is, both the golf ball industry as well as the “collect money to save the Earth” industry would benefit greatly.  Golf ball makers could produce and market a variety of water-hazard friendly balls. Politicians and government regulators could make up rules and policies dictating all sorts of golf ball decrees. Tiger Woods and other pros could endorse environmentally sensitive balls. Environmental activists would have more reasons to picket golf courses, especially those frequented by unfriendly politicians.

Alas, it’s not whole golf balls causing the environmental degradation, it’s the conversion of golf balls into microplastic particles now consuming researchers’ dreams. Nothing lasts forever, even a golf ball in a lake. Eventually, the same forces of nature which formed the Grand Canyon and over time, turned the mighty Scottish Mountains into the not so mighty Scottish Highlands (birthplace of golfing) will grind a golf ball into little more than golf-ball dust, and then what?

According to researchers for the DGA (Danish Golf Association), golf ball dust has been found to contain “dangerous levels of zinc” and then opined that zinc could poison plants. Maybe so in Denmark. I’ve heard the phrase, “Something is rotten in Denmark” – maybe it’s rotting golf balls. Here in the USA, zinc is recognized as an essential plant micronutrient and regularly applied to the soil by gardeners and farmers. If you are Danish or plan to golf on your next trip to Scandinavia, look for zinc-free golf balls.

I’m happy problem seekers have little more about which to worry than golf ball pollution around America’s lakes, rivers and golf course ponds into which errant hooks or slices could result in excess zinc, clogged raccoons or other golf ball pollution. If that’s the worst thing being plopped into our water resources, America is in pretty good shape. At least until a turtle shows up on YouTube with a Titleist wedged in its throat. 

See a Fish, Catch a Fish

  • New gear today talks to us in new ways that make finding fish and trying to catch them more fun
  • You can connect your phone, your radio, your drone…to your sonar
  • Installation is easy, it’s all pictorial…even I could do it
“Are those all fish down there?” Yes, they are! Plus, we have the depth, water temp, boat speed, course heading, GPS location and so much more. Now, how to catch those fish…

By Mike Schoonveld

As the people point to the sonar unit on my boat, I’m often asked, “Can you see fish on that?” My pat answer is, “Yes, but if I had to see a fish on the screen to catch it, I’d be in trouble. And, if I could catch every fish showing on the screen, we’d fill the boat.” You might have to read that twice.

I stand by that statement, but when I get better at using my Raymarine AXIOM Multi-Function Display (MFD), I may have to change my answer. It will certainly mark more fish in the average trip than will fit in my boat, but it comes much closer to giving me (or any fisherman) the ability to “see a fish and catch a fish.”

The AXIOM is called an MFD because it is more than just a sonar, chart or GPS. Think of it as a computer monitor capable of showing screens associated with whatever program the computer is running. You can call up displays from other Raymarine devices, such as radar or autopilot. It will interface with some phone apps, Sirius Radio, weather channels, and with a wifi connection (such as your cell phone’s mobile hotspot), you can even watch Netflix or connect to other entertainment.

You can use it to control your drone! Gearheads may want to connect the MFD to their motor’s computer to monitor engine performance on the display.

I’ll run through a few of the features as well. If you like technical jargon like “quad-four processor” and other exacting specs, go to http://www.raymarine.com. The website lists enough details, techno-words, and numbers with Greek letters attached to keep any tech-geek happy and most fisherman confused.

For instance, the AXIOM has CHIRP technology in the main sonar. I don’t understand all I know about CHIRP, and I understand more than I need. I do understand when in use, the sonar picture on the screen is better. I see more fish, things on the bottom and other details.

It has two other “real-time” sonar modes which, depending on where and how you fish, may be all-important or of little importance to you. The way I picture SIDEVISION is turning a sonar transducer 90 degrees, so instead of viewing straight down, it sends and receives pings and echos to the side (or both sides) of the boat. It will show nearby reefs, bridge pilings, rocks on the bottom, and the fish lurking near these things.

We can see the bait, predator fish, bottom details, and maybe some history of yesteryear.

It’s harder to explain DOWNVISION. It’s similar to the regular sonar, except it’s a sort of HD version. Even with CHIRP, as you motor across a sunken tree, a sunken boat, or a pile of rubble, each will look like “something” lying on the bottom. With DOWNVISION, the something looks like a tree, boat or rock pile.

Mr. Cool of the four sonar modes is the 3-D vision. The computer brain in the AXIOM uses the information gathered from the sidevision and downvision sonar returns to create a computer-generated three-dimensional picture on the screen showing the underwater world you just passed. You’ll see the bottom of the channel, the sunken boat on the bottom, fish suspended above the wreck along with the bridge piling the boat hit to cause it to sink.

The unit comes with a Navionics charting chip, so when you switch the unit to charting mode, you can set waypoints and use the GPS to navigate to them and back. I’m sure it will do other things I’ve yet to discover. There are multiple choices of overlays to customize the screens to personal needs.

One of the first things I noticed, different from all the other sonar/chart/GPS units I’ve previously used: I don’t have to take off my polarized glasses or tilt my head to a specific angle to look at the screen and be able to see it! Not only will it see the fish better, but I can also see the screen better! In my mind, that’s the most underrated selling point of the Axiom.

It’s expensive, but expect many years of use from the unit just as it comes out of the box. Add that Raymarine offers free software and operating system upgrades, so the Axiom you buy today will be nearly similar in power and features to the models they sell three, four, or more years from now.

I’m not a trained professional marine electronics installer, but I easily installed my MFD, the transducer, and connected it to the boat’s wiring system. Believing a picture is worth a thousand words as the installation guide is mostly pictorial, the wires and connections are color-coded, and anyone capable of changing the batteries in a flashlight will have few problems installing their Axiom.

The above picture shows the Mr. Cool 3D picture on my 9-inch version. Notice the boat motoring to the upper left and the fish (in blue); I’d passed trailing behind the boat. It comes in both seven, nine and 12-inch screens depending on your available space, desire or pricepoint.

The latest versions are all touch-screen, no knobs.

Very cool.

The Real Asian Carp Threat

Flying carp are the YouTube stars threatening to invade the Great Lakes.

  • Mussels and other invasive species have had effects
  • Asian Carp could alter much more than is discussed
  • Flying Asian Carp have become “YouTube Stars”
Are Asian Carp more a threat to the Great Lakes or the Milwaukee River, shown here, and all the other Great Lakes tributaries? (USGS photo)

By Mike Schoonveld

None of the 180-plus invasive species found in, or threatening the Great Lakes, have more name recognition among average citizens than the Asian carp. Though people have heard of zebra mussels, only a relative few have heard of Quagga mussels. Many experts point to Quaggas as the most environmentally damaging invasive species to ever infest the Great Lakes.

Still, of all the invasives in the Great Lakes – the mussels, the lampreys, miniature freshwater shrimp and all the rest – none are as well known as the YouTube stars – the “flying carp.” No doubt you’ve seen those big silver carp jumping onto boats in middle America’s big rivers. Too bad zebra and quagga mussels and other invasives weren’t as photogenic and engendered an equal amount of dollars and concern when they first invaded the lakes.

The flying carp are named silver carp – they are the jumpers. They, along with their cousins, the bighead, black and grass carp are often grouped together as Asian carp. All of them are serious problems in middle-America’s rivers.

When I get questioned by someone about invasives in Lake Michigan (or the other Great Lakes) almost always the question is about Asian carp. You’d think the lakes are swarming with them. They aren’t, though the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Illinois and other rivers are, and the potential does exist for the swarms to spread on northward and eventually get into the Great Lakes.

No one wants that to happen and the easiest way to quantify the magnitude of the damage – should they get into Lake Michigan and then spread to the other lakes – is to express it in dollars and cents. Hurricane Sandy caused $62 billion in damage. Western wildfires cost $18 billion last year. Disasters seem to be best understood, comprehended or compared that way. How would you compare a flood with an earthquake with a hurricane? What is the economic damage? The only logical way.

Flying carp are the YouTube stars threatening to invade the Great Lakes.

The dollar figure most often used to warn of the economic damage to the Great Lakes should Asian carp become established is six billion dollars ($6,000,000,000.00). That’s an annual figure to the “fishing industry” which, I assume, is a cumulative figure combining the economic impact of both recreational fishing and commercial fishing.

When a person sees this number, the A follows B reasoning is: A) should the carp proliferate in the Great Lakes, then B) they will somehow displace the salmon, trout, walleye, whitefish, perch and other species people harvest from the lakes.

Not so much. Asian carp feed by filtering algae, plankton and other nearly microscopic “edibles” from the water. This is the same thing baby fish feed on their earliest stages of life and the same things the slightly larger things like freshwater shrimp eat. Once baby fish grow, they switch to feeding on shrimp and other zooplankton before ultimately switching to eating other fish.

If the carp get established in the lakes, the next logical step is they’ll vacuum out enough algae, plankton and the rest of the stuff at the bottom of the food chain to starve the sport and commercially important fish. Eventually, they will eliminate six billion dollars of economic impact each year.

Except for one thing, the invasive mussels have already done that. Lake Michigan’s water is now more clear than Lake Superior’s water. (Lake Michigan has far more zebra and quagga mussels.) Lake Michigan is also ground zero as the location Asian Carp could most readily access the Great Lakes because of its connection via man-made waterways to the mid-American river system.

If the mussel invasion already sucked the life from the bottom of the food chain, would the Asian carp exacerbate it? Hardly. Most Asian carp were they to freely swim upstream from the Illinois River into Lake Michigan, would quickly starve to death. There’s not enough algae and plankton in the lake to keep them healthy for long.

But maybe one in a one hundred (1%) would live in the lake long enough to find, say the Root River in southern Wisconsin, Trail Creek in Indiana or the St. Joseph River in southern Michigan. Maybe only one in one thousand (0.1%) would find a new home in these or other tributary streams. If they did, they could proliferate in them and a new invasion would occur. From the St. Joe River to the Black River. From the Black to the Kalamazoo or the Grand and on up the coast.

Eventually, should this happen, much of the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada could be infiltrated by flying carp and the cousins. That’s the real threat of letting Asian carp gain access to the Great Lakes. If that were to happen, the economic damage would make the six billion dollar figure now bandied about seem insignificant.

THE END

Pulling the Weight, Sequoia Meets the Challenge

  • The trailer test vehicle was the Sequoia Toyota Limited with 5.7L V8 gasoline engine, 4WD.
  • It handled my 5,000-pound boat flawlessly at the ramp and on the road.
  • While towing, the instant mileage readout varied from 9 to 14 mpg, depending on conditions and speed.

By Mike Schoonveld

The Sequoia is Toyota’s entry into the full-size SUV market.

For us guys with boats that sit on trailers between fishing excursions, the major “toy” between our boat and the lake is the vehicle to which the trailer connects. The size of the boat dictates what size of the tow vehicle is required, of course, but for most Great Lakes work, the vehicles need to be somewhat substantial.

 The Toyota Sequoia that I used to tow my boat from my Indiana home to Kenosha, Wisconsin and then to Put-In-Bay, Ohio last May was substantial, whether I was hauling over gravel-packed two-tracks or six-lane expressways. The Sequoia Toyota for this test was the Limited model, fitted with a 5.7L V8 engine and 4WD, adequate to pull my boat from algae-coated boat ramps. Equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission, this full-sized SUV ran through the “gears” effortlessly whether going uphill or down, on the highway, or in stop and go traffic on Chicago’s Fullerton Avenue heading for Diversey Harbor (long story why that trip was included).

As are most vehicles these days, the Sequoia is fully equipped with bells and whistles, lane change alarms, driving sensors to detect if you are driving unsafely or the guy in front of you is driving unsafely, Bluetooth connections – in short, more on-board “toys” and other features than I was able to figure out how to use during my trip. I wasn’t so much interested in the bells or whistles, I was more interested in how it handled my 5000-pound boat (and how my 5000-pound boat handled the vehicle) in real-life driving conditions.  Rated to tow more than 7000 pounds, the Sequoia pulled my rig just fine.

I was also more interested in how it handled the gear and luggage I needed for extended trips away from home, especially when traveling with other anglers or a family group and our luggage. The coolers we hoped to fill with salmon and walleye fillets went in the boat. The rest of our duffle easily stored inside with a bit of short planning. The second-row bucket seats added some interior room since we could stow items between the seats as well as in the rear.  Once the luggage was removed, a third-row seat folded out of the floor allowing our whole group of six to head for The Brat Stop in Kenosha for dinner.

The Sequoia model that I tested handled my boat flawlessly at the ramp and on the road.

All in all, the Sequoia is certainly a viable tow vehicle and any on-the-go Great Lakes angler should consider it when it’s time to upgrade. I certainly will. Rated 13 to 17 mpg on the mileage meter, it’s in the same league as other comparable brands and models.

If there was one item to pick at on the Sequoia I tested, it was the gas-gauge/gas tank capacity. For one, the tank capacity is 26 gallons. Pulling the boat, my instant mileage readout on the dash varied from 9 to 14 mpg depending on conditions and speed so about 10 to 12 actual.  Not bad, but with that size tank, regular stops for gas is going to be required. (My regular tow vehicle gets the same mileage, but has a 42-gallon tank.)

On my trip to Ohio, I knew the next travel plaza was just ahead and a few miles before getting there, the low fuel warning light came on. We made it more than easily since the pump kicked off when 20 gallons were added.  I’m sure once more familiar with the accuracy of the fuel level indicator, the smaller tank would be less disconcerting.

You can check out the Sequoia online (in various editions) at www.toyota.com.