Camping Season is Just Around the Corner

At a Bowling Green KOA in Kentucky, a covered stagecoach was available for camping, a special experience.

By Bob Holzhei

Memorial Day weekend is the beginning of the 2022 camping season!

Camping allows travelers to spend time outdoors in the fresh air and has become more popular than ever during the post-pandemic era. Some recreational vehicle dealers are having difficulty keeping RVs on their lots.

Camping is very budget-friendly too! It has allowed our family of six to afford more time vacationing than if we were to stay in motels. Our current RV is a self-contained 30-foot motor-home with a kitchen, dining area, bath, shower, living room, televisions, and a sleeping area that accommodates eight.

Choosing where to camp involves deciding on a site. Choices include state and national parks and even luxury full-service RV resorts offering various amenities. Some resorts provide a clubhouse for social gatherings, a swimming pool, hot tub, bocce ball, golf cart rentals, horseshoes, and shuffleboard.

Our experiences took us to a new RV Resort at Arcadia, FL. It just opened three years ago and is expanding with additional RV sites. An elegant clubhouse is scheduled to be finished by next winter. The clubhouse will have exercise equipment, a pool table and weekly activities such as dances, poker nights, bingo, and pool exercises. While we were on site, there was one weekend where seven campsites hosted complimentary snacks and drinks as a meet and greet social event. It was fun.

The spacious RV sites are 20 by 70 feet and paved with a brick base.   The bulletin board in the on-site laundry had a sign-up sheet for additional activities, including golf, pickleball and Mexican train dominos.

Our new camper found a comfortable home at an RV campground in Arcadia, FL.

During our first winter camping trip to Florida, my wife and I were surprised to discover food trailers arriving at the RV resort each week. Our initial week stay quickly turned into a one-month reservation, then led to reserving a spot for a longer time next winter.

“It looks like we’re eating out tonight,” stated Becky, a fellow camper with whom my wife Shirley made friends.

An assortment of food trailers arrived weekly, offering pizza, burritos, chicken wings, fries, filet mignon, porterhouse steaks, salmon and other fish dishes. Add other amenities, including poker nights, bingo, pool exercises, and social meeting opportunities.

Across the United States, travelers can request state campground directories. Many are free and list the locations and amenities offered. Reading through the literature during winter is a great way to prepare for the upcoming camping season.  Visit https://www.rv-camping.org/campground-directory/.

As RV parks offer new amenities across the United States, roughing it has taken on a brand-new meaning!

Ticks the Season! It’s Turkey Time

Olympus Digital Camera, from the late Joe Forma photo collection

YES, that’s a dime! Blacklegged ticks are much smaller than common dog ticks. In their larval and nymphal stages, they are no bigger than a pinhead. Adult black-legged ticks are larger, about the size of a sesame seed (left to right: larva, nymph, adult male, adult female). Courtesy of CDC

By Bob Holzhei

With tick season just a few weeks away, outdoor folks – especially turkey hunters, are preparing to sit their butts down in the woods. It might be good to know about the tick prevention safety guide that has been developed by Brian Anderson, who is from Iron Mountain, MI., known as the Tick Terminator.

“The guide has been used by hundreds of safety directors, outdoor workers and enthusiasts across the country to help them learn and share new prevention ideas in the battle with ticks,” says Anderson.

A follow-up bulletin titled “The Hidden Cost of Lyme Disease” assists readers of the tick season which runs from March through November each year.

What is Lyme Disease? 

“Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdolferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of black-legged ticks (deer ticks).  Symptoms include headache, brain fog, chills, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, neck stiffness, achy joints, bulls-eye rash including other rashes, facial palsy, heart palpitations, dizziness, vision changes, and sensitivity to light,” stated Anderson.

If left untreated the disease can spread to joints, heart and the nervous system.  It is estimated that the disease results in 300-400,000 new cases each year.

Early detection and treatment are important.  If diagnosed soon enough, within a few weeks of a bite, antibiotic treatment by an MD will be sufficient to combat the disease.  Allowing the disease to go untreated for months will lead to a chronic condition.  Many doctors treat patients early with antibiotics to be safe.  Lyme disease can take months in the body to show up positive on a test.

Where Does Lyme Disease Come From?

Ticks get Lyme disease by feeding on an infected animal, often a mouse or rodent, which is then passed on to the next host.  Using good repellants and checking for tick bites during the season is advised.

The Hidden Costs of Lyme Disease

The person infected with Lyme disease enjoys a normal active life.  Then suddenly overnight they become exhausted, can barely make it through a day of work, and can’t wait to get home to rest.  Often folks feel it’s just a temporary bug, which will pass.  Lyme disease is nicknamed, “the great imitator,” and the medical costs continue to rise.

“Unfortunately, many insurance companies do not recognize the disease, and therefore will not pay for it,” added Anderson.

Where Are Ticks Found?

Ticks are found in tall grasses and low-lying shrubs, preferring moist shaded areas.  They don’t jump, fly or fall out of trees.  They wait patiently to smell the odor of an animal or human walking by.  They then latch on and enjoy a 2–4-day, blood meal.  When temperatures rise above 32 degrees or warmer, the tick season has begun.  Ticks do not die off during the winter.  The small younger nymph ticks are the size of a poppy seed and are responsible for most Lyme disease cases. See the photo.

Preventing Lyme Disease

The use of Deet on the skin and Permethrin on clothes and gear was suggested by Anderson.

  1. Tuck in your pants into the socks!
  2. Wear light-colored pants to easily spot ticks!
  3. Walk on well-used paths and stay away from vegetation!
  4. Use 25-34% Deet on the skin.
  5. Treat shoes, socks, pants, and shirts with Permethrin.

After the Bite

Quick medical attention is advised by a physician that knows about tick-borne diseases.  The disease can be treated with antibiotics.  Early detection and treatment are stressed!

“If you keep the ticks off of you, you won’t get bit,” concluded Anderson.

For more information:

A Magical Michigan Journey…Viewing Elk

A Gourmet Meal is served inside the majestic cabin overlooking the Elk herd.

Elk can safely be viewed in their natural fenced habitat at the Gaylord City Park in Central-Western Michigan.

By Bob Holzhei

The Pigeon River Country State Forest, consisting of 110,000 acres spread over three counties in the state, is located at Gaylord, MI.  It is a tourist destination where visitors can view elk in their natural habitat. “Elk viewing is one of the most popular area activities,” according to Kristie Walcott, Director of Marketing & Communications with the Gaylord Area Convention & Tourism Bureau. The Gaylord CVB even has an elk viewing page on the tourism bureau’s website.

“Four staff members take care of the elk and the herd is overseen by a licensed veterinarian that provides medical care on an “as needed basis,” stated Alan Zielenski, Supervisor, Department of Public Works, city of Gaylord.

I was spellbound as the very slow tour drive began in the fenced in area. As the outing began, my mind traveled back in time to an earlier era.  I found myself in the late 1800’s traveling in a covered wagon, pulled by a team of horses on the frontier.  I reminisced how my great, great, grandparents might have lived.

“In the late 1800’s there was a business called Project Nature that housed a variety of wildlife, including elk.  When Project Nature closed in the early 90’s, the elk were moved to their location on city property.  This also makes our Elks Lodge, the only ‘Live” Elks Lodge in the nation,” added Zielenski.

We did not want to spook the elk lying nearby.  Many elk were lying along the fence line under the cover of shade from the sun.  Photos captured the many majestic elk. In this case, a picture was worth a thousand words. I felt like I was traveling back to an earlier era in wild Michigan when the land was unspoiled.  In a time of settlers within small hamlets, forging out a life in the wilderness for their families.

 Upon entering the log cabin, guests will find a luxurious setting.

What is the history behind the current elk herd? Elk were extinct in Michigan during the 1800’s.  In 1918, seven Mountain Rocky Elk were relocated to Gaylord from the Western United States.  The herd grew to 1,500 elk in the nearly 1960’s, dropping down to 200 elk in the mid-1970’s, due to poaching and reduced habitat quality.  Over the past 40 years, public and private elk wildlife management has contributed to the success of the current population.  The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has been a vital part of the rehabilitation of the elk herd.  The habitat consists of open and natural forested areas.  The unspoiled surroundings are the result of cutting timber, planting crops and controlled burns.

Gaylord has a City Elk Park allowing visitors to view the elk from their cars.  Currently in the park there are 30 bulls and 10 cows in a 108-acre fenced in area.  Feed for the elk each week consists of four round bales of hay, a supply of sugar beets, corn and vitamins.

The older bulls fight for dominance and the opportunity to breed the cows.  “One time two bulls were fighting, while a smaller bull went to service a cow,” added Zielenski. Observation details including maps with directions are available at the Gaylord Information Center. An additional elk viewing experience is available at Thunder Bay Resort located at Hillman, MI.

“People started requesting information on elk viewing opportunities.  In addition, we offer a wagon or sleigh ride through the forest, arriving at a log cabin where a gourmet meal is provided to our guests, cooked on 125-year-old cook stoves,” added Jack Matthias at Thunder Bay Resort. This unique outdoor opportunity has become so popular that making reservations ahead of time is recommended.

Thunder Bay Resort has been recognized as “one of America’s Best Attractions!  The award-winning elk viewing, horse-drawn sleigh or carriage ride, gourmet dinner and wine tasting event is ‘a real fairy tale’ as was declared by USA Today. Fox News Online declared it as ‘a Top Ten’ event!

The horse-drawn carriage or sleigh ride whisks guests “over the river and through the woods,” to the resort’s elk preserve to view Rocky Mountain Elk in their natural habitat. At the Elk Antler Cabin a warm fire awaits with a gourmet dinner including a pear & apple dumpling, shrimp cocktail, homemade chicken noodle soup, a sweet Napa salad & croissant, crown roast of pork with roasted skinned potatoes and a white chocolate mousse filled with pizzelles with fresh raspberries.

“Elk viewing dinner rides have now become part of destination weddings, holiday parties, and murder mystery weekends.  With five carriages or sleighs, the capacity for the experience is 104 guests,” added Matthias. This year Thunder Bay Resort celebrates its 30th year anniversary.  Over 120,000 folks have experienced the magic of an elk bugle and a gourmet meal! In concluding, Zielenski said, “Gaylord is known as a four-season outdoor recreation area offering boating, fishing, hunting, swimming, kayaking, rafting, hiking, biking and golf during the summer months. Come visit with us.”

For More Information: Gaylord Information Center, 319 W. Main Street or online at www.gaylordmichigan.net. Thunder Bay Resort: 1-800-729-9375, www.reservations@ThunderBayResort.

Lake Trout Limits on Lake Huron – No Monkeying Around!

Lake Trout tussle very well in Lake Huron near Alpena, Mi.

Bob Holzhei and first mate, Justin Grubaugh, admire the size of one of our lake trout.By Bob Holzhei

Lake Trout were targeted on this fishing trip and it wasn’t long before the first fish was boated. It was caught on a Monkey Fish lure. Then another and another until our limit was met! It was exciting! Gaylord, Michigan, was the selected Annual Conference site for the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW). Journalists, corporate members, and radio and television personalities from all across the United States are part of the trilogy that comprises the membership.

On this day, our morning departure from the Treetops Resort began at 8:00 A.M., arriving at the Alpena City Marina an hour later. Our boat was a 21-foot Voyager named Depth Charge with Captain Kevin Drummond.

We began fishing in his “honey hole,” in 110-120 feet of water, using 8 rigged fishing lines to cover the depth, which ranged from 30 feet to 120-foot depth. “I began fishing as a kid at 16 years old and only lived a block from the lake. Lake Huron has an amazing lake trout fishery, and I get pleasure from watching people catch fish,” stated Drummond.

The author strains as the 15-minute fun battle with another tenacious, large lake trout continues.

Also on board among my fishing partners was David Gladkowski, a staff writer with the National Turkey Federation and Brady Laudon, Assistant Director and Sales Manager for Visit Bemidji, Minnesota. Each year, three locations are chosen by AGLOW to present a conference bid, that is, to host a future conference.

“I’ve never done any fishing like that, being a South Carolina boy.

Of course, I’ll be back. I was thrilled! Gladkowski stated. This was also the first time Brady Loudon fished Lake Huron. “Our fishing party limited out on Lake Trout. I couldn’t believe how the honey holes produced so many fish,” added Laudon.

In addition, to a yearly conference, AGLOW – along with corporate sponsors – offers “Communicator Camps,” which consist of 6-10 outdoor journalists. Members apply for a spot and are selected by the tourism bureau. The Communicator Camps provide opportunities for CVB’s to gain additional exposure.

The excitement throughout the morning and afternoon continued, and soon, there were three lake trout in a battle to free themselves at the same time.

The anglers had to slow down the pace at bringing the fish in. The fishermen on our boat took turns landing the fish, allowing time to rest from the strenuous battles. Drummond spoke highly of the success with the Shimano Tekota reels and Talora Shimano rods. The reels spooled with a 20-pound test line, one item among the tools used to reach our limit of lake trout, a couple steelhead and a salmon.

“Lake Huron is also a world-class Atlantic Salmon fishery, perhaps the world’s largest landlocked Atlantic Salmon, and the finest angling,” according to Jim Johnson, a retired fisheries biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

According to Johnson, Lake Superior State University faculty and students have been stocking 20,000 to 35,000 Atlantic salmon in Lake Huron annually since the late 1980s.

Thanks to Captain Kevin Drummond and his first mate, Justin Grubaugh, on a boat named “Depth Charge” for a successful and unforgettable fishing day out of the port at Alpena, Michigan.

A significant difference between the Atlantic’s and Chinook salmon is that the Chinooks die after spawning. At the same time, the Atlantic’s can spawn multiple times and live longer. The Atlantic’s have been marked by removing the adipose fin and implanting a tiny coded wire tag in each fishes’ head. The tag provides information about the stocking date and location, which assists the DNR in measuring the stocking success. Anglers are asked to forward the heads to the area DNR office.

As we boated ashore, the rich memories of this fishing trip would resurface until I returned to fish with Drummond again!

For more information, contact: Gaylord Area Convention & Tourism Bureau 1-800-345-8621, www.gaylordmichigan.net and Alpena Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, 1-989 354-4181, www.info@visitalpena.com.

America is Rediscovering the Outdoors – RV Sales set New Records

FLORIDA KEYS, LOWER KEYS — Beach-front camping can be found throughout the Florida Keys. Campgrounds vary in size, with some capable of accommodating recreational vehicles, others only tents. Some sites offer lecture programs and guided nature walks conducted by park rangers. Photo by Bill Keogh/TDC/NewmanPR

  • Family Campfires set new pace for outdoor fun as RV Sales Skyrocket during Pandemic

By Bob Holzhei

Sales of recreational vehicles (RV’s) have skyrocketed during the pandemic, as people discover a safe way to embrace nature! Enjoying the outdoors while camping is a safe way to travel while social distancing during the post-coronavirus pandemic era.

There are a lot of first-time buyers as well as veteran campers wanting to upgrade and travel. Folks are tired of being “locked down.” Camping provides one safe way to maximize family time while controlling the environment. And yes, RVs are becoming harder to find, with companies on lockdown.

Each morning and evening, I went to the Manistee Lighthouse to capture the many moods of Lake Michigan. Bob Holzhei photo

According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), recreational vehicle sales were up more than 75 percent in May of this year. Many folks are discovering the joy of tent camping while cooking meals over a campfire. There’s something intrinsically worthwhile about enjoying the outdoors and getting back to nature. The RVIA adds, “The median annual usage of RVs is increasing from 20 to 25 days per year. This increase is indicative of the changing attitudes towards remote work and the ability for more people to be able to work from a destination more frequently than traditional vacation days afforded in the past.”

The author admits, that having a fresh fish for supper is an added bonus to camping.

Outdoor activities offer many benefits. A 40-minute walk each day reduces stress and calms people. 

I’ve camped in my backyard to experience a change of scenery. Camping at home allows me to think about things I need to take along on the first camping trip of the season. A picnic around a campfire in the backyard is a great way to wind down and discover a new perspective on life while slowing the pace of life down.  

Take a walk or hike as part of your daily routine, capture the memories by taking photos and share them later with friends and family.

Our family started camping with a nine-by-nine tent, eventually upgrading to a used pop-up camper, then a used Del-Ray pickup camper, which had a foot of floor missing by the entrance door. The $600 cost of the camper was affordable, and I repaired the flooring with a piece of steel and plywood. We owned this camper for 16-years before selling it for $400 to a gentleman who wanted the furnace and stove to place in his horse trailer. Tales can be told about that stove!

Eventually, a 26-foot new trailer was purchased, which had a bathroom in it. My wife was finally pleased to have indoor plumbing. The following RV was a 34.5-foot fifth-wheel followed by a drive-around 26-foot motor coach, which now allows us to explore the Wild West.

Many healthy outdoor opportunities await discovery while slowing down the pace of life.

 

Informational resource: https://www.rvia.org

Overpopulation of Deer?

Photo from the late Joe Forma deer picture collection 

  • Warm winters, High summer nutrition, Fewer hunters = TOO MANY DEER
  • Do we need DNR to consider additional expanded seasons?
  • Farmers need help, Home Owners have property damage and deer disease concerns (Lyme, CWD, etc.)
Wintering deer herds salvage food from all available sources, but there are concerns for overpopulation in many parts of the country. Concerns for spread of Lyme disease via deer ticks is one more concern. Photo from the late Joe Forma deer picture collection 

By Bob Holzhei

Within a one-mile radius of our farm in Clinton County, MI, I counted over 40 deer. They were traveling in two different herds on our property, woodlot and an adjoining property.

This population of deer was much higher than in previous years, increasing by about four times what I had witnessed in the past.

What factors accounted for the high numbers? A mild winter this past season was possibly one factor. The immediate question is, do the high deer numbers have consequences as apparent overpopulation occurs?

“Overpopulation is more deer than the habitat can support.  This numbers growth occurs simply by having survival exceed mortality. We may be witnessing the survival theory that may have occurred for a more prolonged period of time than thought.  “The distribution of deer can vary throughout the year,” according to Chad Stewart, a Biologist and Deer/Elk Population Specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“During the spring-time is when deer are clustered on the landscape, primarily around food sources. As green-up occurs, deer numbers redistribute themselves to more normal levels, and the concentration of deer in large numbers is likely to diminish,” added Stewart.

One way of looking at it might be that a reduction in hunter numbers means an increase in safe spaces for deer to evade hunters. Add high summer nutrition to high winter survival rates and mild winters, we might expect the trend to continue. For farmers, I am a farmer, crop damage occurs when deer numbers are high. The field edges are hit hard, but damage can extend into field centers as the deer numbers increase.

Healthy deer numbers are increasing rapidly with fewer deer hunter numbers. Photo from the late Joe Forma deer picture collection 

“Clinton County, MI, has seen increasing trends in populations over the past 6-8 years,” stated Stewart. “Research has shown that about 20 deer per square mile is the threshold for detecting deer damage to forests.  Keeping deer numbers below that threshold is ideal for forestry management.”

“The Michigan DNR, in an effort to manage deer numbers, has liberalized the license structure by offering more flexibility for hunters to take antlerless deer with a combination license during the firearms and muzzleloader season.  The antlerless licenses are also transferrable between counties and properties.  A late antlerless season has also been extended in southern Michigan,” concluded Stewart.

If you enjoy healthy, high-protein venison steaks and burgers, this coming season could be a very special time for you and your family. AND, you could be helping the farmers with your harvest.

About the author: Bob Holzhei is a published author with more than 450 published outdoor adventure stories from across the United States. He has authored four books, including Canadian Fly-In Fishing Adventure, Alaskan Spirit Journey, The Mountains Shall Depart and The Hills Shall Be Removed. The latter was nominated for Pulitzer Prize consideration. His books are available at Amazon.

Build your own custom fishing rod: 6 SIMPLE STEPS

  • Choose rod type, length, action
  • See a custom rod-building catalog, simplify choices
  • Order, sort the parts, prepare the parts, follow the instructions, get it done, and SEE BELOW
Tom Marks is a custom rod-builder and expert charter-captain with impeccable fishing skills, he simplifies and shares rod building skills for all viewers.

By Bob Holzhei

Building a custom fishing rod is much easier and more affordable than many fishermen think! I’m not a rod-builder, but I met a friend that has become a real custom rod building expert, his name is Tom Marks. He says, “I’m still just learning how to do a lot of the details, but I’m a good learner and I’ve put several dozen rods together over the last few years, my friends seem to like them. It’s more a hobby than anything else, it’s certainly not a job for me (yet).” He has taught me how to do what you do to accomplish what might be nearly impossible for me alone. Tom invited me to watch and do, as he went along.

First, you decide the type of rod you want. To keep things simple, I chose between just two rod types: casting rod or spinning rod? After that, will it be a lightweight, medium-weight, heavy-weight, fast action, slow action? How long? Length is a big factor based on your physical size. The number of pieces? The most sensitive rods are always one-piece, but two-piece rods fit so much better in the trunk! You can decide all these rod details on your own, they are all questions you need to answer.

I chose a custom spinning rod and then enjoyed working and (mostly) watching Tom build my fishing rod.

STEPS IN ROD BUILDING:

Select the rod blank and components. Order a kit or talk to a custom rod-builder like Tom.

The spline of the rod is found by bending it and watching for “hop” or listening for a slight sound crack.

Tom says, “First, I find and mark the rod spline with a permanent marker. The spline is the backbone of the rod and is located where the internal “heavy section” inside the internal circumference of the rod blank is located, it is actually the strong backbone part of the rod. The spline is the reference plane for where the guides will go, on one side of the spline or directly opposite of the spline. More on that later.

The spline is marked; it is the backbone of the rod.

The backbone allows the guides to be placed to provide the greatest rod strength for the blank itself, so the rod will not break when a big fish is on the line. This improves the balance and performance of the rod, also ensuring straighter casts.”

When building a spinning rod, the spline is marked (it runs the entire length of the blank) and the guides are placed opposite the spline.  On a casting rod, the guides are placed on top of the rod blank spline.

“There’s nothing like catching a fish with a custom-made rod,” smiled Marks.

The Simple 6-Step How-To:

  1. Select the rod kit and order it to meet your needs as mentioned earlier. Or see a humble custom rod builder like Tom Marks and ask him questions, then he can design a kit for you and build exactly what you want.
  2. The physical components need to be prepared. This includes adjusting the rod grip to fit the blank. It might mean using some special tools to ream the internal diameter of the grip as necessary to fit the rod blank, no matter if it’s cork or carbon fiber. The grip will be held in place on the blank using epoxy glue later. The rod blank is then measured and marked to determine the location for the grip, real seat, and rod guides.
    The grip or handle of the rod is reamed out.

     

  3. The grip (handle of the rod) is dry-fitted to the blank by attaching the reel seat and aligning the combination with the spline, and when this all looks right, epoxy is used to permanently fasten to the blank.

    Dry fit the handle before placing epoxy glue on.
  4. The top side of each guide foot is sanded to allow a smooth transition for the thread winding to track onto the foot. The guides are then aligned on the rod blank to the marked, spline-oriented, locations from earlier. The guides are attached temporarily using rubber bands cut from silicone tubing (some builders use masking tape for this step). The thread of your color choice is then used to wrap and hold the guides to their designated place. Again, the guides need to be straight and all in-line on the blank. Before the epoxy is applied, the guides can be moved ever so slightly to assure they are perfectly in line. Tom uses the recommended placement of guides from “Mud Hole,” an online supply company of custom rod building kits.
  5. A light coat of epoxy glue is placed on the thread wrap and allowed to cure for 24 hours while slowly rotating the blank to assure no runs occur from the epoxy. Marks will use two to three coats of thread wrap epoxy to assure the wraps and guide feet are sealed and impervious to the external environment.
  6. Lastly, the tip-top is glued in place with hot melt glue.

The rod-build is done.

“The rod is now complete and decorative items can be added including special extra wraps, marbling, decals or really special things such as rattlesnake skin,” added Marks.

“The reasons the custom rods are better than those purchased off the rack is because the rod is crafted to your chosen specifications, your color choice, special highlights with a preference for action, length and all that. Extra care is taken in the building process,” concluded Marks.

Other advantages of a custom-built rod become obvious when you use that rod. Accuracy in casting, heightened sensitivity, best overall performance, including matched balance for rod weight and reel weight, and simple enjoyment.

The author is ready to field-test his custom rod.

A wide variety of options are available when designing your custom rod; I selected a rattlesnake skin handle for my custom rod. “I use a power-winder to turn the blank and place the thread on for each guide, though it’s a time-consuming process. It takes from 6-7 hours to place the components (precision alignment), add the handle glue, sand and place the guides, add the thread wraps, tip-top and epoxy coat the final product,” stated Marks.

Discovering a new hobby is an added benefit for the fisherman who wishes to expand his knowledge of fishing and gain a new appreciation for the various learning opportunities that fishing can offer as a recreational sport.

Prices of a custom fishing rod kit can range from $50 and go up to several hundred, depending on the quality of the rod blank, quality and type of guides, and personalized artwork. Turnkey rod kits can be purchased from Mud Hole direct. The finished custom rod is a function of time and materials…and skill. Every builder values his time, and time has a value. If it takes 2 hours or 10 hours, you add that on at the end. Do it yourself? Yes, you can save a lot of money, but it just might not be the same.

The memory of that first-cast with a custom-rod will last a lifetime.

Tom Marks is a retired engineer and a discussion with him can help you decide what type of rod, type of action and all the rest, might be best for you. Tom receives satisfaction from designing and making custom fishing rods for others. “I like to see everyone happy with the finished rod. For many, it’s a once-in-lifetime thing, their custom fishing rod is what they’ve been dreaming about,” says Marks.

To review the many rod kit choices or for a free catalog, visit www.mudhole.com or call 1-866-790-7637. They also offer free advice and rod-building classes. To visit Tom Marks, drop me a line (bholzhei@gmail.com) and I’ll put you in contact.

 

Love of my Outdoor World was Drowned in Alcohol

  • When do you know when you need help?
  • When people distance themselves from you, you know something is not right.
  • It feels good to know yourself when you find help, define a solution and make a resolution. 
Looking for shark teeth on a Florida beach, most people always saw me as a happy-go-lucky sort of guy, but I had a secret.

By Bob Holzhei

My love affair with the outdoor world began as I grew up on a family farm in the early 1950s. The world was filled with unlimited possibilities.

It was almost 55 years later that everything changed and my life soared out of control due to alcohol. I realized that I needed help and voluntarily signed myself into an alcohol rehabilitation center.

Although I stopped drinking, I discovered that refraining from alcohol was the easy part. I soon found that there was a more complicated and challenging part of staying away from drinking, but I had no control over that part.

I only knew that a couple of “my best friends” would understand my struggle. I confided in them and they were understanding, one friend phoned a few times to see how I was doing. That was very considerate of him.

I felt our children would be understanding and supportive; I was wrong. Prior to my downfall a few weeks earlier, I was working on arrangements to spend winter in a warmer Florida climate. My wife made a phone call one Saturday morning to a close friend in Florida. After the call, it was evident that she was distraught, and she openly shared with me a brief summary of the conversation. “We don’t feel it would be good for you to come to Florida, this year,” she stated.

Alcoholism is a disease and is the most widely understood illness in America. Shirley Hozlhei photo

Apparently, from the friend’s previous history with her father as a policeman, she had witnessed other alcoholic friends returning to their old habits without proper remedial longevity in training. I was shocked, although I understood the rationale that followed the dialogue.

I had no problem with the fact that close friends wanted to distance themselves from me, but my main problem at that moment was that the dialogue had upset my wife. If there was a problem with my drinking, the individual(s) involved should have contacted me directly, not my wife; though I realize now that they were just as concerned about me as my wife. My wife had suffered enough from my years of alcoholism.

One in eight individuals in the U.S. is an alcoholic and eight percent or less seek help. Forrest Fisher photo

The first people that distanced themselves from my wife and myself were our children and their families. One written letter from one of the four family members stated: “Unfortunately, we need to set boundaries and you are not welcome at our house. For years you have faced demons, you have created chaos and drama around the holidays. You have demons you are facing from your past childhood experiences. This chaos you have created has now impacted each of us, and you continue to steal our joy. We can not allow you to do this any longer.”

A portion of my two-page response began with: “Thank you for your honesty expressed in the letter. My words are also candid and straight-forward.”

The people that we hurt the most include our closest family and friends that we love the most. Forrest Fisher photo

Highlights include: “Feeling broken. I suppose its all my fault, however, it is not.  No longer welcome at your home, I have no problem with that.  Mental state, I feel better than ever since I’ve stopped drinking.  I feel mentally healthy and am improving each day.”

I fully realize that I can’t change how others react to my alcoholism.  I accept that, however, talking with my wife over the phone and indicating, “It would be best if you didn’t come down to Florida this year,” was unacceptable.  On second thought, maybe they cared so much about me that they feared that leaving my 6-week old rehab mentors at the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) back home would be an even more significant problem for my wife…and even more for me.

According to the www.addictioncenter.com, Alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism, is marked by a craving for alcohol and the inability to stop drinking—even when it causes extreme personal or social harm. Signs of alcohol addiction include frequently drinking more than intended, wanting to stop drinking but being unable to, developing a tolerance to alcohol, feeling symptoms of withdrawal when stopping, letting personal and professional responsibilities flounder in favor of drinking and spending an extreme amount of time trying to get and drink alcohol. FOR MORE INFORMATION on Alcoholism, please CONTACT YOUR LOCAL AA CHAPTER (https://www.aa.org/).

We never stop learning new lessons in life when we have a dependency on things that go out of control, and new habits are hard to form.

One thing I know for sure, I’m sticking to the recovery program and friends that care more than I know.

 

Destination: The Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan

  • Copper mines, beaches, rock finding, fishing, history tours and relaxation by nighttime starlight
  • My perfect place to UNWIND from my busy life
  • Cedar Point Cabins is nestled between the shore of Lake Bailey & Lake Superior
The Aspen Cabin would be our home in the wilderness for 5 days. Shirley Holzhei photo

By Bob Holzhei

The Keweenaw Peninsula is a 60-mile finger of land that has remained unchanged since the copper boom of the 1800s. This mineral-rich location offers some of the oldest exposed rock in the world and features 165 miles of outdoor recreation trails, 36 campgrounds, 51 miles of canoeing, 10 major shipwrecks, and 336 miles of scenic Lake Superior shoreline. This remote location demands discovery. It is historically preserved by the Keweenaw National Historical Park.

The Cedar Point Cabins are nestled between the shores of Lake Bailey and Lake Superior near Look Out Mountain on the Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan. The cabins are located two miles East of Eagle Harbor on M-26 and about 13 miles south of Copper Harbor.

Upon arrival, my wife and I were greeted by Paul Carlson who directed us to our cabin, it was named “Aspen.” Carlson took over the family business from his parents in 2011; some cabins were built in the 1940s and took us back to an earlier era. There are six cabins, four of which are open year-round. Two newer cabins were added in 2014. Reservations are recommended.

Aspen by name is a popular tree with heart-shaped leaves that “tremble even in a slight breeze.” As we drove to the Aspen cabin, my first impression was beautiful, peaceful, and remote. I realized that I needed places like that to rediscover myself and get away from the hectic pace of daily life.

Reading comments from former guests written in a notebook added to our wilderness experience. “Wonderful! Beautiful! We enjoyed a canoe trip to an island. What a beautiful place! We had the most perfect end to our winter get-away. A perfect stay!” stated guests. Lake Bailey is a wilderness lake, perfect for canoeing, kayaking, fishing for perch and pike, and wildlife viewing.

The Cedar Point Cabins are nestled between Lake Bailey and Lake Superior, on Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan. Shirley Holzhei photo

Visitors can choose from a variety of activities including tours at the Quincy Mine or Delaware Mine. Six years before the California Gold Rush in 1843, prospectors arrived at the Keweenaw and discovered copper. The Delaware copper mine dates back to 1847. A list of monthly annual events may create a “when should I visit” dilemma? With over 34 attractions including the famous Brockway Mountain drive, which climbs 735 feet above Lake Superior via a paved road. The mountain is named after Daniel Brockway, an early settler who built and opened a store in Copper Harbor. The drive was built in 1933 during the depression era when federal work programs brought relief to laid-off miners. At the top of the mountain, as close to heaven as one can get, the panoramic view allows visitors to see for miles while watching freighters pass by. At night, when the darkness is complete, star gazing and viewing the milky way is not only popular but on a clear night, the Aurora Borealis can provide an unforgettable experience.

Birding in the Boreal forests, woodlands, wetlands, and inland lakes is a year-round activity with 334 species of birds noted here. Blend in nine waterfalls, including Eagle River Falls, Haven, Jacob’s lower and upper falls, Manganese, Gorge and Montreal Falls. A complete listing of activities is found in the Keweenaw Adventure Guide.

Fort Wilkins State Park is an 1844 Army post complete with period buildings and interpreters, it creates an authentic feel for Army life on the frontier.

The Lake Superior shoreline is the largest body of freshwater in the world that surrounds the Keweenaw. A leisurely walk along the shoreline for mineral deposits including agate, Lake Superior quartz, or copper, was a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.

The Keweenaw Peninsula is a land of captivating scenery, rugged hills, waterfalls, lighthouses, beaches, and wildflowers, surrounded by Lake Superior.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.Cedarpointcabins.net Cedarpointcabin@gmail.com 906 289-4415 Keweenaw Convention & Visitor’s Bureau www.keweenaw.info 1 800 338-7982

Sky-High on Loon’s and Walleye in Wisconsin

  • Turtle Flambeau Flowage in Wisconsin offers comfort and Sounds of the Outdoors
  • Autumn Musky, Walleye, Bronzebacks on the bite with upcoming Fall Colors
Voyageurs canoe to one of the many 60 remote campsites on the islands of the Turtle Flambeau Flowage.
By Bob Holzhei
Catching a limit of walleye was expected, however, I wondered if it was the call of a loon that echoed in my mind and brought me back to the Turtle Flambeau Flowage, located near Mercer, Wisconsin.
Our stay at the Gateway Lodge provided a secluded retreat. It located right on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage, with a reputation as the Muskie Capital of the World.  Gateway Lodge is the gateway to an unbelievable outdoor paradise. Owned by Wayne Riebe and his wife Melissa since 2005, the Riebe’s “love to cook.”

Clair’D Loon made its debut in 1981, it weighs 2,000 pounds and welcomes all visitors to “Loon Country” near the Chamber of Commerce building.

The lodge features two-person cabins/a bath, along with 3 and 4-bedroom modern private homes with two baths.  Prices are very reasonable and begin at $100 per night for a one-bedroom, one-bath cabin, and more for luxurious homes with up to four bedrooms for an entire family. Specials are offered throughout the year, for more information, visit their website at the end of this article.  It’s one of the finest and most elegant places I have ever stayed at.
Boat rentals include 23 and 24-foot pontoons, plus, there are 16, 20, and 23-foot boats equipped with Mercury outboards.  Bait is available too, on-site. You can bring your own canoe, kayak or fishing boat, of course.
The on-site restaurant features a menu that includes lunch and supper favorite, including fish fries, burgers and melt-in-your mouth steaks, as well as additional items that will have a person wonder what shall I have for supper?
The Turtle Flambeau Flowage offers access to a 14,300-acre lake and some additional 26 surrounding lakes with 227 miles of undeveloped shoreline.  Blend in more than 21,000 acres of nearby forests offering four seasons of outdoor adventure that include fishing, area campsites with full amenities to 60 remote campsites accessible only by water.  There’s more: biking, backpacking, hiking, canoeing, paddling, snowmobiling, and wildlife-viewing in abundance.   The woods explode in autumn in a panoramic display of fall colors.
The call of loons across the water from years past called me back for a return trip adding to the outdoor wilderness adventure. Mercer is well known throughout the Midwest as a consistent producer of trophy fish.  The Turtle Flambeau Flowage is so similar to the Canadian Wilderness that it is hard to tell the difference.
I anticipate fishing the Turtle Flambeau Flowage for walleye in Wisconsin every time I think about walleye fishing. Tight lines!

For More Information: Gateway Lodge, info@thegatewaylodge.com, phone: 715 476-7878; Mercer Area Chamber of Commerce, www.info@mercercc.com, phone:  715 476-2389

 

 

Catching Toothy Walleye! Limits on the Niagara River

My biggest walleye said, “Here’s looking at ya!”

By Bob Holzhei

Although I fished for walleye in the lower Niagara River before, this incredible fishing adventure provided pin-ball action, landing one walleye after another and yes, a limit of walleye was cleaned to take home for meals.

Fishing with Charter Captain Joe Marra who operates Niagara Rainbow Charters out of Lewiston, New York, I not only boated several 6-pound walleyes, but I lost count. When the 16th walleye was netted (yes, number 16), over two dozen walleye had been hooked.

My arms had actually become tired after fighting one walleye after another. Well, I’m 74 but I try to be a tough guy when it comes to fishing, like all my older friends too, because I just want to be fishing. Life is too short. Following each cast, the rod tip began to bounce as hungry walleye awaited the arrival of the nightcrawler tailing the homemade spinner baits which Marra creates. He rigs with a 1-ounce sinker to take the presentation to the bottom and off we go using the current and his motor for position control.

The Marra grew up in the Niagara Falls area fishing the river and has been chartering for over 20 years. He knows the area so well and likes to drop lines upstream of the two power plants in an area known as Devil’s Hole. The water depth ranges from 20-30 feet. We’d drift downstream, hook and land walleyes with a net, then boat back upstream to begin again. Exciting!

A limit of walleye and a brand new Gill Tackle backpack made for a perfect day. The Gill backpack allowed selecting only the best spoons for the day.

“I like seeing the smile on kid’s faces and adults when a walleye takes the bait,” stated Marra.

On this trip, I looked forward to using a new, custom, seven-foot-long fishing rod built for me by Tom Marks of Hamburg, NY. My Abu Garcia STX reel was loaded with 20-pound test braid and had a 15-pound fluorocarbon leader at the end. Marra’s 20-foot Lund boat was powered by a brand new 200 horsepower Yamaha outboard.

We stayed at Niagara Crossing in Lewiston, NY, where…in history, a house near this property served as a midway crossing for people escaping slavery and heading to enter Canada on the other side of the river. “I had a client once who chartered the boat to see the home where slaves were housed,” added Marra.

The fishing trip did not end at the Niagara River, it will remain with me for all time.

The sound of the rushing water in the Niagara River, just awesome. Just then, I heard some music, “The Sound of Silence,” it was playing in the background, “…and the vision was planted in my brain,” and it played on. A new forever role for me from Paul Simon, the song means so much more to me now.

Oops, “Fish on!”

Don’t let the old man in!

FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.niagarafallsusa.com; Phone 1-877-FALLSUSA

Lake Erie Fishing Adventure includes Thunder of Niagara Falls USA

As an outdoor travel writer, I sure enjoy catching these tasty Lake Erie walleye.

  • The history and vista view of Niagara Falls itself is inspiring, but the thunder and vibration from the falls is simply awesome  
  • Lake Erie offers walleye, perch, smallmouth bass and musky
  • Lake Ontario offers King salmon, Atlantic salmon, Lake Trout, Brown Trout, and Steelhead
  • Niagara River offers some of all those species in the Upper and Lower River sectors

By Bob Holzhei

The American Falls with the Power Vista viewing platform in the background, and a sacred rainbow offer the ultimate adventure view, complete with Niagara Falls “thunder,” for Jeff and Tiffany Liebler, visitors from Tampa, Florida. Forrest Fisher Photo

It was a few years ago that I fished Lake Erie from the New York shoreline. It was time for a return trip to not only fish but to revisit the rich history of nearby Niagara Falls, U.S.A.

Niagara Falls is one of the natural wonders of the world. Even though I’ve visited the falls before, each return trip is an experience of a lifetime. In addition, I love history, and Niagara Falls State Park is the oldest state park in America. Fort Niagara was established in 1726! It makes me feel young.  Costumed reenactments portray men and women dressed in primitive attire of the time during special item events held many times a year. Living history programs and artillery demonstrations take visitors to the park back in time.

Boat tours take visitors near the falls aboard the safety of a boat vessel named, the “Maid of the Mist.”

The “Maid of the Mist” offers a safe, powerboat trip to the river portion directly below the Canadian Falls, an ultimate adventure experience while you visit here. Forrest Fisher Photo

The “Festival of Lights” draws visitors from Thanksgiving to the Epiphany, on January 6th, each year.

“The Niagara Gorge spans 800 feet across and up to 200 feet deep, where the lower Niagara River flows below. Blend in the opportunity to fish the area rivers, streams, and legendary Lake Erie, it’s an amazing time. The world-renowned Niagara River connects two Great Lakes, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario, and also offers access to the infamous Erie Canal – the man-made waterway of the 1800s from Buffalo to Albany and New York City that was a big part of the industrial revolution.

What’s new at Niagara Falls, U.S.A.?

“A zip line over the Erie Canal in Lockport and a new improved Marina in Wilson, named Bootlegger’s Cove Marina,” stated Bill Hilts Jr., Outdoor Promotions Director for Niagara Falls Tourism Bureau.

Blend in several new breweries, downtown hotels, and a revamped Niagara Falls State Park, including a renovated “Cave of the Woods.” Outdoor activities have also expanded including hiking, biking, birding, and boating, so Niagara Falls has something for everyone.

The Niagara Falls Region provides opportunities to fish for perch, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye, muskellunge, and Northern Pike.

A monster Lake Erie walleye near Dunkirk, NY was caught by my friend, Ed Cheeney, of Cheeney Media Concepts. Bob Holzhei Photo 

In the Lake Ontario sector, where the Niagara River makes entry, it offers Chinook, Coho, Atlantic salmon, Lake Trout, and Rainbow Trout.

The Erie Canal Region is noted for slow-moving water making it great for family fishing. Species found there include walleye, northern pike, catfish, and carp weighing up to 20 pounds.

The “River Region” is open for year-round fishing. In the fall, salmon and brown trout lure anglers to the area. In winter, steelhead fishing is popular and spring is the prime season for trout and steelhead in the river. In summer, the muskie, walleye and smallmouth bass provide excellent action for anglers. Professional charter captains are available and take the guesswork out of fishing.

With a smorgasbord of outdoor adventure and fishing opportunities throughout the year, it is no wonder why Niagara Falls and the surrounding area is one of the natural wonders of the world!

FAST FACTS: Looking back over the years

  • 1817-Erie Canal Construction Begins
  • 1859-Hydraulic Tunnel Construction begins
  • Mid-1800’s: Freedom seekers escape slavery through the Niagara Falls railroad.
  • 1885-Niagara Reservation created-Niagara Falls State Park consists of 400 acres.
  • 1896-Inventor Nikola Telsa transmits electricity 22 miles from Niagara Falls to Buffalo, New York.
  • 1901-Ajjie Edison is the first person to go over the falls in a barrel and survives.
  • 1915-Herschell Carrousel Factory/Museum; the founder of the American Amusement rides & vintage carousel rides.

To request a visitor’s guide: www.niagarafallsusa.com.

Hunting Above Ground? How to Stay Safe…Treestand Safety Guidelines

Get Ready for your Fall and Winter Hunt during the summer months. Click for How To Stay Safe.

  • Get ready for hunting “Above Ground” during the Summer Months
  • Get a full body harness, then learn how to use it
  • Carry a cellphone or signaling device
Stay attached to the tree from the ground to the stand, during the hunt and back again with a properly installed Hunter Safety System Lifeline.

By Bob Holzhei

Each year, thousands of hunters are injured in tree stand accidents. In fact, according to the Treestand Safety Awareness Foundation (TSSA), there are about 4,000 emergency room visits each year due to tree stand falls.

Don’t wait until hunting season arrives to practice tree stand safety. Now, the summer months, are the ideal time to begin practicing to get ready for the fall hunt. When fall arrives, safety measures will become part of your routine.

As I got older, I gave up hunting from a tree stand and purchased a 10 by 10-foot hunting shack and loaded it onto my hay wagon. The insulated shack is heated with a Big Buddy Heater and is comfortable. My wife added, “You can go out there and sleep overnight whenever you want!”

There are a number of tree stand safety guidelines which will help educate hunters and are excellent suggestions to review prior to a yearly hunt.

First – Use a full-body fall arrest harness system, the meets stringent, industry standards. Wear the harness system every time you leave the ground, including ascending or descending from the tree stand. Single strap belts and chest harnesses are no longer allowed. Serious injuries including death have occurred each year.

Second – Attach a Full Body Harness System according to the manufacturer’s directions. The tether should have no slack when sitting. Failure to do so may result in suspension without the ability to recover to your Treestand.

Third – Always “read, review, understand and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.” If questions arise, contact the manufacturer.

Fourth – Always use a haul line to raise your backpack, gear, and unloaded firearm or bow to the Treestand. Prior to descending, lower the equipment on the side of the tree opposite your descent route.

Fifth – Practice using your Full Body Fall Arrest Harness System in the presence of a responsible adult, prior to using it in an elevated hunting environment. Learn what it feels like to hang suspended in the harness at ground level.

Sixth – Have a plan for recovery, escape, and rescue, including the use of a cellphone or signal device for use while suspended. If you are suspended before help arrives, exercise your legs by pushing against the tree. If you do not have the ability to recover or escape, hunt from the ground.

Approaching the age of 74 the hunting shack provides a comfortable place to hunt!

The HSS-HANGER is the only treestand harness designed for the off-season, hanging and removing tree stands, cutting trails and shooting lanes and running trail cameras.

Compact Outdoor Cookware: Ideal for Backpacking & Camping

  • Durable and innovative line of outdoor cookware
  • Ultimate outdoor eating solution integrated into one package   

By Bob Holzhei

Our four children, my wife and I, have camped throughout our lives. We started first with a 9 by 9 tent, then moved up to a pop-up camper, then a travel trailer, and finally we purchased a fifth wheel travel trailer with four slide outs. Thing is, maximizing space throughout the years was always a priority, after all, there’s no use packing things that may not get used. That is one reason why I wanted to share some of my experience with those of you just getting started. Where space and efficiency is important, products from GSI Outdoors have met the mission.

My compact 4-person outdoor cookware set includes a 3-liter pot, 2-liter pot, a 9-inch frypan and 2 straining lids. The Pinnacle Camper Set also includes four 14-ounce bowls, plates and mugs-complete with sip-it-lids to complete the package.

For my family, it’s our ultimate outdoor eating solution integrated into one package that easily fits into a backpack too. At under 4 pounds and a wonderful 9 by 9 by 6 compact size, the kids can go on side treks and weight and size are not a factor. I could not believe it either.

GSI Outdoors is in the business of making cookware and dining products that adapt the comforts of home to active outdoor lifestyles at the campsite, cabin and anywhere in between.

They continue to expand their designs, adding additional innovative lines of outdoor cookware, tableware and accessories. It works for us outdoor folks that share a passion to be outdoors and have the additional need “to be small and light.”

When well-built hardware brings people together in the outdoors, I thought you’d like to know about some of the best I have found.  You can find their products in many outdoor outlets or go directly online to: https://gsioutdoors.com.

 

Legend of Jacques Cousteau Lives On from Port Sanibel Marina, Florida

  • Calypso’s Maiden Fishing Voyage – 106 miles from port in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Fishing Shark River, Outlet of the Florida Everglades
  • Four Roaring 350 Horsepower Mercury outboards
  • Shark On…the Adventure of a Lifetime!
Captain Ryan Kane with his new “Calypso,” a 42 foot long Renaissance Prowler with four 350 Hp Mercury Outboard engines. Ready for long-range fishing fun.  Shirley Holzhei Photo

By Bob Holzhei

“She was beautiful, gorgeous, erotic, and brand spanking new! Her curves and shape attracted the attention of fishermen everywhere and captured their hearts like falling in love for the first time. She was a virgin about to embark on her maiden voyage into the Gulf of Mexico ‘far beyond the sight of land,’ 106 miles from the dock at Sanibel Island Marina.

She was a mermaid in the water; I fell head over heels in love with her when I first saw her. As I boarded her, my heart rate increased in intensity. She took my breath away. A first touch, was followed by an embrace which led to anticipation in passion for the climax of the story! One never forgets falling in love for the first time.

“I grew up watching Jacques Cousteau as a kid, he’s a legend. His boat was named Calypso,” stated Captain Ryan Kane of Southern Instinct Fishing Charters.

“Cousteau was a French undersea explorer, researcher, photographer, and documentary host who invented diving and scuba devices, including the Aqua-Lung,” Kane added. “The television special – The World of Jacques – ran for nine seasons on ABC television network and had millions of followers. I had to name my new boat Calypso, it was only right.”

Calypso in Greek mythology was the daughter of the Titan god Atlas. Calypso symbolized forces that divert men from their goals, filled with intrigue and seduction. She was a nymph who fell in love with Odysseus after he was shipwrecked on her island of Ogygia. He refused to stay with her, so she detained him for seven years until Zeus ordered her to release him.

Captain Ryan Kane of Southern Instinct Fishing Charters is the best charter fishing captain in the state of Florida. We had fished with him before. My wife and I were invited to join Captain Ryan on the maiden voyage and it was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Calypso is 42-feet long and has four 350 Mercury horsepower outboard engines mounted on her stern. Loaded and fueled, she weighs close to 14,000 pounds at the dock.

Matt Hatrick, first mate, played such an important role on board. A wealth of fishing knowledge too, he rigged the lines and baited our hooks with 12-15 inch long Spanish Mackerel and Mullet, and some lines with mullet, then became a momentary picture star holding up various fish for pictures. He was fun to be around.

12-15 inch long mullet and Spanish Mackerel were the primary shark bait that we fished off a bobber rig using current to deploy 200-300 feet from the boat. All the consumable baits on board come from Anderson’s Bait & Tackle in Fort Myers, FL. Dave Barus Photo

“I’m excited about this boat. It is in the forefront of boating technology. The forward angle and shape of her hull make the boat more gas efficient. I average 1 mile a gallon at a speed of 40 to 55 miles per hour, that’s pretty good for a boat this long and this heavy. It means comfort for all aboard and that why I bought a boat like this, for the clients,” added Kane.

The 42-foot tri-hull catamaran provided a smooth ride out to the fishing grounds, with one to three foot waves feeling almost non-existent.

Kane uses Dan James Custom rods and 60-pound line mounted on his Shimano reels. As we went fishing for sharks, he used size 8/0 Mustad hooks, strong and sharp.

Dave Barus (L) and Captain Ryan Kane with the Bull Shark that Barus caught. The shark was carefully released and swam away. One of several sharks we caught. Shirley Holzhei photo.

“Fish on!” Interrupted the conversation. The rod bent double! It was a big fish! It was fellow outdoor writer, Dave Barus with the next turn to reel a fish in. He was having trouble fighting the fish, the line ran out as the fish was so big, so strong and not about to give up in the first minute.

“Want to take a turn and fight the fish Bob?” Asked Barus.

“No, I’ve seen too many fish lost when transferring the rod to another person,” I replied.

Following the 26-minute fight, a large six-foot shark came to surface as it neared the boat, however it made a number of runs diving down deep into the Shark River in the direction of the Gulf waters and out of sight.

Finally, the brute was tiring. A rope was put on the tail to haul the Bull Shark aboard for pictures. The Bull Shark was 6 to 7 feet long, we estimated the weight at about 100 pounds.

The first “big fish” caught to date aboard Calypso was celebrated with a toast, with big-fish catcher Dave Barus popping the champagne cork and Captain Ryan Kane holding the glass, everyone shared – it was a special moment in time for all of us. Bob Holzhei Photo

Barus told me he was sore and tired after the Bull Shark was boated. I believed him.

It was a fantasy fishing trip out that was real, pinch me, in the Gulf of Mexico. I will relive this entire adventure long after we are back home to Michigan.

Anglers from all over the world come to Port Sanibel Marina, FL to fish with Captain Kane. I can verify, the fishing adventure of a lifetime awaits you. He can run 200 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico to where no fish has ever seen a hook, and back to the dock, all in less than a day fishing. Same day trophy fishing! This represents capability that no other charter fishing boats currently can offer from southwest Florida: time and distance, and unparalleled fishing fun.

For More information: Contact: www.southerninstinct.com or phone 239-896-2341. Accommodations: Lee County CVB/The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel Island, www.fort-myers-sanibel.com, 1-800-237-6444.

Custom Fishing Rod Builder: Tom Marks

  • Rod length, sensitivity, power, flex…all these factors matter
  • Setting the hook, it’s the best feeling with a rod you helped design
  • Rattlesnake skin and other custom handles personalize rods to the individual

By Bob Holzhei

Custom rod handle options that include rattlesnake skin personalize the custom rod.

“The sensitivity in any fishing rod can be determined by placing the tip of the rod against your throat while another person holds the other end of the rod.  At that point, the person who has the tip of the rod against their throat begins to talk and at the other end, the vibration can be felt,” says expert angler and custom fishing rod-maker, Tom Marks, who vacations and fishes in Florida during the winter months.

Marks has been building custom rods for the past six years. “It usually takes me about 48 hours or three days to build a rod,” says Marks.

“I ask the perspective customer which type of rod they want me to build for them, whether it’s a spin casting rod, an all-purpose rod, and also ask if they are throwing crankbaits, need a worm rod, like to drop shot, if they are skipping docks, tossing jerk baits, Carolina rigs, need a bottom-bouncer for walleye, jig-flipping and pitching, or if they use a frog topwater bait or other top water bait. They’re all slightly different,” stated Marks.

Sanding the guide feet insures a smooth thread wrap and long life for the rod.

“The purpose for which the rod will be used helps me decide on the power and speed of the rod. The power, which is how stiff the rod needs to be and the speed, which refers to how much flex is in the tip, both affect the style efficiency.  Flex is the amount of bend in the upper 1/3 of the rod. The faster the rod, the more sensitive it will feel. For crankbaits, or moving baits which are trolled, a slower rod is sufficient because the strike or bite is much harder. The slower rod helps absorb some of the initial shock of the bite and also keeps the fish from throwing the hook,” added Marks.

Marks custom decorates his precision fishing rods according to customer wishes.  Nylon and metallic threads can be used on the guide wraps, and many other variations.  Marks also uses real rattlesnake skin on the handle and other decorative skins and wraps in the split grip and fore grip.

“I place a decorative thread band 12 inches from the front edge of the handle.  Decorative work might include thread work cross-weaved with multiple colored threads or chevron patterns.  Occasionally I marbleize the colors,” added Marks.

Marks began purchasing his rod building materials after he saw a Mudhole display at an outdoor show, located in Oviedo, Florida.  Mudhole is a Rod Building and Tackle Crafting Company that can provide helpful process instructions and all the supplies for rod building. Visit www.mudhole.com or call 866-790-RODS.

Charter Captain Tom Marks is right at home with all the gear for making his custom fishing rods in the garage.

Marks explained the steps in building a rod. “After the materials are ordered and arrive, I first take the order out of the package,” Marks replied while laughing.     “First the spline in the rod is found, this is the backbone of the rod.  I take the rod and put tension on it, while rolling the rod. The area of the spine will snap or hop.  The spline is the heaviest part of the rod. The theory is the spline is found in one spot, it provides a keyway for guide location and better angler control later,” stated Marks.

Second, Marks determines what kind of rod he will make.  The handle or grip is put on the rod.  He reams out the handle to fit the blank.  Then Pro-epoxy paste is put on to secure the handle.

Third, the guides are put on after measuring and marking the rod blank for the spacing between the guides.  Mudhole provides suggestions on where to place the guides.  Marks runs a line up and down the tip to insure the guides are lined up.  He also uses a laser beam to insure the guides are correctly aligned.  After the guide are mounted, protective clear epoxy is added.

Fourth, two additional coats of clear epoxy are put on and then 400 grit sandpaper removes any imperfections. Marks then field tests the rod to assure quality.

“If I catch a big fish while testing, I know that particular rod is a real good one,” kidded Marks with a grin.

“Building fishing rods is a great hobby and I never stop learning.  I began fishing with my dad when I was 4 years old, and when I was 10, I really got into fishing and loved it.  I learned from my father how to fish for walleye, since we lived within walking distance of Lake Erie near Derby, New York,” stated Marks.

I tagged along with Marks as he fished with the rod and learned as I watched his fishing strategy from a distance.

“The presentation is the key. The bite is what keeps me interested.  When I set the hook – it’s a great feeling. There’s a rush of adrenaline!  I could fish all day for the bite,” concluded Marks.

For more information: e-mail address – capt.tommarks@gmail.com; 716-997-6919.

Here we are testing my new rod, I’m sitting, Tom is demonstrating the secrets to catching bass where we are fishing in Florida. Sure was fun!

Sacred Water at Devils Lake: Legend of the Lake Monster

"Legends of Black Lake monsters supercede pictures and tales of monster walleye that exist here. Secrets are many," says Bob Holzhei, story writer.

  • Devils Lake, Part 2: Legend of the Lake Monster       
  • Walleye, Northern Pike, Crappie, lots of fish here
  • Lures and Baits of all sorts Catch Fish on Devils Lake
We caught lots of walleye every day we fished, usually between 50 and 100 each time, but there was always some mystery about that “Lake Monster Legend.” Forrest Fisher photo

By Bob Holzhei

Early European-Americans termed the lake “Bad Spirit Lake” because of high salinity water, making it unfit to drink.  With summer, mirages were often seen across the water and the lake was referred to as “Spirit Lake,” as reflected in the Spirit Lake Indian Tribe.

Published reports of a “Lake Monster” date as far back as 1894, while Native American legends go back much further about a Loch Ness serpent in Devil’s Lake.

It is said locally that the monster is not often seen, but here is what we saw on one day when we fished the lake.  Forrest Fisher photo

Whether fact or fiction, stories of the Devil’s Lake Monster have been reportedly sighted and recounted in many newspapers, including the New York Sun in 1984, the Bismarck Tribune in 1895 and the Wichita Beacon in 1904.

All descriptions of the serpent indicate it has alligator jaws and glaring red eyes, a tail stretching to 80 feet long and it usually appears at sunset during August.  The serpent moves slowly, often seen about a half mile from shore and reported to circle the lake twice a day.  A slimy green color, the serpent’s motion sends gentle surface waves along from head to tail with the wake visible as it pushes along.

Early accounts of the Devil’s Lake Monster may be sensationalized accounts reported in newspapers in order to draw tourists to the area. Whether fact or fiction, my camera did accompany me on a guided fishing trip to Devil’s Lake in August. Today I can attest that our guide did fish more than a half mile from the mainland shore. Hmmmm.

While we chuckled about the fabled monster chronicles, Devils Lake in North Dakota is an angler’s dream and is open to fishing all year long. Ice fishing is especially fun here with heated huts and the aroma of smoked sausage on the grill.

No matter the time of year, multiple species here keep every angler in action for most of the fishing day. Foot-long perch are common, walleye in all-sizes – from eaters to wall hangers are the usual resident and non-resident angler focus, northern pike ranging from 5 to 10 pounds are the largest predator fish, while white bass, panfish (crappie and bluegill) and trout, provide a variety of fishing opportunities at Devil’s Lake. It’s fun to fish here.

Baitcasting rigs are the norm here, as you never know how big that next walleye monster might be, that’s not a legend. Forrest Fisher photo

A variety of popular fishing strategies include slip bobber fishing, rigging, jigging, casting, trolling with crankbaits and enticing hungry fish with bottom-bouncers when the usual hot bite is off, which is not very often. We caught over 50 walleye each day of our fishing.

My friend and our guide on Devils Lake was Al Freidig, he shared secrets and how to catch fish in this vast waterway. Forrest Fisher photo

The Devil’s Lake Basin is the second largest body of water in North Dakota after Lake Sakakawea.  Once the lake reaches a high level of 1,458 feet, it flows into the Sheyenne and Red Rivers, though overflow occurred only twice in the last 4,000 years. Historically the area is the site of the Dakota people who relocated there as a result of The 1867 Treaty with the United States.

One of our favorite 3-way rig bottom-bouncing baits on Devils Lake, these worked very well.

The lake stretches over 380 square miles with an average maximum depth of about 47 feet. Lots of room for fish and fishermen, and the Devils Lake monster.

Hold onto your rod.  You never know, you could become a legendary friend.

For more info on where to stay or who to call for guide services, contact:  https://www.ndtourism.com/cities/devils-lake.