Thursday, May 14, 2009

30 day review since ice out for slabs & gills

Well as it goes every year I'm chasing those early open water pannies.

I count 4 days after the ice goes out and start to hit the water in small protected lakes that warm up quickly.Maybe even some rivers like the one in this picture that flow into Big Sandy Lake near McGregor Mn.

The tactic is using a jig-n-cork method.

These fish are very spooky and nomadic at this time of the year. They slide from deeper warmer water into the shallows to feed and keeping my baits very small is so important.

I can not stress enough that at this time minnows will rarely intice a fish to bite. You'll need something more along the lines of what you used ice fishing.
Have fun out there chasing these pannies ,but also do yourself a favor and release 95% of the big ones.
The fish you see in the pics are not the really big ones that we already let go.
I most often toss back every slab 13 inches and over.I also release all of those under 10 inches and there's some days they all go back to swim and fight again.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Late ice

Heading into the late ice fishing season
Now that the month of February has passed those that ice fish are starting to become a bit giddy. Why you may ask? Well it’s the melt down of snow draining into our lakes bringing that hot bite back. While most states that had ice have lost it. Those of us living up here in the north country are just starting to get into that magical time when the pan fish’s activity really heats up.
No longer will we have to be bottled up in our heated shanties. Peering out the foggy windows will be a time past, traded for running and gunning active holes.Enjoying the sun on our faces and the warm breezes that the late ice season provides us.Watching the geese flying overhead, listening to their musical honking and ducks buzzing through the air with the promise of spring and the new life about to be born.
Late ice is a time like no other. It makes most die hard fishers hearts pound.We know full well what this time of the year means in terms of the hot bite.It pushes us to take chances. Getting on the ice from a melted shore. Walking across honeycombed ice for a chance at the big bluegill or monster slab crappie.Since we are out of our confines in the open we also get a chance to converse with our fishing counter parts. Sharing true stories of the years catches or just lying to be entertaining all adds into the camaraderie on that sheet of ice.
Late ice is not a time that lasts long, three to 4 weeks at best. There is this internal clock we have ticking in us that say’s get out there because there is not much time left to fish on that ice. We become driven, obsessed with that aggressive hot bite.Late ice sure is a hoot and it is short lived, but then there is open water just around the corner and a whole new season of fishing begins. It is sad to see the ice go. Yet the promise of the new season is a great consolation.
The photo above is a good friend who goes by the nickname Mallard from the Mora area.We both love to eat smoked tullibees and so we have been on the hunt over the past few weekends for themThere are many lakes in the state that have them. Mille Lacs has them ,but Big Sandy has been the lake we have targeted.You can access the lake in a few spots on the north end. Willey’s bait shop on Hwy. 65 just north of McGregor could give you exact directions.Pick up some waxies while you are there as that is what has been producing. Tip them on small pan fish jigs in orange or blue
There are starting to gorge on the mayfly larva so any bait with that profile could also work in the form of plastics. They can be found in the 25-45 foot deeper basins about 5 to 20 feet down and anywhere in between.
Satururday we saw many folks on the lake.The snow levels are low so even cars are out there driving without much trouble to speak of. The high pressure and 20 below temperatures made it a struggle but we did mange a few smokers.Sunday’s bite was much better ,but it did not come easy to find. We drilled over 150 holes in 2 days to locate where they were. At this time they seem very scattered.I use a H2Oc gps with a Navionics map chip that has BSL in 1 foot contours. Marking waypoints where we caught fish over the last few weeks has enabled me to see a trend of where we should begin our search upon hitting the ice. Developing a pattern is key here to shorten the down time in locating our target species….tullibees.
We have several posts with pictures and videos about the recent trips at Come visit us and become a member. Join in on our conversations for free. There will be several more reports over the next 6 weeks until we loose our ice. I think Mallard is about to be my new roommate for the next 6 weeks.LOLNow that the warmer temps are sliding in ……IT’S TIME!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wrote my 1st article for the Voyager Press

The Tullibees are biting!
Hey folks,
I'd like to introduce myself as CK, other wise known as CrappieKeith Nelson.
I am a local fisherman from Palisade and have a fishing forum
John approached me about doing a column about the outdoors for the Voyager Press which is something
I've never done before ,but I thought it would be great to give it a whirl. So let's get right to what is going on.
The gamefish season is over as of this last Sunday.the pannies are pretty fincky, but if you move around you
can find a few takers.
What is really going good is the tullibee bite.
I met up with a few men...Dave Harmon from around that Finlayson area and Mike Walbridge better known
as Team Ice Heave from south of Mora.
I told them earlier we would go to the spot that John Tholen from Aitkin and I were at yesterday.
We had done alright ,but that at least I knew were to start Sunday morning.
The north end of Big Sandy is known for these beautifull smokers.
They are pretty simple to catch really. A rod and reel with a pannie jig tipped with a waxie.
We have the benefit of seeing the fish under us via a Marcum flasher.
Just get your bait in front of them and lift a foot."WHAM" the fight is on.
The bite will strengthen as we get closer to ice out.
With the water warming warming by the run off there is these mayfly larva that leave the bottom which those
tullies will target for a food source.They will really become aggresive and there is no better fight with ultra lite tackle.
Make a stop by Willies bait shop for your wax worms on hwy.65 .They may also be able to give you some
current information on the bite.
Moving on to another topic which we were discussing on KKIN's monday morning's sports show.
Picking up the debris from the ice.
Now that the snow is melting and all of the permenant shelters are gone we will be seeing blocking debris and other refuse
appearing.As responsible sportsmen and women we should leave our lakes as clean as possible.
Bring a plastic garbage bag with you when you hit the ice and take a minute or two to pick up what some have left
out there.
I know...I mutter too ,but I would just as soon feel good about making our water cleaner than ignoring the problem
and having it effect our fishing quality later.
All of us that care about our lakes thank you in advance.
Being this is the 1st time I have written a column I must admit it is sort of scary. I am not sure what you
really want to hear about.
So I am shot gunning a bit with the subject matter. I hope something is of interest to you.
Here's a subject...taking our children or our parents fishing or maybe taking somebody else's child out
to the lake. Our sport depends on this and it sure as heck doesn't hurt the person your taking out for
a day on the ice or water.
For example I took my Dad out Saturday as I mentioned earlier.Well we had a gas out there and do you know what.My Dad has never caught a tullie. Never! JT is known for being an outdoorsmen. He has chased just about everything on four legs and some two legged creatures. He got more fishing stories than you can shake a stick at like the day he dropped the ole modle A in Cedar lake ice fishing.
So when he said he has never ever caught a tullibee I felt pretty good about our catching for the day.
Taking a child out has also got to be one of the most rewarding things you can do.Just seeing their little eyes light
up on a 5 inch gill is incredible.Catch a pound crappie and those tikes think they have a wall mounter!
Be carefull they may ask to go again and again.
Well I am thinking it should be time to wrap it up. Oh one last thing. is having a get together for a late ice run on Big Sandy April 4th which is a Saturday.
You can go to the forum sign up for free and learn all about what we will be doing.There will be a pot luck with gas grills for brauts and burgers at noon.
All are welcome and since CKO is a family orientated forum there will be no alcohol allowed at the event.
Your children are welcome as well.
We will be fishing for crappies and tullibees.
The event will run from 8-5. So come and join the fun. There will be several great fishers from CKO attending including from what I hear ,Don with Wilcraft exhibiting that new ice fishing maching that can go from water to ice.
So until next time we will see you on the lake getting in a bit of R and R oh...that is rearing and reeling!
God Bless

Monday, February 23, 2009

The tullies are biting !

What a weekend on BSL.
Saturday was a great day with my Dad.Come to find out he had never caught tullibees before
Well he can't say that anymore.
His comment sticks with me.As he's laughing reelling in a 3 pounder he says"they sure do fight".
It felt good to put him on these fish!

We cut it short as the bite dies off and left happy recanting the day.
Sunday arrives with a day out fishing with Team Ice Heave(Mike Walbridge).
Mike is a great fisher and he also is a pro staffer for me at
Well we punched holes in the same local as Saturday which was close to a 6 foot flat.
The fish however were located in the 26-30 feet of water.
Just to give you an idea of what we were into ,here's some pictures of the mornings take.

We also got into some crappies and gills plus a burbot and a sucker that was caught 4 feet under the ice...go figure.

The bite was mostly earlier in the day,but by drilling many holes we managed to find a few other aggresive fish to bite.

We used our flashers(Marcum) find the fish and then proceeded to try to get them to lift.
It's the end of February and with March setting in the late ice bite is close at hand.
You can tell that the tullibees have yet to start there late winter gorge of the mayfly larva ,but that will start soon and with it a very aggresive tullie bite.

This is also the time of year that the garbage on the lake starts to show itself.
I'd like to remind all fishers to try to pick up after those that are unable to clean up after themselves.
It may only take a few minutes and yes ...why can't those that brought the stuff out pick it up?
Just know that you are doing all of us a great service by doing so.Feel good about what you've done for all of us.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

CKO's 1st birthday

Happy 1st year birthday CKOutdoors!!!!! Although it was not for a couple weeks until posts were made CKO was started today.I figured that I'd share some totals for our 1st year.Unique visitors....15,115Total visits....59,626Pages viewed...1,376,637Hits...7,631,996Most months each visitor looks at approxamtely 24 pages.There's so many thank you's to hand out.Each and everyone that has posted has contributed .When I look back at all of the fishing posts about the day on the lake is mind boggling.We are not just a Mn. forum or a MidWest forum ,but rather a US forum.We have members from at least 15-20 states and we are growing.We already have 12 pages of ice fishing reports and have 2 months to go.I'm also very proud to know that several members have picked up on finese fishing.I can look back 4 years to a day when it was just me banging the drum.Now there's fishers all over touting what downsizing can do for your fishing success.T.H.E. Jig ....last year and the year before I would have a backlog of 10 orders on average.I bet I have 30 now.Thank you to all that have dared to try to fish without meat.Keep in mind that we will roll right into open water with it only having that week of ice off for down time when the meat guys will struggle until that water gets over 55 degrees.There have been a few other products that I've tried to promote.Austin Rods for ice fishing,Grandt Rods for open water.Sassy Shads and the Ring'n Grubs .Marcum flashers,Otter Portables and Strike Master Augers.As the new webmaster takes control we will copy this forum over to another forum.It will be the same phpbb format,but there are going to be some additions.A store WILL be added so that you can shop easier for those goodies we love.Clothing,rods,reels,plastics,jigs will be offered.Banners will be added. So with paying sponsors there will be more products in give aways.For the most part everyone I've spoken too loves the forum.The lack of bashing is refreshing. You all deserve an attaboy for being great posters and for putting so much effort into helping others in need.We gathered a bunch of gear for G.E.M, which I'm proud to say was probally our best thing we have done as a group to help those inner city youths.A big thanks goes out to MT for involving us.Our membership is up to 350 which is a great sign of growth in 1 year.I'd like to thank allof those other forums for allowing us to promote in our signatures and for everyone that has posted our link in these other places , least not to forgot all of the envites to your fishing buddies.The additions of blogs , facebook and such is also a great help.I've been doing a 10 minute piece on a local radio station and I just got invited to write a column for a local paper.Still working those details out.Finally our Pro Staff has done a phuenominal job and I thank you all.Our mods have really been a hands off group letting everyone speak their minds for the most part and I can think of only just a few individuals I've been forced to ban.Well that's about it from the way I see things.The worst issue is the lag time on jigs. I've tried to hire help to no avail.They are to hard to make in a mass production situation so I'm doing what I can.I have a guy practicing tying and my sister is painting heads now.Just know that I'm spending as much time as I can behind the vice.I do have a day job,but some day that will end and CKO will be my full time occupation!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Catching more fish more often

We all want to catch more fish more often right?Well let's think about what makes a fisherman successfull on the icemore often then not.I believe a plan is needed to start.Identify your target species for that day.So if crappies are the target for the day.What are we going to do to catch them?For starters picking a lake that has them .Seems simple enough ,however this is where some fishermen get lost.During the ice season we will go to the places where fish houses are right?There's got to crappies there !

It takes more planning then that to score on those slabs.Making a plan should involve several actions on your part to make the big score.This can include talking to the locals,baitshops and the area DNR.Studing lake maps also can shorten your search and dial you into those go to spots that crappies will hold to.Learning a lake can be a daunting task at 1st.A puzzle just waiting to be put together if you will, but some intial time being spent drilling holes and using locators we can identify depths and maybe we can start to mark some fish.

Reading articles can help in understanding their habitats and what they relate to over the coarse of the year.This will help pin pointing those certain areas you'll identify on the lake maps you have been studying.Once we have located those schools it is time to hunker down and catch them.Trial and error is the most common method.Changing lures,colors of lures.Then lure sizes and should we go with verticle or horizontal prentations?Most often to hit a new lake you should never just expect to hit the mother load.For me it takes several trips to a body of water to understand it's pattern.Crappies may bite in the day or at night with a certain hot time in one of those time frames.The water may be stained or clear which usualy dictates certain color choices.Different times of the year oxygen will be low or high dictating a better size bait to match the fish's aggresion level.Then we apply the barometric pressure level with the moon phase to help us in choosing how arewe going to start out for any given trip.Since we have our flasher buzzing away we then can see how they react to what we are doing.I believe fish will feed most every day.So if that's true then what do I need to do to trigger that strike sence fish have?Making a plan and working that plan I believe will help you pattern those fish.Sometimes we get lucky and fall into what they want .....well we really make our own luck I believe.This comes from past expierences.Remembering what happened on the last trip that will help you get better on the subsequint fishing trip.Adding all of these expierences to your bank of fishing history will enable you to dial into that pattern sooner then later.Sometimes hiring a guide to shorten your learning curve works well for some.Tossing darts blind folded at the target usually will net you out nadda,however taking aim.Using a good follow through and time practicing will prove out in the end that you hit your target.Fishing is a puzzle.Puzzles are meant to be put together.Make a plan and work it,you'll enjoy the outcome way more and those catches will be more often.

Marcum flashers ice fisherman's go to tool

When working a jig though the water column a loop knot will enable a jig to dance more naturally without the line impeding it's action. All line will create a certain amount of resistance if secured to the eyelet.therefor to get more action from your lure a loop knot works great. It's actually part of a system.

The bigger picture is that I'll use a flasher to read the whole water column. The sonar will read a fish as it swims into the sonar cone. I'll lower or raise my offering to where it is coming in at.Once it is dead center of the cone or directly below me I'll lift my bait trying to trigger it's strike sense.

Depending on the mood of the fish it will raise up 1-5 foot after my bait and swallow it. I have a spring bobber mounted to my rod which will read even the lightest hit and then I'm rearing. The flasher will not only show me the depth ,but are there fish under me and how aggressive they are.

For instance on Fri. with the barometer over 30 they were very negative. They came through at the bottom and would only lift 2-3 feet before they would stop and go no higher. That's what I call the ceiling.Once I determined their ceiling I would slowly lift them to the ceiling and wait for them to hit my jig. Sat. on the other hand was much different. The fish were stacked up to 6 feet from the bottom. They gave chase much faster and hit quicker. Checking the barometer I saw it was still high ,but it was dropping which triggered a better bite. As a general rule I'll up size when they are aggressive and downsize when the mood is neutral to negative.


Lifting fish is a lot like getting a cat to chase a string of yarn.So the cat's sitting there and you lay the yarn infront of it.the cat will just look at it just as the fish will do.Thenyou'll start to pull the string away and the cat will crouch.As you get farther away from the cat with the string there will be a point that the cat thinks no or never and gives chase.You have just triggered it's strike sense.With fish you want to do the same thing.As you pull away from the fish you will get close to the ceiling. The fish will think now or never and give chase.Watching your sonar you'll see this play out over and over.Once you figure out how high the fish will go is the ceiling for the day .Run everyone of them right up to the same spot.The ceiling will change from day to day so the trick is to watch on that 1st fish.If you lift to high drop back down slowley.That fish raised so it wants to feed but you went to far.Notice where it stopped and re lift to that new ceiling.This is where a flasher comes in to play.It enables you to see how that fish reacts to what your doing.

During that lift the fish will cover your jig .Stop watching your flasher and watch your rod & or spring.Give the fish 5 seconds,if it does not hit raise an inch.Watch for 5 seconds and repeat.You may get to high on a negative bite.You'll have to push that fish back down and re lift again.This is called working the fish.It may take several lifts.That fish may not bite .If they are that tough it's time to downsize.Having another rod with a smaller jig on will allow you to drop down quikly and get another shot at catching that fish sometimes.