Thursday, March 24, 2016

A year of firsts on the ice…

This was a year for first time experiences on the ice.  I had a few things I hoped to accomplish or check off the bucket list so to speak.  The first was:

1. Catch a togue (Lake Trout)

That may seem odd to you that someone who spends as much time as I do fishing has never caught a togue, but while I have been with tons of people who have caught them and even pulled some through the ice for other anglers, I could never say I caught a togue.

2.  Jig more and be successful

I have spent a far amount of time jigging, and other than smelt, I had never felt the tug of a fish back on the short rod bouncing a lure tantalizingly up and down.

3. Catch a Whitefish

This is a fish that had never really been on my radar until I heard incessantly about their culinary assets from my coworkers, which made them a must try species.

Long story short, 1. Check, 2.  Check,  3.  Check!!!!!

I had my chance fairly early in the season, despite losing a couple weeks to unsafe ice conditions.  The first trip of the year I planned a trip with Tim Cyr and it wasn't long after we had our flags setup did one rocket skyward signaling what was soon to be my accomplishment of number 1.  Followed by other flags with some healthy salmon.

The same trip I had just settled into a jigging routine, when something almost pulled the rod from hand. Looking into the large hole we had created I saw a nice lake trout slashing at my lure.  Looking away so I wouldn't be distracted, I continued jigging and hooked him!  As I battled him, the tugging proved too much for my jig pole as it shattered into pieces.  Discarding the battered pieces I finished landing the fish hand over hand.  We proceeded to have several other fish show up in the hole and managed to hook into another one as well.

As for number 3 I would have to wait until later in the season, so I opted to chase some other species and we managed to pick up some nice brook trout as well.

For our final ice fishing adventure, we decided to target whitefish and togue.  With our destination selected over 120 miles from my house, the morning started early as I rose shortly after 3:00 A.M. and started the journey meeting up with the rest of our party as we traveled.  After traveling 80 miles into the woods on gravel roads we expected to be alone, but the number of other anglers was quite surprising.  Encouraged by good fishing reports we hurried to drill holes and present our own offerings.  A valuable lesson of the day was learned in that riding on a tote sled when there is several inches to a foot of water on top of the ice is not recommended.  I arrived at our destination soaked all the way through, but too excited to care.  Not behavior I would recommend either by the way.  Our group wasted little time hooking up and within a few minutes a nice whitefish, albeit too small was on the ice. A quick admiration by several of us who had never fished for them and it was back down the hole.  Not wanting to be outdone, a few minutes later I brought my own whitefish to the surface.  Check off number 3, but it was too small and was sent back to the bottom so I would not be able to taste it's acclaimed white flaky flesh.  I sent my jig back to the bottom to continue my quest.  The action was steady most of the day and there were definitely some highlights including Nick Pelletier catching an 8 pound togue, which while he was playing on his jig rod a flag shot up with a 20 inch whitefish on it, limiting him out with two beautiful fish in a matter of 5 minutes.  Bud also had a respectable laker in the 5 pound range that saved itself for the end of the day.  I also picked up a 20" whitefish which put up a remarkable fight and gave substance to their reputation as the freshwater tarpon.  It also lived up to it's reputation in the kitchen as it was very delicious.  All in all it was a great trip.

I wet a line earlier this year with the Commissioner's opening of the open water season on March 17 this year.  Not much other than cold fingers to report, but stay tuned!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Maine Bear Trapping

Black bear are a unique animal that often have just as unique of a following of outdoorsmen who pursue them.  Outside of spring time while they are trying to gorge themselves as much as possible and seem to lose their fear of humans, these black bears are rarely seen for more than a passing shadow here or there.  Their secretive nature and the dense growth of forests they inhabit make them a worthy adversary to pursue.  The classic spot and stalk hunting that is often employed out West is a pure shot in the dark here in Maine with the possible exception of agriculture ground.  Thus tactics have changed and a reliance on bait stations in an attempt to concentrate a bear’s activity into a smaller geographic area has become the norm.  From bait stations, several different approaches can be utilized; such as sitting over the bait with a vigilant eye in hopes that the shadow behind the cedar tree that you have strained to watch as minutes tick by, will materialize into a bruin licking his lips for some food, or hounds may be brought to the site to take off on a fresh track from a bear that most likely is purely nocturnal, or lastly a trap may be fastened at the location in an attempt to snare that bear by his foot.  Few hunting methods evoke more public debate than bear hunting, but I am not looking to get into that in this discussion, rather all three aforementioned methods are acceptable, legal methods of take by the State of Maine’s definition.  Having sat in a tree stand for hours and watched bait stations in years past, I had been fortunate enough to harvest a bear a few years ago.  Its edible qualities are far underemphasized and we enjoyed dining on fresh bear meat that winter.  Looking to harvest another bear, I thought it only fitting to pair my love for trapping with the pursuit of a black bear.  To fit a three month baiting run into a brief synopsis, I am not dining on bear meat this winter, nor will I be able to relax on a luxurious bear skin rug, but I do have some trail camera pictures which are a constant reminder that I need to improve next year.  The first three weeks of the bait season went so smoothly, I became complacent.  A medium size boar would show up and devour the bait like clockwork.  He was a nocturnal bear and off and on a smaller bear would show up for its ration of goodies to fatten up for the winter.  Then, the week before the season they vanished, only showing up for one night a week later before vanishing again.  It became obvious I was competing with natural food sources.  While I enjoyed snacking on the hazelnuts while walking to and from my bait station, I quickly started singing another tune as I realized the bears would rather dine on the natural abundance of nuts than eat the bait I was bringing.  Lots of “secret weapons” later, I would be able to coax them back to the bait site for a night or two, but then they would disappear again.  Oats ripened, hazelnuts loaded the trees and let’s not forget the bushels of apples that weighted down the crooked old trees branches.  Everywhere I turned there was food, and nothing I could do about it, but wait.  Meanwhile, I had the fattest and happiest coon family for miles around!  Finally, the last week of the season, most of the natural food sources started drying up and I knew it was my time.  Sure enough, they showed back up and where up to their clockwork patterns.  I set up my snare in the perfect spot, or so I thought! (Keep in mind, trapping is only allowed with a cable restraint, there is no use of the big old bear traps that everyone pictures)  Night after night though, they evaded the snare until the last night.  As I walked in to pull my snare out, I saw it was fired off.  Thinking it was the raccoons again as they had fired it on more than one occasion; I grumbled under my breath and gathered up the snare and the ever vigilant trail camera.  I was quite surprised when I reviewed the pictures to find that lo and behold, I had caught a bear!  However, he was quite astute for a bear and since the snare had only caught him mid foot rather than pull it any tighter, he decided to just sit down and pull it off with his teeth.  Succeeding in doing so, he leisurely filled his belly and sauntered off to find his denning location, but have no fear, I will try again next year!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Summer/Fall Blur

The summer was not devoid of the toothy finned beauties that have become my summer obsession!

The fall fishing on the other hand was rather lackluster, but these small salmon kept the fly wet.

Early season goose hunting was rather productive.  It had been a couple years since I had tried to honk these feathered friends into range, and I forgot how fun it is! 

The deer season is wrapping up as I write this and while I have dug the smoke pole out of the cabinet for a last ditch effort to put venison in the freezer and antlers in my hands, I thought I would give everyone a couple pictures to enjoy of some big Northern Maine bucks!

Stay tuned for more updates to come (hopefully in a much more timely manner) and a very entertaining story of my first attempt at trapping a bear!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ice Fishing Highlights

Our ice fishing exploits this winter were fairly quiet, with some slow, but steady action on some average fish.  My son caught his first fish, and yellow perch or not he was tickled.  I also acquired a new portable ice shelter which makes for some luxurious days on the ice.  I am working on packing away all of the ice gear to ready the open water equipment.  Stay tuned, because as soon as the rivers release their icy sheeting we will be chasing all sorts of finned beauties!

End of the Line - 2014

A snapshot of my 2014 trapping season in what many call a "barn shot" or an "End of the Line" shot to signify the end of a trapline.  I had a lot of fun this year despite stopping early due to an unforeseen closure on the season by the state.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fall 2014 Maine Moose Hunt

Since I was on the last of my three years that is the new mandatory waiting period after holding a Maine Moose tag, I solicited a couple of my friends who were able to draw a tag to write their adventures down to share with everyone.  The first in those installments is below as Lauren Calbi recounts her once in a lifetime hunt for a trophy Maine moose.  She and her hunting partner Brain pursued these racked mammoths in the truest of forms by leaving the truck behind and putting some miles on the shoe leather.  This was also Lauren's first big game hunt.  Sit back and enjoy their adventure!

Guest Post - Lauren Calbi's 2014 Maine Moose Hunt

"I was blessed enough to be chosen through Maine IFW lottery system for my moose permit, a bull in zone 3. Zone 3 stretches from Fort Kent, Maine, east towards Caswell and as far south as Caribou. Route 11 or the “scenic highway” closed zone 3 off from Ashland area north.  My bull permit was for the 3rd week in September, which is the 1st of a few selected weeks through November. My alternate sub wasone of my good college friends Brian, who is also a forester with me at the same private landowner in Northern Maine.

By Wednesday we had hunted hard, walking miles a day through old harvests and battling above average temperatures for September in Northern Maine.  When we had questioned if we could actually get a moose we were pleasantly surprised with the turn of events a few minutes ahead of us.

We had made it to a lake we had scouted for about 6 weeks or so.  There were plenty of mature bulls in the area and we were in the hopes of seeing one for the taking.  I used a Remington 700 7mm-08 that the head forester of our company allowed me to borrow graciously.

I saw some sign and pointed this out to Brian whose eyes lit up with excitement. We walked about 1200 feet from the road and hit a beaver dam. As we waded through the muck and dirty water to work the edge, we heard something move. Frozen in our tracks we turned to see what we had prayed for. A large bull about 100 yards away began to thrash his antlers in some alder bushes. I pulled up my rifle to try to get a good look at him. When I focused I could see antlers attached to a large body. Brian looked at me to see if we had a shot. I couldn’t focus him in to get a clean shot and wasn’t comfortable with myself at 100 yards even after many hours of practicing. That’s when we decided to wait it out. Without making a sound we stood there for 2 hours with our guns perfectly positioned in case we had a shot. The bull checked corners and behind trees to see what we were. My mouth dry, I tried to keep my cool and not blow it. Eyes huge, Brian silently mouthed to me “he’s big”! My left arm began to numb and time was ticking. We decided to try some bull calls to spark an interest and get things moving. We got exactly whatwe were looking for and then some.

Brian called three times and a bull in the distance responded. We were elated and shocked. Once we heard the first bull we saw stand up, my heart started beating fast. We thrashed our guns around and Brian responded to the other bull’s call. There was no difference in pitch or tone when Brian responded, I could tell he had practiced.

The bull in the distance was aggressive. Thrashing and grunting every couple of minutes made it feel unreal. I knew at that point we were about to watch something rare and exciting unfold in front of us. I directed Brian and myself back toward some tall grass to hide ourselves and got ready. I could feel my heart pound and my breath get shallow. I couldn’t figure out if I was scared or excited, probably a bit of both. I got down to position myself on my knee and looked at Brian who was just as excited. He whispered in my ear “I wish we had a camera!” I wanted to watch them fight and have my pick of the two. Brian kindly reminded me that I needed to take a shot on the first bull we saw; we may never have that chance again.

The first bull we saw walked towards us and I knew it was show time. Everything I had practiced, the many hours spent, all boiled down to this moment. He walked towards us and I shot him at 10 yards broadside.  He ran and I picked up again, firing a running shot.  He crossed a beaver damn about 400 yards further into the tree line.

After 6 hours, 2 fours wheelers and 1500 feet of rope we were on our way home! We weighed him the next morning at Quigley’s in Fort Kent.  He weighed a whooping 944lbs and a spread of 51”.  A hunt of a life time ended up successful and more than I could imagine.  I’ll be eating moose meat for a while and that is quite fine by me!!"

Stay tuned for more adventures coming soon!  Some Big Northern Maine Whitetails coming soon as well!

Fall Absence

So yet again I am apologizing for my absence.  I have all of the best intentions and then before I know it, a month has flown by or in this case two.  I have a few stories on the go so in the mean time here are a few pictures from the trapline this fall.

A Few New Supplies from F&T Trading Post!

We had all kinds of weather on the line!

Stay tuned for more to come soon!