Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Boundary Waters (and beyond) Fishing Tips for KIDS

We've all heard about "Take a Kid Fishing" days.  If we like to fish, we usually remember the first time we wet a line with Mom, Dad, Grandma or Grandpa.  Once you start, if you have a good experience, you are usually hooked.  The key is that "good experience" feeling versus, well, you know - a bad one.  This is what a good one looks like :)

What can make those first few times of fishing great?  What can go wrong and develop a distaste for the sport that so many people love and cherish?  Whether by canoe, boat, kayak or just from shore, I'd like to share some tips for taking kids fishing (and hopefully catching).  If you're heading into the Boundary Waters with kids anytime soon, there's some great advice here for you.  Keep them in mind even if you are just heading down to your local river or creek.

Remember that even if you don't like to fish, your kids might want to.  You could take along a book and a camera and it is a fantastic way to spend time together.

I remember my first tackle box, in fact I still have it, an orange plastic Plano box with three tiers of trays that folded out.  My dad stocked me up with purple plastic worms, hooks, sinkers and some of his favorite spinner:  Mepps.  Bobbers, line, a stringer from my grandpa's stock and a good pair of pliers.  Finger nail clippers and bug juice found their way in and some waterproof matches over the years.  I used his gear to start, but soon found myself digging through the rafters of my Grandma's garage to find a cane pole.

Some of my earliest fishing memories back home (not on the lakes of Minnesota where we went for vacation) found me on the muddy shores of a creek with that cane pole and a carton of worms.  Grandma by my side on hot summer days, Mom and Dad punching the clock and bringing home the bacon, missing out on the fun.  Once in a blue moon as we got older, my friend Brian and I would get on our bikes, balance tackle, bait and rods in one hand and take the separate gravel roads from our homes to meet at the bridge over Honey Creek.

The formula in both of these memorable places was incredibly simple.  A plain, aberdeen straight shaft hook, small split shot about a foot up from the hook and a red and white snap on bobber easily adjusted for depth.  A lively nightcrawler, pinched in half, usually did the trick for catfish, panfish or bass.  Tying on a flashy Mepps with a small barrel swivel at the end of your line or adding a 6 inch leader could land you a pike or a walleye in faster moving, cooler water.  Sometimes I'd trail that Mepps with the same worm after I switched.  If they weren't hungry for nightcrawlers I would try a bigger purple plastic worm or a chartreuse twisty tail.

One skill I needed to master before I began was that of tying a good fishing Knot.  I learned to tie my Dad's version of the Improved Clinch Knot.
Ours starts with a double loop.  Tying a knot over and over on a hook or a lure is a great way to get comfortable with fishing gear.  Using a larger hook or caribiner and rope can be a great teaching tool for kids.

Grandma always brought iced tea, soda or water and some snacks or lunch in a cooler.  Fried egg sandwiches and molasses cookies. Those early days by the creeks were short afternoons with shade trees nearby.  Horsing around on the shore was never forbidden, but that was on shore.  Canoes and boats are no place for sudden movements and frivolity.  We usually fished from shore :)  She always had plenty of stories to tell.  Some of my earliest catches were an old boot, turtles and crawfish from the muddy bottoms.  The boot was massive and it fought better than many of the catfish.

Dad and I would fish the eddies on the low side of the Rock River Dam, casting for walleye, panfish and the occasional monster catfish when I had graduated up to my own spinning rod and reel.  The simple formula for success never really changed, it just got simpler.  That was the secret for success on the northern waters we vacationed on in Ely, Minnesota as well.  Keeping the bait (live or artificial) as natural looking in the water as possible was key.  Plain hooks or ball jigs with live minnows, leeches and the old standby nightcrawers were hard to compete with, no matter how many rows of flashy lures for fisherman lined the boards at the bait shops.  They really were for fishermen more than fish.  Watching a bobber was always more exciting for me than touch fishing (jigging up off the bottom of the lake).  I later learned that slip bobbers while taking more time to set up are extremely versatile.

My kids love playing with minnows and worms (not so much leeches) so I usually get live bait nearly anytime we go fishing.  They like putting on their own bait and changing to little spinners on their own, so many times I give up a little natural presentation and put a swivel and snap on their line, so they can switch from jig to spinner whenever they like.  This adds to the fun.

I get my family all set up and untangled first if we go out in the boat.  If we go fishing from shore or at camp, I always make sure they are happy and have everything they need at hand (including a net) before I wet a line myself.  Sometimes I don't wet a line.  Sometimes we just go to a bluegill or panfish lake.  Small returns can mean great rewards, especially if the volume mounts quickly.  Besides catching is the goal, not size.  Smallmouth Bass fight pound for pound more than any other freshwater catch and they are becoming more and more plentiful in the Northland.  They absolutely love Mepps spinners.

As an aside, I carve my own topwater lures out of scrap cedar.  My kids have made some of their own lures as well.  There's nothing like casting your own handmade popper or stick bait and getting a bronzeback smallie to rise and bite.  With spare hooks, screw eyes, scrap wood, a utility knife, a Sharpie marker (or latex paint), sandpaper and imagination, your kids can make their own lures (with good adult supervision).

This is much more than those widely advertised "take a kid fishing" days.  This is something you can do with your kids over and over.  Notice anything from my stories?

Simple tips for Fishing with Kids:
1) It is about the kids fishing, not you.  You may not even wet a line.
2) Start them off with some gear of their own.   Stock a small tackle box together and practice some knots.
3) Keep the day short and fun, don't bore them, excite them with action.
4) Smaller fish in quantity are better than yearning for trophy sized catches.
5) Take their favorite snacks or lunch and some fun beverages.
6) Fishing off shore with bobbers and live bait is easy and fun.
7) Did I mention to make sure it is FUN!

Whether fishing by shore, canoe or in a motor boat, kids need to have the right safety gear.  Life Preservers (life vests) are a necessary part of the activity, especially for smaller kids by the edges of lakes and rivers (not something everyone would think of).  First aid kits and safety reminders for how to cast with people around are also a good idea.  Again, make it fun!   Tell them the story about how I hooked my Grandma in her soft grey curls while casting off the dock on White Iron Lake if you have to… that was a definite catch and RELEASE afternoon!

I always like to recommend a simple rig made right here in Minnesota to folks who go into the Boundary Waters and like to fish from their campsite.  With kids or without, this is a killer lure, that is really just a hook, spinner and float.  Made by JB LURES it is the little known, but highly effective WINKUM Spin-N-Float.  Just tie on a swivel and snap to the end of your line, put a heavier split shot for weight before the swivel, slip the loop on this rig onto your snap and rig a minnow, leech, worm, gulp artificial bait or twisty tail on the #4 octopus hook and you are ready for action.  Upon casting it out, the weight sinks, the float raises your bait up off the ground and the spinner flashes around like a one-eyed wounded bait fish.  You'll have time to feel your line being taken and see the end of your rod being yanked down before you set the hook!

You'll find these JB Lures Winkum Spin-n-float on the fishing lure wall at Piragis in Ely, where we stock lures that work in the Boundary Waters and the basics for kids and adults.  Make the trip to Ely soon and we'll even supply the FUN.  Hey, we are the "coolest small town in America" afterall!  We've got some great fishing supplies for Boundary Waters Canoe Fishing online as well.

Tim Stouffer

Look for more fishing tips this summer.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Wildfire threatened Ely Yesterday, May 17. ALL SAFE

As of Friday Morning May 18, all safe, one outbuilding lost in 100 acre wildfire that threatened Ely and was cause for partial evacuation.  Thanks to everyone who worked hard to put this one out and down and protected our homes and the town we all love!

 Hwy. 1 Fire, Ely

8:00 pm, Thursday, May 17

The Highway 1 Fire south and east of Ely, Minnesota is between 130 and 150 acres.   The fire was threatening structures and an evacuation was put into effect for the area south of White St. and east of 5th Avenue in Ely. The evacuation order for areas within the City of Ely has been rescinded.

Evacuations remain along Highway 1 south of the city.

One outbuilding has been lost.

The initial response group included :  1-Sky Crane Helicopter, 1- Type 3 Helicopter, 4-CL215  Water Scoopers, 1- Air Attack Plane,  4- Dozers, 10- Fire Engines, 1- Strike Team of 5 engines , plus numerous fire deptments and agencies.

A Minnesota Interagency Incident Management Team is on it’s way to the incident, due to arrive 10 pm May 17.  Additional engines and dozers are on the way as well.  At this time Hwy. 1 is closed .

for more and pictures click here:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

BLOG 11. Purify Your Water, by Cliff Jacobson

BLOG 11. Purify Your Water
By Cliff Jacobson

I’m pretty lackadaisical about purifying my drinking water in the backcountry.  I am, however, careful to take it from areas that are not prime sources of pollution. I follow these guidelines:

1.    Don’t take water from the shoreline.  On lakes, go well out from shore.
2.    Avoid green-colored water. “Green” indicates the presence of algae which attract microorganisms. Water that is brownish-tan is generally okay; this color is due to natural tannin from conifer trees. 
3.    Avoid beaver dams and lodges, and hence, a common source of Giardia.
4.    Water taken from a sun-lit pool (UV kills microbes) is usually okay.  But avoid water that flows over sunny rocks because the tumbling action mixes up microbes from the bottom.  Microorganisms tend to lurk just below the surface of calm water, out of reach of sunlight.


Boiling kills everything except heat-resistant spores which fortunately, are extremely rare in the Boundary Waters and beyond. Boiling won’t kill spores; a pressure cooker will! Most harmful microbes--even cryptosporidium, which can survive exposure to iodine, chlorine, and bleach--are killed by boiling (Cryptosporidium is almost non-existent in the BWCA). Just bring the water to a rolling boil and stop—the water won’t get any hotter if you continue to boil.

Filters remove microorganisms but they don’t kill them.  Purifiers kill microbes but don’t remove them.  Purifier-filters do both.  A filter with a 4-micron pore size will stop Giardia; a one micron filter will catch cryptosporidium. If you’re going to the Boundary Waters where the water is clear and marginally safe, a 4-micron filter is probably all you need.  Generally, large pores mean fast water delivery; small pores slow the flow.


Water Purifer with plastic pump. BWCA. Cr. Mike Rapatz

Most filters and purifiers are activated by a hand-operated plastic pump.  Frankly, I’ve never had good luck with plastic pumps over the long haul, but you may fare better. Recently, I’ve been playing with the new The Platypus Gravityworks™ filter.  It’s reasonably compact and lightweight (12 ounces) and it will filter a gallon of clear water in less three minutes—that’s fast! There’s no pump—gravity does all the work (just hang the unit from a tree or set it on a slope). The filter pore size of 0.2 microns will stop protozoa, bacteria and particulates, but not viruses. The unit is easy to clean (no disassembly required) and there are no mechanical parts to fail. I like that it is impossible to put dirty water into the filtered (clean) reservoir. This unit is simple and easy to use. Give it some thought if you need to filter a lot of water fast for a large group. It’s ideal for clear water lakes like those in the BWCA.

 Platypus Gravityworks™ filter is simple, fast and easy. The replaceable filter backflushes easily. Water flow is very fast. It's ideal for the BWCA.

The good news is that purifiers kill just about everything. The bad news is that they do it with chemicals—generally iodine or chlorine—which imparts an unpleasant after-taste which some people can’t tolerate.  A carbon filter helps, but not enough. Chemically treated water tastes bad. Period!

Halazone, Potable Aqua and Aqua-Mira are the old chemical standbys. MSR Aquatabs™ are the latest new kid on the block.  Well, not really—the chemical, Sodium Dichloroisocyanurate has been used by the World Health Organization for many years. Aquatabs meet EPA purifier standards for viruses, bacteria and Giardia cysts. They have a stable five year shelf-life. Unlike typical chlorine and iodine-based tablets, Aquatabs leave little to no aftertaste.  One tablet purifies two quarts of clear water.  When using a micro filter you can use Aquatabs after filtering when viruses are a concern.

I laughed the first time I saw the SteriPen™--a battery operated, Magic Marker sized unit which kills microorganisms with ultraviolet light.  I wondered, does this thing really work?  I figured its pricey UV bulb would break before I finished my canoe trip. Hardly!  My SteriPen is seven years old now.  It has followed me to Costa Rica, Norway and the high Arctic and has never let me down. It purifies a liter of clear water in about 90 seconds without the use of chemicals.  There is no after-taste and no hoses or pumps to work or untangle. I can operate it in the middle of a lake from the seat of my bobbing canoe.  It is by far my favorite purifier.

 SteriPen™, my favorite.
I know people who own, but don’t trust, their  water purification system.  Some of them are my close friends. They pack their purifier away and fill their canoe with jugs of water they bring from home. I bring a lightweight water bottle and SteriPen™.  I’ve never had a problem. The treated water that purifiers—and most filters produce—generally exceeds the quality of most commercial bottled water and tap water.  Trust the science.  This stuff works!

Cliff Jacobson