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Looking in the Upper Red Lake Rear View Mirror


hugonian1

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I frequent this forum not because I am a Red Lake "guy" as I have only been up there 5 or 6 times over the last 12 or so years, but because I have enjoyed the cast of characters and the great stories and bantering that have kept us all entertained over the years.

I thought it would be fun to start a thread dedicated to looking back and reminice a little bit, re-tell some stories, re-post some great pictures, and remind us all about some of great times that took us thru the crappie boom and now into what is undoubtely one of the best walleye fisheries in the state.

This would especially be fun for some of us who did not experience the boom and all that it created.

Let's have some Red Lake fun here guys. smile

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This could get ugly! grin

At the beginning of the crappie boom a "city guy" got a hold of me wondering if he brought a house up here if would I help take care of it. Seeing as I was to broke to pay attention at that time I said sure. He showed up here in Waskish with a pretty nice looking skid house up on a trailer. It looked brand new, including the treated wood skids. Treated wood skids????? I wondered if he knew that they would be worn off before February and we would be pulling that house around on it's floor boards. Well what the heck it was his house. I went to hook on to the house to pull it off the trailer and asked where the pull hooks were. He pointed at 2 little hooks like you put a clothesline up with that were screwed into the treated wood skids. confused Well I hooked onto the house and before it even moved I had removed the pull hooks from the house. eek

So we wrapped a stretchy rope around the house and pulled it that way. Coming off the trailer that way didn't do the skids much good but we were on ice in any case. So across the lake we went with a rope wrapped around the house like it was a bundle of firewood. That's how I met Labs and it was the Labshacks maiden voyage across URL. grin There were moves across the lake through the years far more comical then that one. Thankfully that house can't talk.

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That does sound fun. If I could paint a picture it would be of Coo walking back to the florida fishing house bundled up like a snow man carring 10 frozen crappies in his arm, while his crew stayed in the warmth of the house. Coo cashed in.

I had a customer that decided to build a house and ask if I would take care of it. I gave him advise about skids,Not making it too heavy, wiring etc. He shows up with a house that weighed 8700 pounds. man that house was a chore to move.

One night kellie and I went and fished with my customer lee, It had been slow for lee, The wife kellie sits down in her favorit spot/hole in old minnesota and proceeded to catch 10 crappies with in minutes while me and lee could not get a bite.

So many great memories and a few not so great

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First time I fished "the boom" I was prepared for crappies!!!

Set up, cleared the holes, and went to set the depths of the lines. Once the first bobber was set to the right depth I thought to myself, I wonder if this little Thill bobber will support the weight of this hook, beads, and single split shot?

Eased the rig back down the hole (without the depth finder weight) and sure enough, the bobber just kept on going down! Proceeded to pull the rig back up the hole to change to a heavier float only to find I'd hooked a 13-inch crappie! On a plain hook, with a few glow beads!!! No bait!!!! crazy

Filled out limits of beautiful Upper Red Lake slabs in all of about 15 minutes. I then thought to myself, I wasn't really prepared for this. smile

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We never hit the true "mother load" like many have.

Our last crappie was back in 2006.

Here is a picture of my son with a couple of those toads.

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I miss those tow hooks! They were soooooooo shiney and pretty! Like 4 hood ornaments! Dam you for pulling them off and replacing them with scab after scab of rusty flat steel and lag bolts that winter... oh wait, that was holding what was left of 4x6 wood skids together! laugh HA Classic! By the time Kelly pulled that house off that winter... what was left of the skids were going west/ East and the house was going S/W - N/E! no hooks, Skids in pieces, rope around the house, door kicked in twice because the locks froze... yep... the labshack went from infant to crusty old vetran in one season! Red will age a fish house about a decade in one year! The following winter Kelly outfitted it with the same skids his houses have. It is like a sherman tank now!

She dosen't talk much, but the bunk has been signed by the entire cast of characters that spent time on Red through the BOOM... for that reason Hunter talked me out of selling it. It was going to go on the auction block this winter, but he is right, looking at that bunk, not too sure I can see it go...kinda of a sentimental sap I am! right now she is waiting for a good surgeon, the door is pushed in, cracked framing, along with the stove and counter pushed most of the way across the floor. Snowplow got her in storage and she isn't even on the lake! SO now we need to piece her back together so like a phoenix, she rises from the ashes.... AGAIN!

Oh man, the rear view mirror... story after story racing through my head... 1st and foremost meeting a group of friends that any man would be glad to call friends, the crash, the crappie fairy, the URL triangle, the IBOTs, 3 men hunting wild turkeys in Mexico, really believing you had a chance to get across Westwinds to go to the bathroom, My Waskish Minnow Station T-shirt (just lost it recently and 'am I pi$$ed"), the Labshack Tshirts, faces markered, the OnStar story, whiteouts that scared 10 years of life out of you, setting the house in 5' of water, the mouth of the Tamarac river 'crappie' flurry Ninetoes staged, Kelly drilling into sand at Lou rayne beach looking for whitefish, Kelly plowing all the way across Red to check out Center Bar before it was a 'race'... for one day of fishing...The after party parties at Ninetoes and everyone signing the shovel, coming up to the Labshack looking for it's new adornments every week... spending an entire night in labshack with Buddy and Johnny Walker, upside down 4 wheelers... the crappie livewell, full grown men giggling like school girls the first time they came up and got into the crappies...I'm sure I'm forgetting 10x more than I am remembering

If I typed up each of these stories I'd be here for a week... but my belly is already hurting from laughing!

Good Luck!

Ken

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Paul going for a ride in the Labshack with Kelly pulling it with his Mazda... I was just beginning to realize that day what a ride we really were going to take!

Jonny and Kelly deciding a fine spot to set the labshack for me was in the middle of a 500 sf pond...

Catching my first fish on URL... a 3-4 lb walleye!

3.2 beer at Hudecs and a frozen pizza...

they just keep coming!

Good Luck!

Ken

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I can remember reading and hearing about the "crappie boom" back around 2000 and told my son we need to get up there and catch some of those crappies. Raised down in Iowa that is all we ever fished for, and to catch a 15"+ crappie up there would awesome. So one cold snowy March weekend we made it up there and wasn't disappointed, we limited out in about 3 hrs ( would of been sooner but I was taking pictures of every fish and could believe the size). That was 13 years ago and I haven't missed a ice fishing season since. Along the way I have met some great people that I'm proud to say that they are friends now. Thanks for the past memories and memories that have yet to come.

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Does that fish house look familiar???

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The Seals, the snowmobile helmet!, giving an unsuspecting fisherman a sunrise view of the rez. line... giving Buddy his new 'Capn' Buddy's Underwater Crappie Tours' truck, opening day of the newly revived Red Lake Walleye season... White Castles and Champagne in the boat when the limits were reached...

It is ine of my fondest things... to banter back and forth about all those stories over that decade. It went by in a flash, and more happened in that one decade than many fisherman experience in a lifetime!

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Look what I found. Wild Bills trophy URL sunfish, Labshack in the pond and Labs celebrating the walleye recovery.full-181-29667-lsunfish.jpg

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My first trip to Red for crappies was in 1998. I hadn't fished the lake since the 60's and I wasn't much of a fan of hardwater fishing due to a bad experience with a faulty furnace (long story). Anyway, Doc had been up there earlier and caught those big crappies and asked me if I wanted to make a trip. I hemmed and hawwed and finally said ok. This was when the word was just getting out on the crappies. We pulled into Waskish and bought some minnows out of Jim's (Kelly's dad) basement. This was the Waskish Minnow Station. The only place in town to get bait. Hillman's wasn't open and West Wind hadn't been built yet and Bear Paw and all the other outfitters weren't in business. I think on the south side there was Morts, Benzematic, and Rogers and that was it. We went out of Donnie Hudec's (now Beacon Harbor) as that was the only place open on the north side. Doc asks me where we should set up. I answer, "How the %#** should I know, I've never been up here". He stops the truck and says, "How about here?" We set up the portable and after awhile we have to pull the sticks as the dink perch are eating us alive and we are running out of bait. After some beer, peanuts, and cigars, we are approaching the bewitching hour and put our lines back down the hole. My cork tips on it's side and slowly sinks. I set the hook thinking it's another perch but this one has some tonnage to it. I pull that first googley eye through the hole and I am hooked! grin After awhile, tangled up jigglesticks are being thrown out the tent flap, my feet are in Doc's hole and I am pumped. I went on a massive buying spree for ice fishing gear that next week and we started going up as many times as we could, fishing out of portables until we got our hard house in 2004 or 05. At 8:00 p.m. on any given weekend night it looked like the old met stadium after a Twins game with a string of taillights as far as you could see, leaving the lake and heading toward Bemidji. We would drive back to Walker where Doc's cabin is located so never got into the partying or the Ibots but it sure was fun to follow their escapades on the forum. We starting following Kelly his first year when he had the press-board houses (later painted blue) and the fire engine red truck. We always set up a respectful distance from his houses. Later, after the crappie boom was pretty much over in about 2007 we really got to know Kelly and Jonny but have followed Kelly's postings for years on the forum and always respect his knowledge of and love for the lake.

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Oh yeah... Almost forgot,

Seeing Kelly in a tux and his sleeves weren't even cut off! HA

Good luck!

Ken

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I was a first timer during the "boom". Brought my wheelhouse up with 2 buddies. Got to the lake and all 3 of said holy buck. Never seen so many fishing and so much lake. Anyway, drove out about 3 miles and set down the house. Instantly began catching crappies. But about every 3rd one would get hung up on something. We went threw hook after hook for the next 2 days, all the while we were thinking they were big northerns. No camera to check, still thinking northerns. Caught plenty of crappies but to this day I still feel we were smack dab in the middle of a crappie crib. I gps it but in the last 10 years conditions have never let us get back to that spot. One other red memory, been there probably 15 times, its never been above zero and never had winds less than 20! Its a beautiful thing!

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My first ice voyage to Red was in late winter 1998. We fished out of the south-side. Like shaky-legs said, lot's of dink perch, but when the sun hit the horizon, a guy had all he could do to keep two rods going. It was simply amazing.

The scattered handful of people out there were packing up and leaving. My partner was getting nervous as we were the only one's left as far as we could see. I was feeling something mystical about being out there on that desolate sheet of ice and the darkness.

O.K, maybe the last sentence had something to do with growing up in the late 60's early 70's!

I met Kelly the following year and started to learn of the area and lake. I got my Dad up there in 2003/2004 and rented a small shack from Kelly. Kelly mentioned that people were moving in around the house we had rented from him. I told him will grin and bare it but I could tell he was not happy about this.

In the first picture below I am standing 3 steps away from the fish house taking a shot of my Dad. The trucks were driving right next to us to get to get beyond us. Kelly drilled some holes outside for us and the travelers had to find new passage.

Game warden came by about 5:30 pm. He parked right behind us and we started a conversation. He asked if it was alright if he parked where he was, as he was going in. We laughed and I assured him we weren't going anywhere and his vehicle was fine. About two and a half hours later he reappeared. He looked tired and mentioned something to the effect that he could of used a translator for some of the folks he came across. I asked how fishing was over there and he said it was good. He went on to say that some of the guys were doing real good and he issued them reminders...

Haven't fished with Kelley's operation for some time now. Seems every time I get a couple days to make the trek, he's booked. Now that's a good thing for him, but for guys like me, we need all the help we can get.

Scott

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So many stories,

Stu had came up early with a friend,When his friend left Stu stayed on the lake in a portable, Wild Bill was on his way up when a blizzard came up. Stu was out there in a potable hunkered down with no phone. Wild bill arrived and i took the ultra sled out to find him in a whiteout. I did find him ,and convinced him he had to come in. The next day we were able to make our wayout with trucks and the portable had collasped. Wild Bill was so mad at stu as when we got there he broke the news that he had caught 4 limits and thats when you could keep 15 so he had 60 crapppie's. Wild bill had driven through a blizzard to get here and then never got to wet a line. Stu passed away about 5 years ago and is greatly missed by wild Bill has he was his best friend.

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Scupper, those pics bring back memories. How come we could fish outside in minus s temps but now are concerned about staying warm?? I would love to post pics but mine are the old fashioned hard copies, but if you ever stop in our fish house, you will see them on the wall.;.

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wow reading these stories is incredible... ive been fishing since i was in a car seat.. old man would takeme set me in the fish house check on me every few min while he chased flags... i grew up on the ice... back in 2000 i was just graduating high school.. fishing was put on the back burner for about 2 years as i was busy doing what 18yr olds do... man oh man after reading these stories i so so wish i could have experinced the boom.. i hear stories from dad and uncle how during the crappie boom 4 guys would have an assembly line going.. 1 baits, 1 drops the line, 1 pulls the fish up, the next guy loaded the pail. then switch. said they still couldnt keep up!! ahhh and i turned down going with my old man cause i was to busy chasing tail.. lol ive since gotten back into fishing..got a wheel house. got married have kids, and the wifey still lets me go about 12 wknds in a row to red lake and lake of the woods.. this is going on 4 years now.. i fish hard. the best part of it all is now i take my old man fishing back up to red and cater to his needs, and all he does is talk about the crappie days,, wish i could have been there..

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I first fished URL in 2001, In March of 2002 I brought my dad up for his first trip (maybe my 3rd trip?) We went outta Hillmans and not having fished outta there before I asked the man at Hillmans (Shorty Hillman) where to go. He drew me a map and said there was a brown fish house half painted orange in a triangle. (I had that map and very same road pass for years, id like to find it as I still have it somewhere) So out we went, My dad and I looked for an hour and simply couldnt find the house. so we drove off road for a few mins and BAM! there was that house! It was still a little dark in the morning so in Shortys defense it was tough to see. We drilled a few holes and got set up. Within a minute of fishing I caight a 14" and I ran over to show my Dad. His face said it all. Within 20 mins we had 26 slabs on the ice. Then it was all over, 7 am. we continued to fish and catch those pesky bait steeling perch until sundown where we were easily able to find out last 4 for a limit.

I miss those days. Every time I came up I would wait in Hillmans until I could talk to shorty one on one and asked him for advice. He never let me down. A true steward of the lake

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Thanks Kelly for posting the picture with my trophy Sunfish. That really brings back the memories, I have lost track of how many years we have been up to URL. It is renewing old friendships that keep me coming back, the fishing is just a bonus. Tell everyone hello, How is Lyle doing???

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O.K, one more that I can attach a picture to. Had some fella's in from out east for semi annual business meetings. I took them to lake of the woods a couple years earlier and they couldn't get over Ice fishing and always wanted to go when in town. They termed it "tube fishing". The perfectly round auger hole in the ice reminded them of a tube.

As we were heading to LOW's, I stopped at Hillman's with the hopes of scoring a rental for a few hours to try for crappies. I asked Mrs. Hillman if Kelly or Buddy were around to possibly rent me a shack for the evening. She explained that they were out on the lake trying to get a truck out that had broke through. Somewhat disappointed, I told her thank you as I did not want to bother the truck retrieval crew. Just then Shorty came out of the can and exclaimed, "your going to need minnows". Ma, I know Kelly has an open house. Call him and tell him I'm sending some guy's out to fish.

Shorty fixed us up with minnows and instructions as to where we would find the extraction crew which was 5 miles out. Shorty also consoled two of the guy's with me as when they heard that a truck was in the drink, well, they wanted to stay put. It was a very quiet ride...

I kept my distance as we approached the work site. 3 plow rigs were hooked to the pick up which I believe was Buddy's brothers truck. After some time, Kelly walked towards us and waved me over. We exchanged lot's of yuk's and he said it won't be long. As he walked back to continue the extraction, the guy's with me were crawling out of there skin with fear. All I could do was laugh and explain to them that they're 3 trucks over there that weigh much more then we do.

Extraction was completed and Kelly waved us over and told me to put her in 4-wheel drive as we were going down some winding Goat Trails. It had started to snow pretty good and I was feeling real good about our adventure, except for my crew. We pulled up to 2 houses just before dark. Kelly explained that a friend had moved his house next door and we could fish in it if we wanted as he wanted to know if it was producing. Kelly asked me if I thought I could find my way out. A simple embarrassing "no" was my answer. He said he would be back around 6:30pm to lead us out.

2 guy's went into Kelly's house and I and another went 50 yards away to the friends house. An hour passed and the wind and snow was making for short nerves from my crew as to how are we going to get out of here. We caught 8 crappies in the friends house and returned to Kelly's house. They had 10 or so and things really started to pick up. Everyone forgot about the weather and the Goat Trail and it was fish on. Kelly showed up when we were scrounging for minnows off the floor to keep the experience going. He laughed and said "just drop your jig down, you don't need minnows in this frenzy". He was right.

Kelly says, "All right, if you want me to show you the way, let's get going". Now the guy's who didn't want to be there, didn't want to leave. Thank you for your patients that night. We were shortly navigating the Goat Trails and the snow had really piled up in the time we had been there. I wondered why Kelly didn't drop his plow as I struggled through the maze. Once safety on shore and bidding our farewells, I asked about the plowing. Kelly graciously explained and I'm sure I don't have too...

I'm sure some will recognize this picture as I have posted it before. We could of filled 4 of them in the couple hours we were out there.

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It's much slower today at work and my mind is on Red as we will be up tomorrow morning... so I'll give you the crappie fairy story...

We were fishing out of Westwinds the first year we had a hard house, Our 'crew' of friends was growing, one of the newest was a guy named Bryce. We all fished through the bewitching hour of twighlight and made our way into Westwinds for the nightly antics that was Waskish. After a couple 13, 14 drinks we all go back out to our respective shacks. This was actually one of our favorite times to really 'school' them crappies.... The bar bite! 1-2:30 am. Drop your Vex in the hole and their was a Christmas tree waiting... Pop, Pop, Pop, they were coming up as fast as we could get a bait back down. Our secret back then was a nickle castmaster and a small glow twister tail, no need to waste time with minnows. Drop down, pimple up, BAM, fish on, up the hole, off and repeat. Quick clean and easy.

Once I put my house on the lake I rarely kept more than 5 crappie as I like fresh fish and had no need to put a bunch in the freezer. My buddy Paul was really wanting to fill my bucket and I said just keep putting them down the hole. He was wondering if Bryce was up and pounding them like us as his house was only 50 yards away. So what do friends (especially newly aquainted friends) do at 2 am... walk over to insure you are getting in on an incredible bar bite. Well Bryce and his buddy were out cold and there'd be no waking them. We looked in their buckets and they each had about a half dozen crappies... Well we used their rods and vexs and proceeded to begin filling their pails, As the fish were nearing the top of the buckets I told Paul I was heading back to go to bed. He said he had little more work to complete...

Well they awoke in the morning to exactly 30 crappies in their buckets and tangled lines, and no beer and no minnows! The crappie fairy had visited their shack!

It visited a few others along the way, but the laughs of the first encounter are always the best!

Good Luck!

Ken

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Boy, this thread has sure stirred up a lot of memories. We have so many from that time period but one of my favorites involves Kelly P. By this time Kelly is well established and going out of the Hillman Road. The crappie bite is still in full swing. That year Buddy's road which went straight west for 8 miles just like it always did grin was paralleled by a big pressure ridge that also went out 8 miles to the west and then bent to the north shore. On our maiden voyage that year we drove out on the Hillman road and surveyed the "body language" of the lake, looking for Kelly's houses. We drive out 3, then 4 miles looking to the north and west but no houses. I glance at the south side of the pressure ridge and lo and behold I say to Doc, "That looks like one of Kelly's houses", Sure enough, we get closer and there are his houses but how did he get them across the ridge? We drove all the way out to 8 miles where the road came to a T and then the pressure ridge bent to the north shore and went almost all the way to shore (the start of the old crappie highway). We thought to ourselves, Kelly surely didn't drag his houses all the way to the north shore and then loop around and come back to the south?? Doc says, We are turning this vehicle around and driving all the way back to Hillman's landing until we find where that sneaky SOB crossed the berm. We drove all the way back to the landing and there right off shore was a sneaky, snaky goat trail that went on the south side of the ridge and out to his houses. However, it was not a nice easy road. It was a sneaky goat trail that wound every direction of the compass and often ended in dead-end culdesacs. It was narrow and slushy and you had to be careful or you would get stuck. We finally got out to the area of his houses but didn't want to drive next to any of the gatekeeper houses on his road. That year there was a lot of snow so we would send someone on foot ahead of the vehicle looking for drifts and a path into the general area while staying a respectful distance away from any of his houses. To make a long story short, we went up just about every weekend as Kelly was on one of the hottest crappie bites I have ever witnessed. It was automatic for a limit unless you got too close to the ridge where the bottom was harder and the water wasn't dirty. Kelly basically didn't move his houses all that year as the bite was so good and I think he even made a post on the forum thanking people for keeping their mouths shut. The current road to his houses kind of reminded me of that bite. grin Kelly could add a lot about the bite that year but it sure stayed in the one brain cell I have left. He is a master of a deception and maybe he will tell the story of Fort Apache. grin

"

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Then taking the Labshack for a spin....

Kelly had a plan... It was the 1st year with our newly ordained labshack... 'bout maybe week 2 or 3, she is already showing some wear and is a little ragged around the edges... Well the plan was to move to "The Rock" Huh? Yep big rock, middle of nowhere, no one fishing it. Kelly scouted it and he piled up some fish... time ot move the Labshack, so we wrap a rope all the way around it about mid-level... (dam tow hooks!), and Kelly backs his Mazda up... I'm thinking OK? I gotta 'big' pick-up maybe I should pull it... nope! was what he said, it was a snail trail that turned itnot a goat trail the disappeared to nothing where we were going, best if he drives (well that was his initial excuse anyways)... only room for two in the truck, Paul always wanted to see what it was like being in the house during a move... HA! I hop in the cab with Kelly and he says "Oh this is gonna be fun!"... Ever see the movie Air Force One... with Harrison Ford? Remember at the end when the double crossing Secret service agent is in the doorway of the plane screaming as the plan crashes in the water? That's Paul! Boat seat cushion straddled crotch to shoulder!!!! HA Kelly picks up a head of steam in the Mazda and cranks the wheel hard left and slams on the brakes.... Labshack and Mazda tied into perpetual motion spinning round and round and round.... oh yeah... and round! HA! Well to help un dizzy him, we better go the opposite direction now... Paul looked like a sub-mariner who hadn't seen land in 6 months when he crawled out of the Labshack!!!

Good Times!

Ken

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