Birdshot & Backlashes - Pete Zebich
Our western field correspondent, Pete Zebich, sent in his final report for the season from his winter base at Lake Havasu, Arizona. Pete keeps up on western wolf doings, currently around the Jackson Hole area. According to published reports, ranchers continue to be irate over free-running wolves that they claim are dining largely on livestock and elk. There is a very vocal number of folks out that way clamoring for reestablishing a wolf bounty, which they believe was highly effective in reducing wolf numbers a century ago. Since we have neither the livestock nor the elk problem around these parts, what goes on out in the Tetons is beyond our ken. Around Ely, there was near civil war when the Legislature ended the Minnesota wolf bounty in the mid-1960s. Dire predictions were rampant that wolves would exterminate the deer. What happened? Not much. Mild winters caused the deer population to go the other way, resulting in record deer harvests in recent years. Free running wolves are still around in significant numbers. The International Wolf Center puts more money in local tourism pockets than the wolf bounty could ever provide trappers, even in its heyday.Zebich further notes that he and his wife are heading back to Ely this week to avoid the blistering western summer heat and will soon be sampling Ely's unsurpassed freshwater angling, not to mention our cool, fresh air, superb hospitality, excellent dining establishments and other worthwhile amenities. Oh, for newcomers: Pete Zebich is the pen name of a real person. If you want to know who he is, ask any Ely old timer. It is a treat to have coffee with Pete because he has a fund of information on Ely. Only watch out! Pete is a notorious free loader and is likely to stick you with the tab.WHEN WATER FLOWS INTO THE HOLES There is an old adage among ice anglers that when warm weather arrives and the water on top of the ice starts to run into the drilled holes, it is panfish time. Last week, when it warmed up and rain descended, crappies were doing their thing. Not only did the fish get busy, but the warm weather made it a lot easier for fishermen. There is nothing like going ice fishing when it is warm enough to ply one's trade bare handed.One thing a lot of anglers miss is the fact that panfish will gather as soon as there is open water. Legendary ice angler Ray Kainz would watch for streams opening up and then an adjacent shore of a lake. He would sometimes paddle a canoe into the strip of open water between the lakeshore and the remaining sheet of ice and nail a bunch of panfish in the warm shallows.It is also well known that perch are spawning now and running up into the weedy shallows in lakes like Shagawa. We don't have a lot of lakes around here with big perch like they do over around Winnie and Leech Lake, but we have some lakes where a persistent fisherman can harvest a meal. We use mostly panfish minnows, but perch will hit on nearly anything. We have even seen them caught on the eyes of previously caught perch. (Ugh! That's barbaric!).Some fisherfolk are out catching tulibees now, which are grown-up ciscoes. This is not a big deal except for the anglers who like catching and eating tulibees. They will hit tiny panfish minnows and also wax worms. Sometimes. The thing about tulibees is that they provide a pretty exciting battle when one gets on the line.In the fall of the year when whitefish are getting netted, tulibees are also running and net fishermen also catch them. Preferred preparation is to smoke them, but some like them filleted and fried.Also, coming up soon will be sucker spearing in the creeks. We have known some fish-eating folk who made excellent "canned salmon" out of cut up suckers, even adding some tomato sauce to the jars to give them the pink salmon look.The open water fishing season is coming with a rush.