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We had an early start and a late start at the island this spring. Mike went to the island the first week of March to do some ice fishing with Jon & Bob Koch. They ended up taking down the old Bearside cabin and having one heck of a bonfire. That’s one way to get warm when it’s 25 below zero! The cabin had not been used as a guest cabin for many years and it was really getting to be an eyesore. Then, we were late coming up after the ice went out because Barb was working a bit longer to help cover a maternity leave at the accounting office. We couldn’t believe what a difference removing that building made to the whole look of the island. And the view from the new back porch of the lodge is incredible. Yes, the new back porch is the old Bearside porch, so a little bit of history remains.
Our first project after getting camp open was to finish the Rockpoint remodel. It turned out great. The main room is much larger and the new bathroom is huge. It even has a window. And, yes George Fleming – it has new beds! Bobby Schean, who turned 80 in June, was the honored first guest to stay there. Bobby has been coming up longer than anyone can remember and has seen all the changes at Black Island from the early 80’s on. He still makes the world’s greatest hush puppies!
Along with Bobby and his guys, Dave Webb and the guys from central Illinois were our first guests in. We discovered that Abe Shoemaker can not only recover lost lures (see last year’s letter) but he can pick diced red onion out of a salad faster than anyone we know. He & Bob Mueninghoff managed to land the world’s smallest Muskie. Too cute! So, this year, there were no big SE blows while the guys were here. Just COLD. When Minneapolis was breaking records at 97 degrees, we were 58. Thank goodness! In spite of the cold, the guys caught lots of fish – even ones they really didn’t want. Curtis Collins got a 40 plus Muskie while Smallmouth Bass fishing. You know those Southern guys don’t like those “toothy critters”!
It’s hard to believe that after 18 years we could have another first, but we did. The Gundrum men gathered together at Black Island for some family time. There were 23 men, 21 of whom have Gundrum as their last name. Not only that, Barb let them take over her kitchen and do all the cooking! They also caught enough fish to have five dinners of fish; fried, poached, stewed, you name it and all good. One evening they supplemented with turtle. They were able to catch several snapping turtles which were really good.
If you have been checking the website over the season, you saw many large fish caught but only one entry for a 71 inch, 185 SWM. Yes, George Fleming caught himself when the fish threw the hook back with a vengeance. Not to be outdone, Sean Reiling hooked his brother the same week. So, for more weird happenings that week, Mike nearly hooked Jim Kinnard when a fish threw a hook and then Jim & Joe went on to destroy lures, hit rocks and then catch a 44 inch Muskie. While all this was going on, Dirk & David Seymour managed to kick back and relax to NCIS reruns. We think Dirk is a closet NCIS junkie!
The end of June brought Jerry Jones, who has been up with Bobby Schean, and his family. Grandson Braydon, who is 9, couldn’t get enough fishing. Now here’s a Southerner who loved fishing for the “toothy critters”. They started out fishing for Smallmouth but then one day Mike took them to Obabikon Lake for Northern Pike. End of story. Guess where they fished after that. Jerry’s daughter, Cassie, had one obstacle to overcome in order to make the trip. She had to find a way to take on online final exam while she was at Black Island. Thank goodness for local libraries. She was able to do it in Morson and passed with flying colors.
Summer finally arrived in July! The first full week was as perfect for weather as you could ask. And the entertainment was exceptional. Flennard Thorpe and Bill Rinesmith started us laughing when they arrived with more stuff than even George Penton could have brought. And they claimed to have packed light. Good thing we have a 27 foot boat. Then, bring on the Hoffmans, the Kratzers, Bear & Linda, and the Korolewskis -- no extra charge for the comedy show every day! It was worth admission to watch Dennis Kratzer stand in awe at the picture board, staring at “his” picture with a walleye. Except it was his double, Bob Skroch. Every day Dennis would stand there and stare. It is an uncanny likeness! And the fishing…well, on July 6th, between 3 boats, over 160 Walleye were caught and released. And huge Northern and Muskies were seen but unfortunately for the fishermen, not landed.
How many people does it take to clean fish? Six in the fishhouse and 2 outside “supervising”. That is if you are in Brian Schutz’s group. Byron made it back again this year after turning 80. You know, when you’re 80 to can do whatever you please! The “Two Codies” were back, too. The first day they caught everything off the little island after dinner; a 25 inch Walleye, a Northern and Smallmouth and a Muskie! Mike and “Codi One” went head to head Northern Fishing one morning and Codi won 15 to 14. Not bad for a couple of hours fishing.
We experienced some more firsts in the latter part of July. Pat Duignan had a little trouble with his boat trailer on the trip up – he lost a wheel, where he doesn’t know… So he drops the boat into the Rainy River, takes the trailer to get fixed and then drives the boat to Black Island from the Rainy River across the big water, by himself. Let’s hear it for Lund Boats and GPS! That was a first. He actually made it here before his wife and son who drove up and came across with Mike. The next first was Jeff Olsen, fishing for Muskie, gets one on and is bringing it in. Meanwhile a fly bites his leg and he proceeds to fall in the lake, still playing the fish. His son wants to throw him a life jacket, but he says “No, take the rod”. So son, Mike landed the fish and his Dad!
And finally, there was a fisherman who listened to Mike. Jon Skroch caught a big Muskie, a 50, in a spot Mike told him to try. Jon also caught the biggest Crayfish of the season. Fishing in the heat was worth it. Of course, it was only 88 degrees (not over 100 like the rest of the continent). Blair Heller and his guys got here in time to enjoy the heat wave, too. But they were lucky. It was 88 on Tuesday and 58 on Saturday. Welcome to Canada! Oh, and if Matt Heller is here, don’t play Showdown. He’s way too lucky!
George Fleming was back for a second trip with Frank Foulk. Seems he has a little problem with pictures. Earlier in the summer he “lost” Miller’s big fish picture. This time it was Frank’s. What’s with that? Sure, blame it on the new phone… On the other hand, the Kochs got plenty of pictures. As usual, Bob caught huge Northern while Muskie fishing. He is definitely the Northern King. This year, Lucas got Jason on quality, but Jason got quantity. There’s always a competition with these guys. Even so, Jon Skroch’s 50 was not beaten that week. “But Wait”, Pat Duignan’s second trip was fruitful. He got another 50! Couldn’t stretch it to get another 1/4th inch so we were tied at 50 inches!
The first week of August was a fun one for us. We had a campful of long time guests. Some brought some first timers along and we had a great time. Brian Curtis brought his family, including 20 month old Matt who kept telling Barb that everything was “OH KAY”. We also had our favorite Grandpa, Ray Carlsen who came up with Jim & Steve Flexman. Ray, at 89, got along just fine with little Matt! All the kids had a great time picking blueberries, fishing, swimming, tubing, fishing, paddle boating, fishing, hiking, fishing…and they worry about kids having nothing to do. We also got the front dock rebuilt that week. Funny, it looks just like the one we built 15 years ago, one sturdy dock.
And the worrier award goes to….the Brinkmans! Mike met this wonderful family at a sport show in Cedar Falls, IA. This was their first trip up and with 4 kids they wanted to make sure everything went smoothly. But, just when Jessie sent a check to us, the Canadian Postal strike started. Then people were telling them that if the government shut down, they would not get across the border. Not to worry – everything was fine and they were wonderful guests. Jessie even learned to cast!
The later part of August and early September were just beautiful and very warm. The temperatures were in the low 80’s with many flat calm days. Dan Schlapkohl had so much fun he had to come twice within 2 weeks. On his second trip the guys were lucky enough to see the bear that Randy Huizenga got with his bow. The best part was that we got trail camera pictures of the bear checking out the bait and having a little scratch right before Randy got into his tree stand. We tried to give Dick & Mary Moe a little extra entertainment, too. While Mike was picking up Randy, his wife Julie spotted a bear near the fish house. So, as darkness fell, she held the flashlight and Barb fired the shotgun. No more bear…
Dick & Mary Bennett also got to enjoy our near perfect weather (OK, so one day was cold…). Mary got a nice 44 1/2 inch Muskie right off the bat. Doug & Renelle Boucher joined them this year and had a great time when Mike took Dave & Janice Wagner, the Bennetts and the Bouchers to Obabikon Lake for some “slime”. They caught over 100 in a few hours and Renelle got a 40 inch Northern. See, Muskies aren’t the only fun fish in the lake!
Since we missed Milt for openers, he decided to come along with Don, Eric & Henry. Henry was approaching his 89th birthday and looking great. So we had two great 89 year olds this year. Can’t wait to see them next year for the big nine oh! As always, the conversations with Milt & Friends are stimulating and entertaining. Next year, being an election year, should very interesting…
Late September was quiet this year so Helen & Andy Fisher were kind enough to put up with Mike for a few days, do their Housekeeping thing and let Barb sneak off for a horse fix with her sister, Diane, in Wausau. Fishers usually come a little earlier in the summer and found that fall is a different world – a little less predictable! We also found that to be true when Ron & Jim Hoffman and Mike & Trish Stenson arrived for the late season trip. The first week of October was 85 degrees. Ron had to buy a pair of shorts! Stensons brought their 7 month old Vizsla puppy along. For those of you who remember our old dog, Bone, Gracie is a Bone Clone! She got her first 3 Grouse right here on the island! Ron was thrilled because he loves to cash in on the “Bird Nugget” appetizers that Barb makes. And did Ron & Jim catch fish? Boy did they ever. Ron got a nice 19 inch Smallmouth; they got lots & lots of Walleye and Perch; Jim caught a 28 inch and a 30 ½ inch Walleye on the same day. We don’t know who was more excited, Jim or Ron!
We finished the season with a Whitetail Deer hunter this year. Bob Novak hunted with us at the farm last season and took a really nice buck. He was not able to draw an Iowa tag for this year so he thought the Black Island deer hunt would be something he had never experienced before. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate – too hot! He did get to see lots of grouse and a pack of wolves!
Again, thanks for all the bribes! We’re not sure what we’re being bribed for but we really like them. We’re so spoiled. We got candy from Bloomington, IL (there goes the diet), wine (sure did manage to enjoy it when the help quit!), sweet onions (Dave, I come to depend on that one), the white cornmeal from the South (our fish fries wouldn’t be the same), jalapenos (brought by Joe Curtis special from John T who couldn’t make the trip), a great cookbook Joe & his wife Bertha found that Barb doesn’t have (and everyone will tell you the recipes are great because Barb made many of them over the season), the Heineken (so Mike would clean George’s fish) and gum balls (OK Miller, you can listen to Mike smacking his gum), the Kansas City Baked Beans – YUM!, more wine, Betty Jane’s candies, Rickles Pickles… It’s like an auction listing, “items too numerous to mention”. Thanks so much!
On a sadder note, we got word late in the season that we lost one of our favorite “Bloomington Guys”, Kenny King to cancer. We were touched that he wanted to spend part of his last summer with his friends at Black Island. We will miss him.
To get your newsletter in full color and to get new updates and specials, go to our website and sign up for email. We will also have our show schedule posted there. Also, we have changed our email address to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please make a note! Enclosed is our price list for 2012. Remember, you can lock in 2011 prices by getting your reservation and deposit to us before December31, 2011.
Have a wonderful Holiday Season and thank you for another great year at Black Island!
Mike & Barb
Weather it was "the best porch on the island"
"some sort of relic blocking the view"
Bearside is no longer
I we think you'll agree that it really improves the view!
Fear not; the Bearside Porch has been saved and added to the lodge!
Announcing the Winners of the 2011 Ice Out Date Contest!
Also know as the "Will Spring Ever Get Here? Contest
George Fleming with a May 3rd guess
Andrew Kiel with a guess of "whenever Mike says it is"
Honorable Mention goes to Frank Foulk for his incorrect, but highly scientific guess:
"Based on available empirical data, average Black Island temperatures per NOAA, current lunar tables, and the European Union predictions for atmospheric green house gasses for the relevant period and location, then utilizing a proprietary weather beater program on my neighbor Aldo's CRAY computer in his basement, I decree May 7, 2011 at 5:55 eastern standard time."
Hey Frank, who is Aldo, and are you bringing him to Black Island this year? We want to meet a guy that keeps a Cray computer in his basement!
Sure, there's fishing and hunting and beautiful scenery on Lake of the Woods
But there's also something we like to call "Island Life"
The special and sometimes silly moments that help create memories that last as long or longer than those of the big fish or the brute of a bear.
Here are some of our favorite memory making images taken at or by guests of Black Island:
The August Gang- No really, they do go fishing too!
This picture was NOT taken in July, no matter how cold we thought it was then!
Leave it to the Hoffman clan to go out and catch fish..........even in a SNOW STORM!
Ron; keep this up and we're making you an honorary Minnesota or Wisconsin resident.
Man O Man, those are a couple of Beauties!
TIme to stretch the legs after a morning of fishing and have shore lunch by Chef Mike! Yummo!
Black Island has a great swimming beach!
Or should we say "burying beach"?
It's just not a good day for Mike unless he can shoot something, catch something, or, in this case, blow something up!
Here we see Mike firing off his "cannon". Quite exciting, but bring your ear plugs!
Along the way, while fishing, head on over to Painted Rock Channel to see the petroglyphs
Ah, shorelunch, including the yummy cookies that Barb bakes and tucks in the shorelunch kit.
But what's a guy to do when he likes his cookies warm? Why, heat them over the fire on a spatula of course!
Hats off to Jim Flexman for some of the most creative cooking-engineering we've seen!
Jim, is that a PERCH?
Don't think for a minute Chelsea isn't fishing. Don't belive us? Go look at the fishing brag page!
June 14 Gundrum Clan
Black island Pellies
Drink On Us
Sometimes Fishing is Just the Bonus