April Showers Mean Good Fishing!

By: Carol DeBell

Finally I saw the last of the ice disappear this week on the lake I live very close too.  The water is crystal clear and a neighbor reported to me that he had a dozen very large crappie on Tuesday.

Time to get out… and please my friendly reminder:  2014 fishing license and stamps!!  And don’t forget any other stamps, permits, and passes needed to enjoy state or federal parks.  Get your state rules and regulations and read through them too.

Lew is back teaching  fly casting!!  Lew is an accredited fly casting teacher through the American Federation of Fly Fishing.   For those of you who have enjoyed his class, anyone who wants to work the kinks out, improve their overall casting ability or have the opportunity to meet other fly fishers here’s all the details.

First it’s free, all you need to do is come to the fly shop at 6 PM and spend about 2 hours.  Dates:  May 7, 14, 28 at 6 PM.  Class size is 4 (minimum) and 8 (maximum), we have outfits set up for you to use and try out or  feel free to bring your own gear.

Sign up:  please call 847 856 1229, ask for the fly shop or leave a number where we can call you back, to RSVP your spot, we need your name and phone number and how many people.  If more sign up we can open up the weeks of May 21, June 4, and 11.

The classes are set up for the beginner,  don’t be shy!  An intermediate class could be scheduled if we have enough people to sign up.

Dress for the weather!  You’ll be outside, in case of rough weather like high winds and lightening, class will be cancelled.  The area is next to the nature viewing pond, you might consider some insect repellent too.

Fly Tying Classes

We are setting up 2 tables the last 3 weeks!  We are enjoying a lot of camaraderie  and talents learning techniques and patterns.

6 PM is when we start and usually are done by 8, every Thursday.  The students take home their flies and I want to be hearing about what they are catching. 

In case you can’t make the class  and you want to learn something specific,  I can help you out, however I need to know when and what so I can set up the materials.  

Trout Unlimited

Please check out their web site and learn about the chapter in your area.  I’ve been a member for several years and their efforts to improve fishing and go fishing are infectious.

Call the shop 847 856 1229, ask for Carol or Frank so we can help you out.


Grandpa's Buck


BY: Dominic Sabatina

     Every weekend for the first six years of my life was spent with my grandparents. On the weekends that my father’s parents would come to visit I was always excited because I knew that those weekends meant two things; Saturday Fishing at the local pond with Grandpa Max, ice cream following and Church on Sunday followed by our traditional Italian feast! When I was just seven years old my Parents moved from great state of Ohio to “the valley of the sun”, Peoria Arizona.  After moving across the country the traditional weekends went away. Well, at least the fishing and ice cream did. My Father ALWAYS worked hard and did not have the time to be an avid outdoors-man like Grandpa Max was.

     Throughout my childhood and teen aged years I was only able to visit my grandparents twice, once at age 10 and once at the age of 18. During the last trip I found out that my Grandpa Max was a World War Two Veteran of the 244th Field Artillery Battalion in Patton's Third Army. His battalion earned 5 battle participation stars for Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe. He was at the Battle of the Bulge. He was a walking piece of American history!

I was about to start a military career, following in his footsteps, and didn't even know it. This was also probably the last time I would see my grandmother, Elizabeth. She suffered from Alzheimer's disease and unfortunately passed away during my first year in the Navy. When I retired from the Navy I knew it was my time to get back some of what I lost during my younger years. I made regular trips from my home in Illinois to Ohio to visit my grandfather who was still alive at the age of 98.

During my time in the Navy I became a fisherman and developed a true passion for bow hunting. Over the years, when I had time away from the Navy, I would trek out to the woods, climb a tree, hope for the best and I got lucky a few times. I have harvested five black tailed deer in Washington State, A mule deer and antelope in Wyoming and in my new home in Illinois, two white tailed deer. All of these deer have been harvested with arrows that I have built myself and part of the process for me is a sentimental one. Each year I place the initials of the people I care about (family and old hunting buddies) on one of the fletchings on each of the arrows in my quiver. This gives me the feeling that I am not alone, and that I have part of them with me on every hunt. While I am out there alone, braving the elements in hopes of getting the opportunity of a lifetime, I pull an arrow from my quiver and dedicate that hunt to them. Just for old times’ sake.

     The last week of September in 2013 finally came after a long off season of checking camera footage, picking spots and hanging sets. The opener (October 1st) was getting close and my level of excitement was quickly rising. On September 29th I received a phone call from one of my older sisters. Accompanying that call was the worst news I had heard all year. My Beloved Grandpa Max, WWII walking piece of American History and the last of that generation in our family had passed away due to natural causes at the age of 98. I was crushed. My father no longer had living parents and I was not able to get back near the amount of time with my Grandpa as I wanted.

     All of this still fresh in my mind, October 1st came and I was in the stand, but my mind wasn't. My mind was on an upcoming road trip with my father.  Once again, October 3rd came and I was in the stand but my mind was not there. That was my last hunt before the road trip. My Father and I were driving to Ohio to pay respects to the man that, through God, gave us life.

On October 5th 2013, my father's 65th birthday, we said our last “see ya later” and we buried Grandpa Max.

I came home from that trip and I didn't hunt for two weeks. I decided that my next hunt would be the evening of October 24th.

The evening prior, I was preparing for the next day's hunt and talking with my wife Tiffani. I was checking off all of my gear and making sure I had everything ready to go as I was headed to the farm right after work the next day.  Tiffani wished me luck as she always does and said to me, “maybe Grandpa Max will put your big buck in front of you”.

Now, I have been chasing this certain “Big Buck” since he was 4. He is now 7 and boy is he a dandy!  I kind of chuckled at the thought and then it hit me. I looked over at my quiver and noticed that not one of my arrows had initials on them. I looked at Tiffani and said “I know why I have not harvested a deer yet this year”. She asked me why and I said to her, “I forgot to initial my arrows. With everything that has happened here lately, I guess I just wasn't thinking about it”.

I grabbed a sharpie and started from the end. When I got to the number one arrow in my quiver I looked up at Tiffani. She was waiting there to see how long it was going to take me to write my grandpa's initials on an arrow.  I said to her, “My grandpa gets my number arrow this year”.  M.S. (Matthew Sabatina) got placed on the fetching of my number one arrow.

The next day was a great day all around. Everything when smooth, not one ounce of anything negative happened that day. I just didn't know why but it was probably one of the best days I had at work and when work was over I headed to the farm. I made it to the blind, set up my Boss Buck Decoy and settled down in the blind for a good evening of hunting. 

I pulled an old trusty Carbon-Tech Whitetail arrow with a G5 T3 expandable broad head from my quiver and knocked it on the string of my Strother Infinity. I pulled my Flex Tone Bone Collector Series call from my pack and started calling. I am sitting on a Red Head Blackout 360 degree swivel chair leaned back, bow laying against my chest; call in my shooting hand and my other on the bow grip.  I looked out to the sky and said “Grandpa, Please give me a sign that you are watching over me right now, please let me harvest a deer today”.

My cell phone vibrated, so I picked it up with my grip hand and answered the text from a buddy asking if I had seen anything yet.  I finished answering his question with a “no”. I pressed the send button on my phone and when I looked up there was a buck standing 20 yards away from the blind in the biggest shooting lane I had made. He was not the dandy that I was hoping to see but it was the first one of the year.  Time at this point seemed like it was moving in slow motion. The buck was standing there glaring at my Boss Buck Decoy. My phone and Flex Tone (which were still in my hands) slowly and silently found their way to the dirt. Grip hand on the bow, release connected to the D-Loop, I slowly sat up. I remember thinking,”I can't believe he is still just standing there”.

I came to full draw and anchored the string. While looking though the peep and orienting my 20 yard pin over his vitals he put his nose to the ground and started to move down wind of the decoy. Since I practice scent free odor control and invested in “Ever Calm” from Bass Pro Shops, all he was going to smell was another deer. He only took two steps with his nose to the ground and he stopped, picked his head up and glared at my decoy again. My finger was resting on the trigger and with just a little more back tension my release opened. 

The arrow left my bow traveling 288 Feet per second. When it hit the G5 opened up and the arrow made a clean pass through the deer punching a hole directly through the center of the heart. I could not have asked for a better shot. The deer traveled 10 yards and fell over dead right in front of the blind.  I exploded with excitement! I reached for another arrow and as I did I noticed that it was my grandpa's arrow that passed through the deer. My emotions overwhelmed me and all I could do at that point, with tears streaming from eyes, was look up to the sky and say,”I love you! I love you! I love you! Thank you Grandpa for watching over me and giving me a sign that you were here with me!

The first thing I did was call my Father to tell him what happened.  He simply said to me,” Your Grandpa was there with you and he guided that arrow”.

In honor of that experience I decided that I was going to complete an antler mount dedicated to my Grandpa Max. Here it is. Thank You Grandpa for all of the Wonderful memories. You'll never be forgotten.






Fly Shop Hosts Tiers

Fly Shop Hosts Tiers

By: Carol DeBell

As the weather warms up, sometime in the future, the fly shop is seeing many new friends meeting together on Thursday evenings.  A couple of months ago there would only 2 or 3 patiently making a new pattern, and last week 14 showed up!

 The beginners tied wooly buggers, a must have, go to pattern good for almost any fish that swims.  This fly taught the beginners how to start the thread, add a marabou tail with flash, palmer chenille and hackle, and then tie off.  Wooly buggers can be made weighted, have bead heads, a wire wrap, have eyes, or easily be turned into an egg sucking leech.

While the beginners worked on their buggers, the other table did egg patterns, looking simple they soon figured out a simple 1inch length of yarn can test your patience. After several starts and stops some very nice yarn eggs were being shown off.  These are specific for trout and salmon spawning time.  Drift the eggs along the bottom, and the fish will take them.


What’s on the calendar?  Remember it’s Thursday’s at 6 PM and plan on spending almost 2 hours.  Call to RSVP a chair at the table, 847 856 1229and ask for the fly shop.

April 3:  Matt’s Nymph, a wet fly that is half wooly bugger and half stonefly

April 10:  Pink Squirrel, another wet that resembles a hare’s ear, only in pink

April 17:  wooly buggers improved.  Add some extra flash, eyes, legs…

April 24:  Extend body drake.  Mayflies will be hatching soon!

May 1 :  Turbo and Flash Gordons.   Another wet fly popular for steelhead

May 8:  Pinhead Popper.  Looks like a frog!

May  15 :  Damselflies.  Perfect for around lily pads and grassy edges.

May 22:  Clauser crawdad:  small ‘dads using furry foam, nice to drift and add movement to entice bass.

May 29:  Tube flies.  A technique that can be applied to any size flies, used for trolling mostly.  This fly is now becoming more popular in general.


Going fishing?

March 31 you’ll need your 2014 license, and get your inland trout and  great lakes salmon stamps and the same time.

April 27 Wisconsin trout early catch and release ends

May 3 General fishing in Wisconsin starts

May 4 to Sept 30 Wisconsin inland trout season .

June 7 & 8 is Free Fishing Weekend in Wisconsin

Remember to always be familiar with any rules and regulations for the water you are fishing on.  Obtain a copy of the rule books for the state  and carry with you.  Read any signs posted and please obey the rules!  Respect the area you are fishing in.


Where to fish?

As you can guess I live in Wisconsin, however the Cook and Lake County Forest Preserves offer fishing spots all over the counties.  The parks have amenities for the family and some you can rent small boats and trolling motors.  Des Plaines and Fox Rivers have many spots to find northern, bass, and  varieties of pan fish.   

And I must put in a good word for Trout Unlimited.  Thank you guys for coming in for the Spring Fishing Classic at Bass Pro.  If you are interested please check out their website,  they have many active chapters in the area and their interest in providing good fishing through stream restoration, maintenance, and education gives their membership and guests hands on experience.


Stop in and say hello to Frank or me, we’re always interested in your fishing and tying.

Wishing you good fishing!

Carol D




Ruger 10/22 Models & Accessories

Ruger BX25

By Katie Cook

The Ruger 10/22 is a common and popular .22LR rifle. For most people, it is the first 22 rifle they shot as a kid. There are many different models to choose from like the classic wood stock and blued barrel to the Natural Gear camo stock and the stainless barrel and the new Takedown version. Every Ruger  10/22 comes with a 10 round rotary magazine. The 10 round magazine works extremely well but it involves a lot of reloading and less shooting time. After market magazines have been made for the Ruger 10/22 for years.

Ruger originally only made replacement 10 round magazines. After the Takedown was released, Ruger released the BX-25 Magazine. It is a 25 round magazine in all black with steel feed lips. The BX-25 has a unique feature from other extended magazines. It features 2 stainless steel screws for dis assembly making it able to be cleaned inside. I recently purchased the BX-25 and I am extremely happy with the results. The BX-25 retails at $34.99.

Reloading a 25 round magazine can be tiring on your fingers and take time. Butler Creek makes an accessory called the Hot Lips Loader that retails for $34.99 but is honestly PRICELESS!


A Classic Sign of Spring

A Classic Sign of spring

By: Jerry Costabile

On February 28th, the weather here in the Midwest will start to get warmer, even if it’s cold outside. From February 28th until March 16th, the Gurnee, Illinois Bass Pro Shops will be having their annual “Spring Classic”. This is the start of spring for many of us fishermen and fisherwomen. This the time to forget about the cold and snow that we have been battling all winter and get inside the store where the air is filled with fishing!

It starts with the very big sales ad, 44 pages! I can’t believe the great pricing and unbelievable deals that are going to be featured from front to back. From lures to Tracker Boats, there is something for everyone! The promotions are first class from BASSMASTER University, Daily specials on March 7th & 8th and 14th $ 15th, also, The Next Generation weekend for the kids on March 15th & 16th. Check this out, from February 28th until March 5th you will be able to trade in your old reel and get up to $100 off of the purchase of a new reel and from March 7th until March 11th, you can get the same deal with your old rods! All of the trade in rods and reels are donated to charities and youth groups and organizations. If you need a way to justify buying a new rod and reel, here you go, tell them it’s for a good cause!

There will be seminars every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday throughout the Classic. Speakers from pro fishermen talking about fishing for bass, muskies, salmon, walleyes and more! There will be fried fish sampling on March 8th, and if you are in the market for new fishing electronics, you won’t believe this, buy a qualifying unit and you will get the following: First, Triple Rewards Points, second, FREE Standard Power Pros Accessory Installation, and third, a FREE three year Gear Guard Protection Plan! This includes Lowrance, Hummingbird, Garmin, Motorguide, and Minn Kota. Plus, between March 6th and 12th, you can receive up to $100 in Bass Pro Shops Bonus Bucks!

If you are in the market for a 9.9 motor, for the Classic you can get a Mercury 9.9 FourStroke motor and receive an additional $500 after special price reduction or get a $500 Bass Pro Shops Gift Card!

If you need to forget about winter and get into spring, come out to the 2014 Spring Classic and experience the biggest fishing event ever!


Giving Back

By: Jerry Costabile

On February 8th, I was part of a “Learn to Hunt Rabbits” program that was put on by the Wisconsin DNR, at Richard Bong State Recreation Area in Kansasville, Wisconsin.

The hunt was put on by the Richard Bong Naturalist Association and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. It was held on the park property, which has hundreds of acres of hunting open to the public. I know for a fact that the area we were going to hunt is loaded with rabbits, and I was just as excited as if I were going to hunt! There were five hunters and five mentors. The hunters for the day were Ben, Nathan, Hunter, Annie and Jay. Our Mentors for the day were Adam, Brandon, Michael, my son Kyle and myself.

Being a certified Hunter Education Instructor, I was asked to teach a firearm safety class and a class on hunting rabbits. Along with my classes, there would be classes on state laws and regulations that would be instructed by two state Conservation Wardens, Brandon Smith and Michael Katzenberg. There was a class on the biology of rabbits by Adam Holcomb from the Naturalist Association.

We had a special guest speaker, Mike Corbett, on hunting with beagles. Mike was to bring a really special guest, but because of the snow depth, we didn’t get to meet his dog, Nugget. He still gave a great presentation with a film of an actual rabbit hunt with Beagles.

After a lunch provided by the Naturalist Association, we were ready to hunt! After everyone was given a blaze orange vest, complements of the Naturalist Association, and blaze orange hat, complements of Bass Pro Shops, Gurnee, IL, we were off! I was concerned about the new snow on top of the old snow, and the ability to hunt in a way that we could flush the rabbits to the hunters that were positioned ahead and in safe locations. Well when we got to the first area to be hunted, the snow was deep; I was in snow up to my mid thighs! It was all that we could do to just get thru the drifts and get to the cover. The rabbits were there, lots and lots of tracks and rabbit m&m’s (droppings), but it was very difficult to get into the thickest cover where there was less snow. This is where all of the fresh sign lead to and we were not going to get there, too much snow. The effort was there, but the opportunities were not.

A group decision was made to go back to the classroom for a short break and rehydration and then to head to another location. The snow was already taking its toll on us, we only hunted for about an hour and we looked like we had been at it all day!

When we headed out for round two, I was feeling a little disappointed because with the conditions, I didn’t think our opportunities would be many if any. Upon arriving to our hunting destination, we grouped up and made the walk a few hundred yards back to a heavy brush covered area that had good rabbit sign everywhere. I could see that if we were going to see a rabbit, this was the spot! While everyone was getting into position to start, I could see a very fresh set of tracks that led into the cover we were about to get into. I put Nathan, my hunter, into a good position to see and it was open enough that if Bugs showed himself, he would get a shot. Our “dogs” Kyle and Ben, were just about to the brush that the fresh tracks led into and I told Nathan “Be ready” and sure enough, out he came, the first rabbit of the day! Nathan did a great job getting his gun up and because of the rabbit’s speed, a very ethical decision not to shoot. It just wasn’t a good shot opportunity and because of the deep snow, I knew that the rabbit wouldn’t go far and might give us another chance. As we moved to get ahead of the “dogs”, there was a shot off to our right. It might have been the same rabbit, but we weren’t sure so we kept moving ahead. Once Nathan and I got to an area that gave us a good vantage point and a safe location, we got ready only to see the guys walking up to us and no rabbit ahead of them.

Well we regrouped with the others and found out that Annie got the shot, but the rabbit got away! We made our way to the nature center took some pictures, shook hands and said good buy. I was hoping to demonstrate field dressing and share a couple of recipes, but the rabbits at Bong Recreation Area survived the first “Learn to Hunt Rabbits”.

On the way home, I had some mixed emotions, I was a little disappointed because I am usually successful at rabbit hunting and really wanted the day to be a great memory for our first time hunters. But I was also very proud of the fact that maybe, just maybe, I helped in a small way to keep a tradition alive. I reflected on the introduction to the sport to my boys and the fun we had, even when the rabbits were better than we were. I am now completely into the sportsman stage of my outdoor life, this is where the success is based on the experience, the memories, the friendships and the feelings of satisfaction of just being able to show others why I love what has been created for us all, the great outdoors.

There is something special in giving back to something that has rewarded you with so much. From teaching others, to protecting the resources, I know that for the rest of my days afield, it won’t be about what I harvest, but about what I can do to give back.



"Extreme Ice Fishing!"

Extreme Ice Fishing!

By: Jerry Costabile

I have been ice fishing the Midwest for around forty years and I have never experienced conditions like there have been this winter.

I was excited that by Christmas, we had cold enough temperatures here in SE Wisconsin to have ice to safely fish most lakes. Than by the New Year, there was fishable ice on all of the lakes I usually have to wait until later in January to get on. It was looking like a great start to the season for all! The local bait shops were getting good sales, the bigger stores had good ice fishing sales, and the interest in the Arctic Cat ATV’s and UTV’s here at TRACKER Boat Center was increasing. All this action and it was early in the season!

Then while watching the weather one night, I hear a new weather term, the polar vortex, also known as a polar cyclone, polar low, or a circumpolar whirl. I will leave it to you to look up the scientific definition for what I call just plain cold! We were getting temps in the negative teens with wind chills in the negative 30’s and 40’s, even had reports of wind chills on -50 degrees! Wow, you talk about ice making weather!

Most ice fishermen would have stayed home in the warmth and comfort of their living rooms, but I am not most ice fishermen. I had a day off and I was going fishing. Wind, cold, snow, I didn’t care, I was going. I am lucky enough to own an insulated Clam shelter and a Buddy Heater, I would be fine right?

The trip started with pre-rigging rods and tying knots in the warmth of home the night before. This was probably the smartest thing I did during this trip. I got up early the next morning with my youngest son Kyle, who always is a challenge to get going at a pace faster than a snail in the morning. The coffee was brewing while we got dressed and got all of the equipment outside. My fishing partner and his grandson were to arrive at 4:15am and it was now about 4 and I was still checking that we had everything to battle the elements and I also had the lunch that I was going to grill, fresh venison steaks with onions on a toasted Kiser bun. There is nothing better than a grilled venison steak sandwich out ice fishing!

I was confident that my Frabil Icearmor suit would keep me warm, after all I hunted the last day of the bow season last year in -25 degree wind chills and it kept me warm. Kyle had his cold weather gear together,  so I think we were ready for whatever mother nature would throw at us. Little did we know how hard she could throw!

We loaded everything into the Dodge and headed north for the 2 hour drive to Lake Winnebago to fish for big perch, whitebass, and walleye. The ride up was quite with the two teenagers both asleep in the back seat . Because of the long ride, we were going to stop at a gas station near the lake to get dressed in our cold weather cloths and head to the lake ready for the day.

When we arrived at the access point to drive onto the lake, we noticed the wind was blowing the snow pretty good. This was going to make setting up interesting! The plowed road out to the fishing area that we wanted to fish, was in good shape so ice travel wasn’t going to be a problem. There were Christmas trees marking the road so even with the blowing snow, we could navigate if my GPS I had in my hand failed. After crossing a steel bridge (these are put over pressure cracks for safe travel) we arrived at our fishing spot about a mile and a half off shore. Now at this point it still looked like a cold, windy day that we have fished in a thousand times before. But when I opened the truck door, I was hit by a blast of cold air that was being pushed by 30 to 40 mile an hour winds that got my attention, it was going to be a one set up day. If the fish didn’t bite here, there was no moving to another spot, this was it!

Setting up my Clam Voyager shelter wasn’t too bad to set up, we used the truck as a wind break  and once the support bars were in place, we were up. The other shelter that was to be occupied by my partner and his grandson, was a hub style shelter. These are very light and tall, so it took a lot to get the shelter up and tied to the truck. The wind and blowing snow had now built up to blizzard like conditions, complete white out! You couldn’t see anything, the shoreline, or the other trucks that were less than a hundred yards away. We finally got settled into our heated shelters and fishing. We fished for an hour without anything to show for our efforts and I decided to step outside. What I saw as I walked around the truck, looking in all directions I still couldn’t see anything. There was a 3 foot snow drift building on the up wind side of my truck, this was not good. I voted to break down the shelters and get off of the lake, but I was over ruled by the grilled venison steak sandwiches I promised to cook. Now, the wind is hurricane force, and the blowing snow put us in less than perfect grilling conditions, but I was expected to have lunch ready for everyone! I went into my shelter put away the fishing equipment and turned it into the camp cook tent. The portable grill was set up and in ten minutes the steaks were sizzling in butter with onions grilling next to them. It took about another ten minute and I had two hungry teenagers looking into the vented door opening saying how good it smells, I have to say that the smell of our lunch was getting to me too! After a quick but hot sandwich, we broke down our gear and headed off of the lake. It was a wise choice because we both agreed that this was the worst weather that we ever fished in and it was getting dangerous out there. Thank god nothing happened to the truck, it could have been bad.

We stopped at the same gas station and undressed out of our heavy clothes, found the hot chili and ate until we were full and warm! The ride home was interesting to say the least. There were cars being blown off of the road and it was all we could do to stay on the road when the wind would gust.

I would like to say that we were successful on our fishing trip, but we didn’t catch a fish. What we did get is a lesson learned that sometimes you just have to stay home and pick a better day.



"Show Time!"

By; Jerry L. Costabile

Here in the Midwest, we are having a very memorable winter. A steady cover of snow and cold like we have never seen, and it’s only the third week in January!

But the good news is that this is the time of the year that the boat dealers are taking their best buys and new models to boat shows all over the country. There are boat shows in every area that give potential buyers and boat lovers the opportunity to view the 2014 models with the newest and greatest features available.

I recently was with the TRACKER Marine team from the Gurnee, IL. TRACKER Boat Center, at the Chicago Boat Show. It was a great show with all of the competitors showing what they are made of!

I can honestly say that I was very happy with the response that we had with the TRACKER line of boats. There was interest in all of the boats that we showed, TRACKER Mod-V fishing boats, TRACKER Deep-V fishing boats, the NITRO performance fishing boats, the TAHOE line of runabouts and deck boats, and the MAKO off shore boats. It was a great display of the full line of TRACKER Boats.

With the thought of warm weather and open water (there is up to two feet of ice on the lakes right now!); there was excitement in the air for the boating season. The new feature for TRACKER line of aluminum boats for 2014 is the Diamond Coat™ Finish. It not only gives the boat the most durable, long lasting aluminum boat finish on the water, it just plain looks awesome!

The boat with the biggest excitement for 2014, the Pro Team 175TXW the #1 selling Mod-V in the country! TRACKER made this boat amazing for 2014; it has a list of new upgrades that includes the choice of two colors, Victory Red or TRACKER Black with the Diamond Coat Finish™. The list of new features is long for this boat and should keep it at the top of the rankings.

If the cold and snowy weather has you getting that illness we get here in the Midwest called cabin fever, look into attending one of the many boat shows in your area or stop in and say hello here at the TRACKER Boat Center inside Bass Pro Shops Gurnee, IL. store. It’s a great way to see the newest and greatest in boating and helps fight that cabin fever!


"When to Stay & When to Go"

          "When to stay and when to go"

By: Curt Samo

         I had the opportunity years ago to fish with the great angling legend Larry Nixon.  One of the things I will always remember him telling me is that the thing that separates the great fisherman from the average fisherman is the decision making process of when to stay on a spot or when to leave.  Just a few weeks ago, I was fishing a tournament on West Point Lake in central Alabama.  I was faced with this exact dilemma. 

           I had found a classic fall pattern with fish in the backs of major creeks.  The fish were in roughly 2 - 3 feet of water. The temperature in the back of the creek where I had found the fish was about 67 degrees.  That first practice day, I caught about 14 pounds of bass, which on this particular lake would normally be a winning weight.  Paying attention to the weather forecast for the week, I knew a huge cold front was scheduled to hit the area. On the second day of practice, I went back to those same areas to expand my pattern and locate more spots in the back of the creek.  I found a few more fish and felt comfortable with the quality of fish in this area.  During practice I was catching them on a Lucky Craft Redemption Spinner Bait.  I also caught a few on a Lucky Craft LVR 150 rattle bait.  After the second day of practice, the cold front really settled in.  On the third day of practice I decided to leave those areas alone and move to the main lake to locate some bonus hot spots to add to my creek pattern.  That night the temperature dropped to 31 degrees.  I felt this would affect the bite somewhat, since the fish were so shallow.  Yet I knew the fish were there, so I committed to go to the backs of those creeks.  

          When I arrived the first day, I found that the water temperature had dropped seven degrees overnight.  I thought that the bite would be slow in the morning, then pick up as the water temperature warmed during the afternoon.  I threw the spinnerbait most of the day, and though the bite was tough, I ended up with 4 fish and was sitting in 18th place after the first day.  That night, record cold temperatures came in.  I was nervous about the activity level of the fish in the back of those creeks with such a severe front.  I made the decision not to abandon this pattern based on the quality of fish in this area.  The big decision would be if I got to that location and didn't get bit at all:  should I abandon this area for warmer water, or commit to this area and find a presentation that would make the fish bite.

            I arrived to my spot on the morning of the second tournament day and was shocked to see that the water temperature had dropped to 54 degrees.  The fish would not bite a spinnerbait, so I tried several other presentations and caught 2 fish right away, to my surprise.  One was on a black/blue Chompers Tube and the other was on a white Chompers grub. Then the bite died.  I tried several more presentations and for the next 4 hours did not even have a bite.  Being a couple fish out from a check, I needed to make some decisions.  In the back of my mind, I knew that I only needed 1 or 2 more quality bites.  I decided to stay, thinking that the water temperature would rise a few degrees and increase my chance of getting a bite.  That never happened and I lived with the decision. There have been times in my tournament career when staying paid off, and times like this when it didn't.  I hope that I can learn from these decisions and put that information into my tournament archives. 

           It is worth noting that due to the major cold front, that many of the fish I did catch were barely hooked.  I feel like the rod and reel combo that I was using really helped me to land some of these light-biting fish.  Any time a reactionary bait is being used, it is important to use a rod that has a lot of give because this allows the fish to take the bait in without pulling it out of his mouth.  My favorite rod for this is the Bass Pro Shops Crankin Stix.   I was using a 7 foot, medium-action model, and I had it teamed up with a Johnny Morris Signature series reel and 17 pound XPS Flourocarbon line.  This combo definitely seemed to help me get a few more bites and land the fish that I did in the clear water that I was fishing.  Until next time, good fishin!  Bass Pro Shops Pro Staff, Curt Samo.


Hot Shot Shooters

Hot Shot Shooters

By: Katie Cook

Hot Shot Shooters is an all woman’s firearms club that meets at Bass Pro Shops in Gurnee, Illinois. One of our goals is to teach women how to become more proficient shooters and responsible firearm owners.  Our Mission is “To Get More Women Involved!”

Several of our members took an NRA Basic Pistol Class with Bill Worth and wanted to find like minded women to enjoy shooting and learning about firearms. Bill told them to start a group. One of the ladies finally organized our first meeting. Bill sent out an email asking if we were interested in a ladies shooting club. 25-30 women showed up at the first meeting. Our first meeting was basically to ask what we wanted from this group and what we wanted to experience. A few meetings later, we brainstormed over names and voted. Some were very clever and we debated over a few before we decided on Hot Shot Shooters. Our Email list is at 50 women now and constantly growing.

All ladies are welcome and encouraged to attend our meetings and join Hot Shot Shooters. Our next meeting is Tuesday January 21St at 6pm on the 3rd floor of the range at Bass Pro Shop Gurnee.

Also check us out on FaceBook!  www.facebook.com/HotShotShooters



"A Season of Memories"

A Season of Memories

By: Jerry L. Costabile

It’s been a memorable deer season so far; the Costabile’s - 2 and the deer - 2. After practicing all summer, the bow season was to open the second week of September in Wisconsin and I couldn’t wait! This was to be the first season that my two youngest sons were going to bow hunt and I could only hope that they would get an opportunity to harvest their first whitetail with a bow and arrow. I was thinking back to my first hunts with my Bear 55# recurve, I’ll just say that I have taken more fish with that bow than deer! I tried to get good with it last year but the fence in the back yard told me that I better stick with my Ross compound.

The boys were shooting pretty darn well by the time the season arrived and they were both excited for the first hunt of the season. Kyle, my youngest had the first opportunity. It was opening weekend and he was sitting in the stand that I was very successful in the previous season. I knew he would see deer and if he could keep his nerves controlled, we could have the first venison of the year. At last light on his first bow hunt, Kyle let an arrow go on a nice buck well within range. The shot was low and the deer ran off unharmed. Deer -1, Us -0. Kyle’s disappointment that evening made me want to work harder to help him be successful, but the memory of his excitement will live with me forever.

We bow hunted thru September and October with numerous deer seen, passed on a few, and had a few that just didn’t give us that ethical shot we all strive for. Then with the first week of November upon us, we were ready for the love sick bucks to make mistakes. There were does around to bring the bucks, we just needed the rut to fire up! But it was a strange season for the rut; it never showed itself like we expected it to in early November. There were just a few scrapes and rubs, the does were walking around without a buck behind them, and the bucks were just not acting like they should.

We continued to hunt and watched as the action stayed the same every day, the does were around, but the bucks weren’t chasing them. One of the strangest early Novembers I have seen, one for the memory.

Jake was going to college and working two jobs, so his time in the stand was limited. He came home for a weekend at the beginning of November and was ready to get out to his stand. On the evening of the 7th, right at last light, a nice buck came into view on his left. In a matter of seconds, Jake was presented with a broadside shot at his first deer with a bow. With it all happening so fast, he didn’t even have time to get nervous, once the deer was in front of him at 17 yards he drew back and let the arrow fly. His practice paid off, a perfect double lung shot put the 9 pointer down at about 50 yards. His first bow harvest is a nice buck! I happen to be hunting with him that evening so it was exciting for me to be part of this. As we were dragging the buck back to the truck, I looked over and realized that the boy that had helped me many times before with this job was now a man. He didn’t see the tears of pride that I shed in the darkness as we made our way to the truck, but I know that this memory will live with me forever. Deer – 1, Us – 1.

Gun season arrived and the cold of winter right along with it. Opening day found us with subzero wind chills and snow cover. The boys and I hunted for three days in the north woods of Wisconsin, we saw deer, but the deer didn’t read the script as to how to cooperate. After a couple of close calls, we headed back to the southeastern part of the state without firing a shot. I think the boys were more disappointed than I was, but I reminded them that we still have a lot of season left and we’ll get another opportunity to fill our tags.

The three and a half hour drive back, gave me time to reflect on the last three days I just spent with my two youngest sons. The memories we had just created were much more valuable to me than the harvesting of a deer. Sure it would have been awesome if they would have gotten a deer, but to me, it was a success just because we were together. There were laughs at the motel room, laughs in the truck, and laughs out hunting. The laugh out hunting was at my expense, I had a bottle of water in the back of my vest that partially froze on an evening hunt. As I made my way out of the woods in the dark, I kept hearing a noise behind me that sounded just like something walking on the frozen snow covered leaves. I must have looked like a dog chasing his tail as I spun around in a circle, with my gun at ready, trying to find the creature chasing me! When I realized it was the frozen water sloshing in the plastic bottle, I laughed at myself out loud, and glad no one saw me. When I told the story to the boys, they laughed hysterically! Those memories will live with me forever.

Upon getting back home from our trip, we unloaded all of our gear and without any time wasted, the boys grabbed their bows, jumped into my truck and headed out to their stands. I guess they weren’t done yet! I’m always a little nervous when they are out there and I am not with them. They know to keep in touch with me; I want to know when they are up in their stands and when they get down. I guess texting isn’t so bad! I sat in the living room, tired from an early start that morning hunting, and the long drive back. I was doing my usual worrying and wondering about the boys and it had been dark for a few minutes and I hadn’t heard from them, so I called Jake. When he answered the phone, I could tell by the excitement in his voice that something happened. “Dad, I just shot at the biggest buck I have ever seen!”  “Did you hit him?” I asked. “I don’t know, I saw the Lumenoc when it left my bow, but I can’t see it now.” Jake explained with excitement. After I thought for a minute, I said, “Let’s leave it alone tonight and we will come back in the morning when we have good light.” Jake had a long night thinking about his shot, Morning came and we took up the track the buck left in the snow, with no sign of a hit. I told Jake, “The good, he’s not injured because of a bad shot, the bad, you missed him cleanly. He is still out there and we have a lot of season left.” My words didn’t help the feeling of a miss on a big buck for Jake, but I could only hope he would get another chance. I remember all of the misses I made in my deer hunting and they are memories I relive every season. The deer now 2, and we were still at 1.

The boys and I hunted every chance we had, work schedules, school, sports, all limited our time in the stands. With snow on the ground, we could see there was good deer movement  and felt confident that it was just a matter of time before the next opportunity presented itself.

On December 3rd, I would have a chance to get into my tree stand for an afternoon sit. I got myself ready and was headed out the door with my bow in my hand, but changed my mind at the last minute and decided to use my shotgun instead. I wish I can explain why I changed my mind, but I can’t. It was just one of those moves a hunter makes without knowing why. It was a very foggy afternoon, there was snow on the ground and the temperature was above freezing making a good recipe for fog. After I got into my stand, I realized how thick the fog was. I couldn’t see 100 yards in any direction! I knew that if I were to see a deer, it was going to be in range and appear very quickly. This means that it would disappear just as quick. These thoughts were going thru my mind for the first hour and a half as I was trying to stay mentally ready so nothing slipped by without me seeing it. Around 4:00pm, I had one of those hunter intuitions, I thought to myself, “I could see a big old buck using this fog to slip out of his bedding hideout.” Ten minutes later I looked to my right and sure enough, there he was slipping from the bedding area that the deer have been using all season. If I would have brought my bow, I would have had to watch him disappear into the fog. I could see he was a good buck , so I got my gun ready found him in the scope and with a grunting sound from my mouth,  I stopped him in mid stride. I centered the crosshairs on him and squeezed the trigger only to see him drop straight down and not move again. Big buck down!! After watching for any movement for about fifteen minutes, I climbed down and walked the 75 yards to where the buck went down. As I approached him, I could see that he was a REALLY good buck and got a little excited! Not only did he have great headgear, but his body was huge. This was going to take more than just me to get him back to the truck for sure! I validated my tag, attached it to his antler, and started making phone calls. I took a picture with my phone and sent it to Jake and Kyle, I wanted them to know first even though they weren’t there. After I called some friends for help, but before I started the not so fun job required when you harvest a deer, I lifted his head with my hands holding his antlers and admired him. He was a beautiful example of a whitetail buck, a mature, heavy 9 pointer. “I’m very fortunate” I told myself,  and with closed eyes, I said a silent thank you.

Within a few minutes of sending the picture out, I got a text back from Jake, he said this wasn’t the deer that he missed, and it was bigger!

As of this writing, the score between the deer and the Costabile boys, is tied at 2, but we are not done yet! Our late bow hunting season runs until January 31st and it will take some toughness to sit in January weather, but we’re up to it! Kyle has been hunting hard and he is determined to take a deer with his bow. There were chances to hunt with a gun but I got “no dad, I want to use my bow!”

No matter what the end results are of our deer hunting season, I will have made irreplaceable memories with my two youngest sons that no deer could compare. I hear hunters complain about what they didn’t see or didn’t kill without even thinking of the memories that they lived. Remember it isn’t about the game taken, it’s about the memories made.




"A Daydream Come True"

A Daydream Come True

By: Jerry Costabile

Going back to when I was a young boy growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan, I was fascinated by the late season divers that would appear in late December and January.

Hunting in the southeastern Wisconsin, I saw and hunted mallards, teal and occasionally we would see a diver or two late in the duck season. But I couldn’t wait until those later months when the big water divers started showing up on the lakefront and in the harbors. Goldeneyes, Buffelheads, Redheads, and the duck that fascinated me the most, the oldsquaw.

When I saw a beautiful drake oldsquaw, I watched him dive and reappear 20, 30, 40 yards or better away from where he disappeared. I don’t know why, but I would watch him dive over and over, always hoping to one day to be able to hunt them.

By luck or fate, in early October, I met a gentleman while walking thru the fishing department who was looking at salmon lures. Being the salmon fisherman that I am, (and I love to talk fishing!) I approached him and we learned that we had a lot in common, including duck hunting. Within minutes of introductions, we were on the subject of hunting oldsquaw! Without a hesitation, my new friend, invited myself and my sons to hunt with him and his son in November. This was too much too believe, I wasn’t going to get my hopes up just yet. I have been here before and could only hope that this stranger was going to take us out on this duck hunters dream hunt.

Well, the first week of November I get a call and it is him with the invitation still alive, asking me when we could come up and hunt. I couldn’t believe it; I was going to get to hunt oldsquaw! When I got home that day, I told the boys that this hunt was on and we were going to go on the hunt in the next two weeks. I showed both of my boys what an oldsquaw looked like and how we were going to hunt them. You see this time of the year, these birds are miles off the shores of Lake Michigan and we would be hunting them in lay-out boats in the open water. This is something else that I have always dreamed of doing. Hunting divers from a boat that is about 10 feet long and is only about 6 to 8 inches above the waterline. Most of the boat is below the surface of the water, this allows the hunter to lay very low to the water and create a low profile helping to hide from the ducks. I was coming apart at the seams waiting for that day to come!

With a phone call the evening before we were leaving, I found out that we were going to have good weather and an ideal wind to hunt the big water. The Dodge Ram was packed and ready the night before and I got no sleep with anticipation of the hunt I have thought about every time I saw a drake oldsquaw swimming in the harbor during the winter for all of those years. We pulled out of the driveway at 2:30am and headed north to Two Rivers, Wisconsin. I had a cup of coffee and pure adrenaline to keep me awake for the 2 hour drive, this was it, I was going to be hunting oldsquaw and it looked like nothing was going to stop me!

Upon arriving at the boat launch, there was our crew setting up the boat and equipment for our hunt. To say I was excited was an understatement, I was beside myself! But I had to keep myself under control because I had two teenage boys who were also on a first time hunt. For my youngest son, this was his first real duck hunt, and what a way to be introduced to duck hunting!  After loading our gear into the boat, we were headed down the ramp and launching the tender boat, a 25 foot Duck Water Ocean. This boat is a beast! Loaded on the tender, is a 10 foot Waterfowl-Works UFO layout boat and a 14 foot Bankes Hercules layout boat.

The boat was in the water and we boarded with excitement! Decoy bags stacked everywhere, camouflaged bags and cased guns tucked under the shelves that line the inside of the boat. There were milk crates lined up filled with anchor line and buckets loaded with 100’ and 50’ decoy lines. This boat was well equipped and ready for work!

  With the sun just making a thin line to the east, we headed out for our spot already marked on the GPS. We were in a two to three foot waves and the boat was cutting thru them like a Naval U- Boat.  I must have looked like a dog with its head out of the truck window, I had my chin up and my eyes closed. At that moment, I was thinking how lucky I am to be there and with a prayer and thanks to the man upstairs, I was ready!

Once we determined what the morning flight pattern was going to be that the ducks would use, we started to set up. Layout boats in and anchored, and then the lines of decoys were stretched out to form a perfect pattern that would later pull in hundreds of ducks. When the man said that I would be one of the first in a layout boat, my heart started racing! This was it, I was about to live out a hunt that I have daydreamed about since I was kid. I was watching thousands of ducks flying all around us and knew that we were in the right location.  I want to confess that I studied Outdoor Life and Field & Stream while I was in school, like a valedictorian studied all of those other books! Even though I had never done this before, my long days and nights of cramming and memorizing was about to be put to a test. I knew I was going to pass this one!

I was given a quick rundown of how to enter the layout, and over the side I went. Once I got in and lay down comfortably, my gun and ammo was handed to me and that fast, the tender boat was gone. The other layout would be occupied by my youngest son Kyle. I was a bit nervous with him about thirty yards to my right and this being all new to him. I guess being a dad and not being there to guide him every step of the way, had me feeling a little uneasy. But within minutes, he showed me he was up for the challenge. He dropped his first ever duck, a drake oldsquaw at that, with a beautiful shot! Man was I pumped, now it was my turn, the first pair came in on my left and banked into the decoys perfectly. As they reached the decoy spread, I sat up, took aim, and missed. Not once, but twice! “OK Jerry, calm down and figure it out!” I said this out loud and reloaded. Then another pair came beautifully into the spread, and flying directly at me. When they got into about twenty yards, I sat up and followed the lead duck and fired. Bingo, first bird down! Just like Kyle had done, I radioed the tender boat that I had a bird down and they pushed the throttle of the 250 hp Mercury Optimax Pro X/S down and raced into scoop up my bird with a fish net and raced back out to about 400 yards to wait for the next downed bird.

This went on for about 45 minutes until we both had three birds. The last bird I shot was a gorgeous drake oldsquaw and when the tender crew picked up the bird, over the radio I heard “Jerry, you will want to have this one mounted, it’s a beauty!” If my day would have ended right then, I was happy. The one duck that I had wanted to harvest since I was a young boy was now waiting for me.

After the next two guys got in to the layout boats, and I was on board the tender boat, I held in my hand, this amazing bird that I had so much respect and admiration for. I bowed my head and thanked its creator for allowing me to fulfill a dream with this beautiful bird.

The morning finished with a limit of oldsquaw for everyone, and after the gear was stowed in the tender, we headed back to shore. Once pictures were done and everything loaded back in the Dodge, we headed north to hunt the next day in a new location and another species of duck. But that’s another story.

Thank you to my boys, Jake and Kyle, for living this lifelong adventure with me. As I get older, these times together mean a lot to me. I love you guys.

Mike and Greyson, you guys are true ambassadors to the waterfowl nation!

 JJ, of JJ’s Guide Service, nobody works harder to see that the job gets done.






Fall Schooling Activity


Fall Schooling Activity-By: Curt Samo

       Autumn can be an awesome time to find large concentrations of bass.  The key is to locate the schools of baitfish and shad.  Just recently I visited the Mississippi River at Savannah, IL and had the best day that I have had anywhere all year long.  I literally caught over 100 bass in one day - probably 50 were in the 2 -4 pound range and the rest were 13" and under.  It was a great day!  I had six doubles during the day.  Most of the fish were caught on two primary baits:  Luckycraft Gunfish 115 and Luckycraft LV RTO 50.  These are two great shad imitating baits.  The water was rapidly dropping on the Mississippi for the past 3-4 days and had pulled the majority of the fish at the mouths of the lakes, sloughs, and creeks.  It also had the shad bunched up in those same areas.  The fish were schooling on all of the available shad.  I also had numerous sand bars near some of these backwater areas that the current was hitting, creating an eddy where the shad were piling up, therefore the bass were following and were stacked up in large quantities.  One of the key things to do when trying to find schooling fish is to continually scan the surface of the water, as well as listening, for any breaking fish.  Another good indicator of shad or baitfish is to watch the birds:  seagulls, heron, cormorants are all good indicators that bait is present.

     I can't stress enough the importance of the proper equipment when catching schooling fish on reaction baits.  One of my favorite rods over the past 10 years has been the Crankin' Stick by Bass Pro Shops.  It's one of their least expensive rods, but I think it is one of their most effective rods, especially for fighting and landing fish.  It has two main rod ingredients that make it an exceptional rod:  it has the fiberglass component to give the rod the forgiveness that it needs, and it also has graphite that gives it more sensitivity so that I can feel what that LBR rattling bait is doing.  These rods also seem indestructible.  Til next time, good fishin! 


Fall isn't Just For Hunting

                              Fall Isn’t Just For Hunting

If you are an outdoorsman like me, this time of the year you are torn between hunting and fishing. With the start of the fall season, the long awaited hunting seasons are opening up every weekend. Getting the early season jump on hunting can be very rewarding.  But, the fall fishing is also getting stronger with the cooler water temperatures, and the fishing can be awesome!

The walleye fishing in the Midwest’s many river’s can be the best of the year in the fall months. There are river walleye fishermen that will be targeting ol’marble eyes up till mid December! The pressure is much less and the fish are hungry, it just takes some preparation.

The weather can be anywhere between twenty and seventy degrees, so dressing in layers is the way to go. If you are cold, it’s not going to be enjoyable at all. Start out dressed for the coldest conditions; you can always take clothes off. If you don’t have enough clothes with you, you won’t have them to put on if you need them. A good base layer is a must. No matter what the temp is, it will keep you comfortable on the cold water. Get creative to keep your hands warm. From a portable heater, to disposable hand warmers, keeping your hands warm is a must. I pack extra gloves so I always have a dry pair. Between bait buckets and handling fish, you will get your hands wet! When it comes to footwear, I wear the warmest boots I own. A good insulated pair of boots go a long way it cold river conditions.   

Tie up rigs before the trip in you warm house. It’s much easier to change presentations this way when it’s cold. If you can set up extra rods with different rigs, this will be easier to keep fishing if you get a break off.

Different areas will produce fish this time of the year. Flats, wing dams, mid river holes, current breaks, every one of them will hold fish. Keep moving around until you find areas that produce the most bites.

Jigs tipped with Gulp! Minnows, live minnow rigs, and plastics all will produce fish. Be prepared to have all of the above with you, it’s the fish that determine what to use!

When fishing the deeper water, stay vertical. This will increase your bites. Sometimes it takes having the bait right in the walleye’s face will get you the bite.

Fishing early and late can get you plenty of action, but the warmer mid day temps can bring the best fishing of the day.

Some of the biggest fish of the year are caught in the fall, but a nice fresh bunch of walleye fillets just can’t be beat!

 It’s a hard decision to make, but getting out on the river on a nice fall day with the leaves in color and catching fish makes it tough to decide what is better, hunting or fishing?

Maybe a combo fishing/hunting trip is what I need!





Smoked B'gills & Hair Jigs

Smoked B’gills  and hair jigs-By Carol DeBell  

About a week plus ago I was out fishing on Lake Geneva for pan fish, with the thoughts of smoked fish.  At the end of the day I had 11 nice sized bluegills, pumpkin seeds, and rock bass in the live well. 

Preparation to smoke fish is simple, but do plan on several hours.  First clean the fish, I don’t scale, skin, or filet; panfish are not that thick and leaving the scales on helps keep moisture in.  After cleaning I place the fish in non iodized salt water in the refrigerator overnight, this helps season and koshers the meat.

The next morning I soak the wood chunks and chips, use a 75:25 ratio of sweet (cheery, apple, pecan)  to hickory or mesquite. 

Take out the fish and rinse.  Now to brine: I found several recipes and then made up my own.  I start off with about 2 quarts of water, ½ cup non iodized salt, about a cup of packed light brown sugar, a taste of molasses,  and ¼ cup + mixed pickling spices,( you can add a couple of dried chilies).  I bring this to a simmer for about 15 minutes, cool, and add almost a cup of brown booze (brandy, whiskey or bourbon).    Then I taste.  If too salty you can add some water, but remember the fish only have the salt you soaked them in overnight. 

Let the fish soak in the brine at room temperature for several hours.   If you put cold fish on the smoker they have to heat up and it will take longer.

Now for the relaxing part of the project.  Monitoring the smoker, making sure the wood is not on fire, checking the fish’s progress.  Since the thickness of the panfish will dictate the time, I plan on about 3 hours for average sized fish.

I like to store the fish in vacuum sealed bags.  Date and label please.  If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, double up on the zip locks. 

Since the skin and scales on left on it’s easy to peel the fish and lift the meat off the bones.

I like serving with a dill sauce.  Equal amounts of lemon juice and brown sugar  (1/2 cup), a good amount of yellow mustard (1/4 cup)  and lots of dill weed.  The amounts of this recipe are by taste.  You will adjust for yourself and your guests.   Don’t forget the cream cheese!

Fly Tying Classes!

Every Thursday at 6 PM there is a class on the porch in front of the fly shop.  We are  done with the patterns for summer, the hatches are over.  We will be working on nymphs and scuds for spring fishing and also some patterns for ice fishing.   Beginners welcome!!!  Please call 847 856 1229 to reserve a seat at the table, and if you want to learn a technique or pattern let me know.

I found an excellent article on swimming hair jigs for bass.  These jigs are for spinning or bait casting around and through weeds or other cover. Look for that class in late November, spring strippers and pre spawn bass.

Hope to see you!

Carol D



First Hunt of the Year!

By: Jerry Costabile

With the changing leaves and the waterfowl migration starting, I finally got out on my first hunt of the season.

I really needed to get out and watch the sunrise, get the smell of fall in my nose and put the everyday stress on the shelf, even if it was for a single morning. Sadie, my Yellow Lab, has been giving me that look for weeks. It’s that “If you don’t get me out hunting soon, we are going to have problems” look. So with my son Jake, home from college, and a morning off, it was ON!

We went and purchased our license’s, got the gear ready, decoys out of the garage and the dog crate into the truck. As I loaded the crate, I heard a noise inside the open back door of the house, there was Sadie standing at the top of the stairs. I think I heard her say, “It’s about time!” She has a sixth sense when it comes to knowing I am getting the hunting stuff ready, I have never been able to get ready without her knowing it!

So after I got the truck loaded and the dog calmed down, it was time for a good meal and off to bed, 5:00am comes early! When the alarm went off and I finally woke up, I realized that I had been dreaming of the hunt that was coming up in a few hours. Guess I am still a young hunter at heart!

With Jake up and me half awake, we made our way down stairs to the basement to the man cave. This is the room that contains all of the necessities to survive as an outdoorsman. Camo and blaze orange color scheme makes it a beautiful room. The air freshener is a combination of WD-40, Rem Oil, and a hint of natural earth scent from my bow hunting clothes. Truly a room only I can appreciate.

After getting dressed in my waterfowl camouflage and ready to walk out the door, I picked up Sadie’s camo collar and she knew it was finally time as she sprinted past me to the back door and jumped up and down until I opened it. Without missing a beat, she ran right to the back of the truck and waited for me to open the tailgate so she could get into her crate. We have worked on a way to get her into the crate without running anyone over, “Sadie sit!” I open the door to her crate looked at her and she is shaking uncontrollably. “Kennel! I said” with one leap she was in the crate and ready to go hunting!

After a quick stop at the gas station for coffee, we had about a 15 minute drive to the recently cut soybean field that has been holding geese a few days ago. In the darkness of the early morning, I pulled off of the paved road onto the two track road that the farmer uses to get his equipment in and out of the fields. With recent rains, the road that is usually dry and easy to navigate has become muddy and the pot holes deep. I guess my truck will have a new color tone added free of charge! As we approached the spot in the field that I wanted to hunt, I swung the trucks headlights into the field to have light to set the decoys.

Before I could get out of the truck, I heard a whimper from the back. Sadie was ready to come unglued! I let her out and she ran as fast as she could out into the field and ran in circles until we got the decoys out and set.

Using the new Wisconsin DNR shooting time App. on my phone, I was able to determine that shooting time was 6:34am. With about a half an hour to wait, Jake and I set up our natural blind, and enjoyed my coffee and watched as the sky showed just a hint of daylight on the eastern horizon. 6:34am and we are loaded and watching the marsh behind us, there has to be ducks that roosted for the night out there.

As that thought entered my head, Jake grabbed my arm and said, “Dad, ducks!” We both got down behind the tall marsh grass and waited for our chance. The first ducks which were teal, went to our right out of gun range. But the next flock lifted and were headed right at us! When they got within range, I hollered “Take’em Jake!” With a flurry of three shots each, two wood ducks were down. Not the best average, .333 if you are a baseball fan, but for the first hunt not bad.

After getting Sadie back to where I could send her out to retrieve the first duck, she made a leap into the water and stayed on line to recover the woodie without any problem. The second duck turned out to be a little more difficult, it sailed to the far side of the field before hitting the ground. Jake took Sadie and headed in the direction of the duck and Sadie was up for the challenge. After a walk of about two hundred yards, Sadie headed into the cover on the field edge and returned proudly with the drake wood duck.

It was now getting time for the geese to start flying and we were watching and listening for the honks of the Canadian goose. It was about 8:00am when the first geese flew over head, and I started my best effort to call them into our decoy spread. But that flock like the next three or four flocks didn’t like what they saw. After a few adjustments, we had the decoys looking like they should bring in the next birds.

We finally had three geese coming in from the southeast and they look interested in joining our decoys for breakfast! As I called, and the birds got closer, I could feel Sadie start shivering with excitement. The big wings of the geese locked up and just as they started to put the landing gear down, I shouted to take’em. Well our batting average didn’t get any better, but we did have one of the three down. Sadie raced out to the big honker and found the right location on the bird and made a perfect retrieve. When she retrieves a bird she take sole ownership of it, why not she deserves it.

The morning ended with that, and we packed up the gear and headed home. I pulled into the driveway and Sadie knew she was home and would get her breakfast and that I would reward her with a couple of treats. When I left for work about an hour later, she was asleep and probably dreaming of the next hunt. Just like I will.

First Hunt!



American Gizzard Shad in Fox Chain O' Lakes

American Gizzard Shad in Fox Chain O’ Lakes

Gizzard shad are native to central and eastern United States mainly in warm low gradient rivers and streams as well as reservoirs, lakes and ponds. Shad are filter feeders; they prefer warm nutrient rich waters. Their range is temperature limited. Die offs usually occur when the water temperature drops below 37oF. Shad can extend their range during a string of warm years; the Illinois DNR collected its first sample of gizzard shad in the Fox Chain O’ Lakes in 2007. These shad migrated up the Fox River over fish ladders and dams in order to make it to the Chain.  Lakes that receive flood waters from the Des Plaines River can also have them.

The gizzard shad is a deep bodied fish that is laterally compressed (nearly flat when lying on their side). The dorsal fin has 10 to 12 rays and the last one extends back towards a deeply forked tail. The gizzard shad has silvery blue-green to gray coloration on its back and the sides are silvery with no lateral line. The mouth is small, with the lower jaw slightly shorter than the upper jaw. The mouth does not extend back past the gizzard shad’s large eyes. Like most shad, juveniles and young adults have a dark spot behind the gill plate. This spot is faint or disappears completely in larger, older fish. The belly tapers to a point where the scales fold over forming a saw like appearance.

While most shad live for 3-5 years, some have been documented to live past 10 years. They reach maturity in 2-3 years and females can produce 40,000 to 450,000 eggs. Spawning takes place during the middle of spring to early summer and usually occurs in the evening. The preferred spawning temperature is between 60oF and 70oF.  Male and female shad congregate along the shallow sandy or gravel areas where eggs are released and fertilized. Once the eggs hatch they are on their own since there is no parental care from the parents. The success of the shad fry correlates with the abundance of zooplankton along with stable water level and warmer temperatures.    Drastic changes in water level and temperature can decrease the survival rate of the fry. Once they reach the juvenile stage, they grow rapidly by feeding mostly on phytoplankton and zooplankton. At this stage they develop a gizzard and begin filter feeding for food. Sediment and sand are also ingested by the gizzard shad that helps it to digest food in its muscular gizzard; this is where the fish got its name.

Fishermen on the Fox Chain O’ Lakes have been seeing large schools of shad swimming in the shallow weedy bays. While they are rarely caught with the traditional hook and line, most anglers inadvertently snag shad with their hook or lure while targeting game fish. Gizzard shad provide an abundant food source for bass and walleye, but they may compete with bluegill, crappies and other young of the year game-fish for food. Shad have rapid growth rates, often growing to 5.5 inches in length during their first year. This provides a smaller window of opportunity for bass and walleyes which are gape limited and can only feed effectively on shad up to 6”. The lakes and rivers in southern states have an over abundance of adult shad measuring 8” or larger due to lack of predators. Fortunately, the Chain has a healthy population of muskies, which are capable of feeding on adult shad. Muskies have benefited from this new food source which is not only abundant but it’s easier for them to catch than bluegills and perch. The less energy a fish spend chasing its prey the more energy it saves on growing.

Muskie appears to have gained between 1 and 2 pounds per fish since gizzard shad showed up.  Males are about 1 pound heavier and females are about 2 pounds heavier for older mature fish.  A 45" female musky in 2006 weighed about 27.7 pounds and a 45" female in 2012 weighed about 29.9 pounds.  –Frank Jakubicek, IDNR

Gizzard shad can alter the size and density structure of a fishery. They may stunt the bluegill population through common food competition or by reducing the predation pressure which allows for higher recruitment which leads to stunted population. Bass may grow larger due to having more food available for them to eat but their fry may have to compete for food.  At this point it is hard to predict what the overall outcome of the gizzard shad will be on the fishery. At least for now, it gives fishermen hope that the shad will help produce record size game fish in the Fox Chain O’ Lakes in the near future.








Staying Safe this Hunting Season

By: Mike Reynolds

With the opening of bow season right around the corner, now would be a good time for a treestand safety refresher.  Let’s think of treestand safety as a kind of insurance.  We all have different types of insurance; we have insurance on our car, our house, and our life.  Life insurance is the most important of all of those because it can help your family in the event of your death.  Think of treestand safety as one more form of life insurance.  This form of insurance won’t help your family but it will help make sure you get home to see your family.   

Unless you can fly you should wear some type of fall restraint.  If you don’t and fall from your treestand you will find out just how high you can bounce.  There are a few types of fall restraints.  The first and worst is the “hold on and pray” restraint.  This worked well when we were kids and didn’t know any better.  This style won’t work very well when you have to grab your bow or gun to shoot.  It’s hard for me to believe but I still run into guys who don’t wear a safety belt of any kind.  These are mostly older guys who have been hunting for a very long time and just don’t see the need.  I am always amazed that these guys are around to come to my seminars.  The only time I would go safety beltless is if I were in a shooting house.  I would never consider it if I were in an unenclosed treestand.  So many things can go wrong; it’s just not worth it.  I hope that no one who is reading this hunts like this.  It is way too dangerous.

The next type of safety belt is what I like to call, “better than nothing (but not much)”. This is the belt style safety belt.  As the name implies it is a strong belt usually 2 or more inches thick that is warn outside all of the clothing.  It is attached to the tree by way of a tether line.  While it will keep you from falling all the way to the ground, it still may kill you.  It may tip you upside down when you fall.  Gravity is going to want to pull the heaviest part of your body to the ground and because your upper body is heavier than your legs, you will flip.  I have had guys argue that they wear the belt up under their armpits to compensate for that effect.  That way of wearing it could very well keep you upright but it will make it very difficult to breathe.  Each time you take a breath, the belt will tighten just a bit.  You will struggle to catch your breath and eventually pass out.  Hanging from a tree unconscious is not good.

The absolute best way to enjoy your hunt and make it home to tell lies about it is a full body harness.  This will not only keep you upright in case you fall but it will distribute your body weight evenly so you can try to get back into your stand.  This will give the extra time you need to climb back on your steps or ladder.  While a full body harness is the best fall restraint, it does have its draw backs.  If you hang too long you can still be harmed.  Hanging too long can cut off the blood flow to your legs.  This is why most harnesses come with some type of foot loop.  This would help take to weight off of your lower body and restore blood flow.  Full body harnesses come in a few different styles.  One style and probably the most popular right now is the vest style.  Hunter’s Safety System(HSS) is the most widely known version of this style.  It is simply a vest that you slip on over your hunting clothes and clip all the buckles.  The only thing left to do is to attach yourself to your tether once you have climbed into your stand.  If a vest and all its advantages isn’t your cup of tea then you may want to consider a harness.  This is a simple harness that you once again slip on over your hunting clothes and clip the buckles.  The advantage to a simple harness is it is lighter than a vest.  On warm days this can be a good thing.  It does, however, lack pockets so there is a tradeoff.  HSS makes a number of this style too.  All of HSS’s full body harnesses are engineered for ease of use, comfort and durability.  By making a product has all of these qualities, HSS helps insure hunters will slip on the harness as they head out to their favorite treestand.

If you would like to take safety one step further, you may opt for a lifeline system.  This is a rope that attaches to the tree above your stand.  It has a knot know as a Prusik knot already attached to it.  This knot will slide freely up the rope and not impede your climb up your ladder or steps.  It will self-tighten if you should fall.  Since most of treestand accidents happen while getting into or out of the stand, this is added insurance to keep you safe.  If you already hunt with a full body harness, why not consider using a lifeline system to go that little step further. 

We all love to hunt and all want to live to pass on the great tradition of hunting and the outdoors to the next generation.  Please consider using a full body harness in the woods this fall and keep yourself safe if not for you than for the ones who want to kiss you hello and hear your stories of the day.




Yes, I Hunt Like a Girl!

By: Katie Cook

Hello everyone! My name is Katie and I work the hunting department at Bass Pro Shops in Gurnee. One of the first questions I am asked when a customer approaches the gun counter is “Do you shoot?” or “Do you hunt?” My answer to them is “Yes! I don’t just work at a gun counter because it’s fun” and then I tell people that I have been shooting for 20 years.

I started hunting around the age of 12. I took hunters safety and was ready to go! I hunted a few years before things got busy with high school and my part time job. When I was hired at Bass Pro Shops in 2005, I started as a cashier. I had originally applied for the hunting department but I was too young to work with handguns. The week of my 21st birthday I filled out my paperwork to transfer to hunting. A week later I was training in the department. Working around hunting and firearms really got me into buck fever! I was working two jobs and going to school so a hunting trip was out of the question. In 2011 I couldn’t stand it anymore and I took the time off for the Wisconsin gun season. I took hunter’s safety again and was glad I did because there were a lot of things I had forgotten about. Under the care of my uncles and my grandpa, they set me up in my dad’s treestand. First light on opening day it sounded like the 4th of July all around me in the woods. I couldn’t have been happier. I didn’t see a single deer all day. My uncles joked that I feel asleep in my stand because I was too excited for hunting that I didn’t sleep the night before. I saw a few deer over the next few days but none that were in safe shooting distance. Sad but determined to shoot my first deer I started to plan for 2012 deer season. Sitting in my same treestand as the year before, I hear shots at first light. Saw a few but nothing with a clear shot. It was really warm for November in Wisconsin last year and it seemed like the deer were more active. About 10:15 I saw 2 deer grazing on the property line. One was farther off and wasn’t on our property. The closer one was bigger and I watched her for about 10 or 15 min before I had a clean shot. My whole body started to shake and my heart was racing. I slowly squeezed the trigger and I just instantly calmed. She was down in one shot! My grandpa comes over the radio asking who shot. I said “I got her!” and my uncles and grandpa told me good job. My dad said he was on his way to my stand and to just stay there until he got there. On closer examination, I didn’t shoot a large doe, I shot a button buck. I got a lot of grief from my uncles about not letting him get a big rack before I shot him. My grandpa said it was alright because they had all done that once or twice or five times in their lives. Needless to say I have had buck fever even worse now than before.

Me with my trophy (I’m trying to tell my dad how to use an iPhone.)





Pre Season Preparation

By: Jerry Costabile

Wisconsin Hunter Education Instructor

With the fall hunting season approaching fast, it’s time to get ourselves and our equipment ready.

Being a hunter education instructor, I have heard of stories from my students of great preparation and not so great preparation. Waiting until the week before the season to get your list of “to do’s” done is not good preparation. Prepare well in advance. Following a well prepared plan and make your season successful.

We all define success in different ways, I measure my success based on many things from time I spend in the field, the people I spend time with in the field, to the game I get to put in my freezer. It all falls into how well I have planned my hunt.

Let’s start with preparing ourselves for a long and safe hunting season. Being at the age of 50, I have had to admit I can’t do the things I want the way I used to. My mind says that I can still get to where I want to hunt and hunt the way I have always hunted, but my body says I have to do it different. This means that I have to prepare myself physically for the upcoming season. A good diet and regular exercise helps tremendously. Walking on a regular basis is a great activity to help get fit and you can add to your exercise routine by walking on the type of terrain that you plan to hunt. If you are planning a trip out west and will be hunting in a lot of steep terrain, don’t take walks in the flat areas.  Get out and hike the hills or get on a treadmill that has incline features. To be physically prepared, you must try to match what you will be doing on your hunt.  For a bird hunter, long walks across different terrain are helpful.  Big game hunters should with a weighted pack matching your hunting conditions.  Try to get in a routine of wearing the footwear that you will be wearing in the field, especially if it’s new footwear. Nothing is worse than ending your hunt due to blisters!

If you don’t have your own land, you should have already secured your location to hunt. Make sure that if you are going to obtain permission to hunt on a landowners property, you do it way in advance. Don’t try to get the permission on the day of the hunt. Sometimes the landowners are busy or need time to think about giving you the permission that you want. BE RESPECTFUL at all costs. If the land owner says no, thank him or her, and ask if it is ok to return another at a later time. Sometimes it takes several visits to finally get the opportunity to hunt private land. It is such a privilege to be able to hunt another’s land. If you do get permission, thank them and ask for any and all instructions that the land owner might have. Parking, gates, driving into a field to retrieve game, tree stands are just some of the questions to ask. Remember to always leave their property better that you found it. Giving a gift of the game you harvest or something the owner might like could get you a permanent location to hunt.

All of your equipment should be gone over to make sure it is safe and ready for the season. Your firearms should be cleaned and fired to make sure at the time of the shot, all is good. Big game hunters should go to a range and fire their favorite guns to make sure sights and scopes are zeroed in. We owe it to the game we pursue to be good marksmen so we can make a clean and humane kill. Also have you knives sharp. It is true what is said about how a dull knife is a dangerous knife. When your knife is dull, you have to force it to cut. A sharp knife will cut cleanly and safely.

Tree stands should be inspected from top to bottom, looking for anything that might be broken, loose, or bent. It is so important to make sure that if you intend to hunt from an elevated stand, it is 100% safe. Look for cracked or broken welds, missing or loose nuts or bolts, and check the straps that you will be securing the stand to the tree with for wear or tears. This is important if you leave your stands in the woods year around, squirrels love to chew on straps!  And you should be wearing a safety harness every time you leave the ground so make sure it also is in 100% working condition.

Take the time to go over all of your equipment  that you plan on using during your hunting season making sure first that its safe, and then making sure that you have everything you will need to have a safe and enjoyable hunt.

Obtain a map of the location you plan on hunting. This helps you plan your strategies and stand locations. If you are hunting upland game, you can plan out your drivers and standers or blockers. If you are hunting in stand locations, you can find the narrow funneling areas that deer use to travel to and from feeding areas. It also helps you understand the lay of the land for your navigation needs. It can be used to mark the area you are going to hunt so that others know in case of an emergency.

As the season gets closer, get out and scout from a distance to see actual game movement. You can obtain a great amount of knowledge on where and when the game is moving. Deer, pheasant, waterfowl, and predator hunters will benefit from preseason scouting!

If you take the time to make a plan and stick to it, you will have an enjoyable time in the field and you will have hopefully considered it a success.