Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Road That is Ever Winding

Its 6 am on Sunday morning. In a couple hours the kids will be awake and we will be frantically getting ready to make it to church on time. After church (hopefully not during church) I will sit in my chair and fall asleep instantly with kids crawling all over me. It seems as if my best rest of the week is Sunday afternoons when all systems are completely shut down and relaxed.

More stuff is happening each day this summer than what can begin to be written in this blog... Its an amazing, but yet somewhat difficult transition for me because I have spent the last 8 years with a camera in my pocket each day taking pictures and documenting the process of creating a lake and land management business from scratch. All of us Herman Brothers have been working nonstop like crazy focused on building this business, but now we find ourselves on a different path.

When we finalized the purchase of the Giant Goose Ranch in January, we had visions of being able to work there full time managing that property in 5-7 yrs... Well, here we are 7 months later and we have more work lined up to do on that property than what we can accomplish in the next 5 years!!! Our goal for the goose ranch for this year was to give it a face lift and fill up our 240 existing campsites, get 50 fishing memberships and 15 hunting memberships.

Those goals were met pretty much instantly so then we started working on years 2, 3, and even 4 of our 5 year plan! We are currently creating 70 more premium annual campsites and about half of them are already reserved before we are even finished! Also we are creating a cabins only section with 155 lake front cabin sites that also lease out by the year and we already have 58 of those sold! The cabin lots lease out for $2300-$3500 per year and we custom build the camping cabins 14' wide by 24-36' long. Camping cabins start at $25,000. These cabins you own, just like owning a camper or motorhome. At this pace we will be sold out by next year, but its gonna take a few years to get em all built.

We have alot of them under contruction now!!

We only have 2-3 fishing memberships left at $900 per year and then any new fishing memberships after that will be $2500 per year. 100% of the fishing membership funds goes directly to fish! The fishery at the goose ranch is well on its way to becoming not only the best in the midwest, but the most diverse in the nation!

The brook and rainbow trout in big lake have grown rapidly into the 12-18" range. The tiger muskies and walleye in spool lake are jumping up a bit better than expected as well. The hybrid striped bass and brown trout in ski lake will start stripping drags next summer. The northern pike for west lake and the smallmouth bass and yellow perch for highrise lake are coming this fall! We have started a walleye and crappie lake, and even have plans on creating the ultimate trash fish ponds with bowfin, gar, and carp!

Here are some pics form the goose ranch so far... you have to work for the big ones, but are rewarded big time for your efforts:Goose Ranch Fishing Pics

Anyhow, the goose ranch is a culmination of everything we have learned and experienced working for other people on their recreational properties. For the next 3-5 years HB crews will be working nonstop out at the goose ranch building cabins, docks, beaches, pavilions, bathhouses, swimming pools, archery ranges, playgrounds, orchards, gardens, and the best fisheries on the planet!

One other super cool note is that I am not the one documenting the projects any longer. Backroads Entertainment and the Great American Country channel are the ones documenting the progress and projects everyday with a full film crew. The show we are making is called the Lake Life and the Giant Goose Ranch in Canton, IL is the home base for the show! We will be filming everyday for the next 4 months.

We had an awesome Independance day celebration at the goose ranch!! lots of food, fun, rain, and then fireworks!

Couple weeks ago I took a group of 12 fishing at the same time, we had a blast:

Also a couple weekends ago we had 200 boys out for boys camp at our place. We did a
little catfishing Saturday morning. We needed a bunch of fish to feed them boys...

So the story of our lives is the path is ever winding. I can't quite say one chapter is closed and another is opening, but probably more like every experience is leading towards the next. God has big plans and we are excited every chance we get to peak around the corner and see whats next. He has instilled in us a passion for fish, wildlife, and family recreation. Our job the last 8 years has been helping families around the midwest develop their own private recreational properties and now our occupation will be helping families around the midwest spend time together outdoors at the Giant Goose Ranch!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Archery, Horses, and 5th of July BASH

Summer is officially here! Spring was full of fish stockings, electrofishing surveys, aeration systems, camping construction, and all sorts of fun stuff. Couldnt have been better or busier. At the end of this blog post I am gonna invite you all to a big 5th of July bash at the goose ranch, but first a little recap.

This months InFisherman Catfish guide 2014 we have a fun catfish article with Steve Ryan. Make sure to get a copy!!!

Each summer we host all kinds of various boys and girls camps, church groups, family reunions, etc at our property near Norris, IL... Our passion has always been to get families introduced to the outdoors! Now with the Goose Ranch we will be able to really get lots of families outside spending time together!!

This weekend we had a HUGE group of girls for a weekend church camp. Normally they stay at the Old School Center in Farmington, and come out to our lake during the day.... But the Old School Center burned down a month ago, so we set up a bunch of tents in our field so the girls didnt have to cancel camp....

New to camp this year was our Archery range! Lancaster Archery Supply, Martin Archery, and Presley's Outdoors teamed up to help us put on a super fun archery shoot for the girls. My boys Drake and Noah helped get everything set up, break in the new bows, and show the girls how to shoot.

They all had a blast... while it may have been the first, I guarantee you that wont be the last time many of these girls shoot a bow. I overheard many conversations about girls excited to start target shooting with their dads this summer!!

So camp was also full of all the usual fun stuff: swimming, singing, eating, fishing, boating, scuba diving, and another big fan favorite- horse back riding....  Horses have a huge advantage over all the previous fun items, because they inhabit the childhood dreams of most girls most nights while growing up...

So girls camp 2014 was a huge success. This weekend is high school boys camp... I already know I will be callin in to work sick from exhaustion on Monday......

So anyhow this Saturday, July 5th we are hosting a special family day out at the Giant Goose Ranch in Canton, IL. Normally the ranch is a members only facility, but for this day we are putting together an EPIC family day from 2 pm- 11 pm and we are inviting you all to come join us!

We will be having a big hog roast for dinner, archery shooting, fishing, hiking, pony rides for kids, jump houses and all kinds of other fun activities and of course FIREWORKS! Here are some more details and how to sign up for the event.

It is a free event for members of the goose ranch. For non-members the cost is $5 per person and for reservations simply email in advance. Just let me know an apprx number in your group. Pay and sign in at the Goose Ranch gate. Bring your own chairs and blanket for the fireworks. There will be film crew at the event so you will need to sign a waiver stating its ok to use any video and images as well.

The $5 entry fee covers admission and the hog roast, but also at the ranch there will be vendors selling fun items like ice cream cones, snow cones, popcorn, cotton candy, lemonade, etc with all the proceeds going to help out the Farmington Old School Center that recently burned down. One super cool activity is an extreme horse back trail ride that is available for $15 donation for riders age 12 and up. You will want to reserve your time slot in advance for this, just email for your preferred time slot.... Dads, you need to make this trail ride happen for your daughters and wives...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Gulf Shores, Alabama Red Snapper

Saying life has been a little crazy lately would definitely be an understatement. Shew boy it has been quite the whirlwind. In response to the chaos, and at the worst possible moment during the year, my brothers and I decided to jump ship and head south on a getaway fishing trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama.

We left our friends, families and jobs on Friday afternoon, May 30th and didnt have a return date. We had all been working 80-100 hr weeks since March and needed to get away for some down time. There is no better place than on the Ocean to reconnect and get rejuvenated!!

Red Snapper season opened up down in Alabama on Sunday, June 1st so our timing couldnt have been more perfect in that regard..... Alabama doesnt have any natural structure for Red Snapper and many other similar bottom fish, so they have spent 100's of millions of dollars over the last 20 years building AMAZING habitat in their waters!

Im talking over 17,000 artificial reefs that consist of bridge rubble, culverts, habitat pyramids, army tanks, and barges have been strategically placed off their coast from 3-40 miles out all in a grid.... for a fish guy like me, this is super impressive! Everybody in the whole Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fort Morgan, and Mobil areas has pitched in and have been working together creating this fishery. Pretty much all the businesses in the entire area have pitched in and sponsored various reefs and habitat projects.... banks, hotels, condos, bait shops, grocery stores, souvenir shops, marinas, restaurants, and pretty much any business you can think of have joined together to create perhaps the most impressive man made fishery in the Ocean.

They all joined together and made something amazing out of pretty much absolutely nothingness. The reason they did this was to attract fisherman and their families to come down and spend a week or two every year in their community. Their plan was working great, until the Federal Government stepped in and is on the verge of crushing everything they have worked so hard creating.

You see right now there are more and bigger fish off of alabama's coast than ever before in their history and the Federal Govt over the past few years has restricted their fishing seasons to almost non-existence due to declining numbers of fish populations 100's and 1000's of miles away..... Get this, Alabama has done one of best management jobs ever and they only get 9 days this year to harvest their fish.... yep, you heard me right; just 9 days out of the whole year to utilize what they have spent 100's of millions and 20 years creating......

Just a couple years ago the season was 6 months, then reduced to 40 days, and now this year is the biggest slap in the face at a whopping 9 day season. There are more and bigger snapper in Alabama than ever before. I spent a week down there and you couldnt not catch a snapper if you tried. If I lived in Alabama and was part of creating this fishery for the betterment of the whole community and I had the federal government trying to manage and sabotage what I just helped create I would be sick to my stomach.

 The federal government is punishing Alabama for the sins of Florida and Texas and Commercial fisherman. Those fish have absolutely nothing to do with the fishery in Alabama.... Everything about the federal government managing this situation is inefficient, outdated and very costly to the hardworking people who have made something very special but cannot utilize it....

Here is a sneak peak of a big red snapper:

Here in Illinois we have some really dumb rules, but nothing even close to the injustice of what Alabama is going through. Here we can build a lake and buy fish for stocking into it, but we can only legally harvest 6 bass per day out of it. Even if we just bought the fish and put them into our own private lake we can still only harvest 6 per day... to me rules like that are just plain ignorant. But I can live with ignorance of that magnitude, what I could not live with is the ignorance of the magnitude of whats happening in Alabama....

So anyhow here is what is happening in Alabama. We downloaded the gps coordinates to their list of reefs, we headed down and gave many of their local businesses our money in exchange for food, fuel, bait, and lodging and we went out fishing in our little carolina skiff every day. Oh yeah, on our way out of town we even stopped in and grabbed some souvenirs for our children back home...

Anyhow, we caught amazing fish at every single reef we pulled up to. In fact, they were so loaded with fish that we would have 100's of snappers right below our boat just by throwing out a few chunks of bonito or cigar minnows. We were light tackle fishing monster bottom fish!!

We were trying out some new Fin-Nor saltwater rod and reel combos and just out having a blast every day reeling in these fish.

We also had several really cool up close encounters with big sea turtles, dolphins and various sharks. We even caught almost an 8 foot shark! Here is a still shot pulled from a video.. Hopefully will post the video soon....

We were kinda supposed to come home around Wednesday, but we decided to stay to the utmost maximum time possible which was Friday afternoon. We were fortunate to fish for 6 of their whopping 9 day season....

Next year if they even have a season, we will definitely be back! Now its back to work and time to get stuff done. I have never been more anxious to get back rockin and rollin. I feel the alabama fishing situation is just an overall good example for what can be created with good management (on many levels) as long as we can manage what we have created with minimal interference.

We can also relate here in Illinois because overall we are a pretty worthless fishing state, but with good management we are making something out of nothing and starting to turn some heads just like Alabama did!!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Lake Life on DIY Network!

We are super excited for our new tv show to air on Memorial Day, May 26th at 10 pm on DIY network!

The show is called "Lake Life" and it basically starts out as a design build show for fun lake projects, but also incorporates a little family life in Central Illinois for not just us, but our clients as well!

Here is a little preview video:
Lake Life Sizzle - FINAL from Back Roads Entertainment on Vimeo.

So anyhow here is a little more information about the show as well:

Hopefully you guys will watch the show and if its on a little too late, make sure to set your DVR's. If America likes the show, we will be filming more episodes in Peoria and Fulton county this summer. If America doesnt like the show, we will just chalk this up as an amazing adventure and keep on pushing some other envelope to the max.

It really is crazy how this has all come about. About two years ago, a production company sent us an email saying they would like to make a tv show about what we are doin.... I kinda totally blew them off at first, thinking yea right, but then a couple weeks later Justin and Allen did a skype interview with them that I walked into and things started rollin from there....

For two years its been quite the ride with many hurdles passed and hoops jumped through and here we are on the brink of the actual airdate. Honestly the chances of actually filming and then getting the show on the air were pretty slim to none, I still am kinda surprised each step of the way... Anyhow, filming the episodes was actually way more fun than I ever thought would be.

Hope you guys tune in and like the show. I will definitely keep posted the latest of whats happening. The episodes will air a few times on the DIY network and then there is a chance that they will also air on the Great American Country Channel as well.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Goose Ranch Bass Fishing Tourney Results

Saturday, May 17th started out at 38 degrees. The water temps were in the low 60's whereas just 5 days earlier they were in the low 70's... The wet, dreary cold overcast weather from the day before was gone and we had the typical post cold front bright blue bird skies for our fishing tournament. Basically what I am getting at is although the weather was very nice for being outside, it wasnt optimum fish feeding conditions....

Here is a pic of the weigh in overlooking the big lake. We ate very good at weigh in. Chef Todd and my mom put together a nice spread:

So naturally the tournament got off to a slow start, but after a couple hours fish started to wake up a bit and some of the guys were able to string a few bites together to make for a very respectable weigh-in! There were about 50 bass weighed in over 3 lbs.

This tournament was alot different than most typical bass tournaments... Actually it was more like two tournaments in one. The grand prize was for the team who caught the most bass and the other grand prize was for the team who caught the heaviest 5 fish over 15"...

Let me just say in private lakes and ponds, largemouth bass OVERPOPULATION is the NUMBER ONE problem. Bass are born every year, and 95% of them need to be eliminated in order to grow BIG bass. In my opinion, only about 5 bass out of a 100 should be returned back into most private bodies of water....

Here is something you must keep in mind when fishing private lakes and ponds- you still need a fishing license and you still need to follow state fishing regulations. I dont agree with this law one bit for following state regulations on private property with privately stocked fish, but hopefully someday it will change. The law is outdated, because the state no longer gives out fish for private pond stocking, so the laws need to be updated accordingly as well.

Anyhow Joe and Jon won the tournament for heaviest 5 fish with 4 fish totalling exactly 14.00 lbs. Curt and Joe had 5 fish for 12.79 lbs and Mike Q had 3 fish for 11.58 lbs and Matt and Elliot had 4 fish for 11.44 lbs....

Bryce Wegman had big bass of the tournament from highrise lake: 5.64 lbs

Chad Schieler came in close second also from highrise lake at 5.60 lbs. That fish needed to keep down her breakfast and she woulda easily won!!

We will be tracking data like crazy of all the bass from all the lakes at the goose ranch. Our goal for next year is to have 5 fish limits for the tournaments in the 18-22 lbs range to win. You will see the weights going upward from here, fish can grow fast when they have what they need to do so!!

Total payout for prizes for this tournament was over $4300! We hope to have another tournament this summer on Saturday, June 21. Email if you would be interested in reserving your spot. More details for it will come.

Hunter didnt get to weigh in a big fish for this his first bass tournament, but he was excited to still win a $50 presleys gift card and get to hold up one of the big bass for a pic!!

We actually saved all the big bass in our big white hauling tank, hit em with a good dose of oxygen and medication for a couple hours and then redistributed them accordingly back into the goose ranch lakes best suited for them!! That helps the fish recover from the stress of the tournament big time!