Thursday, March 25, 2010

Craziness begins and took a swim already

This week has been crazy awesome and busy too. I started out writing crazy busy first, but after thinking for a moment I realized I love the chaos. I just wish there was more time in a day and an extra day in the week and I didnt need to get any sleep. I am already millions of voice mails and emails behind, and simply can't keep up with them and still get out and work during the day. We packed a whole lot into this week. They say time flies when your having fun, but I need to figure out how to slow time down just a bit.

We started out filming a fly fishing show for trout monday morning early and caught a boatload! Heres the biggest one.

Then after our fishing trip, Justin and I raced over to an Ethanol plant out in Fulton County to install a Vertex aeration system and investigate a fish kill. The lake has been contaminated with some sort of corn sludge and fish are dying in other lakes of that watershed as well.

I'm very curious how things will turn out, we will be working out there at those lakes off and on this spring fulfilling EPA regulations for the lakes. We finished up late monday night and headed for home. Justin was late for Katy's birthday and I missed something too, but cant remember what it was at the moment? I made it home just in time to read a few bedtime books and get the kids to bed.

Tuesday we had to get to the office super early to ship out all of our online orders from the weekend. We had like 17 orders and it took forever to get all boxed up and shipped out. UPS and Fedex come daily to pick up, but usually just a couple packages a day for each. Lots of shipments came in to the office tuesday as well. We unloaded pallets of fish feeders, aeration equipment, barley straw and other supplies to get started for the year. Then we loaded an entire trailer full of material, tools, and floats to build a swim platform and floating dock with bench seats for a client out in Secor. We were supposed to head that way tuesday morning, but it took till 6pm just to get everything shipped out, loaded, organized, and also take care of a few local clients orders and catch up on emails and voice mails. We also set up a couple really cool fish tanks in our office to help keep us sane while we are stuck inside doing real work.

Wednesday we headed out early and built one of the coolest floating docks ever and also built a swim platform too. The dock has bench seats around 3 sides and is open out the front. Very cool. Anyhow about 9 am wednesday morning I was leaning over the railing of the old dock taking it apart when I took out the last screw the whole thing fell over and so did I right into the lake. I was over an hour from home, 50 degrees, and soaking wet.

Good thing Justin had some old stinky hunting clothes at the bottom of his truck! I wore them and just my socks the rest of the day. Note to self, dont unfasten a railing while leaning over it. Here are some pics of the docks we built. It doesnt take long to build em at all.

The floating swim platform will get a sliding board in a few weeks:

This dock will get bench seats wrapped around it.

Thursday Justin stayed back at the office to take care of a few local clients and other office stuff. We had a whole bunch more shipments to get out. I never in my wildest dreams every thought our online store would get this many sales at all. This blog actually comes up real good in search engines just by me writing about pond stuff, etc and I think that is where alot of online clients come from? Anyhow we sell way more stuff online to people across the country than we do here in Illinois. I have access to warehouses across the nation so alot of our large orders we ship from the closest warehouse. My father in law Lee came out and helped me finish the docks in Secor. I didnt have my camera so finished pictures will have to wait until we get back out there again in a couple weeks. Once the docks were done we then also rebuilt the 8 foot tall rope swing platform at that pond too. That will be alot of fun to try out this summer!

Friday we headed back out to the fish kill to put in some more aeration on another lake and help them formulate a game plan for this spring. The 20 acre lake that is now getting contaminated is losing huge fish too. 10 lb northern pike, tons of big hybrid striped bass, thousands of bluegill and crappie are all floating belly up. That would have been an awesome lake to fish!

Saturday was super windy and cold outside so I worked inside trying to finish up some bathrooms out at the lake. They are shaping up real nice! All wood on the inside. We are building a boys bathroom and girls bathroom each with a couple stalls and showers. One bathroom in the summer time with 100's of people at the lake just wasnt going to cut it for this summer.

About 3 pm we had enough of working for the week and decided to just go out fishing anyways, despite the 25 mph wind gusts. Here was our weapons of choice for the afternoon:

We threw 6 feet deep diving cranckbaits and number 3 silver fox spinners and caught a ton of rainbow trout and super fat largemouth bass! I love coming out of winter and catching fish with 130-140% relative weights!! Check out the bellies on these fish:

Yeah, Yeah how come there is no pic of me holding a fish? I can hear it now. I actually only caught one fish today, a 13 inch largemouth bass. The wind was blowing so hard, all I could do was run the motor just to keep us from blowing out to sea. When I would take my eyes off the motor for just a second to snap a pic, we would blow off course 100's of feet. Plus if running the motor wasnt enough, Chad's wife Julie kept catching fish right and left. We only fished for a little over an hour and drained 2 fully charged trolling motors just trying to get back to the beach!

Sunday I am gonna head to church and spend the afternoon playing with kids. (with the basketball games on in the background). Building dragon towers out of legos is on the agenda for sure. Pretty much every week until after the 4th of July is about booked up solid for us. Traveling to southern Illinois next week to install some aeration systems and squeeze in a handful of pond consulations. And after that we start electrofishing for the next two months solid. We have scheduled road trips to a few places in Indiana, Missouri, Southern Illinois, and Chicago and try to coordinate as much as possible going to and from each of those places. Then locally we have surveys and fish stockings for many local fishing clubs, private lakes, and even some huge lakes like Oak Run we will be sampling and helping devise longterm management plans for. This spring is going to be crazy awesomeness.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fly Fishing Trout!

Monday morning I filmed a trout fly fishing show with Jon Graham, Curt Eber, Chef Todd, Casey Carey, and Justin down at the Hooked On Fishing Park. I have been raising rainbow trout in one of the springs for the last 3 years and have hundreds of 3-5 lb rainbows! They really are amazing fish and the fishing park is the perfect place for fly fishing for them! I am using the trophy trout springs to raise funds to help sponsor the free kids fishing instructions we provide all summer long, so if you know anyone who would like some flyfishing lessons or just needing to scratch the itch a bit closer to home you can give me a call or visit

The fishing video will be out in a few weeks, but here is a preview of some of the fish pictures from the trip.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Chocolate Lab Puppies For Sale

For more info and pics visit:

Back when I was 13 years old I started raising Chocolate lab puppies with my younger sister. We found an awesome hunting stud from out near Trivoli for our family chocolate lab and have been raising labs ever since. It was not an easy task getting started, but I learned alot about turning a hobby into a business from raising and selling those chocolate labs. By the time I was 16 I had enough money saved up to buy my first car!

Flash forward 14 years and I still have my original chocolate lab Coco still hanging out at my parents house. She pretty much just sleeps all day long these days, but boy has she had quite the adventurous life! I quit raising labs when I got married at age 19, but one of my absolute favorite puppies I ever had went to my cousin Ben Ginzel. He trained his dog Toby into one of the best dogs I have ever hunted with, and I have been hunting with professional dogs and trainers from across the country! My sister picked up a chocolate lab female a few years ago and has bred her with Toby three times before. The puppies they create are great family dogs with great hunting potential as well.

Our Chocalate Lab Puppies are AKC Registerd and both parents are hip certified. Our Family raises 1 litter of pups a year and this year we have 7 males and 2 females. The pups have had their dew claws removed and have been examined by Meadowbook Vetrinarian office. They thought our puppies look exceptionally GREAT! and looked very strong and healthy. These pups are a fourth litter with the same pops and mama.

Brandy is the mama and she is an excellent tempermented dog that treats our 3 little girls as her own babies. She is extremely friendly and has never shown aggresion towards any dog or person she's met. Very good with small children.

Toblerone Orion of Heatherwood a.k.a. Toby is the pops of these puppies. He is an exceptional bird and waterfowl hunter. He has a quality about him that is not comon among labs, which is he is a POINTER!. Several of the past litters owners have stated the same, that it is very rare to find a Lab thet points, and love that there pups are pointers as well.

I dont even know how much they are selling them for, but if your interested in picking out your puppy early give Amy a call:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Big Crappie Biting This Week

I stocked these crappies into my grandma's bass heavy 6 acre pond back in 2005. My cousin Logan went out fishing after school on Wednesday with a small rapala and caught his dinner with just a few casts into his secret spot. I think I might be calling up Logan for a little fishing trip next time it warms up a bit!

Sick and Tired, but Lovin It.

Every year at exactly the weekend of March Madness basketball, I get sick. Through junior high and high school sometimes my sickness may have been exaggerated just a bit, but nonetheless I always have ended up just sitting in front of CBS watching all the basketball games. The last several years though, I have actually legitimately been getting sick. Funny how that stuff comes back around at you???

These days even though I am a bit under the weather, I got just a bit going on getting ready for the start of our season to just sit and watch the games during the day (plus I have DVR and just watched the last 4 minutes of every game played late last night). Today might get a little complicated with Richwoods playing in the Illinois high school state finals at the same time as the first round of games of the NCAA. Good thing I can record em both at the same time, I just will have to stay up a bit later tonight trying to get em all in.

Anyhow its not just me a bit under the weather, its everyone in my house and company and its really taking a toll. Justin got stung by a Man O War jellyfish down in florida last week and is on some life saving medication to keep his heart from stopping beating. Noah has had a fever for about a week and some sort of lazy red eyes with more eye bugars than Drake has nose bugars. I guess I have never written the word bugar before, looks funny written down I wonder if thats how its spelled? Regardless, Drake is so congested he is having trouble breathing at night and seems like he can only sleep on his stomach while laying on my chest. Mae had an episode at grandmas house the other day where she ended up with a nice surprise in her tinker bell britches when she tried to pass a little gas. That was just great! Anyhow she is also getting over a terrible ear infection. Brook came down with a sore throat a couple days ago and hasnt been sleeping too well with at least one kid awake at all times during the night. I came down with the sore throat yesterday and havent been sleeping well with midnight basketball games, some work stuff on my mind, and Drake laying on me for half the night.

Good times and good memories.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How to keep squirrels off your deck

One of my clients sent over this video via email and I for some reason really appreciated the engineering and creativity of these folks. ***No squirrels were harmed in the making of this video, they just learned to stay off the deck for a day or two***

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Florida Keys Camping and Lobster Diving

Justin, Allen, and Joel spent last week playing in the Florida Keys. While they were resting in hammocks, scuba diving, fishing, catching lobsters, and making friends with the local herd of key deer, I was back at home filling in the gap for them at work.

Watch this video at your own risk and without any expectations of any sort.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Why do fish die in the winter?

What causes fish to die in the winter?
-Information about what happens to fish and ponds under the ice.

The ice is now officially off of the area lakes and ponds and my email and voice mail boxes have been filling up with questions and reports about fish kills. This year was absolutely brutal on the fish, perhaps one of the worst winters of my life, at least that I can remember. I am going to spend a few minutes just explaining what goes on under the ice in the winter time. Also I will try to answer some of the most frequently asked wintertime pond questions about fish, water temps, turnover, snow cover, sunlight, aeration, oxygen, and ice fishing. I guess I will just start at the beginning with fall turnover and just keep rolling somewhat sequentially as thoughts and topics occur.

Towards the end of summer, the water at the surface of the pond is much warmer than the water at the bottom of the pond. That transition zone seperating those different water temps is called the thermocline. As the air temps start cooling down in the fall, the warm surface water starts naturally cooling down as well, and once it gets colder than the bottom water, it actually sinks and switches places with the bottom water. The water from the top turns over and now becomes the water at the bottom. That is how we get the name fall turnover.

During that fall turning over process, there is a large amount of gases and foul odors and such that have been trapped down in the bottom water all summer. Those gases sometimes even become more prevalent than dissolved oxygen down there. Once that water from the bottom is exposed to the surface, those gases and odors are finally released into the air and that stagnant water becomes saturated with oxygen again. Sometimes when this turnover happens too rapidly some fish actually can die. A rapid turnover with low oxygenated bottom water can actually suffocate fish.

Fast forward a few weeks into the winter months and the air temps start dropping below the freezing point. Once the surface water cools down to 32 degrees it starts to form a layer of ice. Just below the ice, the water temps will be 32 degrees. As you start going deeper the water temps actually start gradually warming up to 39 degrees at the bottom. For some reason water is the most dense at 39 degrees so that figuratively speaking warm water stays put down there all winter long. The ice that is formed at the top of a pond is actually a very good insulator during the coldest days of the season. However that same ice can become a very bad thing for the pond as well. Let me explain.

First the good. Ice insulates the pond from sub-zero temperatures and keeps the pond water from getting colder than 32 degrees. If a pond didn’t have its ice for insulation during prolonged cold temperatures, the water in the pond would get too cold for fish to survive most winters. Water in the lower 30’s will start stressing most Midwestern gamefish, and water in the upper 20’s will kill em dead. Now would be a great spot to talk about winter time aeration and keeping open water, but first I want to talk a bit more about the pros and cons of winter time ice.

Ice is great for insulation and it isn’t really a bad thing for ponds and fish at all until snow starts building up on it. Sunlight is the lifeline to the entire pond. Every living thing in the pond needs oxygen to live and even during the winter there are living plants and plankton performing the oxygen producing photosynthesis process. Cold water does hold higher concentrations of dissolved oxygen than warmer water, but if the sunlight is completely blocked from reaching the pond the oxygen will eventually run out. As plants and plankton begin to die they start using up oxygen as opposed to giving it off. Your imagination can complete what happens next as a pond starts using up oxygen as opposed to producing it. Ponds with lots of decaying vegetation will run out of oxygen in low light situations much faster than ponds without much vegetation.

Now is my chance to tie in a bit of fishing into this mix. I spend the entire winter outside taking folks ice fishing. At first safe ice, ponds are still very much alive and full of oxygen and active fish typically are very easy to find and catch. Here is an early season photo at Pfeiffer pond down in Southern Illinois. I spent a day teaching them all of my ice fishing secrets and they caught on real quick and had a great dinner that evening!
The 'first ice' period usually lasts for a couple weeks, but then things start to really change as we start getting snow sitting on the ice. It only takes a few inches of snow and then the fishing gets much tougher. That’s when I need to start finding the most oxygenated places in the ponds to find the active fish. Yep, I actually have a dissolved oxygen meter that I take ice fishing among other gizmos and electronic gadgets. My meter reads the oxygen saturation down to 25 feet deep. Then moving along as the winter progresses there are certain ponds and lakes I don’t even bother fishing at all. If oxygen is below 5 ppm, fish will start to become very inactive, and when it gets down to 2 ppm big fish will actually start to die. When fish become stressed they are nearly impossible to catch in the lips. Shallow, weedy unaerated ponds tend to be very good ice fishing in the beginning of the season, but nearly impossible to catch fish in towards the end of the season.

So now that I’m done with my little fishing application, here are a few things to do to help your pond and fish make it through a long snowy winter. We all are rapidly learning about the benefits of summer time aeration systems, but few people know how to properly use their aerations systems in the winter. During the summer it is usually recommended to run your aerator in your deepest water centrally located in order to efficiently circulate the most amount of water. In the winter time though, you absolutely do not want to run your aerator in the deepest portion of your pond. Pushing the warmest water in your pond up to the subfreezing air temps at the surface can supercool your water. Doing this directly doesn’t kill your fish too often, but if they have no warm 39 degree water to sanctuary in they will become stressed over the course of the winter, and especially during those few arctic cold nights. Stressed fish will oftentimes get really red lips and will become very susceptible to parasites, disease, and fungus.

I recommend aerating deep in the summer and shallow in the winter. Usually I like to aerate in about 8 feet of water during the winter. This keeps a nice sized whole of open water, while not mixing the warmest bottom water of the pond with the super cold air temps. Usually I will just run a separate airline on a splitter from the compressor to a shallower diffuser. Then I just flip the deep one off and the shallow one on and vice versa in the spring. For those without an aeration system I suggest shoveling the snow off of your pond as much as possible. Just clearing a few rows in strips across the pond is often enough to let adequate sunlight in. Last suggestion would be to remove as much vegetation and leaves as possible going into winter. Decaying matter eats up precious oxygen under the ice.
Keeping your fish well oxygenated and happy throughout the winter is a big key to growing them big and healthy! It takes the right combination of food, water, and shelter to consistently grow and maintain populations of large fish, but the absolute first step is to maintain the best water quality possible 24/7 365 days per year. It only takes about 15 minutes of no oxygen to kill the biggest fish in your pond (yep, they die first), and It only takes a couple weeks of low oxygen stressful conditions to seriously inhibit growth potential and overall health. As fish populations grow larger, they become way more susceptible to winter and summer fish kills. Many ponds will kill off in about an 8-10 year cycle and a lot of that has to due with the fish populations growing too large in that span of time for a pond to support through a harsh winter or summer. After all this rambling, the answer to the question of what causes fish to die in the winter is simple: they either suffocate to death, or they end up on my dinner plate. Both of these causes of death will end the life of thousands of fish every winter.

Here is a photo of a delicious winter fish kill. This is the kind of winter fish kill that I actually welcome and spend all year managing for.

Article by Nate Herman

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Trout Pond was a Hit!

I had a couple sleepless nights scratching my head and just wondering how in the world we were going to make this happen. The trout pond at the Elmwood All Outdoors Show was something that seemed so easy in theory to do and setup last fall and over the winter, but all of a sudden out of nowhere it was already March 6th and showtime: now how in the world do we pull this off???

Just filling up the pond with 6,000 gallons of water was no easy task and would have been impossible without the help of the Elmwood Fire Department. We got er filled wednesday evening with a couple fire trucks and a deep well. Then on Thursday morning we found out that condensation and a couple hairpin leaks just wasnt going to work out inside the school building (I bet the school administration was a bit more freaked out than I was though). Anyhow, we drained the pond and then set er back up just outside the gym and filled er back up again, this time from a fire hydrant. The problem with city water is the chlorine and other stuff they use to treat it, so we had to dechlorinate the water.

Doesnt sound like that big of a deal, but in all honesty I was scrambling this whole time and not too confident we were going to pull this off. Then Friday morning at 5 am Justin and I headed up to Wisconsin to pick up the trout. We got em loaded up and were back to Elmwood by 4 pm and crossed our fingers as we plopped em into the city water. The DNR also brought some really cool fish for the kids to see in the pond as well! I didnt sleep too well that night and rushed over to the pond at the crack of dawn with my fingers crossed hoping I wouldnt raise the tarp and see a whole bunch of belly up fish.

We infused the water with pure oxygen all night long in order to help the fish recover from their transportation and stress. When I got to the pond and all the fish were doing great, I could finally breathe a nice sigh of relief. I knew it was all gonna be good from hear on out. I figured we would have about 40-50 kids come down and have the time of their life catching some awesome fish, but what happened today just blew my expectations out of the water! From 9 am to 4 pm we had a steady flow of literally thousands of people gathered around the pond watching their kids and grandkids catch the fish of their lifetime! The local taxidermists at the show actually got some business today, that was so awesome. We had several hundred kids all catch fish today with the help from Chef Todd, Kevin Curless, Justin Herman, myself, and a volunteer who I never caught his name, but need to do so tomorrow because he did an amazing job with the kids.

Anyhow, here are some pics from today. I would have to rank this trout pond as probably the best I have ever seen at a show! We actually let the kids take the fish home to eat if they wanted to and about 75 kids did!!

I estimate that we had 30-40 kids catch fish every hour, and about once per hour we hooked into one of the 5 monster blue catfish in the pond! Those lucky kids had the battle of their life! There was never less than 10 kids in line from the moment the show started! Not only was the trout pond a complete hit, but the whole show was just awesome. The deer measuring and Buck contest sold out completely with well over 100 monster deer on display, and all the vendors did alot of business today. We sold out of just about everything that we brought to our booth! I have never sold this much stuff at any other show I have ever been to. Tomorrow we do it all again, its great and fun, but I am glad this is just a 2 day show: I am going to sleep good tonight.