Author Archives: Robert Hall

Asian Carp – Fishing Story Gone Awry

asian carp gone nutsIn 1973, a type of carp was imported from Asia with the goal of ridding U.S. ponds of unwanted parasites and improving the quality of the water. It worked, and then some.

By the early 1980s, Asian carp started to appear in the Mississippi River and other large bodies of water. Decades later, millions of voracious, filter-feeding Asian carp are plaguing the Missouri River and its tributaries.

“It’s not even a hyperbole to call it an ecological disaster,” said Tory Mason, fisheries management biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation in St. Joseph. “They’ve taken over a lot of habitats that native species in our big rivers like to occupy.”

The fish are known to damage or destroy ecosystems because of what they were first brought to the U.S. to eat: plankton and algae.

“[They’re] limiting those native fishes’ food source,” said Tyler Ruoff, a resource scientist with the Department of Conservation. “That chain effect is going to go down the line and affect our fisheries.”

And it has. The meddlesome carp are forcing native fish to compete for food and swimming space.

“Asian carp make up at least 50 percent of the total biomass found in the Missouri River,” Ruoff said. “They’ve been prolific.”

Adult Asian carp can eat up to 20 percent of their body weight on plankton in a single day, and the four main subsets of Asian carp — bighead, black, grass and silver carp — can weigh anywhere between 20 to more than 100 pounds. On top of that, female Asian carp will lay hundreds of thousands of eggs each time they spawn, which can be several times a year.

Outside of harming ecosystems, some of the Asian carp pose a direct threat to humans who skim the waters above on watercraft.

“I’ve personally been hit dozens of times,” Mason said, referring to the jumping tendencies of the silver carp. “I’ve heard of broken bones and ligament damage.”

Mason said the most dangerous encounters between boaters and Asian carp come on oxbow lakes, which are shallow, river-made bodies of water like Lake Contrary and Little Big Lake.

“When you’re on a jet ski, the collisions aren’t good,” he said.

Conservationists believe that it’s nearly impossible to completely eradicate the now-flourishing Asian carp.

“Short of a disease wiping them out, we really don’t have an answer yet, which is the scary part,” Mason said.

One option, however, takes into consideration the popularity of the fish in other countries.

A company called American Meixi Fishing Industry is exporting the fish, using the same waters in which they have invaded. The Grafton, Illinois, business flash freezes thousands of pounds of Asian carp daily, then uses river and ocean freight to ship them back to their land (or waters) of origin.

“They’re a good protein source,” said Ruoff, a native of Savannah, Missouri, who has eaten everything from Asian carp hot dogs to carp tacos. “It’s a good white, flakey meat. It’s not gamey and doesn’t taste very fishy.”

Back up the Missouri River to St. Joseph, fishermen have started to capture the carp to use as bait for more enticing, native fish, like catfish and gar.

It’s the circle of life.

Mark Zinn can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @KNPNZinn.

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Fishing for Charity

blue cat for charityA local teen raised nearly $3,000 for families of children with cancer over the weekend.

Benton High School student Joe Ford, 14, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when he was 12 years old. He beat the cancer, but noticed that the people around him needed help.

He organized the Casting Out Cancer fishing tournament last year as a way to raise money for things that families may need.

“I kind of thought of the whole fishing tournament idea because I had cancer, and I saw the toll that it took on my mom and family,” Joe said.

This year’s tournament was an overnight fishing event that ran from Friday to Sunday.

Joe’s mother, Monica Ford, said that this year’s tournament was much larger than the inaugural one.

“We had three boats last year, and we had 20 this year. So, it was amazing. I was overwhelmed with the response,” Ford said.

Anglers paid $150 to fish over the weekend, $75 of which went toward the charity. The rest went toward a pot that paid $900 to first place, $400 to second and $150 to third.

The $1,500 raised from sign-ups went toward a charity program that Joe is starting that will provide a basket of helpful items for families that have children suffering from cancer.

“I (am) starting a nonprofit. It’s called Door 2 Floor, and it’s going to contain a basket of gas gift cards, food gift cards and things like that,” Joe said.

In addition to sign-up fees, there also was a silent auction. Ford said the final numbers aren’t counted up, but she expects this year’s tournament to have raised at least $2,000 and is hopeful that it will be closer to $3,000.

First-place winners Shelby Collier and Joel Roberts caught a 64-pound blue catfish.

Collier said they were lucky because it was the only fish they caught.

“We were excited when we got the fish in the boat. We didn’t have any other bites though, so we didn’t know what we were coming into,” Collier said.

Roberts said the fish made his night.

“It was a tough bite last night. So 64 pounds on a tough bite is, you know, you have a pretty good night,” Roberts said.

The couple enjoys fishing and found out about the event on Facebook. They wanted to help Joe with his “awesome” idea.

“I think that’s great,” Collier said. “As a teacher, I love it when kids take that initiative and go for something they believe in. I think that’s awesome.”

Joe’s mother hopes that the tournament continues to grow and said it will be held again next year. She was filled with emotion over how many people turned out to the tournament this year.

“It just, it’s overwhelming, it really is. I don’t even, I can’t even put into words how awesome it is. This community is just awesome anyway,” Ford said.

Brendan Welch can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWelch.

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Why I Will Never Get Bored With Fishing

big sheepsheadAs we journey through life over time our interests often change. Most of my sports have revolved around the outdoors, camping, hiking, backpacking, hunting and fishing. I’ve dabbled with recreational softball and volleyball, but I’ve never been much of an athlete. Out of all these activities the only ones I continue to do regularly these days are hiking and fishing.

Even my interest in fishing has changed over the years. I’m more fanatical about it than ever. There are many reasons fishing continues to hold my interest while other activities fell to the wayside.

First off, you don’t have to be an athlete to be an angler. Being in shape is a benefit for those spending the day wading rivers and streams, kicking around a lake in a float tube, paddling and fishing from a kayak or canoe, or casting nonstop while standing a boat deck. Then there’s the laid back side to fishing, where you bait a hook, cast out the line, settle into a lawn chair, pop open a cold drink, and rather hope the fish don’t bite and disrupt the tranquility.

Variety is another reason that my interest in fishing hasn’t waned. There are hundreds, thousands actually, of species to pursue around the country and the world, both fresh and saltwater. Each species offers the angler new challenges and a chance to explore our wonderful world. For me, the journey and new experiences is more important than the catching.

Variety doesn’t end with species and location. There are a myriad of fishing techniques out there, ranging from giant carpnoodling (fishing by hand where legal), hand lines, rods and reels using seemingly infinite number of baits, lures, or flies, fish from shore or boat, cast or trolling … There are endless ways to fish.

Fishing has another dimension to it that’s not as prevalent in other sports; you can have a hand in creating much of the gear you use, especially the bait, lures, and flies. Some items, such as hooks, reels, and lines fall almost exclusively in the realm of manufactured and store bought. But others such as rods, baits, lures and flies, the angler can have a hand in their creation. This adds another dimension to the sport.

Over the years I’ve build a goodly number of rods, both spinning and fly rods. Many march down this path for the monetary savings they perceive making. In reality, you don’t save much, if any, building your own tackle, especially if you factor in the value of your time. What you do gain is the ability to customize your gear to suit your specific needs and the satisfaction of fishing and catching with a rod of your own making.

Making your own fish catchers, baits, flies and lures is the aspect of the sport that many fishers, including myself most frequently engage in. I’ve actually started tying flies before the fly rods became a favored fishing tool. At the time I primarily spin fished and used flies with a casting bubble with good success. Fly tying became a standalone hobby, in that I found I enjoy tying flies nearly as much as fishing. It wasn’t long before I found myself tying beyond my needs and started selling a few just to support my new hobby. I no longer sell my creations. Today, I have trouble keeping up with my own needs and replacing those flies my buddies abscond with.

Making your own tackle adds another dimension to an already great sport. Consider giving it a try, if you haven’t already. It’s a great way to occupy your time when the winter snows fly.

Email Dave Coulson at

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Jason’s Guide Service Launches New Website


We Launched Our New Website

Jason Lesmeister, owner of Jason’s Guide Service, has 20 years of experience as an Alaskan fishing guide, ten of them on the Kenai River, so he is well qualified to help visiting anglers shorten the necessary learning curve for a successful trip.

He has just launched his new website, website was redesigned from the ground up and now contains helpful information about the fish to be found in the Kenai River, the best season for each, and the services and equipment Lesmeister offers.

When asked about the upgraded website, Lesmeister said, “I love everything about our new web presence. It’s going to allow me to provide more detailed information about the gear we use and what we are catching day in and day out. I will also be updating my blog on the website on a regular basis so you can read up on our guests’ adventures.”

Rainbow trout and Dolly Varden appeal to fishermen because they bite readily, put up an aggressive fight, and are plentiful all year. Red (sockeye) salmon, silver (coho) and other salmon species migrate up the Kenai River at certain times. Sockeye salmon peak from mid-July through the first week in August. Silver salmon fishing is best from the third week of August through the end of October.

Lesmeister’s Kenai River guiding service provides all the equipment you might need, including custom built 20 foot drift boats, G. Loomis, Sage, Lamson and Shimano rods and reels, and all tackle and baits. They will also clean fish and offer other expertise necessary for a quality trip.

Ice fishing the Kenai and surrounding lakes is also outstanding and Jason’s Guide Service is one of the few serious organizations serving this type of fishing and implement the latest technology to locate the fish and keep you warm on the ice.

Jason is headquartered in Cooper Landing, Alaska, and covers the entire Kenai River resource – Kenai, Soldotna, Sterling, Skilak Lake, Kenai Lake, and the Cooper Landing Area. Fishermen are encouraged to bring their cameras so they can post photos of their catch with the others on the website’s “Braggin’ Board”. It is a good idea to make reservations for prime seasons as far in advance as possible.

For more information, visit the website and send questions via the contact form or push the handy “Push to Call” button to initiate a direct call.


Jason’s Guide Service
Mile Marker 48
Cooper Landing, AK 99572
(907) 351-3036

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Brady’s Custom Rod and Tackle is Taking Off

bradys muskieSince he was 5 years old, Brady Ballis has liked to fish. 

When he was 15, his parents, Tom and Mollie, gave him an inline spinner-making kit for Christmas and in Ballis’ words, making his own lures “took off from there.”

Now 18, Ballis spends free evenings at home in White Bear modifying and painting lures and building custom rods for resale. Many of the lures are tied with shiny tinsel called flashabou, made by a Stillwater fishing company where he also happens to work. 

The product gives his lures the appearance of live bait in the water, Ballis said and he uses it on all his muskie lures. 

Speaking of muskies, Ballis likes to tell the story of the whopper he caught late last summer: 

“It was early September, my buddy Tyler and I were just going out for fun. It was going to be the last time we were going fishing on White Bear Lake. After 30 or 45 minutes of fishing I hooked the fish. At first I thought it was only a weed because it wasn’t fighting at all. Then all of a sudden the weed started to move sideways. I was only using a spinning reel with 15-pound test monofilament. 

“It started fighting a little bit and we had still had no clue what it was. Then all of a sudden we saw the beast and it saw us and took off. It smoked my drag on the spinning reel and took off an easy 100 feet of line. I was in my little 14-foot alumna craft and this fish was so big it actually was dragging us across the lake. Tyler and I fought it for at least 20 minutes. I would reel it in and then it would swim back out and take all of the line out again. Finally we got it in and luckily Tyler was there to help net it because I wouldn’t have caught the fish without him. Our net was way too small and only the head fit. So he got the head in the net and I had to grab the tail and flop it in the boat. It was 50 inches and just under 40 pounds.” 

Last month, the budding entrepreneur rented a booth at Marketfest to peddle his lures and custom fishing rods. Sales were good, enough to cover his costs plus a little extra, Ballis said. His marketing efforts are supported by his mom, who is a graphic designer and designed his logo; and his dad, who pitches the tackle to his firefighter buddies. Tom Ballis serves dual roles as a Stillwater firefighter and first assistant district chief at station No. 2 in White Bear Lake. 

bradys custom

“My parents help me make connections,” Ballis said. “The guys at the Stillwater fire station are constantly asking for lures. One guy especially loves the spinner baits. He caught half a dozen pike with the biggest one 42 inches. It actually straightened the bait because he caught so many.” 

Sales mostly are word of mouth at this point. He’s not quite ready for online sales through a website but his goal is to “keep growing and show people what I make.”

Eventually the young fisherman hopes to manufacture his own tackle full time. Ballis’ dream is to own a store selling his lures and custom rods with classes for tying flies and building rods. 

If he’s not making lures, Ballis is usually in a boat fishing. He graduated from White Bear Area High School in June and plans to attend Hamline University this fall to study business. He played Junior Gold hockey and was a member of the trapshooting team in high school. 

Does he have a favorite fish to catch? “I love catching them all,” Ballis said. He usually fishes in White Bear Lake, which the avid fisherman said is on track to being one of the best muskie lakes in the state thanks to DNR stocking efforts.

Lure prices range from $1.25 for hand-tied jigs to $5 spinner baits. Custom rods range from $100 to $600 depending on material and desired sensitivity. 

For now, sales are not making him rich. Any profits are usually used to buy another mold to make another lure. “As long as I can sell a lure here and there to someone, I’m happy,” he noted. 

Catching fish on his own tackle is quite a thrill, too. 

Especially a fish like that muskie: “It’s a different feeling to catch all these fish on a lure and a rod that you made yourself,” Ballis said.    

For more information on Brady’s Custom Rod & Tackle, email

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