Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pike Number 3 (or is it number 2?)

This morning, I went out to the Des Plaines River again, near Big Bend Lake. This is the same spot that I caught the other northern pike from October 5, 2009. I was hoping to catch another pike and this was the only spot I had caught one in the past.

I started casting out like I normally do with a spinnerbait hooked up to 25 lb. test monofilament line on a baitcasting rod and reel. After 15 minutes or more with no luck, I decided to target the area that was just after the dam between Big Bend Lake and the Des Plaines River. A couple of weeks ago, I had a fish hit my lure 3 times at that spot but he didn't hook up. So after trying once more, I got nothing again.

I swung myself around to go back to where I had tried in the beginning and then I heard a SPLASH at the spot I had just been at! So I quickly turned around and went back to the dam area and tried again. Nothing.

About this time, a guy who was out there doing some metal detecting (seems to be a popular thing to do near water...) came up to ask if I had caught anything. Well, no... nothing. But I did tell him that I had caught one weeks ago. As we talked, I explained that this very spot I was trying seemed to have something there, but I have not yet caught it. Then WHAM! Fish on!

We were both amazed to be talking about the fish and then having it hit the lure. I did not have a landing net with me, so I did my best to try to bring the fish to shore without harming it. I kept its head up and carefully lifted it so that only its tail was on the ground as it headed towards the shore. Then with a couple of quick flips, the fish unhooked itself and rolled back into the water! OH NO!

Technically, the pike was landed since it was at least three feet on the land, but it was still able to execute an escape. I was disappointed, but determined to try to catch it again. I had heard that pike and other fish don't have much of a memory that they had been caught before and so I was counting on that happening. So once again, I started casting at the same spot.

After about ten or fifteen minutes of nothing happening, I turned my attention to Big Bend Lake itself. I heard a splash there and then looked again and saw a HUGE fish do an aerial summersault. I tried my best to cast to the spot where I saw the huge waves eminating from, but to no avail. It was just too far away. So back I went to the first spot again.

After another 5 minutes of trying... FISH ON!

This fish did exactly what the other one did... aerial summersaults while hooked. This time, I made sure to keep the line taunt and lifted it totally off the ground and grabbed it with my Boga Grip before it had a chance to unhook itself. It didn't get away this time.

It's a smaller pike than the fish from October 5 at only 20 inches and 2 lbs., but I was glad to get it. But as I was checking it out, I started wondering if this fish was in fact the same fish that I had caught earlier. I really do think it is because it was caught at the exact same spot as the other fish.

So perhaps fish do not have a good memory. If it were me being caught the first time, you can bet I'd be out of there before someone else tried to catch me a second time!

Be sure to click on the image to take a closer look.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Gateway Arch - St. Louis, Missouri

I've been to the Gateway Arch several times over the years. Here are the most recent photos from this past weekend's visit taken while onboard the riverboat Tom Sawyer. And yes... the Mississippi River is rather "brownish" in color. Be sure to click on each photo for a closer look.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


When I was a young boy, I had a Cubscout pocket knife. I'm not sure if I was in 2nd grade or 4th grade... all I know is that I had a knife. Actually, I was always a little surprised that my parents allowed me to have a knife at such an early age. But ever since then, I've had a facination with knives. I think many guys do. But it wasn't until I was in my forties did I actually ever buy another pocket knife!

My first knife was a Buck 181U Odyssey which is the knife on the left with the very pointy blade. I think it cost something like $45. I've carried this knife for many years, but since it's a larger knife that is not easily carried or accepted in some circles, I also bought a very small $10 Gerber knife next. I'm not sure of the model number of this knife, but while it is small, it does have a rather intimidating look to it like the Buck Odyssey. The small Gerber knife is really only good for small jobs, but being made entirely of steel, it's pretty much indestructable. Not bad for a "cheap" little knife, but not perfect.

The Buck 285BK Bantam BLW on the far right is the most recent knife. With a drop point style non-serrated blade, it is a near perfect lightweight everyday carry knife. And at only $15 on sale, it's a bargain.

The two Buck knives have quick single hand opening capabilites, while the small Gerber requires two hands to open. All knives have locking mechanisms which require two hands to release in order to retract the blades. And all blades are extremely sharp.

Over the years since carrying a pocket knife with me, I've found that it does come in very handy. I use them all the time. You'd be surprised at how many things you need to cut. It's a matter of convenience.

Do I use the knives as self defense weapons? Well, I've never had to and hope I never have to. But of course having it with me does give me that option, doesn't it? The problem with knives is that unless you know how to use them safely in a self defense situation, it can easily be taken from you and used against you! Luckily for me, using it for self defense is something I've never had to do. I don't carry a knife for this reason, but it's nice to know it's with me in the event I ever need to use it for that purpose. Still, I believe I would hesitate in using it. I'd rather find a way to get out of the situation than to use it. That's the best defense of all. Be sure to click on the photo for a closer look.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Doyle Dykes Performs A Sold Out Concert At The Skokie Theatre

Last night, Doyle Dykes packed the house at the Skokie Theatre in Skokie, Illinois.

I recall going to the Skokie Theatre in the 70's when it was still a movie theater. I always thought one day it would be torn down because it was so old, small and run-down. But instead, it has been renovated into a world class concert venue with some amazing acoustics and pleasing decor.

I felt a bit of nostalgia going to the theater because it had been one that I visited as a teenager to watch discount movies. I found out on the radio on Thursday night while listening to DJ's "Steve and Johnnie" on WGN Radio 720 that it had been built in 1917 and that Charlie Chaplin had made his first movie by the Skokie Theatre! I never knew that!

The night opened with introductions from hosts Steve King and Johnnie Putman from WGN AM radio. Long-time friends of Doyle Dykes, it was fitting that they would be the ones to introduce him.

Surprisingly, when Doyle asked how many people had never seen him perform before, a lot of hands went up. Often, Doyle packs the house with fans who had seen him before. But this time, there were lots of new fans. In fact, people came from several states just to attend this concert!

For me, I had seen Doyle perform many times. However, I have to say that perhaps this was the first time that I had really heard Doyle play at an acoustically perfect room. He sounded fantastic! The house sound was flawless and from where I was sitting (on the second level) it was great!

Besides Doyle performing, daughter Haley Dykes did several songs as well. Once again, she sang beautifully and played her mandolin nicely as well. In fact, early next year, she will be opening for Earl Scruggs... so she's going "big time!" And, she will be working on a new CD soon too. That's exciting!

Later in the show, Doyle asked Steve King to help play guitar on stage too! The night before, Steve had accompanied Doyle on the guitar as Doyle played the banjo for the radio audience. It was the first time I had ever heard Doyle play a banjo and had often wondered if he played or not. Of course he does! And he did it just fine too. So as Doyle got ready to play the banjo on stage, he invited Steve to the stage to play once again. Steve did a great job and it was fun to see Doyle play with someone accompanying him. I've never seen him play with anyone else other than Haley on mandolin.

Later, at the end of the evening, Doyle invited Steve up again, but this time Doyle presented him with a Taylor Doyle Dykes Signature Model guitar as a gift! Steve later told me that the gift left him speechless... something DJ's never are! On the radio the night before, Steve had joked that one day he would like to buy a Taylor guitar. Well, now he won't have to buy one! Congratulations!

It was a terrific evening filled with wonderful music. Thanks to the management at the Skokie Theatre for allowing me to take photos of the evening and for turning the old Skokie Theatre into a fabulous music venue. Be sure to click on each image for a closer look.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another Nice Fishing Spot

Found this nice spot for potential fishing in the future! Sorry for the low resolution images... these were taken with my older cell phone (see yesterday's post on cell phones) and it only has a 1.2 megapixel camera built-in.

This spot is nice because you can hear the water falling over the dam. Very relaxing! Plenty of space for several people to fish there at the same time.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wet Cell Phones

Image borrowed from the Internet

This past week, my wife dropped her cell phone in water. It stayed there for perhaps 2 to 3 minutes totally submerged.

Not knowing what to do, we fished the phone out of its watery bath and took a hairdryer to try to dry it up. Then we made the fatal mistake of powering up the phone. While the display did work for a short time, it eventually died. No amount of effort could bring it back to life.

Four days later, my daughter (who is home on a short break from school) accidentally "washed" her phone in the laundry. It was probably in the washing machine for a couple of minutes as well. I could not believe that in less than a week's time, both of them had submitted their phones to a watery punishment!

This time, I checked the internet to find out what to do. We found that using a hot hairdryer is not a recommended remedy. However, having spoke to a Verizon sales rep earlier in the day, he suggested using the hair dryer on low heat to help blow out as much water as possible. So we did that. Another suggestion is to use a can of compressed air (like the ones sold to blow out computers.) Unfortunately, I had used up all of our compressed air cans and only a little remained. That small amount of air left in the can did seem to blow some of the water out by the buttons.

One suggestion on the web was to put the phone into an oven at perhaps 180 degrees to "cook" out the water (or leave it on the dash of a hot car.) At this time of year, the car just isn't all that hot, so we put the phone in the toaster / oven at 150 degrees and left it there for perhaps 15 minutes. Upon further web searching, I read that excessive heat like this could melt some of the glues in the phone... so we took the phone out immediately. It was hot, but not melting hot.

Another suggestion on the internet was to place the phone inside a sealed zip-lock bag of uncooked rice. The rice is there to help dry out the phone... similar to how silica gel packs are supposed to work. So, after the oven trick, we put the phone in the rice and left it overnight to do whatever it can.

This morning, I reinserted the battery and powered up the phone. It worked! While we can still see some traces of water in the LCD display screen, the phone is working! We decided that the phone needed more time in the rice so back it went, but we are confident that the rice trick will do a better job after it has a litle more time with the phone.

So if you ever drop your phone in water...even submerged for a long period of time like being in the washing machine... dry it quickly by blowing compressed air in the openings to get as much water out as possible. Avoid excessive heat from hair dryers and stick the phone in a sealed bag of uncooked rice for at least overnight and preferably for a couple of days. And never turn on the phone until you are sure all the water is out of the circuits! If you do all this, you might just be able to bring the phone back to life! By the way, my wife is now using my phone and I have gone back to using the old phone that I had before switching to the phone I gave my wife. Interesting how the one person who did not do damage to his phone is the one having to use his old phone now, huh? Actually, I think that old phone performs better than the newer one anyway, so I'm ok with it.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Possible New Location for Fishing

Photos taken with a cell phone camera

After catching the nice Northern Pike on Monday, I've been searching for other places on the Des Plaines River to try out. Interestingly, this location in Mount Prospect seemed pretty nice to try and it's not too far for me to travel to either.

Again, these are photos from my cell phone as I did not have my camera gear with me. I don't normally carry my cameras when I go out to fish as it's just another thing to drag around and worry about while out there.

Didn't catch anything here yet, but I'm hoping one day it will pay off. I'd like to get to the other side of the river, but it will take a little more effort to access those areas.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Fishing Persistence Finally Pays Off - 23" Northern Pike at 3 lbs.

After shooting a 50th wedding anniversary yesterday and working on the computer late into the night and then doing the same thing all day today optimizing the images on the computer, I decided at the last minute to go off to do some fishing to wind down after a long day.

I decided to go to Big Bend Lake in Des Plaines and got there around 4:00 PM. After throwing some casts into the lake, I saw another angler out on the other side of the lake and so I decided I'd get closer to where he was to try my luck. I wasn't sure how to get there, but since the lake isn't all that large, I figured my best bet would be to just start walking along the perimeter of the lake until I got to him. Along the way, I kept casting into the lake but I got nothing. I finally reached his area and saw two other people fishing there too. I looked over to the left side of the pathway and found a "stream" there and thought I'd give it a try since I didn't really want to disturb the other people there. It turns out that it wasn't really a stream, but rather it was the Des Plaines River (DPR) which runs right next to Big Bend Lake at that point.

I casted out my line into the DPR perhaps 10 times and was just thinking that maybe it wasn't worth fishing in this area and then WHAM! I actually saw the fish strike my lure and then jump! It was maybe 8 feet away from me because I could clearly see him strike it. Man, he hit it hard! It took me totally by surprise! The fight wasn't too long since he was so close to me already, but it did take some pulling and tugging to get him to shore. When he hit, I could clearly see him... a Northern Pike! After reeling him in, I put my gear next to him to take a photo of him with my cell phone. I didn't have camera gear with me, so the phone was the best I could do. I had pre-measured my rod so I knew exactly where 18 inches was and he was way past that point. Later, I measured the rod to the point where he lay and it turns out he was 23 inches! I used my Boga Grip to hold onto him (pike have sharp teeth) and to weigh him... 3 lbs.

To date, he was the largest fish I ever caught and I released him with the help of the other angler whom I had seen from across the lake. He came over to see what I got. He also helped take a photo of the fish and me together because I could not hold my phone with one arm and take my own photo. Afterwards, we had a good time talking for a few moments about fishing in general and then he went back to his own fishing. He was fishing for carp which is ok, but the technique is a little too passive for me since all you do is put some corn kernels on your hook and put your line in the water and sit back and wait for something to grab it. Of course the action starts at that point.

For me, I prefer to continuously cast and retrieve. It's a more pro-active way to fish. Using this technique, I caught this pike with a "buzzbait" attached to my line. A buzzbait is a "top water" lure in that the lure stays on top of the water rather than being submerged beneath the surface. This was the first time I ever used this kind of lure for bait. Basically, a buzzbait is a large hook which has a skirt made of plastic attached to cover the hook. It also has a couple of metal "spinners" attached which is used like propellers to spin around and splash and make noise on the surface of the water as the lure is retrieved to the rod. I used a baitcaster rod and reel to catch this fish, also my first time using this kind of equipment. In the past, I only used spinning gear, but I always thought that baitcasting gear would allow me to be more precise in my casts. I was right. This is better for me!

The other angler told me that he had never seen anyone ever catch a pike with a buzzbait before. Apparently, pike usually lie in wait and then ambuse their prey, so maybe they don't usually go to the top of the water to attack? I don't really know... (10-09-09 Edit Note: Other anglers have since told me that spinnerbaits and buzzbaits work well for pike.)

Persistence finally paid off! I have had a really bad run of luck this season, but then again, I have been using this season to learn different techniques in fishing. I have fun just being out there to cast and retrieve even if I don't catch anything. But it sure is better to catch something! Be sure to click on each image for a closer look.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


Do you know what a Zerostat is used for?

Originally, the Zerostat (distributed in the USA by Discwasher) was designed to keep static electricity off of audio records (LP Vinyl). You aim the device about 12 inches from the top of the record and then pull the trigger slowly and release it slowly as well. Done properly, the record would have less static electricity on it to create pops and ticks as the stylus from the audio cartridge would be dragged through the grooves of the record.

To test the Zerostat's operation, a small light bulb about the size of the bulbs used in AA Mag Lite flashlights were included with the unit. If you held the Zerostat near the bulb and pulled the trigger, you could actually light up the bulb.

The Zerostat was later adapted for photography use too. It was used to help keep static electricity off of film negatives before printing.

The unit shown here is my original Zerostat. It still works!