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Where the mighty Mississippi begins, and adventure never ends...

Chamber Blog

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Weekly Fishing Report - July 16, 2014


Smokey Hills Outdoor Store
Park Rapids Area Fishing Report
7/16/14

After a week-long cold spell in the Park Rapids area, Mother Nature is looking to give us temperatures more conducive to enjoying outdoor activities. The ten day forecast promises mid 80’s on the majority of the coming days and that will bring surface temps up a few degrees. We are crossing our fingers that the gentle warm front equates to a more active bite.

Mid-summer means warm water and aggressive evening/night time walleyes. Many of the walleye’s favorite foods are currently congregating suspended over deep water. The time of year and water temperature calls for the use of a Rapala™, Wally Diver™ or Reef Runner™ “shad-style” crankbait. If you know what habitat to look for, these lures will put more ‘eyes in the boat than live bait. Your electronics will give up the fish’s location, start looking on the edges of the long reefs and deep points. If your lake has a Secci Disk of 15 or more feet, look for the walleye to be suspended down 12 to 20 feet over 40 to 80 feet of water. Making a few passes at different depths will put your boat on fish. Troll at 1.4 to 2.2 mph and don’t be afraid to fish well after dark, they will feed throughout the night.

The recent cooler water temperatures have slowed the deep weed growth, which has kept many largemouth bass feeding in the reeds and lily pads. A Northland™ 3/8oz jig paired with a Papa’s “3.25 Chunk” imitates a crawfish and will almost always induce a strike in the shallows. As water temps get warmer and deep weed growth matures, more large bass will feed and gather on the deep weed edge. A Rapala™ “DT-20” crankbait will help you locate the fish, once found, switch to a Falcon™ “Weedless Wacky” hook paired with a Big Bite Bait’s™ 5 inch “Trick Stick” to dredge up a big dog. Let the wacky worm to sink down 10 to 14 feet. This combination is not for the impatient angler as it takes time for the gummy contraption to sink, but the results will reward you for your patience!

When pike get over the 5 pound mark they spend the majority of their time feeding in water 10 or more feet deep. They prefer cooler water temperatures and the trophy size pike will be found on points near the deepest water of the lake. Stop by Smokey Hills and buy a pole float, Windel’s™ steel leader, heavy sinker, Gamakatsu™ 4/0 circle hook and a dozen sucker minnows. You will need all of the previously mentioned components to have the best chance for a successful big pike hunt. Find a deep growing cabbage weed patch, cast out your set up, sit back and wait for the action to begin.

Most of the bluegill are coming off of their spawning season, this is good news for those that favor to catch ‘gills in open water. Yet again, deep growing weeds are the key to catching another species of fish. The large bluegills are drawn to the cabbage and coontail weed patches because their prey (minnows and aquatic insects) live in and around this habitat. As long as their food source and hiding spot exists, they can be caught relatively easily in that specific area. A Thill™ slip bobber paired with a small KenKatch™ panfish jig towing an angle worm is unbeatable in putting “slabs” in the livewell.

Stop by Smokey Hills Outdoor Store to see the largest Ice Castle inventory in Northern Minnesota, we now have over 70 units on our lot! Ask our expert staff about specific hot spots and hot techniques for your local lake. We remain grateful and thankful for your continued support, we are on track to set yet another sales record for the month of July. We hope to see you very soon!

Hendri Ernst pictured with his recently landed Toad Lake largemouth bass.
(Photo courtesy of Smokey Hills Outdoor Store.)

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Weekly Fishing Report - Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Smokey Hills Outdoor Store
Park Rapids Area Fishing Report
7/9/14

The Park Rapids area fishery did not disappoint last week as panfish, walleye and bass were all feeding ferociously on live bait and artificial lures. As the lakes are plentiful with prey midsummer, this week will be another great week to make some memories on an area lake. The weather forecast calls for sunshine, high 70’s and an occasional scattered shower…excellent weather for fishing!

As we are already to the midpoint of summer, the walleye are taking advantage of the wide variety of feed available throughout the lake. Your electronics are very important in dismantling the “walleye catching code” as location of the fish is always the key to putting ‘eyes in the boat. On our Park Rapids area clear, deep lakes; walleye can be found suspended over deep water feeding on dwarf cisco, cisco and panfish alike. Although it may seem impossible to pinpoint their locale when the fish are suspended down 5 to 25 feet over up to 120feet of water, paying homage to your electronics with gps mapping will unlock the secrets. Cisco are often attracted to deep running points and deep sunken islands, head to these places with a Rapala™ “Shad Rap” #5 or #7 at the tow. Troll at 1.5 to 2.3 mph until you hook a fish, mark the location on your electronics and stop the boat. Suspended fish are usually quite active and casting over the schooling fish can produce more strikes.

You may want to think twice about dipping your toes into Mantrap Lake, North & South Twin Lakes or Elk Lake as many massive muskies have been caught and released recently. The Minnesota DNR’s restrictive statewide slot limits have helped to grow some of the largest musky worldwide and your chances of catching a record setting fish are considerably above average in the Park Rapids. Black crappie are a favorite snack of the feared musky and knowing their location will help you locate the muskellunge that you are hunting. While a white or black KenKatch™ Tackle “bucktail” is always a great choice; switching to a large Jake™ 8 or 10 inch crankbait may yield a higher rate of catch. Search for thick stashes of cabbage and coontail weed growing out to depths up to 20 feet of water. These hideouts will attract the food that the musky love to eat, therefore, attracting the muskies to the same space. Cast your Jake™ parallel to the weed line and use a slow, wobbling retrieve to give the appearance of an injured, easy to catch prey.

This will most likely be the last week of the 2014 summer to find the bluegill still on their spawning beds. A good pair of Costa Del Mar™ polarized sunglasses will cut the bothersome glare off the water’s surface making “easy pickings” for the less than advanced angler. Once you locate their spawning grounds; back off and cast a bobber, Flu-Flu™ jig and angle worm and let the action commence.

Smokey Hills Outdoor store is northern Minnesota’s largest Ice Castle dealer and our inventory is truly remarkable with a current inventory exceeding 60 units. Many new 2015 models arriving daily and we are the only dealer to stock the “King’s Castle” and we currently have two King’s Castles on the lot. As always we thank you for all of your unremitting support, the projections for sales in the month of July are telling us that we will set another record! We remain humbled and grateful and hope to see you very soon!

Six year old Kennedy pictured with her recently caught Lake Emma bluegill.
(Photo courtesy of Smokey Hills Outdoor Store)

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Monday, June 30, 2014

July 2014 - It’s easy to catch a memory or two in July


It should be said folks in the Park Rapids Lakes Area feel pretty fortunate these days. The lakes and rivers are high, but not flooding. Instead, the ferns grow inches taller than in other years and all the woodlands are green and lush.

Against the beautiful backdrop Mother Nature has provided, summer awaits with a 4th of July like no other, the county fair, community festivals, live music, theater and more.

From the Firecracker Footrace at dawn to the fabulous fireworks at dusk, Independence Day promises picnics and time at the lake. Then visitors can head into Park Rapids for a pie contest and auction, the old-fashioned parade starting at 5 p.m. on Main Avenue, the Park Rapids Area Community Band Pre-fireworks Concert at Heartland Park at 7:30 and the Rotary Fireworks display at dusk.

The PBR Challenger Tour Bull Ride is bucking tradition and is on for July 10, 11 and 12 at the Jokela Rodeo & Auction Grounds. See 80 of the Nation's Top Bull Riders go head to head with the toughest bulls in the country.

The Park Rapids Downtown Business Association celebrates summer at 2nd Street Stage events Thursday evenings through Aug. 22. Second Street Stage runs from 6 to 8 p.m. - rain or shine - with bands, a beer garden and family activities on 2nd Street between Main Avenue and Highway 71 (at Armory Square if it rains).

Cheer for a winner at the Nevis Pig Races Sunday, July 6 and return for Nevis Muskie Days Friday and Saturday, July 25-27. Menahga’s Midsummer Festival runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 11-13.

The 4th Annual Bite of Park Rapids will feature food vendors, an art fair, kids activities, food contests, live music and more from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 13 in downtown Park Rapids. And find more fun downtown during Crazy Days Thursday and Friday, July 24-25 starting with the Downtown Dash & 5K, music in Pioneer Park all day and ending with the Arvig Summer Fun Event and The Limns at 2nd Street Stage.

The Hubbard County Fair opens July 16 with midway fun and some new events this year. Fairgoers also can visit 4-H and other agricultural exhibits, enjoy great food and find children’s entertainment.

The Lake George Blueberry Festival rounds out the month’s festivities Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 25-27.

If it’s culture you crave, check the calendar for dates for performances at Long Lake Theater, Jasper’s and Akeley’s Woodtick Theater, exhibits at the Nemeth Art Center and the Northern Light Opera Company’s production of “Guys & Dolls.”

While July offers lots to see and do in the area, you may want to just stay at the lake to relax, unwind and watch the clouds float by. It’s up to you.

The Chamber Website has all the information you need to put together a memorable vacation or weekend visit. If you want help or have questions, call our friendly staff at 800-247-0054 to learn more.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Weekly Fishing Report - June 18, 2014


Park Rapids Area Fishing Report
Courtesy of Smokey Hills Outdoor Store
6/18/14

Anglers of the Park Rapids area reported a high rate of catch in the past week; we are having a year with a very active bite. Recent fishing tournaments in the area have coincided with this by posting above average fish weighed at the scales. Now that water temps are only slowly rising, we have fallen into our regular summer patterns. Peak fishing hours will be from light to 9:30am and from 7:30pm to dark. Gas up the boat; it’s going to be another great week of fishing on the Park Rapids area waters!

Weeds and walleyes are not always paired with anglers thinking of their habitat, but weeds often hold the feed that walleyes need to survive. If you are fishing one of the area’s clean, & clear lakes, weeds are not as prevalent on the sandy bottom. Sunfish, crappies, minnows and crayfish are attracted to weedy areas as it provides cover for them to hide, eat and in the case of many different types of minnows, spawn. This, in turn, attracts hungry walleyes to the weeds early morning and late afternoon/evening when they can use their superior low light vision to their advantage. Find a stash of deep growing weeds near a hard bottom and make long casts with a KenKatch™ jig paired with a leech or golden shiner. If conditions are right, you will put fish in the frying pan!

Modern fish locators will strip your local lake of its secrets and send you in the right direction to land a trophy pike. Lakes such as Long Lake (east), Long Lake (north), Potato Lake and Big Sand Lake are all home to schooling tulibee, also known as the northern pike’s favorite snack. Tulibee are essentially an overgrown shiner minnow packed with oils and protein that make pike huge. Use your locator to find the schooling tulibees, often found on deep running points. Trophy sized pike follow these schools like sharks follow seals. A heavy 1/2oz or more jig paired with a sucker minnow will put your bait in front of the pike’s nose when they are feeding at depths up to 30 feet.

The largemouth bass are taking advantage of the feed that is now dispersed throughout the lake. The "deep bite" is finally starting to take off as the cabbage weed and coontail weed is growing thicker and taller by the day. Docks, lilly pads and pencil reeds will still be home to many bass but you can often find a concentration of large bass in the deep weed stands. Keep your eyes glued to your electronics to find the thickest and tallest deep weed growths, mark the spots and then drop down a Big Bite Bait™ "Trick Stick" or a Northland™ "Jungle Jig" and shake it until they open their jaws.

The crappie will be found in deeper water near the cabbage weed stands. You will find them eating next to the deep water bass in many locations. Tie on a Johnson's™ "Beetle Spin" and let it sink below the surface 4 to 5 feet and then begin your retrieve. This will help you locate the fish, once you hook into them; switch over to a Flu Flu™ jig paired with a crappie minnow. The bluegills are fat, tasty and easy to catch as they are mid-spawn on most area lakes. Again this week, polarized sunglasses are a near must to help aid you in finding the popcorn bowl sized craters on the lake bottom. Cast a bobber, KenKatch™ panfish jig and angle worm over the beds and the fish will respond to the invasion.

Smokey Hills Outdoor Store was the top selling Ice Castle dealer worldwide last month according to the Ice Castle Manufacturing staff. Our lot is stacked with all kinds of new models from big to small, come and check them out! We remain humbled by our success and thank you for helping us set sales records month after month. Our shelves are stocked and we are ready to give up our fishing hot spots and techniques. Stop in and see us soon!


Local fisherman Donnie Manz pictured with his recent 42.5" caught and released musky. (Photo courtesy of Smokey Hills Outdoor Store)

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Weekly Fishing Report - June 4, 2014


The bright Park Rapids area sunshine has turned local anglers “lobster red” and the burn has been worth it. Water temperatures are rising by the day making for a progressively more active bite. The area league tournaments are underway and the results are positive. Connor Summers and Mike Johnson were able to capture first place on Thursday night’s bass league. The tournament has a 5 fish limit of either small or largemouth bass. Mike and Connor weighed in a bag over 17lbs and all 5 fish were smallmouth bass. The lilacs are blooming which is usually a good sign that the fish are now active, get ready for another great week of fishing in the Park Rapids area.

Walleyes are almost always the main topic of discussion for those traveling anglers. They can be a tough fish to catch but this week will go against the grain with water temperatures settling in around 65 degrees. The fact that there is still little weed cover makes for an easier time locating the active eyes. In early summer, the eyes’ will feed heavily on the flats and those areas with a more gradual drop off. Bemidji Minnesota made KenKatch™ tackle’s “Long Shank Jig” tipped with a spot tail shiner (trapped out of Red Lake for Smokey Hills Outdoor Store) will put more fish in the boat than your standard “Lindy Rig” this week. Use the wind to your advantage to drift over 10 to 15 feet of water between the hours of 6 to 9pm.

The Pike are still very active as water temps remain below 70 degrees on most of our area waters. Take advantage of our current, near ideal pike fishing conditions. You will find success with many different lure/bait choices since they are active. Increase your odds of catching a wall hanger by using a larger presentation such as an 8” or 10” Jake™ crankbait. A slow retrieve will entice the strike. Don’t forget to use a Windell’s™ steel, titanium or fluorocarbon leader, these guys have teeth!

As water temperatures are on the rise, the largemouth bass will move off of their spawning grounds. These fish prefer warmer water; using your electronics will pinpoint their location. Look for an area of the lake that is 3 to 5 degrees warmer than the main lake. They are sure to be feeding nearby. Largemouth feast on spawning bluegill and crappie, so keep your eyes peeled for nesting panfish. The smallmouth bass are currently mid-spawn and can be easily caught “sight fishing”. Scan the lake bottom for a circular nest in a gravel laden area. They are ferocious defenders of their spawning grounds and will often strike the same lure even after being previously hooked. A large “Marabou” KenKatch™ jig dragged through a smallmouth spawning neighborhood will almost always produce results. Please respect nature and let them back into the water so we can all catch them again!

The area bluegills are back on their spawning beds. Polarized sunglasses will make your “sight fishing” task much easier. Search for an area of the lake bottom that is filled with multiple ice cream bowl sized depressions on the lake bottom. Once you locate their spawning area, back off of the nests and drop anchor. The large females will return and will actively feed while spawning. Attach a small FluFlu™ jig tipped with an angle worm to the end of your line and pair it with a slip bobber. The bite is hot!

Stop by Smokey Hills Outdoor Store for the most up to date fishing hot spots and fishing techniques. We are working hard to continue to meet and exceed your expectations. We are all proud and grateful to report that we more than doubled our sales for the month of May in comparison to May of 2013. Thank you for your continued support and we hope to see you soon!

(Uncle Brad Campbell pictured with his niece Kennedy Campbell with a
19" smallmouth bass caught on a Park Rapids area lake on 6/1/14)


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June 2014, It's time to Catch a Memory


It’s daylight until after 9 o’clock in the evening and watching the sunset over the lakes and pines just might leave you breathless. As the summer solstice nears, there’s plenty of daylight to play at the beach, on the water or in the north woods.

At Itasca State Park, you can walk across the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River as it flows out of Lake Itasca on its 2,552-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico. Park naturalist programs invite learning about the area’s flora and fauna, history and geological wonders. Park naturalists also offer series for kids and families: Pack-a-Snack Story Hikes are stroller friendly and geared to kids ages 2-6, Circle Time Under the Pines is for children ages 2-5 and Outdoor Kids is designed for kids of all ages. For information, call 218-699-7251 or go to www.mndnr.gov/Itasca.

The Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber website calendar guides you to local events and festivals. June brings the opening of summer theater and other live entertainment, too. You will find unique shopping and great places to eat morning, noon and night.

The free music series, 2nd Street Stage, invites you to downtown Park Rapids Thursdays, June 19 through Aug. 21 for live bands, a beer garden and family friendly activities. Go to www.parkrapidsdowntown.com for times and to learn more about the bands who will be playing.

If you have never stayed here for a 4th of July weekend, a slice of Americana awaits with an old-fashioned parade, band concert on the river, unforgettable fireworks display and much more. Professional Bull Riding brings thrills, chills and spills to the arena July 10, 11 & 12.

The Park Rapids area welcomes you any time. If you need help planning a memorable and affordable visit, need more information about the area or have questions, call our friendly staff at 800-247-0054 to learn more.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Weekly Fishing Report - May 23, 2014

The sun is shining and the fish are active on the Park Rapids area waters. While the birds are using fishing line as nesting material; our local anglers hope to use it to pull in a monster bass for this weekend’s opener. The ten day weather forecast is predicting most days to be in the upper 70’s to low 80’s. This will be a great week to make memories in the Park Rapids area!

The ever elusive walleye has not been so elusive in recent days. They have moved slightly deeper than to be expected given the current water temperatures. Action has been found from 15 to 25 feet of water. Your electronics will break the lake of its secrets. The eyes’ will follow the schooling shiner minnows which are still near the river inlets and outlets and on the “flats”. Minnesota made Fly Way Tackle’s™ “Walleye Snell” paired with one of our Red Lake spot tail shiner minnows will put fish in the boat and a smile on your face.

The crackle of the exhaust from high horsepower motors will blanket the Park Rapids area lakes as “bass boats” make their 2014 maiden voyage. The May 24th Minnesota Bass Fishing Opener is upon us and there are ideal early season conditions to have a fun filled day of setting the hook. The largemouth bass spawn takes place when the water temperatures are between 55 and 65 degrees. The current average surface temps are 55 degrees. Search out shallow, mucky bays and utilize your trolling motor. This is the preferred spawning habitat of largemouth. Remember to bring a good pair of polarized sunglasses to cut the water’s glare. “Sight fishing” is a very successful method when they are on the beds. Scan the lake bottom for a depression that looks like a large “bowl”, bass are nearby. They often build their nests in close proximity to some sort of anomaly or debris on the lake’s floor. A Gamakatsu™ weighted 4/0 hook paired with a Papa’s Bait™ “Brush Hog” will get the “big mama’s” to open their jaws.
The Park Rapids area trophy pike are on the prowl and ready to snack on any shiny lure put in front of their jaws. They are right at home in the cooler, early season open water. While some species of fish need warmer water to become active, pike actually prefer colder water temps. Large pike will not necessarily be confined to any certain depth in the water column. You will be able to locate them based upon the location of their favorite prey. Crappies certainly fall into this category and it is easy to pinpoint their location as they are currently spawning. Find the pike snacking on crappies from 2 feet of water and at depths up to 20 feet deep on nearby drop offs. They will come up to feed as needed throughout the day. Small inline “bucktails” such as Bemidji Minnesota made KenKatch two bladed inline spinners will help you land a monster. Don’t forget to buy a few heavy duty Wendell’s leaders to safely tow your attractive lure back to the boat. Pike are known for their razor sharp teeth!

Park Rapids area made Dream Away™ hand tied jigs are weapon #1 for your next crappie hunt. The male crappies are busy protecting their nests. They prefer to spawn over a mucky bottom, often near a beaver dam or other submerged tree cover. The females are in the vicinity of the nests, they deposit their eggs and then leave to feed while the males stay behind. The crappies are active feeders during the spawn; it will be easy to catch enough for a meal. Look for warmer surface water temps and “bog” areas of the lake to put fish on your hook. Pair your jig with a crappie minnow for the best results.

Follow the Smokey Hills Outdoor Store Facebook™ page to stay updated on the local bass and walleye league standings. Our staff has been busy preparing for the open water fishing season and new products are on the shelves. We still offer the widest selection of firearms, Ice Castle fish houses and Ice Castle RV’s in the area. As always, we thank you for contributing to our continued record setting success. Stop by the store to get the “skinny” on your Park Rapids area lake. See you soon!
(Crappies caught by a Smokey Hills Outdoor Store employee recently on a Park Rapids area lake)



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