SEBAGO TROLLING RIG

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Lake trout and salmon are suckers for bling. Put something flashy in the water like a highly polished metal dodger or a brightly colored plastic rotator and they’ll swim a half mile out of their way to check out the bright, shiny objects. Then (hopefully) they’ll then snarf the fly, Spin N Glow, spoon or whatever other bait or lure is trailing just behind the bling and “fish-on!” 

When I saw the Sebago Trolling Rig from Al’s Goldfish Lure Company, I thought, “Wow, that’s some bling!”  The blades on these come in polished 22K gold plating or in mirror-finished nickel.

Rotating spinner blades have been attracting fish and duping them into frying pans for centuries. Sometime in fishing history, inventive anglers produced ganged strings of spinners, apparently thinking, if one spinner looks like one baitfish, perhaps a string of spinners would mimic a school of baitfish. Lake trolls were invented and have been attracting salmon and trout

long before the first metal or plastic flashers were available.

For the most part, lake trolls have never gained a following in the Great Lakes. I’ve played with them over the years, but metal dodgers and plastic flashers are my go to presentations when I use an attractor. Do I really need to start trolling with lake trolls?

The Sebago Trolling Rig convinced me to give lake trolls another try. The immediate initial success I had with them convinced me to use them over and again. I’ve ran them with Spin N Glows, spoons, Yakima SpinFish, Freedom Tackle cut-bait plugs and herring strips on meatheads.

The Sebago Trolling Rigs have three spinner blades, a medium and medium large Colorado blades and a large willow leaf style blade at the front.  The total length is 25 inches. 

I’m not saying these rigs are going to retire my dodgers and flashers, but they’ve become a welcome addition to my game plan. They are available in some retail outlets, at Amazon.com or order from the Al’s Goldfish Lure Company at http://www.alsgoldfish.com.   

NFUSE OZONE SPRAYER

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Every outdoor oriented family should have two of these. I need one to “Ozone-ize” things in my boat and tow vehicle. I need another for my wife so she has one near at hand when she needs it for her indoor use.

The NFuse sprayer was invented for big game/varmint hunters but there are plenty of reasons for campers, RVers and others to use one, as well. Outdoors people are able to create a stink and the NFuse is designed to deodorize virtually every surface quickly and completely with an endless supply of ozone.

First, a much simplified chemistry lesson. The chemical name for Ozone is O3 which means it’s three oxygen atoms stuck together. Oxygen in the air is O2, two atoms stuck together. The air’s oxygen is very stable. It likes being O2. O3 is very unstable except when it’s high above the earth in the stratosphere where solar radiation reacts with O2 to make it O3 and creates the Earth’s ozone layer.

The only other time and place where ozone occurs naturally is lower in the atmosphere when the electricity in a lightning bolt pins extra oxygen atoms to atmospheric oxygen. That “spring time fresh” smell you whiff just before a thunderstorm is ozone. But as soon as it’s created, a “near earth” molecule of ozone is highly unstable. When it contacts almost any substance capable of accepting an extra oxygen molecule, the transfer occurs. A tiny whiff of springtime won’t hurt multi-celled creatures (including humans) but when most bacteria or viruses are hit with ozone, they pop like water balloons.

Often, when stinky things, like sulphur dioxide – and hydrogen sulphide (both have a “rotten egg smell”) contact ozone they instantly transform into non-smelly compounds. That makes ozone one of nature’s natural deodorizers and sanitizers. So what about man-made ozone?

It works just the same. Whether it’s created by lightning or produced by an ozone generator, the ozone kills microbes and deodorizes odors. Ozone generating machines do the job by super-saturating the air inside a closed space with O3 molecules. The downside of them is they need to be used in an enclosed space – like a vehicle or small room to be effective – and those spaces need to be “aired” out before people use them.

That’s the beauty of the NFuse Ozone Sprayer. Just as regular oxygen will dissolve in water, so will ozone – at least for a little while. Once water is infused it will gradually “de-infuse” like carbonation will gradually leave a soda or beer.

So fill the NFuse container with tap, bottled or distilled water. Turn on the unit’s rechargeable ozone generator and watch the ozone generator pump freshly made ozone into the water.   It takes about 90 seconds to infuse the water with ozone. Then mist the ozone-water on a contaminated or smelly surface where the ozone will immediately go to work sanitizing and deodorizing and it does it faster than even chlorinated or other products.

I gave the NFuse Sprayer some tough tests. Stinky fish cooler – passed. Sweaty truck seats – passed. Mildew odor inside my truck’s topper – passed. Those were some of my toughest tests. My wife conducted her own tests on the dog’s bed, cooking odors, food prep odors (like onion and garlic) on cutting boards and the inside of the washer, dryer and the shower stall in the guest bathroom. I think she has other uses, as well, since every time she sees me getting it out she says, “Don’t forget to bring that back!”

YAMAHA HELM MASTER EX STEERING SYSTEM

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Most of the time the products in T&T are those I’ve had the chance to use personally on my own boat. Full disclosure, I don’t have a Yamaha motor on my boat, but I was on a slick as snot Skeeter multi-species boat last September equipped with a Yamaha 300 outboard and in particular, this Yammy had been upgraded with their Helm Master EX steering system.

The big motor would likely push the boat at 60 mph, but my reason for hopping on board wasn’t to paste some late season Michigan “skeeters” on my face; rather, to check out the steering system which is so much more than just pushing the throttle and spinning the wheel at the helm.

Until now, a well-equipped multi-species boat in the Great Lakes area needed to be equipped with a kicker motor on the stern, (maybe $2500); a high-end, bow-mounted electric motor (maybe another $2500); 36 volts worth of lithium batteries (maybe another $2500); an autopilot (maybe another $2500). Now, most owners of Yamaha outboards 150 HP or larger or future owners of Yamaha outboards won’t need any of these items when they purchase a new motor with the Helm Master EX steering system or retrofit their present Yamaha outboard with the system.

The system comes with a seven-inch screen, either in or on the dash, and integrates with most fairly late model chart plotters or plotter/sonar units, whether they are Hummers, Raymarine, Garmin, Lowrance or other brands. It comes with a joystick steering control, but the stick  doesn’t replace the steering wheel, the user just picks which to use, depending on need. When we simulated fishing conditions, trolling, controlled drift or “e-anchoring,” as well as inside the marina in tight quarters as when docking or maneuvering in close quarters, the joystick was the way to go. At cruising speeds, use the steering wheel.

I’ve had autopilot steering on all my boats since the middle 1990s. I wouldn’t own a boat without it. Push a couple of buttons and the EX’s autopilot feature takes over to steer a straight or a gently serpentine route if that’s what is wanted. A few taps on the screen of the chart and the AP will steer a complex route to follow a contour or navigate a channel.

Speed control is amazing. Without activating the EX and after bumping the boat into gear the dead idle speed was 3.7 MPH – too fast for most Great Lakes trolling applications. So I just tapped the joystick back a few times and the speed decreased to 2.5. Not bad for salmon, what about walleye speeds? Tap the stick and it decelerated to 1.5 and could go lower.

To hit these low speeds, the motor simply bumped in and out of gear to regulate the speed. Bumped may not be the exact word, since the electronic shifting is smooth, more like the shifting of a car with automatic transmission.

Just as with anchor-lock systems on electric motors, the EX will auto turn left or right, forward or reverse to hold the boat in place. For walleye guys who like to drift, the EX will hold the boat 90 degrees (or at any other chosen angle) so everyone fishing on board will have their lines at right angle to the boat. If you have a good drift, punch a few buttons and the boat will move back along the same path and at the same speed up wind to the starting point.

Docking with the joystick was amazing. On our test trip, my friend at the helm (not a seasoned boater) slid the boat up next to the pier like a seasoned pro by using the joystick. It looked like the boat wanted to be parked.

This is one time I guarantee an “electronic” device will put more fish in your boat and definitely make your days on the lake more enjoyable while you are in pursuit of the fish. Check it out at http://www.yamahaoutboards.com.

NESCO ELECTRIC CANNER

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

One of my earliest memories is a steamy kitchen on a hot summer day with giant cauldrons of boiling water, sinks full of Mason jars and pops from lids sealing jars of green beans, corn, apples or tomatoes cooling on the sideboard. My family “put up” a pantry full of canned garden produce to eat through the winter months. It was partly being from a frugal family, but mostly because home-canned produce from a Mason jar are about 10 times better tasting than a tin can of Green Giant or Del Monte produce.

It’s exactly the same with home-canned salmon (or other fish). Home canned in Mason jars, salmon (or other fish) is decidedly more flavorful than its tin-can counterparts from the grocery store – and just as versatile. Eat it straight from the jar or make salmon patties, salmon loaf, salmon dip, lake trout casseroles, pasta dishes and other recipes. 

Now, NESCO, brings home canning into the digital appliance age. I’ve canned hundreds of jars in my antique (well over 30 years old) stovetop Presto and when the steam starts puffing around the top and the heavy rocker on the top starts rattling as the canning magic is rumbling inside, it takes me back to those pre-air conditioned days of my youth.

I’m used to it, but it’s scary to many these days. I’ve never been around a pressure cooker blowup, but I’ve heard stories of canners exploding like a boiler on a runaway locomotive. The NESCO does hiss a bit, probably as much for nostalgia as need, but it has enough safeguards and auto-shutdown switches it is never scary and won’t explode.

What it will do is can five pint jars of salmon or vegetables (four quart jars) at a time with a few button pushes on the digital display. Set the timer, let it go through it’s warm up mode, position the steam release valve and walk away. Other than nostalgia, the finished product is just as good as what the old-timey canners produced.

There’s more, however. The NESCO 9.5 Quart Smart Canner and Cooker is a multi-tasker.

Electric pressure cookers were the rage a decade ago. Some home cooks still use them, others, not so much. Few big yard sales are complete without a lightly used Instant Pot on one of the tables. Ours now lives under the counter at my daughter’s house.

You can’t pressure can meat or vegetables in most electric pressure cookers – not enough pressure. You are able to pressure cook meat, stews, soup and other recipes with the NESCO, as well as steam cook or slow cook any recipe. Available at many retail and big-box stores, online outlets or see all the NESCO products at http://www.nesco.com.

CHARD 10-TRAY DEHYDRATOR

Reviewed by CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

Forget dried tomatoes, banana chips, apricots or other fruits and vegetables that can be made in a food dehydrator. I like meat and my success with using a dehydrator to make venison jerky last winter, I got the idea of making salmon jerky now that the summer fishing season is on.  With a bit of experimentation, I’ve come up with several recipes I love to eat and am proud to share with friends.

I enjoy traditionally smoked salmon and lake trout, but when I have some, my favorite part is always the tail and belly meat, where in a hard smoke, the fish becomes almost jerky-like. Why not make the whole fish into jerky?

I used a Chard 10 Tray Dehydrator to make my jerky, and have come up with several great recipes. For the first batch I made, I soaked the salmon to be jerked in the same simple brine many use for smoking – salt and brown sugar. The finished product wasn’t bad, but it was very mild – too mild for my taste. Since then, I’ve made batches with more “pop” to them by adding a variety of flavors – honey mustard, spicy BBQ, teriyaki and traditional smoked flavor, using liquid smoke. My favorite is spicy BBQ, my wife’s is honey mustard.

The process is the same for each flavor. First, brine the fish filets in the traditional way using salt and brown sugar. I use a half cup of salt, half cup of sugar and a half gallon of water, put the skinless fillets into a gallon Ziplock bag and add the brine. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Rinse the fillets well, then cut the thick part of the fillets into strips about 3/8ths inch in cross section. Thin portions like rib meat or close to the tail, are cut into soda-cracker sized bites.  (I also cut out the pin bone section and discard.) Put the strips and squares back into the Ziplock , then add teriyaki sauce, honey mustard salad dressing or 50/50 mix of liquid smoke and water. Spice up your favorite BBQ sauce with Tabasco and thin it a bit with water. There should be enough of the “flavorings” to cover and coat all the strips and squares. Put this back into the ‘fridge and let it marinate for a few hours or overnight.

Don’t rinse off the flavorings, just arrange the marinated fish so they are not touching on the dehydrator’s trays. Slide the trays into the dehydrator, set the heat to 150 degrees and let it do it’s work for 8 to 10 hours. Keep the fish jerky in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to a month. Freeze if you want to keep it longer. I don’t worry about carrying it with no refrigeration for a day or weekend. 

Chard dehydrators are widely available at retail and online sellers or check them out or purchase at http://www.chardproducts.com.

PAPERFIN FISH PRINT KIT

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD           

So you or someone with you catches a special fish. Perhaps it’s a personal best, perhaps it’s a person’s first fish or first walleye or just a magnificent specimen. Sure, take a photo of the fish.  Consider taking it to a taxidermist. There are many options. But how about making a Gyotaku print of the fish?

A what?  Gyotaku is a technique developed in Japan which involves pressing a sheet of rice paper over a fish covered with ink or paint, to imprint a fishy looking image on the paper.

Photograph? Absolutely. Taxidermist? Possibly. Gyotaku? That’s something I’d never thought of until I stopped by the PaperFin booth at the ICAST show last summer. Owner, Robert Chenoweth, made a quick, easy, no-mess Gyotaku print right at the booth in a minute or so, even while explaining the process.

Step one: Dab a towlette pre-moistened with an invisible chemical liberally over the fish.

Step two: Cover the fish with a special “chemically sensitive” paper and press it down over the fish.

Step three: Remove the paper, turn it over and take a look at the Gyotaku-like rendition of the fish you want to memorialize. 

The next steps are up to you. Clean the fish – the chemical is non-toxic.  Perhaps release it, though that would be a tough project – both for you and the fish. Robert said he’s done it. Regardless, you end up with an interesting, visual and artistic reminder of that special fish.  

Go to http://www.thepaperfin.com to order the kits. They come in two sizes, the standard has paper 17.25 inches in length, the large has rolls of paper up to 34.5 inches in length. Each kit has enough paper and other materials to do three or four prints and depending how you cut the paper and the size of the fish, it would be possible to make many more impressions. Instructions are included and there’s a short video on the website shows the process. 

PLANO FROST COOLER

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

One thing I noticed a few years ago at the annual ICAST show was the number of booths solely or partially dedicated to selling “rotomolded” coolers. Rotomolding (short for rotational molding) has been around for decades and so have plastic coolers. So what was all the buzz about?

Through much of the plastic cooler history, the goal was to produce plastic coolers which would do a reasonable job of keeping things cold (occasionally hot) for a reasonable price. We’ve all used dozens of these in different brands and sizes over the years. We’ve all had hinges break, lids fly off, corners crumple or miscellaneous other problems.

Then a couple of brothers from Texas attacked these problem by producing a line of coolers (using the rotational molding process), added heavy duty hardware, better insulation and thicker, tougher sides. Then they gave their “super-coolers” a catchy name – Yeti – and attached a super-sized price tag to them.

In so doing they proved people were willing to pay roughly ten times more for these “super-coolers” and for many reasons. Some like them because they will withstand bear or gorilla attacks. Some like them because they will keep things cold two or three times longer than traditional coolers. Some like them because an adult can sit on them without crushing the lid. Some like them because they are cool, the same reason people buy Cadillac, Porsche and Mercedes products instead of Ford or Chevrolets.

One of the things I noticed at last summer’s ICAST was the small number of “super-cooler” sellers displaying their wares. I also noticed that for the first time, Plano had jumped into the rotomolded cooler market.

Why not?  Plano is one of the oldest names in the fishing tackle industry, making tackle boxes since 1932 (it wasn’t plastic). Now they make plastic tackle boxes, general storage boxes, rod cases, gun cases and storage options for anything outdoors. Now they make a “storage” box for my lunch.

Called “Frost,” they come in three sizes, a 14 quart, 21 and 32 quart. I selected the 21 because it was the perfect size to serve as a lunch box for the small group of friends I usually fish with. I didn’t measure it in advance, but unlike other coolers I’ve use for the same purpose, I found that a tube of Pringles fits neatly across the bottom, a 16 ounce Diet Mountain Dew will stand up in the corner and there is enough space for sandwiches, fruit, cookies and the rest of the essentials my friends and I need. There’s even a small basket that can suspend items above the food and drinks below, like my cookies or crackers for the sardines.

I haven’t put it to the test against any bears or gorillas, but it’s passed every test I’ve put to it including a 250 pound person sitting on it, boating in 30 knot winds and keeping my Mountain Dew cold for the drive home from the lake.  Available at many online and retail outlets or direct from Plano at http://www.planomolding.com. 

SMITH’S SEAHUNTER FILLET KNIFE

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

When a friend of mine took on Smith’s Consumer Products as a client in her PR and marketing company, I made a quick revisit to Smith’s website. I’ve used a few Smith’s products, knives and sharpeners previously and all have been high quality.

What caught my eye was the Seahunter 9 Inch Curved Fillet Knife. To refresh your memory, all the products reviewed in this column are items I’ve personally used and evaluated. I sometimes solicit items I’m certain will continue being useful to me after I’m done with them for my Tackle and Toys work.  

I’ve reviewed plenty of fillet knives over the years, so getting another fillet knife wasn’t something high on my list, but a look at Smith’s Seahunter Fillet Knives, caught my attention. It wasn’t the blade, however, it was the handle – specifically a finger hole, like a gun’s trigger guard, molded into the handle.

I clean a lot of fish and have had only a few accidents that involved the knife slipping in my hand or slipping out of my hand. However, the one accident which occurred by my hand slipping forward onto the blade was the worst I ever experienced. Others were when the knife, somehow slipped out of my slimy hand. That happens often enough I’ve learned to jump away and let the knife fall freely to the floor.

Would the trigger guard help? It certainly would have prevented my hand sliding forward onto the blade. Slipping and dropping?  So far, after using it for a month or so, no drops. 

So safety wise, the trigger guard seems to be a great improvement. But does it impede using the knife? Very little. I never noticed previously that I grip the handle one way when I’m cutting downward, and then rotate my grip a bit when I turn the knife to cut horizontally when slicing the actual fillet or when skinning a fillet. Even with the grip adjustment, my trigger finger fits nicely inside the trigger guard. 

This knife is a brute, however. It’s not what I’d pick up for cleaning any walleye I’ve ever caught even though I have often cleaned walleyes with nine-inch fillet knives of other brands. If you regularly catch and clean big king salmon, lake trout or fish the salt and expect to process anything from ocean stripers to wicked tuna, this is a blade up to the chore.

All Smith knives are made from quality steel, come razor sharp and are easy to keep razor sharp. Check them out or purchase at http://www.smithsproducts.com.

SUFIX ADVANCE FLUOROCARBON LINE

           

Reviewed by: CAPT. MIKE SCHOONVELD

I’ve reviewed other two other types of Sufix lines, both 832 Advanced Superline (braid) and Sufix Advanced Lead Core in this column. In my opinion, they performed as advertised and as good as I hoped when I spooled them on my reels and used them in actual fishing conditions. I expected nothing less when I put Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon on my reels last winter to put into use when the 2022 season got underway.

Though this line was developed to use as a reel’s main line, to cast, jig or troll your lures or bait, I used it as leader material. Sufix does make a product called Advance Fluorocarbon Leader, with some of the same attributes but heightened abrasion resistance. If I was fishing around rocks, barnacles or fishing for toothy, abrasive fish, I’d go with the leader line, but it comes with a much higher price per yard than the line specifically designed to fill a reel.  Both versions give the fluorocarbon, underwater invisibility that makes using it worth the price.

What I do is use fluorocarbon line, from a few feet to as much as 50 feet ahead of the lures I troll for salmon and trout and that’s how I used the Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon Line for this review.

I could see and feel how it would be a great “main” line on a reel. It is softer and more flexible than most other fluorocarbon line I’ve used. Both fresh off the spool and fresh off the reel there was no noticeable memory.

What I was most interested in was if it had acceptable knot strength, was as strong as advertised and performed well as far as it’s underwater invisibility is concerned. This last factor is highly subjective but as I’ve found with most fluorocarbon line I’ve used, I’m sure it often helped and never hurt.

I used 20# for my early season set-ups and then by late spring, when I started using on long, weighted steel, lead core and wire line divers, I moved up to 25-pound line for the leaders.  There were no “unexplained” break-offs. I used primarily double uni-knots to go braid or mono to the leader and the three-tag fluorocarbon knot to tie to lures or swivels. 

Sufix lines are widely available at retail and online outlets. Check all of them at https://www.rapala.com/sufix-line