Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fishin' For Dollars

Last week my good friend Bill Lundeen had a rather large corporate ice fishing event he was guiding for and needed some extra equipment.  Dropping it off on Tuesday I needed an excuse to get back to Mille Lacs and pick it up.   Since fishing has not been stellar on the big lake these days, Plan B was to simply head up, grab it and go back to the big sunnie lake.  On Thursday Mark Applen called inviting me to fish in the big Ducks Unlimited Ice Derby in Garrison at Saturday noon.  Now I had a real excuse and it sounded like fun. 

These ice fishing Derby's have been around for a while with the 2 most notable ones in Forest Lake and on Gull Lake in Brainerd MN.  Entry fees average around $35 for each contestant, meaning one hole, and this DU event gave out $75,000 in prizes including items like a new Ford pickup truck, ATV's, a brand new Wheel house, ice augers, shelters, an amazing collection of what every sportsman would want.  The truck is the Grand Prize which goes to the largest fish caught however the other large prizes are scattered within the line up such that last place may actually be worth considerably more than 5th place.  This keeps it interesting and gives a guy a good chance to win with a relatively small fish.  The derby itself is held about a half mile offshore just south of Garrison, MN.  The event itself is held in a contained area, probably 80 to 100 acres in size.  A large tent is set up on the ice and becomes Derby Headquarters.  Because of the prizes and past issues with people bringing previously caught fish in, everything was subjected to a search before entering the contest area.  All cars were parked on the ice and arriving at 11:00 for a noon start time, I was relegated to a pretty long walk to the tent to register before attempting to find Mark and his friends, who had promised me a hole reservation.  Although I knew about were he was, we had a different interpretation of what the back of the tent really meant!  Finally hooking up, I was introduced to his deer hunting buddies, then set up.  One of Mark's friends was involved with helping to pre drill the holes for the contest.  It was interesting as I suspect they had to have drilled 3500 - 4000 8 inch holes through about 25 - 30 inches of ice, no small task. 

The contest ran from Noon to 3:00.  We had a nice strategic area toward the edge of the deeper water however the area was pretty much the same depth everywhere.  My plan was simple, forgo the walleyes and concentrate on getting a perch.  In these contests it doesn't take a large fish to win so I used my ultra sensitive Shooley's spring bobber rod equipped with a pretty small teardrop lure and a waxie.  In addition, Bill set me up with some fresh water shrimp, a sure bet for the smallest of fish.  Did I say fishing on Mille Lacs had not been stellar?  Although I marked what were certainly small fish, not a one fell for my presentation.  Any other day, any other time, I should have been in the money!  Although I left totally skunked, paying $10 an hour to fish with Mark and his friends made up for the disappointment.  The announced crowd was over 3000 people and I suspect they netted over $30,000 for DU.  I have become less of a DU fan these days but that's a story for another day.  A quick check of the winners prove that my strategy was correct.  The winning walleye was 1.32 pounds with the bottom 60 places won with fish less than 3.2 ounces!  Heck, 50% of the winners had perch under 2 ounces.  These are some pretty small fish, I suspect guys had shiner minnows for bait bigger than that.  This goes to show you what it didn't take to win.  It was interesting to see the ice surface change during the 3 hours of fishing.  With so many holes and people, the weight eventually pushed about 2 inches of water on the ice.  First arriving the snow on the ice was pretty solid.  By the end of the contest it was a slushy mess.  I am writing this in beautiful Palm Springs, California attending a major electronics conference.  It is a great change from the snow in Minnesota but I am anxious to get back out and hit the ice one last time before my surgery. 


Anonymous said...

I've fished the Brainerd tournament nearly every year. After the third time I decided it was a social event and not a fishing event. In my group of guys we are 0-20 years. However, we are in the top ten when it comes to tailgating. Oh well, I'm off to LOW this weekend.


Anonymous said...

Great to see you again at APEC, which reminded me to check out your web site again. I really do enjoy it. Good luck with the surgery.
Bob Carrier

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave, it was fun seeing you at APEC. I like the blog, great pics & music. I hope you get some time to fish this weekend!
Jessica Schmidt

Dave Anderson said...

Keith, Good Luck! I am not sure if I will make it to LOTW this year so catch them for me!

Bob, Great to see you in Palm Springs. Apec is always fun and it is guys like you that make it that way.

Jess, Your wish is my command, check out my post scheduled for Sunday. I can guarantee you the weather here isn't as nice but it will do!