Thursday, February 27, 2014

Perch Extravaganza

Saturday was the 31st Annual Johnson's Portside Perch Extravaganza held at Nitti's Hunter's Point Resort on the east side of Mille Lacs.  It's an interesting event, a perch fishing contest with a ton of great attendance prizes like a couple of Ice Castle Wheel houses, 2 ATV's, I'd guess about 100 different prizes from ice augers to simple tackle bags.  Of course there are prizes for the biggest perch caught, $500 and they pay to 10th place, it seems like one could get lucky.  I have certainly had my luck in winning things lately with a very nice payout from what was assumed as my dismal 3-8 numbers on the Super Bowl.  Last year I met Mark and the gang, but arrived too late for the drawings, simply stayed over night in his wheel house as we fished for walleyes on the last weekend of the season.  This year it would be different, I'd meet Mark on the ice on Friday with my brother Steve and neighbor Pete, we'd get the house set up in the deeper water where we could fish all night and be ready for the start of the contest on Saturday morning.  Well, my last post predicted an interesting Friday as the storm dumped over 10 inches of snow from the Twin Cities north through Mille Lacs, and it was a mess.  What is normally a 90 minute drive took over 3 hours as Hwy 169 was pretty much glare ice all the way.  After getting bait at Lundeen's we met Mark and Russ on the ice, just off shore in a special area plowed for wheel houses.  As predicted, the plan was to get out to deeper water early in the morning so we waited.  The morning brought more confusion as the people in charge stated that anyone going out was at their own risk.  Around 9:00, and with no further updates we decided to head out on the ice, about 1.5 miles out.  Scott had left earlier and found a few lanes punched into the snow off the main road, long enough for your house and your truck, maybe not ideal but it was a place to fish.  A quick assessment with Mark and we decided to double stack our wheel houses in the plowed lane and park the trucks on the main road.  This would prove to be a smart idea on Sunday morning.  Mark drilled his holes and dropped the house, then I backed mine in, drilled and dropped.  The combined weight of the new fallen snow and our houses caused the water to immediately come through the holes, but we block our houses up with 4 x 4 timbers, it wasn't too bad.  Getting everything set we started fishing for that winning perch, and in 26 feet of water, it's possible as we had 4 hours to do it in.

Our own fishing show!
Almost immediately we started marking fish.  Steve decided to put his underwater camera down to see what was showing up on the Vexilar's.  First of all, it's amazing how clear the water is on Mille Lacs.  I have seen it this clear before however the camera really tells all.  With our holes being separated by around 10 feet, he could see the sucker minnow I put down for the possible big walleye or northern.  Behind that was my slender jig bouncing up and down, Pete's minnow hanging there to entice a fish, and perch, tons of them all 2 - 3 inches long!  The television in the house has a video input so we plugged the output of the camera into it and could watch on the big screen, There must be some interaction between the sensor in my camera and the frequency the television screen operates at which causes the squiggly lines, still you can make out whats going on.  The white lure the perch are looking at is a small jig with a waxie on it.  Underneath is a small flat rock covered with zebra mussels.  Just to the upper left of the white jig is my sucker minnow waiting to be inhaled and the black dot near the top is a sinker on Steve's line.  There are at least 9 perch scattered around as some tried to get the waxie in their mouths but were too small.  He did manage to catch one of these and based on the bite, the thought was that even something this small might win!  The problem is that the contest rules are quite loose with the official rules of catching it between 8:00AM to 2:00PM, it must be weighed alive.  It wouldn't be too hard to push those rules a little it but I think the weather conditions helped keep people honest.  I do know that 9th place was over a pound so we are glad that our 3 incher wasn't brought in.  Once the contest ended the drawing started at 3:00 and went on till about 5:30.  None of the guys we were fishing with won anything so we went into the bar and had a few conciliatory drinks, ordered some food for the evening, had a few conversations with the locals about the current situation on Lake Mille Lacs before heading back to the house.  By then the weight on the ice continued to flood the area and at 6:00 Sunday morning Mark was knocking at the door.....lets go, it almost up to my floor.  That's pretty amazing as both of us had our house blocked up on 4 x 4 and it was well over that at Mark's while mine had got to the top of the blocks.  As I said earlier, it was lucky we parked on the road as the flooding made it almost impossible to pull the house off it's resting point.  Mark had to get the jerk strap out and broke me free, then it was my turn.  I unhooked the house and returned the favor as his was even further into the water/ice mess.  It has reminded me that I need to get my strap and get it back in the truck as well, when these conditions exist it's nice to have a friend around.   Off the ice, we stopped and had breakfast before heading home.  Even though it was a lot of work we didn't get to fish where we wanted, didn't catch anything or win anything, but it's still always nice to get away and relax.

With the snow depths on the lakes what it is, I doubt the wheel house will see any more action this year unless Lake of the Woods opens up.  It's been plain brutal this week with low temperatures below zero since last Friday's storm.  It's hard to believe that the daily high for this time of year is now up to 32 degrees and the 10 day forecast shows no real return to normal.  This should be an interesting spring for sure, heck in about 2 weeks we go back to daylight savings time, uffda.    My John Deere 47 inch Snowblower has seen it's use this year and on Sunday I broke the main drive chain while cleaning up last Thursday's mess.  Hats off the Pete who let me use his heated garage to repair it in 65 degree comfort.  Sometimes when you work in below zero conditions you take shortcuts so working in the warm I was able to reset the sprocket alignment, the main cause of my problems in the first place.  The John Deere is ready for the next snow event, I'm glad because I'm not!  Looks like it will occur on Friday.  All inland walleye and pike fishing has closed as of Sunday so it's either on the border waters or panfishing from now till May. Winter obviously isn't done.


Beaver Creek Cabins & Guide Service said...

Don't put away your fishhouse too soon. You may be able to use it on Leech for the opener this year.

What a winter....


Dave Anderson said...

Don't go there!