Thursday, February 26, 2015

2015 Perch Extravaganza

Perch Extravaganza
This weekend saw my fishing buddies Mark, Mike and Judy, Russ, Scott and Ann, my brother Steve and nephew Kevin attend the 32nd Annual Johnson's Perch Extravaganza held at Nitti's Hunter's Point Resort on the east side of Lake Mille Lacs.  It's probably the largest perch fishing contest with nice prizes for the largest 10 perch plus a ton of great attendance prizes including a couple of Ice Castle wheel house and a side by side UTV. The plan was simple as Steve and Kevin would meet at the pole shed around 5:00 Friday afternoon, we'd drive up to get my equipment from Bill at Lundeen's Tackle Castle before meeting the rest of the crew at Hunter's Point.  Arriving around 7:30 on Friday night I had assumed that everyone had their houses set up but when I pull on the ice to park everyone's wheel houses were still parked near shore.  Well, this could be interesting as the crew was there quite a bit earlier than we were. Luckily they saved us a spot at the bar as we unwound from the week's past events.  Hunter's makes probably one of the best pizza I've had so we ordered a large one for supper, they aren't cheap but it's pretty darn good.  After a few more toasts with Mark we decided it was time to get set up as we all headed to our trucks and followed Russ to the magic spot for perch fishing.  It takes about an hour to set up the house, including getting my flag up and flying, by 10:30 we were fishing.  Now perch tend to be a fish of the daylight hours and though I have caught them in the night, it was more likely if we got anything it would be a walleye. We did mark a bunch of fish on the flashers, they acted like tullibees yet nothing took our lures. Setting up our bunks and the rattle reels we hit the sack with only one going off within an hour, a 10 inch walleye.  Saturday started with a clear blue sky and a rising barometer, perfect perch fishing conditions.  Steve finally caught a 9 inch perch but that was not going to be enough to even consider bringing it in as there were probably 5,000 participants.  We did get a couple of really nice tullibees and actually they were probably the largest I've seen come out of Mille Lacs.  Admittedly where we were fishing, just in front of the White Cap Inn, wouldn't be what I would call a tullibee hot spot but they were there.  I did have my camera down but forgot to hit the record button when they were around.

Nice Tullibee Ready for Pickling
The contest started at 8:00 Saturday and ended at 2:00pm.  With nothing to show for our efforts it was time to head in for the prize drawings.  To be eligible for the contest and the drawing you must purchase a $20 button with a number on it.  All the numbers are loaded into a big barrel and they are drawn one by one.  As stated they give away everything from tackle packs, flat screen TV's, depth finders, and fish houses, probably at least 100 different prizes.  Well, like years past I walked away with only my button but it's fun.  The drawing last for about 1 1/2 hours then the party begins as they have a big tent set on the ice with a DJ and a bar set up.  For us it's a little to crazy and after standing on the ice for over 2 hours it's was time to find something a lot warmer so we got it the trucks and drove down the lake to the White Cap Inn.  There we found a table to relax, had a couple of beers while spending some money on the Meat Raffle, a popular event in these places up north.  Russ ended up with a couple of flank steaks and the rest of us struck out so we headed back to our ice houses just a half mile out on the lake.  The weather forecast was saying that Saturday night could be the coldest night of the winter as the temperature had been dropping all day with a very brisk Northwest wind.  It was very nice in the Salem as the temperature eventually hit -20F by the time we got up in the morning.  At 7:30 I walked outside and to my surprise everyone was ready to leave, and they all did by 8:00.  With the cold predicted to last all day and the fact that Steve and Kevin had a 4 hour trip back to LaCrosse, WI we decided to pack it up and go have breakfast somewhere.  I was surprised that a number of places were not open yet but we finally ended up at Bay View on the east end of Cove Bay and had a great walleye breakfast.  With the boys on their way home I cleaned the tullibees and started preparing them to pickle.

Hopefully this was the last cold stretch of the year and we can start warming up a little.  Inland walleye season closed on February 21st so the only options are heading to Devils Lake, North Dakota or Lake of the Woods, 6 hours north.  There is still plenty of time and ice to fish crappies and I am looking forward to maybe heading back up into the Detroit Lakes, MN area is see if I can repeat my catch of a few weeks ago.  I might even decide to take out the wheel house one last time and do an overnight on Mille Lacs to get some more tullibees as they are very good smoked and fun to catch.
I just put the finishing touches on a trip to Charleston, SC in March.  For the last few years a couple of my friends from Texas, Joe Stanfield and Matt Davis have been fishing the weekend before our annual APEC conference.  This year its in Charlotte, NC so we decided to spend the weekend in Charleston and  charter a boat out to the inshore reefs as it's prime time for sheepshead.  They are an interesting fish as they have teeth like a human.  The last time I fished these was in 2008 out of Jacksonville, FL as my previous post reported.  Our captain states they are bigger than this and I am looking forward to getting away and fishing somewhere warm.  In the meantime.........

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