Wednesday, March 2, 2016

33rd Annual Johnson Portside Perch Extravaganza

2016 Official Logo
My brother Steve decided to join me along with Mark and Jan Applen, Brian and Lee Bak, Russ and his brother Randy Praught, and their friend Scott Anderson from Onamia for the 33rd Annual Johnson Portside Perch Extravaganza.  We all pulled our wheel houses to Hunter's Point resort on Friday and set up in a good looking spot not too far offshore.  The contest is more like a huge button drawing whereas you buy a button with numbers on it, they write that number on a tag then it goes into a huge hopper and at 3:00 Saturday afternoon they start drawing numbers and if it matches yours, you win! They really give out a lot of prizes and some real nice ones such as 2 Ice Castle wheel houses, a 4 wheeler (UTV), a bunch of ice augers both gas and electric, TV's, tackle packages and this year they had some drones in the drawing.  The buttons are $20 each and I suspect there were around 3000 people there to claim at least 100 different prizes. There were some nice perch entered however most everyone thinks that they could have come from anytime, any place so nobody seems to get too excited about the perch part of this.  Either way the third place winner was by us at the drawing with his 1.57# fish and Wow, it was a beautiful perch, about 15 inches in length and personally I have never seen one this big in all the years I have been fishing Mille Lacs and that one was only third place with 2 bigger than this.  Uffda.  Only one person in our group, Lee Bak, won something at the drawing, a cooler stuffed full of ice fishing lures, gadgets, and summer baits as well as a ice fishing rod case with 5 nice rods, some reels and a bunch of baits.  I'd say it was worth at least $300, not a bad haul.  Everyone is hoping to get in on the big drawing but I would be happy to simply get my money back.

View from the fire pit to my house on the ice
As stated we set up camp about a mile northwest of the resort and about a quarter mile off the road. Ice conditions were pretty bad last week and the cool weather during last week refroze the ice back up good and solid but it was awfully rough driving.  We set up our 5 houses in an area about half the size of a football field and in the middle we set up our patio.  Russ has a cast iron fire "pit" where we started nice camp fire.  We then have a nice tripod grill that we can suspend over the fire and cook on it.  Brats, marinaded steaks, beans, burgers, along with some chile and a large bean casserole, with enough beer to wash it down, we were set.    It a very nice and relaxing setup as we enjoyed a camp style dinner and watched the sun go down.  Fishing wasn't very good and most of us were in bed by 9:00.  Steve and I were set up in the deepest end of our camp, about 20 feet of water with a real sandy bottom.  Steve put the camera down and stated that it did look like a desert down there, little structure and sand in every direction.  We did see a small walleye swim by but that was about it.  Our plan was to stay until early Sunday morning when I had to be in Eau Claire by 11:00.  The ice stayed pretty solid considering it was almost 52 degrees on Saturday.  I had trouble with my Directv hookup and ended going to the hardware store in Isle to get a new antenna cable.  I got the cable connection working however my receiver needed to be reactivated so I called work to get the 1-800 number.  I did get a hold of the right person and they sent down a satellite signal to reactivate it, it started working.  As well, both Steve and I met our friend Bruce Wiley in Lundeen's and went to the Walkon Inn for lunch.  Unfortunately I had left my good coat in there, forcing me to drive back after sunset to get my coat on Friday night as I knew we would be going by there before they opened on Sunday morning.  Because the ice conditions were unpredictable, Hunter's decided to only allow ATV's to park close to the drawing area and everyone else was scattered out 400 feet from shore.  Things held up fine but it obvious that with the warm weather predicted for this weekend and all of next week that the ice isn't going to last that long.  Already all the snow is gone except in the woods and my neighbor Brandon has started tapping the maple trees in the neighborhood.  So the Extravaganza represents the last trip on the ice for my wheel house until next winter.  Sort of sad to see it end but it can only mean open water soon!  I have lots of things to do to get the boat ready for opener which is on May 14th this year.

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