Tuesday, January 25, 2011

NAIFC Qualifier Monticello, MN

The streak ends...No "BIG FISH" award for me this weekend but still a great time.

The start of our journey was interesting and felt like a continuation of last weekend equipment issues. We hit the road a 2:00am Friday morning with an approximate arrival time in Monticello at 8:30am. As we are driving north on Interstate 43 we blew out a trailer tire, right next to a semi along side of us, after that scare and about 45 minutes of messing around we continue. The drive up was nice, traffic was good, weather was COLD. When we left Sheboygan it was -5, as we drove through Wausau it was -14 and when we pulled into Monticello, MN it was -22. -22!!!! Holy wow thats cold, Minnesota knows what cold is and they bring it! We purchased our fishing licenses and drove to the nearest tire shop to get a new tire on the spare trailer rim. We arrived at the lake about 11 am Friday morning. -17 at this point, little bit of wind, and one of two quads would not start, yup again we are hit with an equipment malfunction. The battery in the borrowed quad was totally dead, froze maybe, I don't know but it a a paperweight that stayed on the trailer ALL weekend. So after having to change pre fishing plans for the second weekend in a row we rolled out to the designated fishing area and drill only a few holes knowing we would not be able to fish many of them before they froze up once again. Within the first few minutes we caught some fish, what a relief. We had worked so hard to find fish in Ludington and we just dropped on them in Monticello, we quickly found out that fish were EVERYWHERE! If you drilled a hole in 7-10 feet of water, you have fish, big fish too. Big is a relative term of course, the size of fish we caught most of the weekend were a good eater size panfish, in fact some were downright monsters in most lakes in Sheboygan County. We had heard of 1# bluegills in Pelican Lake, we were hoping to find some, even just one would have been cool to hook up with, sadly it did not happen. We finished up pre fishing around 4pm and headed into town to check into our hotel and grab something to eat before the seminar Friday night.

The Seminar was given by Pat Smith, a legendary angler from MN, he Pro Staffs for many companies and works with Thorne Bros. as well. This lake he says is his favorite, its where he "Cuts His Teeth". When a guy like him says its where he fun fishes, you know its good. We found out the growth rate of fish in this lake is 1 1/2 times the growth rate of most any lake in Minnesota, and the MNDNR wants to draw it down for waterfowl land, basically causing a disastrous condition for the fishing. This lake is a haven for pan fish, there had to be 200 ice shacks on the ice, 75-100 of them were the $5,000-$9,000 style, you know, satellite tv, all the amenities of home on the ice. Lots of money sitting on that lake that will not be there if they draw it down further. But I am not here to talk about that. Friday night Jack Backer, the head of the NAIFC, asked if I would help drill some holes and help with the kids camp the next morning. Of course I said yes, what a cool thing to do, and Shoe and I felt pretty good about pre fishing so I helped with the kids and Shoe went fishing.

Saturday came and we hit the ice early, -10 that morning, heatwave! We fished in a few places and then I went to the kids camp area to drill holes, Shoe went on to fish more, and he also was preparing to fish in a qualifier for the World Ice Fishing Competition. He signed up the night before, its a chance to fish for the USA IceTeam in 2012, with only a few people signing up he only had to show he could do it, he did. We met back up in the afternoon to continue pre fishing, we found fish almost everywhere, it was so much fun to find fish. They wanted big baits, spoons, larger jigs, stuff that made a lot of noise and movement. Saturday night was the rules meeting, where Shoe was recognized as one of the World qualifiers (Being a qualifier at this stage allows you to fish in the "Fish Off" held in March in Rhinelander to determine who the 2012 USA team will be). I was recognized for helping out with the kids camp as well. We felt good about Sunday, we figured most everyone would have a limit of fish, we were just hoping for a few "kickers" or bigger fish to give us a good weight.

Sunday morning comes quick, always does. It was cold, -15, no wind though. You see that, I justified it being -15 with saying "no wind though", come on its -15! Still way cold. Lol. We were 2nd in line up,waiting is the name of the game on tourney day, wait in line to be inspected, wait to get on the ice, once on the ice wait to start fishing. The first place we stopped to fish actually produced nothing, not even a mark on the flasher. We made the decision to move in about 45 minutes. We then moved to where we were fishing the afternoon before, we pulled up, no one was on our spot, we drilled our holes and were on to fish the rest of the day, just upgrading most of the morning. The thought crossed our mind to move a couple times, but its tough when every now and then you find a fish you can upgrade. We did have to watch how many Crappies we had in the bucket. You are only allowed 10 per person in MN and we quickly had 15 for the two of us, so we needed to get picky. The bluegills we had were nice, not monsters but nice, and the crappies were cookie cutter 9 1/2" fish.

The weigh-in was at The Station, a sports themed bar in Monticello. There happened to be a Green Bay Packer game on the tvs in the place and it was hard to pay attention to the weigh-in. I will tell you something, it was strange to be watching a Packer-Bear game in MN. Our total weight was 6.5#, thats for 8 Crappie and 8 bluegills, we finished 28th place out of 71 teams. Our goal was to be in the points and we did it.

We have one more event we are doing this year, Lake Winnebago this coming weekend. Hopefully we can do well as this is out "Home" lake. Go Team 711!!

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