(Oct. 08, 2012)...
There’s no doubt most of my time on the ice is spent in a portable shelter but there are exceptions, one of them being an overnight stay in a permanent shack. A big comfortable sleeper on a hot honey hole can make for a lot of fun and is a great way to get together with friends and family and spend some real quality time. I had a chance to do just that last January when my oldest boy was home on leave from the Air Force and had a real hankerin’ to go. My new son-in-law was also on board for the trip even though he was from the Dominican Republic and had never walked on ice, let alone driven 5 miles out in the pitch dark.
The plan was to include a good sunfish lake for the first afternoon and then spending the rest of the evening to next morning in a permanent shelter on Mille lacs Lake. The weather was perfect including calm and sunny and we drilled our holes and started looking for some of the bigger ?gills the lake was known for. As nice out as it was combined with the reputation of the lake made me a little suspicious when we arrived as there was only one other angler on the ice. My suspicion proved to be warranted when they didn’t co-operate and the bulk of what we caught was small perch which we could hardly koff the hook. Even panfish lakes go through cycles with good and bad years and this was a tough one but it usually takes some investigative angling before you figure it out. This wasn’t the start I hoped for; in fact the bluegills were supposed to help get us started on the right foot and make up for a slow walleye bite. It always helps to keep a positive attitude though and after giving it quite a bit of time we ready to move on to the next part of the plan.
We ended up at the southeast corner of Mille Lacs to have dinner at Buzzies (always has good food) and lies on the shores of Jack’s Twin Bay. It’s also headquarters for Mac’s Twin Bay (320-630-7013) which is a resort owned and operated by Kevin and Karen McQuoid. Mac’s does a big ice fishing business and includes lake access and lots of rental units of various size, aka permanent shacks. It really is unfair though to call their houses shacks as they are nicest and most well-kept shelters I’ve ever been in. The house Kevin reserved for us had four twin beds, stove, radio and TV. What more could you ask for except maybe a few fish?
After a big dinner we headed out to our destination and never heard a peep out of Jose (son-in-law) who had to think we were crazy. Kevin had us set up on a deep gravel hump that had been producing a decent night bite and we were looking forward to having some rattle reels interrupt our sleep. Shortly after we arrived I dropped a jigging spoon down a hole and saw a fish on the Humminbird almost immediately. It took a swipe at the bait which I missed but still thought it was a good indication that there were some fish around. After getting the spoon re-baited and back down another fish showed up and whacked it right away and after a short fight I had our first keeper on the floor. I stuck with the spoon for quite a while but never got hit again. Instead; my son and son-in-law put down shiners on rattle reels and started to do pretty darn good. It didn’t take me too long to figure it out before we went to all rattle reels. The reels were going of every fifteen or twenty minutes all the while we were watching a Clint Eastwood western flick (Two Mules for Sister Sara) on the TV. That’s living! The reels slowed up to going off every thirty minutes or so and did that most of the night which left us all tired and happy. Although we caught some bigger fish (over twenty inches and up to about twenty-six) we ended up with a limit of keepers which made for an awesome fish fry which my son who had been stationed in England for years hadn’t had in a long time.
An option to going strictly permanent is to bring along the gear and portable shelters and do a little investigative angling of your own and use the big house for the evening bite as well as a base. Kevin plows a road to a lot of the good walleye ground and there is no shortage of spots. An ATV or snowmobile opens the lake even more but make sure you check in with the resort and get an update on any bad conditions or trouble spots.
It was all perfect even though the trip got off to a slow start and is something we still talk about. Many thanks to Kevin and Karen McQuoid for making it all possible. See you on the ice.