Thursday, January 14, 2010

Perch Express Day Five

Perch Express Day 5: Finally we pursue the Perch!

Our “alarm clock” went off about ten after five this morning, but it was just too hard to get out of bed this time. While the anticipation and excitement are still there in full force looking forward to the days adventure, the adrenaline has simply run out. Instead of waking up and getting ready super early, we decided to sleep in a bit and get ready at normal time this morning just like most of the other folks fishing with the Perch Express today. Its really amazing how they can stay so busy guiding up in the middle of Nowheresville, North Dakota; especially during the weekdays! I could be wrong, but I think the population of people in the whole state is like 600,000.

Anyhow, we scarfed down a whole bunch of bacon, eggs, and potatoes and hit the road. Even though the lake is right out in front of the lodge, our fishing destination usually is like 15-30 miles away. Just picture a lake so large that it stretches from Peoria to Bloomington! Today we were fishing with one of Devils Lakes most famous multi-species fishing guides Jason Mitchell. His line of ice fishing rods is pretty awesome!

I will be loading up on Meat Sticks for next season, they are awesome and eliminate the need for a spring bobber.

Jason is man who just looks like he is all business, a fishing machine. His quiet voice and determined look can be somewhat intimidating at first, kind of like the exact opposite of the first impression of Zippy. I mean with a name like Zippy, you just pretty much automatically assume he has a bright, friendly personality. His smile and constant joking confirm what the name portrays (btw, the nickname is not fishing related, ask him about it) Here is a quick link called Ask Zippy. You can ask him any questions you want about his nickname, life, love, the economy, or fishing, and he will answer!

With Jason on the other hand, this morning we just got into the fishing truck and put our game face on. Except we made one mistake and put Chef Todd in the front seat with him. He would be perhaps the only man in the world not intimidated one iota. I would bet he pried more words out of Jason in that 30 minute drive than he has voluntarily spoken in 6 months! Chef talks more than any human being I have ever been around, he speaks the kind of things we think I guess? This account of Mr. Mitchell is purely based off of first impression before sunlight, keep on reading before requesting not to fish with Jason when booking your Perch Express fishing trip. Look, All smiles after the day of fishing!

Even though are mission was perch fishing today, we typically always start out each day targeting walleye at first light. We hit the flooded timber before the sun came up and were jigging buckshot rattling spoons, frostee jigging spoons, and rapala jigging shad raps trying for a monster walleye. During our 3 days of fishing, our biggest walleye we landed was 4 lbs, but we definitely had our chances at some of the big mommas. Everyday there were several 5-7 lb walleyes landed by Perch Patrol guides or clients, with the biggest one at the lodge during our week weighing in at a whopping 9 lbs 14 ounces! Todd and I physically touched that fish and were just in AWE! I would post the pic, but it came in during the only 5 minute stretch of the trip that I did not have my camera on me!! Back to the story, we struck out on catching our wall hanger this morning, but I did land one pesky northern at this first spot.

Then it was on to the perch fishing grounds. We got set up perch fishing in 37 foot of water in the original bowl of Devils Lake. The key to this perch fishing is to get yourself positioned over one of the many perch migrating highways. If we didn’t mark a school of fish in 15 minutes we were instructed to keep moving to one of the other sets of holes that Jason dug all over the place. Just 50 feet could make the difference of filling a 5 gallon bucket or going home empty handed! Chef and I struck out on our first 3 spots, but then finally on our 4th set of holes we started marking fish and it didn’t take long for one of those tiny little perch to finally fulfill Chef’s lifelong dream! “Just burry me right over there in that big snow drift, and let the coyotes eat me in the spring, I can die a happy man” were his exaggerated and excited words after landing his first perch.

Dad and Justin started catching a few perch in their second spot. They did a great job at catching the little fellas, while we were after their mommas!

After about 2 hours of hopping holes looking for a good migration route, Jason hollered over and we quickly moved over to the main perch highway.

The next 2 hours were by far the most intense ice fishing hours I have ever had. Perch were swimming through in schools 39 feet down and I was staring at the vexilar very intently trying everything possible to get them to break off from the pack and grab a quick snack! I have never had more fun ice fishing than during that intense stretch! It wasn’t as easy as you would think to get those perch to bite and set the hook fishing that deep, it wasn’t impossible either though. It just took a little while to get the hang of. Between the four of us we landed 39 keeper Devils Lake Perch.

We did most of our fishing out of these thermal portable 2 man Clams. They fold up real nice, have swivel seats, are very roomy, and warm up to about 60 degrees in 5 minutes!

The last couple hours of the day we decided instead of moving to a walleye hole, we would just stick tight and try to pick off a couple more perch. The perch typically are much more active during the middle of the day than towards the evening, but we did manage to pluck off a few more! Then as everyone was packing up, I was determined to catch just one more fish! After the last 45 minutes of not getting a bite I decided to give up as well. Just as I started slowly reeling in my Genz Bug tipped with a minnow, I noticed a fish on the screen starting to rise off the bottom towards my bait. It was one of those slow motion moments that I will never forget. My bait was already 6 feet off the bottom, (a pretty long ways for a fish to travel up, but I didn’t dare try to lower it back down to the fish). My adrenaline, blood, excitement, whatever it is inside of me started pumping, flowing, escalating, or whatever you call it with every moment that fish got closer to my bait. This all happened in a matter of about 9 seconds, and I was completely awestruck when that fish actually came all the way up and slammed my minnow. It took about 5 seconds to realize that this wasn’t the 10 lb walleye from my dreams, but at an estimated 2 lb fish I was fighting, I could only imagine as it was coming up the remaining 33 feet to the surface that it was perhaps THE coveted 2 lb Devils Lake trophy perch!!! Here is what I was envisioning!

The fairy tale ending didn’t quite follow the script I had written, but landing with this 2 lb walleye would have been my first alternate for the ending so I wasn’t too disappointed.

I took the fish off the hook, retired the jig, snapped the photo, and put the rod in the truck rod holder. There was no way I was going to try to catch another fish and ruin my fairy tale ending with the last few minutes left.

Here is the portion of the trip that picks right back up with the same theme as our first couple of days. As soon as we get into the truck and start heading for the lodge at about 4:45 pm, Jason looks at his phone at quietly mutters, hmmm Zippy has really been trying to get ahold of me. At that moment I suspiciously knew something was up, something was not right. He quickly gives zippy a buzz and then says the numbers 7387 out load twice says OK and then hangs up. He looks back at us and says, give Sue a call right away at (701) 662-7837. You know how when your in a small town you automatically know the area code and even the first 3 digits of everyone’s phone number. Basically you just have to memorize the last 4 digits. Anyhow Sue is the travel agent who booked our train tickets and she confirmed what we already assumed. The train was still canceled and we would not be leaving for home on schedule (at least on the train!)

We already extended our trip by a day, and could not stay yet an extra day. We all had too much stuff happening at home. So we started calling every car rental place in North Dakota until we finally found one in Fargo that had a vehicle available and big enough for us to drive all four of us overly sized men and our luggage home that night. Here is the catch- Fargo is 3 hours from Devils Lake and the place closed at 11 pm. This was about the 36th car rental place that we called and it was 6 pm by the time we found the car. The following is an act of kindness we will never forget. Jason borrowed the woodland resort transport van and volunteered to take us to Fargo. He already spent 10 hours guiding us all day long and stuck around to help us make arrangements with the resort to help get us home, and then he decided to just take us there himself. I could be wrong, but I don’t think he was just trying to make sure to get rid of us ASAP. We cleaned up and packed up and were on the road towards Fargo at just a few minutes after 7 pm. I promised Jason that I would put chef towards the back of the van (just kidding Todd). We made it to Fargo at 10 pm and then headed towards home shortly thereafter in this nice PT Cruiser.

With over 1000 lbs of man lard and 400 lbs of gear, that surprisingly roomy PT Cruiser was loaded to the MAX!

We picked up a car top carrier at walmart on our way to the rental place and then drove all night long from Fargo. We made it home about noon on Tuesday. We all agreed that next year we will drive, instead of rely on the train! Supposedly the train is very extremely reliable, but for some reason the train did not like us one bit! Perch Express ice fishing on Devils Lake is legit. That truly is a world class fishing experience!

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