The trip to Minnesota for the NAIFC Series Championship started with a slight delay that pushed our departure time back a little less than an hour. After loading up, we hit a gas station to fuel up, grab some snacks, and use the bathrooms before hitting the road. That cycle repeated a few more times until we hit Hudson, Wisconsin for a pit stop at Solar Sportsman. With about two hours left in the truck until McQuiod’s Inn and plenty of daylight left to burn, we made a few stops for bait, lunch, and sight seeing.
Arriving at the resort close to 2pm, Andy and I barely could unpack before we geared up to hit the ice. Our first trip was just to maximize our time on the water and maybe find an evening bite. We didn’t find any fish that were worth trying to catch but we located some weeds a tons of perch using an underwater camera. As we left the ice, a bunch of guys were heading out for the evening walleye bite.
Our second day started with a scouting trip out onto Isle Bay. We debated on whether or not we should bring fishing rods or just try to locate weeds and fish. We opted for packing just the basics so that we could leave the sleds at the cabin. We ended up fishing a little bit after we found a nice thick milfoil patch with some crappies cruising through. Right off, I pulled up a crappie and bluegill but nothing else even though we could see fish on the cameras.
Getting off the ice around noon, we made the 1.5 hour trek to Duluth for the Arrowhead Ice Fishing Winter Show. Getting to see and test out all of the new Clam products in person was pretty sweet as well as many of the other companies in the business. We also got to meet quite a few new people. After spending a few hours at the show we got back in the truck and started back to Isle. On the way, we got an invite from Keith Nelson to hit one of his favorite bodies of water for some panfish. After a slow start to our trip in Minnesota, the gracious offer from Keith was an opportunity we couldn’t refuse.
The following morning we got on the road early and met up a few miles from our destination. To say it was cold was an understatement. While us Vermonters experience some cold weather, I don’t think that many people would be out at -20. We were warned at our rendezvous point that the road in was a rough one. Never in a million years did any of us imagine that we would be driving through the woods. Like actually through the woods! As the sun started to rise we got word that it was -27. Thankfully inside of our Clam shacks was nice and toasty with our Mr. Buddy heaters going!
Nice gills and crappie were in the area and looking around with the camera was sickening. Quality fish were cruising all around! Much like Mille Lacs, these fish were tight lipped. Be it the full moon, big drop in temperature, or just an off day for the fish, we had to work for them. While sitting in the shack was warm, hole hopping was more effective for catching. For a few hours up until it was time to go, we went hole to hole looking for active fish. We all caught fish and we even took a few crappie home for some surf and turf.
While we got to see pictures of the new Clam facility in Rodgers online when they first moved in, the pictures didn’t do it a justice. We got a factory tour from Smitty while we were en route to pick up our snowmobiles for the week. The factory is ginormous and the amount of product they had stock of was beyond any of our imaginations.