Tag Archives: Jaycee’s Ice Fishing Extravaganza

Extended Weekend = Best Birthday Present

Howdy folks,

Happy Presidents’ Day! I love Presidents’ Day, largely because it means I don’t have to work today. A deserved break, especially after Friday’s stressful experience of working through my lunch.  How horrible is that? Not only was it the last day of the week, you know, a day when you’re supposed to ease yourself into the weekend relaxation mode, it was my birthday! Yet I had to work really hard, like it was my job or something! That’s just not right at all, is it? Pft. And, unfortunately, I think tomorrow is going to be even more hectic…

…But hey, let’s focus on the happier times; namely the events of both this weekend and last weekend. Starting with…

Ice Fishing

Good news: one of us won at the Ice Fishing Extravaganza. Bad news, it wasn’t me and it wasn’t because of our fishing skills.

As well as the fishing competition, prizes were given out for a variety of other things, like great displays found on the ice. Becky didn’t just have a prize-winning display, she also had grand prize-winning display! People came by to compliment her, take pictures of us and it, and the prize hosts interviewed her on the ice, as did the radio correspondent for the country station sponsoring the event.

Pretty cool, right? This was also the reason why this post took me a week to finish, as I wanted the official photos first and they weren’t on the internet last Sunday. Why didn’t I have my own? Well I forgot my camera and there was no way I was using my phone in those temperatures (the touch screen doesn’t recognize gloves and I wasn’t risking my fingers). Besides, the official photographer had a picture of me holding the big cheque so it was worth postponing the blog for that snap alone.

Well it would be…if I had the stupid picture. Despite my best (okay, not quite half-assed) efforts, I still can’t find the pictures online. I don’t know what is taking them so long, but I’ve looked on several of the sponsor websites and found nothing. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, or maybe they are really bad at keeping up with current events (I think 40:60 in their favour; going on the country radio website was like travelling back to the early 2000s). Whatever the reason, I have no pictures for you. Fingers crossed I can update this soon. Until then, just imagine me standing in front of a cardboard cutout (which is Tyler Lautner from Twilight dressed in army fatigues) holding one end of a big cheque. Sorry guys.

Sadly, me holding a fake cheque in a picture you can’t see is where the excitement largely ends. Here’s a breakdown of my time on the ice.


Got on the ice early yet the bay already pretty populated (not sure of the turn out, but after the event was delayed a month questions were raised over the attendance; in the end, I don’t think it suffered too much). We picked our spot, got everything prepared, and waited for the gun to be fired. Nothing much to report there.

As part of the display, however, Becky had a radio playing in order to boost her chances of winning something extra. Unfortunately her radio and the massive speaker were both tuned to the country station. This would have been bad enough, but they were also out of sync, adding to my misery. Boy, it was rough. I wouldn’t care normally – country doesn’t make me angry like it does for the poor sods who’ve had to deal with it for their whole life – but the songs played that day were utter garbage, especially lyrically. I’m not expecting brilliance but…come on. The example below wasn’t the worst I heard last Saturday, but they are the lyrics from the only song I can remember as being terrible.

Saw Star Wars at least eight times
Had the Pac-Man pattern memorized
And I’ve seen the stuff they put inside
Stretch Armstrong (yeah)
I was Roger Staubach in my backyard
Had a shoebox full of baseball cards
And a couple of Evil Knievel scars
On my right arm
I was a kid when Elvis died
And my momma cried

It was nineteen seventy somethin’
And the world that I grew up in
Farrah Fawcett hairdo days
Bell bottoms and eight track tapes
Lookin’ back now I can see me
Oh man, did I look cheesy
But I wouldn’t trade those days for nothin’
Oh it was nineteen seventy-somethin’

I hated every minute of it.

12pm – 1pm

Hour one of three went pretty quickly. Within seconds I saw my first person run by with a fish, which was considerably quicker than the first guy I saw last time, who carried their fish to the weigh station after a couple hours. Rather incredible timing to be honest, given that he’d somehow dropped a line, got a bite, reeled the fish in and bagged it in the time it took me to just lower my line. Probably went in sooner than noon, but whatever.

After that, the people with fish kept running by. After 5 minutes I’d spotted a couple more: at least double that in the next five…plus all the ones I missed. By half 12 there was at least 100 people in the queue behind me. Again, I saw only one person last time I was here in the full three hours…this was definitely a promising sign. Maybe even I would catch something!


Nope. Something nipped at my bait but at the same time I was sidetracked by Becky, who was losing her fishing rod to something in the water. She shouted something to me and I thought she was telling me to stop as I’d managed to hook her line. When I realized this wasn’t the case, my bite was done. And so went my involvement in the competition.

Becky did gather a crowd ten minutes later as she tried to reel in something huge…but when it then turned out to be a fish who’d drawn her line and someone else’s together, the bystanders wandered off. So much for that.


The rest of the event went without incident. The prize people went by, and Becky had her interviews and pictures. Otherwise, not a single bite or moment of excitement. My bait was super active though. Moving around the entire time, as if it was being chased. But it wasn’t. And that was about it.


No snow on the roads meant pulling the sled up the hill and across to the car was horribly difficult. There’s no relevance to this…I just wanted to mention it.

So, better than last time I went, but that’s not exactly saying much once you consider how freezing and miserable 2014’s event was. Maybe 2017 will be better?


The most special day in February…my birthday!

Friday was definitely the hardest day of last week, mainly because of the work issues I mentioned before. After that we went to St. Cloud for an Indian meal at an Indian restaurant called Kohinoor. Ultimately this experience was fine, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t disappointing. I don’t really want to go into it, but essentially I wanted more and expected more. I miss the Indian food I used to eat in the UK!

Despite this longing, it was still a good evening. We went to the mall afterwards, where we wandered around, tried on some clothes, bought some board games (a topic for another day) and then shared a cinnamon roll. What else can I say? Birthdays are just another day for me now, only special because I receive gifts (which are gratefullly accepted, no complaints there) and can escape chores (good old ‘birthday weekend’ excuse). And to be honest, that’s enough for me.

As for yesterday, well that was spent with family. Nothing special. Between you and I, Vanna’s birthday in March is a more important day, and I’d rather do something for that than this corporate falsity of a holiday. Hopefully everything will come together in time…but I’m saying no more about that. Who knows who is reading?

Anyway, that’s the latest from our lives. Nothing much more expected in February, just work, work, and more work.

Speak to you next time!



No Fish, But I Still Have My Fingers

Though we weren’t lucky/good enough to get on the Top 150 Leaderboard (or good/lucky enough to get a fish at all), I did enjoy my day at Gull Lake on Saturday. It was a good experience, and opened my eyes to things we just don’t experience at home (snow, ice, coldness, windchill, frozen lakes…). Would I do it again? Probably not. BUT I would try ice fishing again providing there was a tent…and heat. Comfort ice fishing, none of this “backs to the wind” business.

Anyway, here’s a blow-by-blow account of what happened on Saturday, from start to finish. There wasn’t a great deal happening from my perspective (my involvement was mostly standing/sitting around looking at a hole in the ground), but I’ll do my best to describe it all to you. If you haven’t already seen them, I posted some pictures yesterday. There’s the link in case you wanted visuals.

Right then. Let’s start from the beginning.

Waking Up

Early. Early. Really early. Dark. Tired. And cold.

6:40am?! What nonsense is this?!

Urgh. After cursing all that I could think of, I dragged myself out of bed and got dressed. Long underwear (torso and trousers), sweatpants, t-shirt, warmest sweatshirt that I have, ski-pants, socks, socks, another pair of socks, big coat, trapper hat and finally…gloves. Oh, and boots.

To Becky’s!

Becky was the competitor I was helping, and my ride to the event (Vanna had to work). I switched out boots and gloves, then I was ready to go.

To The Lake!

The first task was to find somewhere to park. As the Extravaganza is a big event bringing in thousands from across the world (there was even some Manchester United fans there last year…), the landowners around Gull Lake use the opportunity to make some cash. And they really do rip you off; twenty bucks was the price listed on all the signs leading towards it. Becky eventually chose a lumberyard across the road from the entrance. Given that I was pulling the heavier of the two sleds (not that I minded, of course), I was rather glad we were so close.

We unloaded our goods (extra clothes, food, warming packs, fishing rods, bait, chairs, fishing equipment etc) and made our way across the road. From the highway, you could see all the huts and people milling around on the lake. It was pretty cool (at least for me), and I would have loved to take some pictures, but there was a queue of people behind me and I was busy pulling the sled. We’ll just have to use our imagination, I suppose.

First Step On The Ice…

Now I haven’t mentioned this before (well, I might have…but I don’t think so), but ever since my youth, I’ve had a, uh, fear, of walking on frozen lakes. As part of my school’s designs to scare us from doing anything remotely dangerous (they also warned us off motorbikes with a picture of a dead granny with a bloody nose), we read a legitimate children’s story about the perils of a frozen pond. I don’t remember the name, but it was about two boys in wintertime. One of the boys saw a frozen pond and thought they should walk on it, despite all the warnings at school and on signs. The other boy was reluctant, but agreed. So the boys went on…and the reluctant one fell through and died. The rest of the novel was about the first boy dealing with the guilt.

I read that before I was 11, ladies and gentleman. Can you blame me for being apprehensive about ice fishing? I know it is illogical (huge heavy trucks drive on them all the time!) but after reading that…nightmares, people, nightmares.

Well, nothing happened. Obviously. To be honest, I didn’t even register it until I had been on it for twenty minutes. And even after seeing that there was only inches between me and dark, icy water, I was okay. But then again, there was thousands of others milling around, so my anxiety was subdued rather easily. Would I be so comfortable if I was the first to step onto a frozen lake? I very much doubt it. Saturday, however, I faced my fear and I’m considering that a success. Go me!

Finding Our Spot

As an experienced fisher, Becky wanted to fish at a particular depth. So we walked (while dragging our sleds) for maybe half a mile until we were happy. You might have noticed I haven’t mentioned the cold or the wind yet. Well, that’s because I hadn’t noticed it (in all those layers, I’d hope not). Well, that soon changed when we started walking on the lake. My cheeks, covered by a scarf and a balaclava (forgot to mention those earlier…whoops), were freezing. My eye closed up because the wind was too powerful to keep it open, and my nose began to run. After a few minutes of this, I went to adjust and found my eye, which had been watery, was frozen shut. And my moustache was covered in ice.

Wow. I’ve never had that happen before. I’d been outside for less than ten minutes (only 6 hours, 50 minutes to go!) and already I was being turned into Captain Caveman before he was thawed out. Not a great start.

Setting Up

With our spot found, the first step was to chisel out the ice holes (you’re allowed to use four), a task made harder when Becky dropped her chisel through the second hole. We persevered without one, and finally we could see the water in all 4 spots. Becky set up her fishing rods etc while I stood with my back to the wind. Surprisingly, I was rather comfortable. My hood protected my face, and the rest of my body was pretty toasty too. With the Extravaganza to begin at noon, we just needed to keep warm for another hour or two. Sitting on our chairs with a blanket over us…how hard could it be?


By eleven, my fingers started to get cold. We had heating packs (those ones you expose to air) but I was reluctant to use one, so I waited. Bad decision. Ten minutes later, I couldn’t wait any longer and took my gloves off to get one. In the thirty seconds my hands were exposed…oh man, they were freezing. Painfully cold. They looked like Papa Smurf’s hands when he isn’t wearing gloves. I put them over the fire, and eventually I could feel my fingers again. With the heating packs working, I shoved them back in my gloves and kept them there. Not fun, but they’ll be sorted now, right? Those heating packs last for hours! I’ll be okay…

No I Won’t!

The packs lasted for thirty minutes! What a load of rubbish! So, quick as I possibly could, I opened up two new packs (which can’t be done with gloves on, obviously, as that would be too convenient) and switched them out. I just about managed it. But then I had another problem…

My Toes, My Toes, My Toes!

Just as the competition was starting, my toes started to freeze. So while Becky was moving between the holes to set up the rods, I was silently fretting about frostbite. I could have gone into a warming house and put warming packs in my boots, but that would require a lot of effort as my boots were on really tight. I was concerned, but not that concerned. So I ignored the pain, and waited for the Extravaganza to be over.

3 More Hours

I sat down, walked around, watched Becky try different techniques, and ate. That was more or less all that happened while the competition was happening. Occasionally we’d get a brief moment of excitement when a fish nudged our lines, or when everyone started cheering because they’d spotted someone running with a bucket towards the weighing station. Otherwise there was a whole load of nothing.

Vanna eventually turned up in the final thirty minutes. I went to greet her, and sat with her while she got something to eat. They were giving out free food as the competition was almost over, but I was more concerned about my feet. Thankfully they’d started to warm up by then (sitting in the hot tent probably helped), so I was able to stop obsessing about frostbite.

Once we’d finished there, the Extravaganza was over. The winning fish was over 4lb, while the smallest winner was a paltry .25lb (so had we caught a fish, ANY fish, we would have won a prize…damn). Becky had already finished packing up, so I started pulling the sled (Vanna took pictures of me in action which you can see at the link above) back to the car. 4pm and it was over. We went home, chilled out for a few hours, and went to bed.


So…that’s that. As I said in my introduction, I wouldn’t go to the Extravaganza again (I’ve given it a go, but too cold for me, thank you very much), but I would be willing to try ice fishing where there is a good chance of actually catching something. And where you’re allowed to sit in a tent (I really can’t play that factor up enough) and don’t need to wear 10 layers. I know people enjoy going fishing for the peace and quiet, and anything else is a bonus, but when it’s that cold I need more than tranquility; I want a big fish that we can gut and eat. Ideally with chips, and maybe peas.

Yum. That would at least make risking death somewhat worth it.







Ice Fishing Pictures (Story To Follow!)

Here are some pictures from Saturday’s Ice Fishing Extravaganza. I couldn’t take many because of the cold (more on that later) but I tried my best (Vanna helped on the way out). I’ll tell you the full story about what happened yesterday on Monday; I’m a bit of a hurry this morning/early afternoon and have to go…well now.

Enjoy the pictures (there are more here, if you want to see more of the event…alas, they didn’t include any of us).

Oh, and I probably should add that we didn’t win a truck, or even an ATV. We didn’t get on the leaderboard (top 150 catches) at all, so no prizes for us. Why didn’t we? Well…mostly because we didn’t manage to catch a fish.


Ahem. I’ll, uh, explain later.


Before the Event:

Getting started:

Time For Home: