janv. 14, 2017
Christmas came early this year for John “Mackey” MacDonald. Only trouble was the Minneapolis man was at the movies watching Hacksaw Ridge and missed the phone call informing of the news.
Fortunately, Pit called back the next day to give Mackey the news he’d just won the annual drawing for a free trip to Aikens Lake.
“It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever won,” said Mackey, who learned of his prize around Thanksgiving time. “Christmas came in November this year.”
Each year, we enter all the Century Club and Master Angler winners into a drawing and randomly select one individual to win a free trip back to Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge the following season. Mackey caught his winning fish, a 42-inch trophy pike, one day before Father’s Day, one hour before shorelunch.
“I was jigging for walleye when I caught it, so I wasn’t expecting to catch a big pike like that,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘I’m happy to catch a walleye.’ All of a sudden I get this big fish on there.”
Mackey, who grew up fly fishing in Montana, was at Aikens with his father-in-law and two brother-in-laws. In fact, his father-in-law introduced him to Aikens three years ago. Mackey's father-in-law comes often with the Young Presidents of Wisconsin, who have been making the trip for 30 years.
“My first time at Aikens I had a wonderful time and I could hardly wait to go back, even though the weather was just terrible. It rained almost the entire time,” he said. “Finally on our very last day, as my brother-in-law and I were heading back into the lodge from fishing it stopped raining. We stopped and fished a few more minutes and got multiple double headers in a row, as the sun came out. It was great. It was also the only 15 minutes we saw the sun during our trip.”
Despite the weather, Mackey was eager to return with even more family the following year.
“Pit and Julie are such real and genuine people. They’ve got a tremendous sense of hospitality. They make everybody feel welcome and a part of it. That’s where all the repeat guests come in,” said Mackey, who appreciated that no matter how busy Pit and Julie’s day must have been they both still took time to hang out with guests at night at Big Molly’s. “The whole staff are so easy to be with, and hanging in the bar at night you meet other people and enjoy talking with them.”
The following year, fortunately, the weather cooperated and Mackey discovered shorelunch tastes even better when the sun is shining.
“The shorelunches are spectacular, and I always enjoy the flight in and out because it’s such great scenery getting there,” he said. “The biggest disappointment is we didn’t lose any weight during our trip. We’re thinking of suing them for that.”
Over the past several years, Mackey has enjoyed staying in different cabins with different group sizes, witnessing wildlife such as moose and eagles, and embracing life at a fly-in luxury resort.
“When you think about everything that comes in there comes in by plane, the logistics of that are frightening to behold,” said Mackey, who’d never been to a fly-in before Aikens. “They do a great job with it all. We have such a great time, it was an easy choice to go back with Pit and Julie.”
Despite having been to Aikens several years in a row, Mackey maintains his modesty and considers himself having much to learn.
“I’m an amateur rank fisherman and I caught a ton of fish, including the Master Angler pike,” he said. “That’s what makes Aikens Lake so great, you can get guys like me that really don’t know what they’re doing, and you start to believe that you might.”