Tony Abena of Edina, Minnesota, knew exactly what he wanted when he booked a trip to Aikens Lake Wilderness Lodge this summer with his sons, Parker (20) and Mitchell (17). During four sunny days here this July, Tony got the father-son time he desired, plus a fantastic fish story.
“As a father, when you realize that your kids are growing up fast, and that they are becoming adults with their own plans and views and they won’t be around forever, you start to feel more urgency around creating meaningful and memorable experiences together,” Tony said.
“Coming to Aikens was all about starting a tradition around doing something we like to do as adults, and get a chance to have fun and catch up on life and all of the ups and downs in a setting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Sitting in the boat together, it was focused time to enjoy each other and talk in a way that can be hard to do when e-mails and all of the other trappings of work constantly intrude.”
The Abenas have fished across North America, so they had specific goals for this experience.
“We wanted to get a true fly-in Canadian fishing/wilderness experience, but be able to do that without having to spend two days traveling to get there,” Tony said, since Aikens can be reached within a day from anywhere in North America. “With Aikens, you don’t have to sacrifice the experience for the relative convenience of getting there. The fishing was great, the accommodations and service were equally great.”
Along the way, Tony landed a whopper of a fishing story. He and the boys enjoyed quality walleye fishing each day and, for a change of pace, Tony also went out before breakfast several mornings in pursuit of the elusive, yet thrilling lake trout.
His first morning didn’t yield any results, and his second morning was thirty seconds away from being a repeat.
“We were actually getting ready to reel in our lines after fishing for an hour and half with absolutely no action whatsoever,” Tony said. “When the laker took our cisco bait, we weren’t sure if it was a walleye or burbot given the really soft hit we had. It was only after setting the hook did I know what we had.”
From there, the battle was on––a battle that required both good fortune and good fishing skills to land a fishing of a lifetime, a beautiful 37-inch Manitoba Master Angler lake trout.
“After landing the fish we realized how lucky we were given that only one of the three (barbless) trebles was hooked in the lip of the fish. One wrong head shake or loss of line pressure, and that fish would have thrown the hook for sure. The fish was amazing. We estimated it weighed over 19 lbs., and was probably over 50 years old given how slowly they grow,” Tony said. “The moral of the story was that you have to put in the time on these fish to be able to catch them, they are crafty, and that keeping a positive attitude right up to very end pays big dividends, in this case a Manitoba trophy lake trout!”
That evening at dinner, the trophy was the talk of the lodge as Pit and family presented Tony with his Aikens Lake Master Angler mug and framed photograph during the nightly award ceremony.
Enjoying meals as a family was another daily highlight for the Abenas, who were pleasantly surprised with the quality of our most talked about meal: shorelunch.
“I remember seeing people rave about the shorelunches on the website and thinking how could a shorelunch be that memorable?” Tony said with a chuckle. “After having them, I can tell you they are fantastic, particularly in the great locations around the lake you enjoy them in.”
With daily happy hours and fun evenings at Big Molly’s complementing quality time on the water, the Abenas enjoyed the full Aikens Experience.
“I really enjoyed Big Molly’s. It’s so nice but it’s not overdone, so it has the perfect atmosphere,” said Parker, who’s envision celebrating his 21st birthday here instead of a Las Vegas-type weekend. “Everything is so nice here. It’s amazing how they think of everything, and that they have everything even though it’s a fly-in.”
Parker was also impressed with how versatile the crew was, and our team really enjoyed visiting with him and his brother Mitchell about the entire Aikens operation.
“It’s the most convenient, nicest way to fish in Canada,” said Parker. “We’ll be back.”
Of course, no wants to do another father-son trip more than Dad.
“Overall, the experience was exactly what we wanted,” Tony said. “Great fishing, great setting, great service and accommodations that allow you to really relax and enjoy quality time with your family.”