BLAINE, Minn. — If you think about it, this mostly is a whole lot of wishful thinking.
By a whole lot of wishful thinkers.
Sure, the Hardwater Ice Fishing Expo was about prepping for the inevitable. But excitement surrounding these gatherings also is generated by just the thought of ice fishing. It’s ice anglers’ fix before Mother Nature is kind enough to deliver and make all these wishes — as in ice-fishing opportunities — come true.
That was evident at Minnesota’s first ice-fishing show of note this season — the expo at the National Sports Center over the weekend. At the time, although already late November, even the far northern Minnesota lakes mostly were void of ice.
With temps just above freezing in the metro area, things heated up in a hurry inside the NSC. The expo started at 2 p.m. Friday, and within an hour, the aisles were nearly packed with ice-fishing types.
The expo was the first of three ice-fishing shows of note in Minnesota in a three-week period, and likely the smallest of the three. But with several of the main ice-fishing companies on hand, it was a good kickoff to the ice-fishing preseason.
Clam Outdoors, the main sponsor of the expo, had a huge presence, taking up the entire far end of the Sport Expo Center. And top Clam spokesperson Dave Genz headlined the seminar schedule. But a number of other companies and products also made a splash at the expo.
The Aqua-Vu booth, with it’s Multi-Vu HD Underwater Viewing System and numerous handheld and pocket-sized offerings, was a busy place Friday. And so, too, were lesser-known companies such as Skinny Dipper, which was promoting its multi-purpose product of the same name. According to the company, “The Skinny Dipper is a product that dips water through the floor of your fish house or next to your boat, measures fish, chills drinks, and many more things,” including checking ice thickness.
There also were a number of companies at the expo that had little or nothing to do with ice fishing. Expect some of the same at the next ice-fishing show on the schedule, but with an emphasis on all things ice fishing. And in a big way.
The 23rd annual St. Paul Ice Fishing & Winter Sports Show, scheduled Dec. 4-6 at the St. Paul River Centre, has been called the largest ice fishing show in the country. Also presented by Clam, it runs from 1-9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6. Tickets are $9 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12 and free to children 5 and younger. For more information, go to www.stpaulicefishingshow.com/.
The Arrowhead Ice Fishing, Snowmobile & Holiday Show follows Dec. 11-13 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Presented by Eskimo Ice Fishing Gear and ION Electric Ice Augers, the show reportedly doubled in size from 2013 to last year, and even more exhibitors, seminars and attractions are reportedly planned this year. Hours are noon-9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13. Admission is $10 for attendees 13 and older and free for those younger than 13. For more information, go to www.shamrockprod.com/visitor/ice/icevhome.aspx.
A popular feature at the Arrowhead show is the “Frozen Basin,” where attendees can drop lines through holes for live fish.
It’s not the real thing, but by that time, for Minnesota ice-fishing hopefuls, wishful thinking may very well be a thing of the past.