Having an ice-fishing show in Duluth just makes sense, says Russ Francisco of Marine General Supply.
“It’s in our backyard, and it’s what we do in the wintertime,” Francisco said.
That’s why his shop will have plenty of ice-fishing gear, electronics and fishing shelters at the third annual Arrowhead Ice Fishing, Snowmobile and Holiday Show, to be held Friday through Dec. 13 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
The event will feature nearly 200 exhibitors, along with seminars and attractions focused on ice-fishing and other winter sports. To say nothing of several live penguins sliding and waddling and swimming around in a specially built enclosure and pool at the show, said Ron Murphy of Shamrock Productions, which produces the event.
Francisco said he expects the show to grow in size again this year, especially because lakes have been slow to make safe ice this winter, keeping ice anglers in the yearning stage.
“(The show) draws real well,” Francisco said. “Last year, we had 10,000 (visitors), the first year 5,000. The phone rings off the hook with people asking when it is.”
The ice-fishing industry remains in a phenomenal growth spurt, Francisco said.
“The sport has grown 100-fold in the last 10 years,” he said. “People have figured out it isn’t very expensive in the scheme of things and winter is long. They can take the kids out on the ice and keep the kids occupied. People make it a family event. We sell a lot of big tents.”
That’s why Murphy started the Duluth show, which takes its place among other ice-fishing shows in the Upper Midwest.
“When you look at northern Minnesota and the impact that this industry has on the economy,” Murphy said, “you’re talking serious seven-figure numbers. It’s a very viable part of the economic growth.”
Fishing electronics — fish finders, underwater cameras, GPS devices — are a big part of the draw for ice anglers, Francisco said. Virtually all of the major ice-fishing gear manufacturers will be at the show, passing along deals to people who attend.
“People know they need something,” Francisco said. “They go there to see if they can save a few dollars. Manufacturers give us a deal. It’s a good time for consumers, good for us — it’s good for Duluth, really.”
Again this year, the show’s “Frozen Basin” will allow visitors to fish through simulated ice for live fish. If a fish is tagged, the angler could win a gift certificate of $10 to $50 redeemable at any participating vendor in the show. More than $10,000 in cash and prizes will be given away during the show, according to sponsors.
Back this year, too, is the life-size “snow globe” where groups of up to six people can step inside and have their photos taken.
Show hours are noon to 9 p.m. on Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 13. Admission is $10 for ages 13 and up; free for ages 12 and younger.