Ice-fishing trip was real blast

It was time to hit the trails last week—literally.
Dave Bennett and I both are part of the Northland Fishing Tackle pro staff and last week we were invited down to Sportsman’s Lodge on Oak Island, which is located on the Minnesota side of Lake of the Woods.
The purpose of this get-together was to get a sneak peek at some of the new ice-fishing baits Northland is planning to release in 2012.
Along for this trip were several staff from the Northland office in Bemidji, Mn., as well as several pro staff members from across the northern U.S. and Canada. A couple of outdoor writers were invited to fish with us, as well, so they would have the opportunity to pick the brains of those in attendance for future story content.
Finally, Bill Lindner, by far the most famous photographer in the fishing industry, was on hand to take photos that will be used for several fishing publications and the 2012 Northland product catalogue.
A lot was accomplished in a couple of days.
Dave and I decided we would travel down by snowmobile, which worked out really well. We have GPS units we carry with us all the time, so getting to Oak Island was relatively easy.
It was a pretty good ride, probably about 70 km of driving from Kenora by going the way we went, but the weather was good and snow conditions were not bad, so that made travel easy.
?The first thing we noticed upon arriving was that there were significantly more people on the ice than we normally see on the Canadian side of the lake.
?There were fish shacks everywhere. I knew that renting these shelters was big business down there, but I didn’t realize it was as big of deal as it is. The resorts in this part of the lake actually do more business in the winter than they do in the summer—it’s amazing.
The cool thing about Sportsman’s Lodge, where we stayed, was they actually have these big Bombardier vehicles they use to bring people out to their shacks.
These vehicles go pretty much anywhere in the snow, which sure beats having to keep roads plowed all the time.
It’s really a neat experience riding in these vehicles, as well.
Most of these Bombardier units look like they have to be at least 20 or 30 years old. In keeping with the times, Sportsman’s Lodge even has some newer SUVs rigged up with tracks instead of tires that they also use to transport guests.
I definitely could have a lot of fun with one of these things.
We spent a couple of days fishing the Minnesota side of the lake, and the numbers of walleye and big perch that we caught were exceptional. It was no problem catching fish down there—and it was nice because the water is not as deep as it generally is in the north section of the lake.
Most of the fish we were catching were coming out of 20 feet of water, so releasing them was not a problem. It is after you start catching them beyond 28 or 30 feet that they really show symptoms of barotrauma and they usually have a hard time swimming back down the hole.
We did have a hard time catching some big fish, which we were hoping to get for a few photos. But at the end of the trip, the group caught a large pike in the 40-inch range and a monster walleye more than 30 inches in length that Bill got some beautiful shots of.
These types of gatherings are great because there are so many good anglers on the ice all in one place. I definitely learned some things these guys are doing to catch more fish and how they set up their gear to be mobile on the ice.
Some of the snowmobiles these guys had were really set up well, with auger racks, GPS units mounted on them, and even some cool rod holders.
As for the new products Northland has in store for next year, they are top-secret for the time being. They plan to release them at the annual ICAST Show in Las Vegas in July, so you’ll have to wait until then to see them.
But I can tell you they have some really nice new baits that are going to help everybody catch more fish!

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