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Articles : Ice Fishing University by Tony Mariotti
Posted by Tony on Mar 09, 2011 (1881 reads) News by the same author

Although it’s been a few years since I graduated from college, this past weekend I was reminded just how much you can learn by attending a University. For the second year in a row I felt fortunate to spend 3 nights at Hiawatha Beach Resort on beautiful Leech Lake, targeting jumbo perch and gaining new knowledge, skills and friendships while helping out with Reed’s Ice Fishing University.

Reed’s Sporting Goods teamed up with Hiawatha Beach Resort, and ice fishing guru Jason Mitchell, local fishing legend Al Maas, Northland Tackle, Vexilar, Clam Corp. Ice Armor, Strikemaster and many other of the ice fishing industries leaders to put together an “Ice Fishing University” that was designed to help anglers of all skill levels learn techniques, presentations and locations to search for when targeting fish through the ice.

Upon arriving at the resort I quickly got settled into my room and made my way downstairs before the first seminar. I hadn’t even made it to the commons area and I was greeted by several familiar faces from last years “University”. It was enjoyable to see some of the participants from last year returning for a second round at Leech Lake and it’s jumbo perch and walleyes, and it was fun to hear how many of them considered last years “Ice Fishing University” one of their best ice outings of the past year!

The goal of the Ice Fishing University is simple; to help its participants become better ice anglers by actually spending “hands on” time on the water refining new techniques shown and presented by some of ice fishing’s top anglers.

After some time spent visiting with new friends, it was time for the first of 3 wonderful dinners provided as part of the University, and than it was off to Reeds for our first informative seminar. Jason Mitchell shared information about which lures had been working to put fish on the ice during the previous couple days of pre-fishing for the University. Northland Fishing Tackle’s Hexi Fly had been producing some of the larger fish and the Northland Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon had been producing the largest numbers of fish. He demonstrated several different presentations, showed the area that we would be fishing on a large lake map, and explained why this area had been chosen for the Ice Fishing University.

Finally a quick inventory was taken of how many participants needed either a Vexilar flasher or a Clam shelter to try out and use during the course of the following 3 days.

Upon arrival at Hiawatha Beach Resort we spent some time socializing and then it was time to get some sleep. Sleep was hard to come by that first night, as anticipation of searching out jumbo perch and walleyes had me tossing and turning. I caught myself looking at the clock and waiting for the alarm most of the night. When the alarm did go off I awoke to -24º degrees. I was very impressed that during breakfast I didn’t hear any “students” complaining about the cold. We knew that the cold was going to make being highly mobile fairly difficult but it certainly wasn’t going to keep us from getting out and trying our best to find some fish!

We convoyed out to the area we would be fishing and by the time the group got situated, several of the guides already had many holes drilled and fish houses set up for the participants use. Within minutes of dropping a Vexilar into the first hole, there were fish all over the screen! Because of the cold it seemed most people opted to wait out the fish rather than to hole hop outside in the conditions. The fisherman that did get more mobile seemed to be the ones who put the most fish on the ice. I was impressed at how each of the guides seemed to search out participants for some one on one time, and I was even more impressed at the 300 + perch that were kept by the 40 or so participants! There was going to be a fish fry!

After a hot lunch on the ice, and an afternoon of continued great fishing, it was time to pack up for the day and head back to Reed’s for another in-depth seminar from both Jason Mitchell and Al Maas.

The second night seminars were very informative and interesting. Jason discussed a lot of different techniques, presentations and gear that helps to make a person a better angler. He gave suggestions on line size, rod types and tips on how participants could use their Vexilar flasher to maximize the potential for catching fish. Al however really stole the show as he offered to personally mark maps for individuals. They could ask him which species, which time of year and he would individually mark the maps to give participants a starting point in tackling the lake on their own.

The University’s participants seemed very interested as Al, who is considered by many to be one of the most knowledgeable fishermen in the area, explained the biology of the lake and how Leech Lake is on the rebound. He explained that this rebound was due to three factors. These three factors took several years but they were due in part to the local stocking efforts, the vigilance in dealing with the cormorant depredation, and the relative lack of pressure on the lake. Today Leech Lake has once again established itself as one of Minnesota’s top fisheries. Of course this rebound needed the support of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Leech Lake Tourism Bureau, and concerned local businesses and residents.

After the evenings seminar’s it was back to the Resort for another fabulous meal, and a lot of visiting and comparing notes on the days’ event. I even saw one individual head out and get set up with a “sleeper” fish house so he could try to pick up some walleyes or eelpout before heading out in the morning with the group. For me it was time to try and get some sleep! Again, the excitement about the day and the potential for the next day had me watching the clock much of the night!

Saturday provided more of the same, great fishing, great tips and a lot of one on one time with the guys who were hosting the University. Instead of having an evening seminar on Saturday, the crew opted for more on ice guidance and a little more time fishing. I think we wrapped up around 5:30; it was officially time to head back for a fish fry. As we collected and loaded up the gear we could tell that all had had a good time. It seemed as though each one of the participants had connected on some fish for the day, and some had even caught their personal limit of jumbo perch and a few had some walleyes thrown in for good measure. It was very interesting to hear how different people tried different techniques and were rewarded with a very successful outing. It seemed that a lot of the bigger fish were caught this day on a Northland Macho Minnow either with or without a minnow head attached. It appeared the ‘flicker’ tail was too much for the perch and walleyes to resist.

Sunday morning arrived much like the previous two, and after a hot breakfast provided at the lodge we were off for our final morning of fishing. It was another great day for ice fishing. Reed’s Ice Fishing University was a success. The instructors really go above and beyond what many participants expected. Instead of telling you how to help make you a better fisherperson, they actually took you out on the ice and spent one on one time showing you some of the newest lures, techniques and information. Many instructors sat with you to help you refine your jigging techniques and helped you become more comfortable in your own ability as an ice angler. I felt as though the goals of the “University” were easily addressed not only with the abundance of ice time but also with informative seminars and presentations. Evaluative discussions by the students during the “social” times exemplified that they not only gained knowledge and understanding, but also an appreciation of friendship.

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