BRAD DOKKEN COLUMN: All systems go for inaugural Fargo ice show, organizers say
As a host of "Fish Addictions TV," Mike Olson has worked at the St. Paul Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show for several years on behalf of the TV program and its sponsors.
The show in the St. Paul RiverCentre is a showcase for ice fishing in the same way the ICAST show—short for International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades—is a showcase for the latest and greatest in fishing gear of all kinds, Olson says.
In recent years, Olson says he's heard a familiar refrain from ice fishing enthusiasts who make the trek to the Twin Cities from North Dakota for the St. Paul ice show.
"Every year, you see people down there that are coming from Minot and all over North Dakota," Olson, of Thompson, N.D., said. "The one thing they all had in common was the fact that they didn't understand why there wasn't (an ice fishing show) closer."
As a result, Olson and Tony Aloia, a longtime friend and business associate, started kicking around the idea of launching a show closer to North Dakota. Long story short, the inaugural Fargo Ice Fishing Show is set for Dec. 7-9 at Scheels Arena, 5225 31st Ave. S., Fargo.
Aloia, who is principal consultant for the 32 Degrees Outdoor Group, has more than 15 years of experience in sales and marketing, much of it in the fishing industry.
"I was director of sales and marketing for Eskimo and ION, and that was how Mike and I kind of got our start together," Aloia said. "We'd always be sitting there saying, 'Why doesn't Fargo have its own show?'
"It's a huge market, North Dakota is a huge market of hard-core ice fishermen with nice, long winters and for them not to have a show does not serve that population as it should," he added. "So, Mike and I had talked about it for awhile, and finally, the opportunity came, and we said, 'Let's do it. Let's make this a reality.'"
Vendors and seminars
The upcoming Fargo show will have more than 80 vendors and a list of seminar speakers that includes some of the biggest names in the ice fishing industry, among them Tony Roach, Joel Nelson, Jason Mitchell and Jason Durham.
Seminar topics range from Devils Lake perch to Lake Winnipeg "greenback" walleyes and northern Manitoba lake trout.
Because the show has numerous sponsors, a variety of products and speakers are represented, Aloia says.
"It's not just one company's presenters," he said. "It's a representation of pro staffs from the entire industry."
In addition to vendor booths and seminars, the Fargo Ice Fishing Show will have a new product showcase, in which fans will be able to vote for "best of show," Aloia says. Clam will have a "Kids Zone" with games and prizes for kids.
"This will be an event for the whole family—not just dads," Aloia said. "There should be something for everybody there."
Among the innovations on tap for this year's ice fishing season is a new removable insulated floor Clam is offering for its pop up-style hub shelters and the Eskimo Outbreak hub, which has a full-length door to reduce the risk of tripping when entering or leaving the house.
"You're not going to be stepping over anything coming in and out the door, which I think is going to be a huge hit for families so the kids aren't tripping when they're coming in and out," Olson said. "We think it's going to be a huge hit for families and even us big guys."
Also worth noting, Aloia says, is the new PanOptix electronics units from Garmin and the side door now available on Otter's flip-top portable shelters, both of which will be on display at the show.
On the grow
At a time when participation in many outdoors activities is declining, ice fishing continues to gain momentum and popularity, a trend that bodes well for the inaugural Fargo Ice Fishing Show, the organizers say.
From shelters and electronics to warm clothing, the products available for ice fishing today just keep getting better—at a price that doesn't have to break the budget.
"We're super excited," Olson said. "This being our first year, we're super excited and super nervous at the same time just because it's our first year. We feel we've got everything in line, but it's still that first year where we just want to make sure we create the best show and the best experience for the people" who attend.
Show hours for the Fargo Ice Fishing Show are 1 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8; and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9.
More information is available at www.fargoicefishingshow.com.