Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show in St. Paul

Vendors at ice fishing and winter sports shows are trying to woo first-time anglers after introducing ice fishing during the pandemic.

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Matt Johnson has seen a lot of changes since he started ice fishing as a kid.

“I was on a bucket. I was using a hand auger, you’re that hard,” Johnson said.

He now works for Clam Outdoors and is available to showcase the latest innovations in the industry.

Clam is one of more than 160 vendors at this weekend’s ice fishing and winter sports show at the River Center in St. Paul.

“We want to get people excited about the winter and get out on the ice,” Johnson added.

At Clam, they specialize in ice fishing equipment, especially icehouses.

“Instead of summer camp, we call it cramming,” Johnson said.

Clamp, in a heated ice house larger than some apartments.

“Two people can spend the weekend here and have a good time,” Johnson said while showing off one of Clam’s newest ice houses.

Other innovations in recent years include a cordless drill auger and a lightweight jacket that helps a fisherman float in the water if he falls.

“There have been a lot of improvements in technology and safety in recent years,” Johnson explained.

Anything they can do to make ice fishing more accessible.

“We’re trying to look for more of them, the first crowd during the pandemic,” Johnson said.

Drew Arnold at Reed’s Family Outdoor Outfitter says companies are now making entry-level products that are cheaper and easier to use to keep beginners going.

“As soon as the plague hit, it opened up a lot of opportunities. We created a whole new class of anglers,” Arnold said.

“A lot of merchants reacted to that. They said, ‘Hey, how are we going to feed the new ice fishermen on the ice today?’

Many companies have created entry-level products that are cheaper and easier to use, Arnold said.

“They’ve lowered the price. They’ve made the technology smoother and more user-friendly. They’re also using social media, YouTube and other networks to connect with this new consumer and get them into sports,” Arnold explained.

To get more Minnesotans into winter fun activities…it’s not as hard as it used to be.

“It’s cold outside. We’ve got snow on the ground. We’re thinking winter-type stuff, why not ice fish?” Johnson says.

The exhibit is open now through Sunday at the River Center in St. Paul.

The exhibition will be open to the public on Friday from 13.00 to 20.00, Saturday from 10.00 to 19.00, and Sunday from 9.00 to 16.00.

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