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Arrowhead Ice Fishing and Winter Show runs Friday through Sunday

The annual event at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center is the unofficial kickoff to ice fishing season.

Two men stand up a red ice auger
Zach Zech, left, and Keith Hoff, both of Eskimo/Ion ice fishing, prepare an ice auger for display for the Arrowhead Ice Fishing and Winter Show on Dec. 9, 2021. This year's show is Dec. 9-11 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. More than 100 exhibitors will be on hand.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — The timing is usually about right, just as some Northland ice is getting safe enough to fish on, and just as excitement is building for winter outdoor fun.

The Arrowhead Ice Fishing & Winter Show, set for Dec. 9-11, is a chance to kick some tires on new gear and walk away with likely the best deals of the season.

No longer plagued by the supply-chain shortages of the past two ice seasons, dealers have lots of inventory. If you have the money to plunk down, you can walk out carrying ice fishing lures, rods and reels, shelters, augers, electronics, towable ice fishing campers, snowmobiles, ATVs and ice fishing clothing.

Man examines rack of fishing rods
Phil Mathwig of Neptune Ice Rods places fishing rods on display for the Arrowhead Ice Fishing and Winter Show on Dec. 9, 2021.
Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune

Seminars by local ice fishing experts will be held each day in the "Ice Box" in the middle of the old DECC Arena floor.

As usual, there’s a side show for entertainment: Sea Lion Splash, a federally sanctioned Sea Lion rescue operation. The "Frozen Basin," where anglers can “fish’’ for prizes and gift certificates to local sporting goods stores, is back this year.

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New stuff for a new season

Considering the innovations in ice fishing over the last 20 years, it’s hard to believe there could be anything new under the winter sun. But Russ Francisco, owner of Marine General sporting goods in Duluth, insists there is.

Russ Francisco Marine General
Marine General owner Russ Francisco hands fishing rods to Nic Roningen to pack in a trailer for a boat show.
Bob King / File / Duluth News Tribune

The new Heat Hog portable heater will compete with the Mr. Heater brand that has dominated the market for two decades. Heat Hog promises a wider angle of heat for more coverage and offers an 18,000 BTU unit for about $159 and a 9,000 BTU unit for smaller shelters at about $119.

Not to be outdone, Mr. Heater has introduced a new Flex model in their Buddy Heater lineup that promises to disperse heat for 180 degrees, not just in front of the elements, for about $169.

Francisco noted that Ion augers, the first to hit the market nearly 20 years ago with popular battery-powered units, are redesigned for 2023 to compete with Strikemaster and Eskimo in the rapidly growing market for battery-powered hole drillers.

Ion’s new Alpha auger with a poly bit runs about $629 for the 8-inch model and promises more speed and enough power to cut through 2,000 inches of ice (for the mathematically challenged, that’s 100 holes if the ice is 20 inches thick) between charges of its lithium ion battery.

Arrowhead Ice Fishing and Winter Show_ Otter fish house
Otter fish house factory representative Ben Marleau, left, of Braham, Minn., talks with Bill Sandvig, of Chisholm, during the Arrowhead Ice Fishing and Winter Show in 2018.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

Looking for more face time with the fish? Francisco suggests the new Aqua View AV822 HD underwater camera. It has an 8-inch color viewing screen, 60 feet of cable for the camera, on-screen temperature and direction readings and a rechargeable internal lithium-ion battery with battery status. They will set you back around $799.

Want to catch more fish? Seminars each day

Jarrid Houston , local guide and the News Tribune’s fishing columnist, says all the newfangled gadgets in the world won’t help if you don’t fish where the fish are. That usually means moving around.

051521.O.DNT.jarridC1
Jarrid Houston has been guiding anglers in the Twin Ports area since 2009 as Houston's Guide Service and has been writing a fishing column in the News Tribune since 2017.
John Myers / 2021 file / Duluth News Tribune

“Expand your horizons. Don’t fish memories. What worked yesterday may not work today — not just the fishing spots, but the gear you are using,’’ Houston said.

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But Houston also is a big believer in taking advantage of the advantages new technology offers.

Vexilar unit
Ice fishing electronics, like this Vexilar unit, will be a popular item at this year's Arrowhead Ice Fishing and Winter Show. Big advances in technology have pushed many anglers to upgrade their ice fishing gear.
Sam Cook / File / Duluth News Tribune

“The guys who learn and adapt to the new technology have a huge advantage at catching more fish. Expose yourself and learn. Go onto YouTube and watch, or go to a seminar,’’ Houston said.

Take broadband sonars, for example, Houston uses a newer Vexilar unit that has seven frequencies and 20 options to reduce interference. All those combinations not only allow him to adjust his sonar for depth (narrow, high frequencies in deep water, wider, lower frequencies in shallow water) but also allow him to eliminate interference from hard bottom lakes or form other angler’s sonar units.

“The guy who puts more effort into learning how to use this stuff will absolutely outperform other anglers at the end of the day,’’ Houston said.

Even ice fishing tackle has advanced, Houston noted. Bemidji-based Northland tackle has a new glass-chambered Buckshot lure. While sound-producing lures have been around a while, this lure produces a higher frequency sound that travels farther in the water.

“We’ll absolutely be using those this winter,’’ Houston noted.

A 23-inch walleye on Superior Bay made the bucket list for ice fishing guru Dave Genz.

Clam Outdoors has a new Stoplight lighted bobber — dig deep, they retail for $16 — that glows green when it’s on top of the water, but turns red when it’s going down. Anyone who fishes a dead stick bobber rig in darker conditions could see that advantage.

Houston will host nine ice fishing seminars over the three days of the Arrowhead show with fishing guides and pro staffers Corey Bechtold, Alice Wiese, Grant Sorensen, Justin Wiese, Brad Hawthorne and Chuck Johnson.

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Arrowhead Ice Fishing and Winter Show_dark house decoys
Dark house ice fishing decoys are for sale at the Arrowhead Ice Fishing and Winter Show in 2018.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

Ticket discounts

Show hours are noon to 8 p.m. Dec. 9; 10 a.m to 8 p.m. Dec. 10; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 11.

Tickets at the door are $12 for adults and $7 for youth ages 6-17, but are discounted if you buy in advance online. Kids 5 and under are free.

For more information, or to buy tickets, go to arrowheadiceshow.com. You can come back for a second day for free — just save your ticket.

This story was updated at 8 a.m. Dec. 6 to keep information current. It was originally posted at 7:03 a.m. Nov. 25.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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