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Duluth ice fishing show set for Dec. 10-12

Gear is coming in as big indoor sports shows are back after COVID-19 shut them down.

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The Arrowhead Ice Fishing and Winter Show, canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns, is back Dec. 10-12, 2021, at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Clint Austin / 2017 file / Duluth News Tribune

For the first time since February 2020, Northland outdoor enthusiasts have a big indoor sports show to attend in person at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.

The Arrowhead Ice Fishing and Winter Show is set for Dec. 10-12, with manufacturers and retailers showing and selling ice fishing and other winter outdoor gear and supplies. That includes everything from $1 jigs and $1,000 sonar fish finders to $10,000 (and way up) wheeled ice houses.

And while some gear remains in short supply due to ongoing supply chain issues, especially importing products from Asia, show promoters say manufacturers are starting to see more shipments coming in.

“The word is that they expect to be getting a lot more product coming in right before the show starts. But a lot of them already have good supplies on hand,’’ said Chris Navratil, vice president of Farmington, Minnesota-based Shamrock Productions, Inc., which owns the show.

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The first major outdoors show in Duluth since February 2020, the Arrowhead Ice Fishing and Winter Show, is set for Dec. 10-12, 2021, at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Clint Austin / 2017 file / Duluth News Tribune

The ice fishing show will be the first big production for Shamrock since the Duluth Boat, Sports and Travel show in February 2020. Since then, all of its big events have been scuttled by COVID-19. The company also produces the Arrowhead Home and Builders Show and a sports show in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Russ Francisco, owner of Marine General sporting goods in Duluth, one of the largest retailers at the ice fishing show, said some nagging supply issues remain for outdoor gear. But he said most manufacturers have been getting him goods to sell.

“If you would have asked me three weeks ago, I would have said we would be (taking orders) for a lot of things. But we’ve been getting a lot of (shipments) in the last few weeks. … We’ll be in good shape for the show,” Francisco said.

Some items are simply selling faster than they can be made, like the new Vexilar FLX-30 flasher sonar unit that retails for nearly $800.

“I would have never believed a few years ago that people would spend $800 to upgrade to a new flasher for ice fishing, but they are, and a lot of them,” he said.

Consider clothing, augers, shelters, wheeled fish houses, sonars and other ice gear, and Minnesotans each year are now “spending more money on ice fishing than summer fishing. That’s how big ice fishing is now,” Francisco said.

Navratil said this year’s show again features seminars on ice fishing as well as several panel discussions on fishing trends hosted by Jarrid Houston, local guide and News Tribune fishing columnist.

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READ COLUMNS BY JARRID HOUSTON IN NORTHLAND OUTDOORS

Houston said the rapid innovation in the ice fishing industry continues to stagger the imagination, with new lures, new shelters, new rods, clothing, augers and electronics introduced each season. Side-scan sonar technology continues to offer uncanny images of not just what’s below you, but yards off in any direction. Broadband flashers also are catching on fast for anglers willing to spend the money.

While just a few years ago, nearly all ice anglers were using gasoline-powered ice augers, with a few propane models, the trend now is clearly moving to battery-powered electric augers with no fuel or fumes to deal with.

“The electric ice auger industry is booming with gas being a thing of yesterday. Most manufacturers are taking to the lithium” batteries, Houston noted. “I love my Strikemaster 40-volt. They now make a smaller 24-volt system that’s less than 15 pounds.”

Most of the battery powered units will supply more than enough power for more than enough holes for most ice fishing applications.

“Lighter, compact and durable is the new way of the modern day ice angler for sure,” Houston noted.

The Frozen Basin fishing pond is back at the ice fishing show with tagged trout earning lucky anglers a combined $10,000 in prizes and gift certificates for dollars off items purchased from vendors at the show.

Navratil said this year’s show also includes vendors selling non-fishing and non-outdoors merchandise.

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“There will be something for everyone in the family, even people who don’t fish,” she said.

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Colorful fish decoys, used for spearing, for sale at the Arrowhead Ice Fishing and Winter Show in 2018. After being canceled due to COVID-19 in 2020, the show is back this year, set for Dec. 10-12 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

New to this year's show is the Sea Lion Splash, an adopted family of rescued, trained sea lions performing several times each day.

There will be no COVID-19 masking requirement at the DECC for this event.

“Masks are optional and we welcome all attendees, masked or non-masked,’’ Navratil said.

Show hours are Friday, noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth ages 6-17. Kids 5 and under are free. Parking at the DECC is $5 for this event only. Tell the attendant that you are attending the ice fishing show. (Parking for other DECC events is $10.) For more information, go to arrowheadiceshow.com .

The St. Paul Ice Fishing & Winter Sports Show is also back with a live, in-person event this year Dec. 3-5 at the St. Paul RiverCentre.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, environment and natural resources for the Duluth News Tribune. He can be reached at jmyers@duluthnews.com .

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