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Ice fishing saw a big boost during the pandemic, now companies are trying to keep that momentum going

Vendors at the Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show are trying to keep first time anglers interested after introducing them to 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 like, this is tough,” Johnson said.

He now works at Clam Outdoors and gets to show off the latest innovations in the industry.

Clam is one of more than 160 vendors at this year’s Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show at the River Centre in Saint Paul this weekend.

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

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

“Instead of camping, we call it Clamping,” Johnson said.

Clamping, in a heated icehouse that's bigger than some apartments.

“Two people can spend their entire weekend in here and have a great time,” Johnson says while showing off one of Clam’s newest icehouses.

Some other innovations in recent years include augers that can be powered by a cordless drill, and lightweight jackets that can help an angler float in the water in case they fall in.

“There has been a lot of technological improvements and safety improvements in recent years,” Johnson explains.

Anything they can do to make ice fishing more accessible.

"That first time crowd we grabbed onto during the pandemic, we're trying to keep them looking for more,” Johnson says.

Drew Arnold at Reed's Family Outdoor Outfitter said companies are now making more beginner level products that are cheaper and easier to use, to keep those first timers going.

"Once the pandemic came through it opened up a wide variety of opportunity. We created a whole new freshman class of anglers,” Arnold says.

“A lot of vendors reacted to it. They said ‘hey, how can we cater to the new ice angler on the ice today?’”

Arnold says a lot of companies have created more beginner level products that are cheaper and easier to use.

“They dropped the price. They made the technology smoother and more user friendly. They’re also using social media, YouTube and other ones to connect with this new user and to bring them into the sport,” Arnold explains.

To introduce more Minnesotans to a fun winter activity...that's not as hard core as it used to be.

"It's cold outside. We've got snow on the ground. We're thinking winter type stuff, why not have it be ice fishing?” Johnson says.

The show is open now through Sunday at the River Centre in Saint Paul.

The show is open to the public on Friday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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