SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Matt Johnson has seen a lot of changes since he started ice fishing as a kid.
“He was in a bucket. He was using a hand auger, you think that’s tough,” Johnson said.
He now works at Clam Outdoors and showcases 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 Center in Saint Paul this weekend.
“We want to get people excited about winter and getting out on the ice,” Johnson added.
At Clam they specialize in ice fishing equipment, especially ice fishing.
“Instead of camping, we call it Clamping,” Johnson said.
Subject, in a heated icebox that is bigger than some apartments.
“Two people can spend the whole weekend here and have a good time,” Johnson says as he shows off one of Clam’s newest frosts.
Some other innovations in recent years include augers that can be powered by a cordless drill and light jackets that can help a fisherman float in the water if he falls.
“There have been many technological and safety improvements in recent years,” Johnson explains.
Anything they can do to make ice fishing more accessible.
“Those people for the first time that we caught during the pandemic, we’re trying to get them to look for more,” Johnson says.
Drew Arnold of Reed’s Family Outdoor Outfitter said companies are now making more entry-level products that are cheaper and easier to use, to keep those first timers.
“Once the pandemic passed, it opened up a huge variety of opportunities. We created a new class of first-year anglers,” says Arnold.
“A lot of vendors reacted to that. They said, ‘Hey, how can we serve the new ice angler on the ice today?’
Arnold says many companies have created more entry-level products that are cheaper and easier to use.
“They lowered the price. They made the technology smoother and easier to use. They’re also using social media, YouTube and others to connect with this new user and bring them into the sport,” explains Arnold.
Introducing more Minnesotans to a fun winter activity… it’s not as hard as it used to be.
“It’s cold. We’ve got snow on the ground. We’re thinking winter-type things, why not ice fishing?” Johnson says.
The show is open now through Sunday at the River Center in Saint Paul.
The show is open to the public on Friday from 1 to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.