(Jan 6, 2017 - Crosslake, MN)
It’s easily the most underrated region in the ice fishing belt. But this territory’s crystalline waters, scenic terrain and underwater monsters have nothing to do with the Canadian Shield, the Dakotas or Northern Minnesota.
Fishing guide Nathan Zelinsky has known this for years, and for the past four, he and his company Tightline Outdoors have put on one of the best shows on ice—right in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.
Headlined by Aqua-Vu, Bass Pro Shops, Ford Trucks and a host of other sponsors, the Ice Addiction Tournament Series puts thousands of competing anglers on hordes of biting fish, from crystalline mountain reservoirs to Western prairie impoundments. Fishing fun, education and an equal chance to win over $15,000 in cash and prizes are just part of the allure.
The Aqua-Vu Micro series have become indispensable tools for the modern ice angler.
“We’ve got 10-inches of great ice for Saturday’s tournament on Boyd Lake,” Zelinsky reported Wednesday from out on the frozen Colorado lake. “With these perfect conditions, we anticipate a big crowd, possibly a thousand anglers or more.” At Boyd Lake, an hour north of Denver, an enticing list of species await anglers’ lures—crappies, bluegills, perch, rainbow trout, walleyes, catfish, and white bass. The heaviest overall fish wins a new Polaris ATV, while numerous of other prizes go to heaviest of each species, as well as dozens of randomly drawn rewards.
A full time fishing guide for 15 years, Zelinsky launched Ice Addiction events as an exciting, high-energy opportunity to catch good fish, win great prizes and learn more about the sport he loves. The total catch-and-release tourneys, says Zelinsky, are all about taking care of the fisheries, and demonstrating the first-hand importance of the conservation ethic.
“In years past in other tournaments, there was a lot of foul play and catch-and-kill going on,” he noted. “We wanted to run a higher quality event, fair and legit, with a big emphasis on safely handling and releasing every fish.”
Every caught fish immediately enters one of three large aerated fish tanks before being quickly weighed and released. “We work hard to earn a super low mortality rate of less than 1-percent. It’s so important to protect these fisheries, especially our big lake trout in waters like Blue Mesa Reservoir. Handling these fish carefully is a great lesson for everyone to see and then practice when they’re out fishing themselves.”
The teaching side of the events, says Zelinsky, is another element to the tournament series’ success. “You can show up, enter and fish even if you don’t own any gear. We’ll loan you a rod, lures and tackle for the day. We usually loan out 50 to 70 outfits per event. We also see plenty of folks show up taking price tags off stuff. So we’ve got anglers of all skill levels, which is great.
“We have a registration tent on shore and a big warming tent on the ice. Folks can come in, have a cup of hot chocolate and a cinnamon roll—we give away a thousand pounds of world famous cinnamon rolls at every event. While they warm up, folks can also test out new electronics, augers and other gear.
“Inside the warming tent are two bigscreen TVs, each rigged with an Aqua-Vu HD camera. The underwater action draws a lot of interest. One cam’s set over structure and another on our catch-and-release hole shows fish as they swim away. People can operate an Aqua-Vu Mo-Pod to remotely pan the camera and look around for themselves. We’ve even got two staff walking around the fishing course with Aqua-Vu Micro cameras during the events, showing anglers what’s below their hole. This type of show and tell generates a lot of good interaction and plenty of excitement.”
As in other cold weather regions, Zelinsky says ice fishing is growing in the West. “We’ve seen a growth rate of 27-percent each season, with more people purchasing tackle, electronics and other gear. Folks are really excited about ice fishing here. Winter sports are huge in the West. Not everyone can afford to go skiing, but ice fishing is affordable, accessible and family-friendly.”
Four Ice Addiction tournaments beginning Saturday January 7, take place on topnotch fisheries with safe ice, including Boyd and Chatfield reservoirs near Denver, Starvation Reservoir, Utah and a final event on beautiful Blue Mesa Lake, Colorado on February 11.
About Outdoors Insight, Inc.
Creator of Aqua-Vu, the original Underwater Viewing System, Outdoors Insight, Inc. has led the underwater camera category in design, innovation and quality since 1997. The Central Minnesota based company builds many popular outdoors products, such as the iBall Trailer Hitch Camera and Odor Check Moisture and Odor Control System (featuring Scent-Lok Technology.