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Today's ice fishermen benefit from state-of-the-art tools

If the packed-house attendance at the recent St. Paul Ice Fishing & Winter Sports Show a few weeks ago is any indicator, ice fishing has to be the fastest-growing segment of the fishing recreation industry.

The show, held the first weekend of December every year at the St. Paul River Centre, features the latest in gear, especially for ice-fishing enthusiasts, along with the best in places to go and stay this winter.

Fishing rods, reels, fish houses, heaters, electronic depth sounders, augers, snowmobiles, four-wheelers, all new and improved, were on display and appealing to today's armada of ice fishermen.

New and improved electronics allows anglers to find and see their lures, and how the fish below the ice react and bite. Light in weight, these electronic fish sounders are housed in carry cases and are very easy to use.

Drilling the ice fishing hole has never been simpler. Light-weight auger assemblies, fitting cordless drills and weighing less than 9 pounds, slice through ice with ease. Electric ice drills with reverse will cut several dozen holes with one charge. Gas and propane ice-powered drills start with one or two pulls.

Today's ice fishing rods and reels are lighter and extremely sensitive. The rods are made from high density graphite, equipped with special winter fishing reels to house the super invisible braided fishing lines

No longer are ice fishermen left out in the cold. Fish houses on display were small, mobile, soft-sided, well-insulated and portable, with enough room for one to four persons to fish comfortably. If the angler desired more comfort during a extended time on the ice, a deluxe camper-style fish house housed with double beds, cooking stoves, refrigerators, showers and satellite dish TV is available. A fish house converts to a camper that can be used to stay in 12 months a year.

Getting around on the ice has never been easier or safer. A floating, motorized-driven heated fish house on skis, complete with depth sounder hook ups and satellite color TV, was on display. Track-equipped four wheelers, fully enclosed and heated, designed with enough room to haul all the gear an angler may need for their time on the ice with ease, are also on the market.

These new wave ice fishermen have access to the latest in information with safer and easier access to those "once secret" fishing holes via the many social media outlets. Angling enthusiasts acquire this information by forming teams, share with each other information on the hottest lakes, then converge on these fishing holes.

The cozy, overnight sleeper-style fish houses keep the angler on a hot fishing spot, 24/7, posing a concern to what this increased fishing pressure could mean to the resource. This remains to be seen. It could be necessary to reduce daily limits of fish taken or apply special regulations in order to protect the resource for future generations.

Today's ice anglers are far more sophisticated in the methods and ability to access even the most remote fishing spots. What comes with this sophistication is a greater appreciation, necessary to preserve the future of the fishing resource.