The best-ever ice fishing weekend starts on Friday night in La Porte.
Open-water anglers are sure to learn a few tricks, too, during the North American Ice Fishing Circuit events stretching through Sunday.
Free, open-to-the-public seminars begin at 5 p.m., at the Best Western, 444 Pine Lake Ave., La Porte. Everything from tackle needs to fish-catching techniques, plus prepping fish for the fryer, will be covered by director Jack Baker in the first two hours before touring pros take over from 7 to 9 p.m.
The team of Anthony Rodriguez and Chad Schaub will be the featured experts and their resume includes four NAIFC wins in their last 13 events, while finishing out of the top 10 just once in that span. Baker also mentioned something about winning a bronze medal in the World Championships as members of the USA Ice Fishing Team.
A free kid’s camp is set for Saturday from 1 to 3:30 p.m. The program starts inside Cummings Lodge, 350 Grangemouth Rd. (on Stone Lake), La Porte, with an hour or so of tutorials on the basics — ice safety, equipment, baits and tactics — before going out on the ice for some actual fishing. Parents need to accompany youth and don’t forget to dress for the elements.
The Maple City Ice Fishing Classic, hosted by the Friends of Fishing conservation club, fishes Saturday morning out of Cummings Lodge.
Entry in the big contest is $20 and includes all six categories — bass, bluegill/redear, crappie, perch, pike and walleye. Each entrant also goes into a drawing for a $300 gas-powered auger provided by the La Porte County Convention & Visitors Bureau. Registration starts at 5 a.m., weigh-in is at noon.
The main event, the NAIFC Open Qualifier, fishes from 8 a.m to 1 p.m. on Sunday with the big weigh-in set for 2 p.m. inside Cummings Lodge.
As of Thursday afternoon, 27 two-man teams from Iowa to Ohio and throughout the Midwest ice belt had pre-registered. They’ll vie for $3,750 in prize money (based on 27 entries) as well as a top-10 finish which advances them to the North American Championship (there are eight qualifying events, including La Porte).
Boundaries will be set at the Saturday night contest meeting and may limit anglers to south Pine as parts of north Pine and the connected waters of Stone Lake had suspect ice at mid week. Other rules include one rod per angler, although unlimited holes may be drilled. Other competitors can move in on those holes but must respect a seemingly-short 15-foot distance from other fishermen.
NAIFC judges roam the ice throughout the competition.
Snow storm or not, several first-ever, sure-to-be eye-opening events will take place in La Porte. More information on the contest can be found at www.naifc.com.
• Youth sporting shoot: The Galena Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation will host a free clay target shoot for youth, age 17 and under, on Sunday at the ritzy Deer Creek Hunt Club near Three Oaks, Mich.
No experience is necessary. The Galena Chapter provides safety gear, instruction, ammunition, guns and lunch for the 9to 11 a.m event. To reserve a spot, call (219) 324-0316.
• KVD: I see Kevin VanDam, famously known as “KVD,” is scheduled for a meet-and-greet from noon to 4 p.m. on Feb. 17 at the Portage Bass Pro Shops. KVD (those three letters alone, have been known to make bass tremble) is the most accomplished fisherman alive. VanDam has won four Bassmaster Classics and seven BASS Angler of the Year titles.