When Karl Erickson offered to teach students at Lake Harriet Community School how to ice fish on a recent Saturday, he was amazed to see 50 kids sign up.
“I am looking to sell these kids and families on the sport of ice fishing,” he said in an email. “I want these kids to put away their devices and video games and let these Vexilars and fishing rod/reels be the items that grab their attention for the day…”
Erickson, an associate educator and Minneapolis Kids staffer at Lake Harriet’s upper campus, wants to pay forward his own introduction to the sport.
“When I came home from Iraq in 2007 with the Minnesota Army National Guard a friend took me out ice fishing with a Vexilar fish finder, a Clam flip shack and a power auger and hooked me on the sport of Ice fishing,” he said. “Because with those 3 devices, they took away the worst parts of ice fishing: being cold, making a hole in the ice and being bored by actively engaging the fish with the sonar finder down the hole. I have been an avid ice angler ever since.”
Erickson spent three months planning the event, and equipment donations poured in from friends and the fishing industry, along with donations from Red Cow (gift cards), Great Harvest (rolls), and Settergren’s Hardware (propane to heat the portable houses).
With all the equipment donated or borrowed, Erickson didn’t need further help to cover expenses. Instead, he asked parents to give donations to Wounded Warriors Guide Service. It’s a nonprofit started by Brian Ophus, who served with Erickson in Iraq, and it’s designed to get wounded veterans out hunting and fishing regardless of injuries.
Jadyn Guzman was one of the Lake Harriet students who gave ice fishing a try Jan. 24.
“What do I do if I catch a fish?” she asked Don Nelson, a friend of Erickson’s who helped set up rods for the kids.
Guzman sat patiently waiting for fish to bite, but became a little squeamish when Nelson baited the hook.
“I feel so bad for them,” she said.
Erickson said he’d consider repeating the event next year.
“Everything that could go right went right, except for the fish not biting,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll create a new generation of ice fishers.”