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Good Times for Hard Ice

February 14, 2018 - Larry Claypool
Ice fishing is fantastic!

That pretty much sums up hard water fishing in this region lately. That statement was found on Runzo’s Outdoor Sports Facebook page from a local fisherman. Mike Runzo, owner of Runzo’s in Beloit, OH, said this year’s ice fishing season is the “best in 10 years and has been the longest stretch for a while”.

So, the extended cold weather and snow we’ve had this winter has benefitted many cold-weather fisherman and businesses in the region.

Runzo said his shop sold out of everything ice fishing related earlier and he’s re-ordered supplies since. And as of mid-month he was still selling live minnows for hard ice fans. The top selling lures at Runzo’s have been Vib E lures, jigs, Rapalas and min pins.

Two other factors have helped Runzo’s business this winter. Unlike fishing season during warm weather, Runzo says many other shops and bait stores close in the winter, and he’s noticed many new fisherman taking on hard water fishing.

“People know that we have minnows so they’ll drive a distance to come here. And we’re seeing a lot of new people. That has helped,” said Runzo.

The hard water fishing this season has boosted many national manufacturers of ice fishing products. I spoke with two executives of such products for this column — Dave Lofgren of St. Croix Rods and Ben Gibbs of Aqua-Vu. Lofgren is the regional area manager (Ice Belt) at St. Croix and Gibbs is president of Aqua-Vu, an underwater camera company he founded in 1997.

“It’s definitely been a good year for us,” said Gibbs from his Park Falls, WI office. “We’ve had most of our dealers run out of stock, so we had to ramp up production and build for orders.”

The Aqua-Vu cameras have been a big hit recently with ice fisherman. By mid-February dealers were still ordering the cameras. Aqua-Vu starter units (AV Micro II) sell for $199 and top of the line cameras sell for $999. There also are special attachments for ice fishing.

Obviously much of St. Croix’s winter customer base is within Lofgren’s ‘Ice Belt’ region, but the hard ice we experienced in the Ohio Valley, east and even south has pushed sales marks up for the rod maker.

“Rod sales for retailers in my territory have been exceptional with many sell-thrus. I had reorders in some areas, with a strong independent as an example, who placed a large order just last week,” said Lofgren. “Normally I get emails from buyers asking when they can start “end of season” actions… and I have received none to date.”

Runzo said the popularity of ice fishing this year has taken off with the help of several social media sites on the topic. “There’s a lot of information out there. People come to our Facebook page to post photos, ask questions about bait and where to fish,” said Runzo. “And I follow the pages to see where guys are fishing and check out photos. And I’ve noticed a lot more new fisherman. Probably more than I’ve ever seen.”

For information about Runzo’s Outdoor Sports, call them at 330-537-2137 or find them on Facebook. They also accept trophy photographs for the page.

For more information on Aqua-Vu, visit them at: www.aquavu.com.

For information about St. Croix Rods, visit them at: www.stcroixrods.com.

 
 

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Blog Photos

Josh Ferrell has a little fun showing off his saugeye catches recently at Buckeye Lake, OH. See this one and more ice fishing photos in the February issue of the Ohio Valley Outdoor Times. Photo courtesy of John Ferrell