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Brad Laabs: New technology makes ice fishing more enjoyable

Ice fishing is in full season now. Most area lakes have 5-8 inches of good, clear, solid ice. Our ten day forecast looks like we will keep making good ice and no significant snow accumulation will make this one of the earlier and better starts to an ice fishing season than we have had in a few years.

The early ice bite always seems to be better in our area than the late January and February bite. Now through the end of the Holiday season and into mid-January is a good time to plan ice trips — especially for getting kids involved.

With the addiction to video games and electronics many kids have developed over the last number of years, getting them into ice fishing is easy with their ability to use modern ice fishing flashers. The whole experience becomes a live action video experience. We have the ability to visualize what our bait is doing, see fish come to the bait, and then experience the bite. Underwater cameras are also a big hit with kids (and us bigger/older kids!) Watching what’s under the water and relating to your presentation is some of the most entertaining TV you can watch.

With the popularity of the smart phone and the fact so many people have them now, a cool new product and app is out this season for the smart phone you may want to know about.  The product is from Vexilar and has a wireless transducer that reads to your smartphone on the free downloaded app. It turns your smartphone into a fully functional sonar system for ice fishing. The product cost is about a hundred and thirty bucks. You don’t need cell phone coverage to use the transducer and app. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery requires a USB port for recharging and lasts about four hours on a charge.

This week I got a chance to get out and use a fairly new ice fishing product that is defiantly a big boy (or girl) toy. I was able to venture out on early ice and try the Wilcraft ice fishing machine. Select Auto is an area dealer for this product and I was asked to go with the owner to test out this vehicle. It is a portable ice machine that is able to transport a couple of fisherman over thin ice, or even open water as it also floats like a boat. This craft is manufactured in the metro area, and has been featured the last couple of years on a couple different ice fishing shows. It can go off trail and over deep snow, as well as really shining as the safest early and late ice season ice fishing transport and portable. It is easy to use, set up, and move. They are also used as ice rescue vehicles.

It is hard to describe this machine and must be seen to fully understand and appreciate. The website is if you want to learn more about this cool Minnesota product. Many “You Tube” video clips have been made by users of this unique machine. Select Auto also has a couple of models on display locally for the serious ice angler to look at or purchase.

I feel lucky to be able to do what I do and get the chances to experience what I experience when it comes to fishing. I have seasons of experience with the “Snobear” track vehicle, been escorted onto the lakes several times with a Ranger track vehicle, and now had an opportunity to test, use, and catch a couple walleyes with a Wilcraft. Someone has to, or gets to do these things, I figure it might as well be me! Get out and enjoy the ice, but make good decisions and stay safe.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs’ Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)