Dire predictions of an apocalyptic blizzard didn’t stop more than 75 young anglers from celebrating winter with local labor union volunteers at the Minneapolis Area Take Kids Ice Fishing Day on Chisago Lake Saturday, January 18.
A joint effort by the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance (USA), International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC) Local 9 and a coalition of other supporters, the free event was aimed at introducing the next generation of anglers and conservationists to the joys of ice fishing.
As it turned out, the area received only 2 to 4 inches of snow—a “dusting” by Minnesota standards—coupled with mild morning temperatures that made for excellent fishing conditions.
Over 25 union volunteers and B.A.S.S. High School Fishing members provided participants with hands-on ice fishing instruction and assistance. Much to their delight, the budding anglers each received a free Pure Fishing ice fishing rod and reel, game calls from Plano Synergy and other goodies. As a bonus from local unions and other supporters, more than $3,000 in door prizes were given away as well.
“We had a great turnout and the event went really well,” said local volunteer project leader Dave Morin, a member of IUEC Local 9. “It’s awesome to see all these kids getting out to experience ice fishing, some for the first time. I’m thankful to our sponsors, the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and all the volunteers who pitched in to make this possible.”
Participants came from across the Twin Cities and around the region. Tony Wilking made the 70-mile drive from St. Cloud so his 6-year-old son Jack could enjoy the festivities. “We’re grateful for everyone who put this event together,” said Wilking, a retired U.S. Army veteran. “Activities like ice fishing are so much better for kids than sitting inside playing video games.”
“This is a really cool idea,” added David Brandner, of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, who brought his son Mason to the event. “You’re getting kids involved in the outdoors, which is wonderful. Plus, how many people can say they took their kid fishing and got a free fishing pole?”
Volunteer Jarrod Asleson, a member of Cement Masons (OPCMIA) Local 633, said donating time to take kids fishing was a labor of love. “My wife is an AFSCME union member and we’re both happy to be out here doing something positive for our community,” he said. “This is our second time volunteering at a Union Sportsmen’s Alliance youth ice fishing event and we’re already looking forward to next year!”
The Chisago Lake Take Kids Ice Fishing Day was organized through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground conservation program, which is supported by USA national conservation partners Bass Pro Shops, Plano Synergy, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Pure Fishing, Remington Arms and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.
The event was sponsored by IUEC Local 9 and the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, with support from: IBEW Local 110, Operating Engineers Local 49, OPCMIA Local 633, Pipefitters Local 539, UA Plumbers Local 15, Roofers Local 96 and the Minneapolis and Saint Paul Building and Construction Trades councils. Additional corporate partners included Clam Outdoors, Joe’s Sporting Goods, Maynard’s Tackle, Northland Fishing Tackle and Today’s Tackle.
“Thanks to Dave Morin and his diehard crew of volunteers from various unions and the local community, the event was a great success,” said USA Conservation Manager Robert Stroede. “Participants were treated to a fun morning of ice fishing in heated shelters with everything they needed to experience the fun of ice fishing and hopefully get hooked on the sport.”
The Minneapolis-area event was the latest in series of free, community-based Take Kids Fishing Day activities held through Work Boots on the Ground, which organizes union volunteers to complete conservation, public access, education, youth outreach and adult mentorship projects that would otherwise go undone.
Launched in 2010, the program has completed 230 projects in 31 states. The value of volunteer labor donated through WBG is fast approaching $1.5 million, while outreach events have engaged nearly 13,000 participants, including more than 6,000 in 2019.