BOTTINEAU - Lake Metigoshe's reputation for growing big bluegills makes the scenic setting an ideal location for the inaugural event on the 2014 North American Ice Fishing Circuit calendar.
The NAIFC has three days of events planned Jan. 3-5, culminating with a 2 p.m. weigh-in Sunday, Jan. 5, at Twins Oaks Resort. Twin Oaks is the headquarters for the event. "Mr. Ice Fishing," Dave Genz of St. Cloud, Minn., is scheduled to emcee the weigh-in.
Genz is no stranger to Lake Metigoshe. He not only fished the scenic lake earlier this winter, he hosted a "Trap Attack" tourney at Lake Metigoshe in the winter of 2005-06. That fishing circuit, basically, became today's NAIFC, which is widely recognized as the most prestigious ice circuit today.
Jacek Gawlinski, left, and Zbigniew Wojcik, both of Illinois, participated as a team in a 2012 North American Ice Fishing Circuit event at Jarvis Lake near Belcourt. The first event on the 2014 NAIFC calendar is scheduled for Lake Metigoshe Jan. 3-5.
"I just finished up with the St. Paul Ice Fishing Show," said Genz. "I'll be at Metigoshe and then West Yellowstone. I still talk to ice fishermen who thank me for starting this whole thing. It is an interesting bunch of nice people from all over the country."
Genz is well-known as an influential and innovative ice fisherman. His presence at the Lake Metigoshe tournament will help draw additional competitors to the field who know his accomplishments.
Genz has created the Winter Fishing System that has become a proven method for ice fishermen of all species. Additionally, Genz has developed various ice fishing equipment and specialized techniques that have become sought after by hard water anglers. His name can be found on Lindy baits such as the Genz Worm and Genz Bug. Genz is a regular on syndicated ice fishing shows. He was inducted into the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame in 2002.
NAIFC Metigoshe schedule
Fri., Jan. 3 - NAIFC Pro Staff Seminar, 5-9 p.m., Twin Oaks Resort, free admission.
Sat., Jan. 4 - Cabela's Kids Ice Camp, 1-3:30 p.m., free admission.
Sat., Jan. 4 - Rules Meeting, 7 p.m., Twin Oaks Resort.
Sun., Jan 5 - NAIFC Tournament, Lake Metigoshe, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
Sun., Jan 5 - Weigh-in at Twin Oaks Resort, 2 p.m.
2014 NAIFC schedule
Jan. 5 - Lake Metigoshe, N.D.
Jan. 19 - Hebgen Lake, Mont.
Jan. 26 - Chisago Lake, Minn.
Feb. 2 - Big Stone Lake, Minn.
Feb. 9 - Croton Dam Pond, Mich.
Feb. 16 - Lake Maxinkuckee, Indiana
Feb. 23 - Lake Menomin, Wisc.
March 9 - Mille Lacs Lake, Minn.
Dec. 20 - Mille Lacs Lake, Minn. (Championship)
"Genz was up here a few weeks ago. We were catching some 9- to 10-inch bluegills," said Dwane Getzlaff, Lake Metigoshe, event coordinator. "The reason those guys are coming is because, number one, they will be guaranteed to have ice and, number two, Lake Metigoshe is the best bluegill lake in North Dakota by far."
"Oh my goodness! It is a phenomenal fishery!" responded the NAIFC's Kathy Roberts, of St. Cloud, Minn., when asked why Lake Metigoshe was chosen to kick off the 2014 NAIFC season. "It is a good thing to see."
An added plus for anglers fishing the Lake Metigoshe event is that the winner will be crowned "North Dakota Bluegill Champion." Also, the top 10 two-man teams earn automatic berths in the NAIFC national finals next December at Mille Lacs Lake, Minn.
"We're getting bigger and better. We'll do the Friday night seminars and the Saturday clinic for kids," said Jack Baker, NAIFC. "Metigoshe is one of eight qualifiers throughout the season. It should be fantastic. The guys on the tournament circuit know the lake. You've got one of the best bluegill fisheries in the U.S. It's all good for North Dakota."
Baker, a former Minoter, was representing the NAIFC at the St. Paul Ice Fishing Show last weekend. He'll oversee the 2013 NAIFC championship at Mille Lacs Lake Dec. 19-21 before making the trip to Lake Metigoshe.
How many teams will enter the Lake Metigoshe event is somewhat dependent upon the weather and the number of local entrants. Estimates range from 50 to 100 teams.
"Eighty would be a great number," said Roberts.
"I'd love to see 70, if we get the word spread," said Baker. "We've got 70 for Chisago, Minn., and 70 for West Yellowstone, Mont. As for Metigoshe, the guys on the circuit all talk about it."
According to Getzlaff, a key for the Metigoshe event will be the amount of participation by local fishermen. Local fishermen often do very well against anglers arriving from other states that do not have as much familiarity with a lake. A North Dakota team won a similar event at Lake Metigoshe in the winter of 2005-06.
"We are hoping for a lot of local support," said Getzlaff. "We're shooting for 100 teams to fish with the big boys. There's some nice plaques and trophies."
Entry fee for the event is $200 per two-man team. Tournament boundaries, which could include all of Lake Metigoshe, will be finalized about 48 hours prior to the tournament. Competition for bluegills should be keen.
"Tournament fishing is amazingly different," said Genz. "The best way to fish bluegills is fish one hole and then a new hole for the biggest fish. The tournament problem is that somebody is already in that other hole. Then you need to turn the sniffers into biters. If a fish sniffs but doesn't eat, up comes that lure and down goes another one."
Genz says he prefers using maggots for his winter bluegill fishing. Popular alternatives are wax worms and artificial plastics. For Genz, though, it is not always the bait that is important.
"I like to catch fish. I don't care what they are," said Genz. "As long as that line is moving on the Vexilar, it is fine with me."
The line referred to by Genz is the reflection of a fish, represented by a colored band, on a circular Vexilar sonar screen. Both fish and bait are visible on the screen, giving ice fishermen notice when a fish approaches the bait. While today's ice anglers often rely on good electronics, ice fishing remains on of the easiest and least expensive of outdoor endeavors available today.
"You don't want to say it is a common man's sport," said Baker. "But you don't need a $40,000 boat. You can walk onto the ice with a toboggan or sled. That's the real appeal of it. Also, ice fishermen love to teach and love to get more people involved."
"That's the nice thing, the Friday seminars - and they are free," added Getzlaff.
The seminars will be held at Twin Oaks Resort. According to Baker, this year's seminars have been stretched from two hours to four. The additional time allows ice fishing experts to cover more topics in depth. The first two hours are devoted to basic ice fishing techniques and final two hours are more focused on the finer points of the sport.
Futher information about and registration forms for the Lake Metigoshe event can be found on the NAIFC website (naifc.com) or by contacting Kathy Roberts at 320-252-0428. Local contacts are Getzlaff at 228-8020 and Bryan Schweitzer at 871-1178.