Families Brave Icy Roads for Minneapolis Area Take Kids Ice Fishing Event
by Kate Nation
Despite snow, freezing rain and thunderstorms Friday night and icy roads Saturday morning, nearly 40 young anglers and their families joined local labor union volunteers on East Rush Lake in Rush City, Minnesota, for the annual Minneapolis Area Take Kids Ice Fishing Day on Saturday, March 5.
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 aimed to introduce the next generation of anglers and conservationists to the joys of ice fishing.
“The weather failed me again,” said Dave Morin, an executive board member of IUEC Local 9 who began the annual event in 2019. “The first year, we held the event in January, and it was below zero. The next year, there were winter storm warnings with 50 mph winds and a pile of snow.”
The 75-80 youth and adults who braved the conditions this year had a blast and received plenty of assistance from 20 union volunteers representing IUEC Local 9, Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ (OPCMIA) Local 633, Sheet Metal Workers (SMART) Local 10, Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 949, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the teacher’s union.
According to USA Executive Assistant Cassie Allen, who spent time in the ice hunts with the anglers, the kids were in their element jigging over a grass bed to catch sunnies (bluegills and pumpkin seeds) and a few perch and taking breaks for snowball fights.
“One mother and her son were there for the first time, and it was evident her son had never caught a fish,” Allen said. “Kendra, one of our volunteers, stayed with the boy the entire time, coaching him on what to do and what to expect. When he hooked one, you could see the glimmer in his eyes as he held his prized fish —he felt like he had won the lottery! The best part, though, was the look of appreciation from his mom, who had driven an incredibly long way to spend the day with her son and witness his new love for ice fishing.”
“The parents were very thankful that we gave them the opportunity to bring their kids fishing,” said Jarrod Asleson, president of OPCMIA Cement Masons Local 633. “Getting kids involved in outdoor activities will help them in the future. I still pull from problem solving skills I learned while spending time outdoors with my dad and uncles.”
The young anglers each received a free fishing rod and reel as well as a Create-A-Lure kit, so the kids can paint their own lure to use in the future.
“The kids couldn’t believe they got their own fishing poles, and I had many parents come up and tell me how fantastic the event was,” said Bill Katz, a retired member of IUEC Local 9 who co-led the event with Mike Rodger, a retired member of OPCMIA Local 633. “Events like this are a great way to get kids outside, away from their electronics, and spark a new interest. We gave away some top-notch gear to help the kids and their parents continue to pursue ice fishing.”
According to Morin, the first raffle prize drawn was for Vexilar fishing electronics. “The little kid who came up to claim his prize was grinning from ear to ear,” he said. “I remember so many great times fishing with friends and family, and I want today’s youth to have those same experiences. Plus, getting kids involved in fishing helps ensure they will want to protect the sport as adults.”
The event was sponsored by IUEC Local 9 and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, with support from: Sprinkler Fitters Local 417, St. Paul Building Trades, Iron Workers Local 512, Laborers’ District Council of Minnesota and North Dakota, Cement Masons Local 633, OPCMIA Local 633, SMART Local 10, IBEW Local 949, Maynards Tackle, Milaca Unclaimed Freight, Blue Ribbon Bait and Tackle, Vexilar Nation, Nitti’s Hunters Point, Clam Outdoors, Joe’s Sporting Goods, Thorne Bros., Twin Cities Concrete Pumping, Rustic Meadows Campground, Flickabirds, JT outdoors and Schindler Elevator Corporation.
“Though the weather impacted our expected attendance, this event was a big success,” said USA Conservation Coordinator Cody Campbell. “Thanks to a diehard crew of volunteers from various local unions and the community, the anglers were treated to a great fishing experience, good food, lots of prizes, and free fishing gear to help them continue to enjoy fishing in the future. There were tons of smiles and lots of new friendships.”
The Minneapolis-area event was part of a series of free, community-based Take Kids Fishing Day events, sponsored by Humana, organized through the USA’s Work Boots on the Ground (WBG) conservation program. WBG organizes union volunteers to complete projects that improve public access to the outdoors, conserve wildlife habitat, restore America’s parks, and educate and engage youth in the outdoors.