The atmosphere Thursday afternoon among exhibitors and sportsmen and sportswomen attending the Northwest Sportshow at the Minneapolis Convention Center was decidedly upbeat.
Resort owners and outfitters I talked to from Minnesota, Canada, the West and Alaska said bookings were up this spring from last year. Sporting equipment sales, including boats and motors, also have improved.
Some show observations:
• Noted walleye angler and all-around raconteur Larry Bollig of International Falls, Minn., said he already has been on the Rainy River, and has caught two sturgeon. Fishing -- and access to the river -- will improve significantly in coming days, Bollig said. Noted for his walleye-fishing prowess, Bollig nonetheless said in spring on the Rainy he targets sturgeon, saying, "They're great fighters.''
• Tony Roach, Gary's nephew, gave two informative walleye fishing seminars at the Sportshow on Thursday, gathering big crowds.
"The show feels a lot different from last year,'' Tony Roach said. "There's no doom and gloom.'' The younger Roach has carved out a fishing reputation rivaling his dad's, a feat few would have thought possible. More at www.roachsguideservice.com.
• Brennan and Todd Olson -- from the family that developed Rollerblade -- were at the show with three variations of a trailer they've developed under a new company they've founded, Space Trailers (www.spacetrailers.com). Lightweight (about 500 pounds), the trailers are designed to be pulled behind today's smaller, and less powerful, cars and trucks. The trailers are waterproof, and the canopy, or lid, that covers the trailer is hinged and tilts up from the back for loading. Total load capacity is 1,000 pounds. The box -- big enough to carry a four-wheeler -- is galvanized and the steel frame powder-coated. "Basically, it's a trailer designed to carry fun stuff,'' Brennan Olson said. Models in the works include ones that convert to ice-fishing shelters and provide sleeping quarters. Prices start at about $1,500.
• Duck hunters can expect wet Canadian prairies again this spring, reports the crew at Arctic Lodges on Reindeer Lake in Saskatchewan. The ground across much of prairie Canada was heavily saturated going into winter, due to a wet summer and fall. Now runoff from deep snow this winter is expected to make the prairies even wetter -- bad news for farmers, but good for ducks. Arctic Lodges (www.arcticlodges.com) is a regular at the Sportshow. Reindeer Lake is known for its giant lake trout and equally giant northern pike, as well as Arctic grayling.
• Outdoor writer and guide Steve Carney was at the show Thursday touting the attributes of E-Z Lube, developed by Leader's Manufacturing in Willmar, Minn. The ingenious pump enables outboard owners to fill the lower units of their motors quickly with gear lube. Traditionally a dirty job and one that therefore often is overlooked or put off, changing the lower unit gear lube is nonetheless important to engine life. More at www.ezlubesystem.com.
• Carolyn Cheramie appeared not bothered a bit Thursday by her northern surroundings at the show. Cheramie is executive director of the Bayou Lafourche (La.) Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Hurricane Katrina blew ashore six years ago this coming August, she said, and the gulf oil spill occurred a year ago. Yet some people who once traveled from throughout the nation to cast to redfish and fish for speckled trout along the Louisiana coast think those disasters are ongoing.
"The perception is we're still covered with oil,'' she said. "But all of our areas are open to fishing. The charter boat people really need the fishermen to come back. The fishing is great, and no areas are closed due to oil or any other reason.''
The problem, Cheramie said, is that television networks descended on the region to recount its oil-spill problems for weeks and even months. Then they moved on. More at www.visitlafourche.com.
• Check out Brad Durick's booth at the show. Brad owns Brad Durick Outdoors and makes a living fishing catfish in the Red River between Fargo and Grand Forks, N.D. His specialty is big channel cats. "We try to get at least one 15-pounder every trip,'' he said. More at www.redrivercatfish.com.
Dennis Anderson email@example.com