Educators know that people have different learning styles. Some acquire knowledge best through reading or listening while others learn through direct involvement, or as Benjamin Franklin said; “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
There’s little evidence to suggest Benjamin Franklin was an ice fisherman but if he were alive today and inclined to spend a nice winter’s day on the ice, he surely would see the value in Mark Martin’s Ice Fishing Vacation School.
On February 9th thru 11th, Martin hosted the final semester in his ice fishing class of 2015 on Saginaw Bay, completing the 25th year of the popular on-ice education series. And like all of Martin’s classes, the event provided a great opportunity for anglers to develop or enhance their ice fishing skills.
Class began with a series of old-fashioned, classroom-style lectures held in Linwood, Michigan’s Franks Great Outdoors. Martin and his pro-staff took turns instructing anglers – whose skill levels ranged from novice to experienced veterans looking to add a wrinkle or two to their bag of tricks – on a variety of topics including rigging, lure selection, presentation options, electronics and location.
Martin and his pro-staff followed up with hands-on demonstrations of key topics covered in the lectures. Each student had the opportunity to work with the pro-staff or Martin himself to ensure their gear was in good working order and they knew how to use it properly. Special emphasis was given to understanding how to interpret electronics and fine tuning presentations to call in fish and make them bite.
Finally it was time to hit the ice, and hitting the ice on Saginaw Bay meant a 6 am departure from Linwood Beach Marina to ensure everyone was set up and ready to fish before the hot bite at daybreak.
Ice fishing for walleye on Saginaw Bay in early February means fishing for schools of fish that have yet to begin their late winter / early spring migration toward spawning grounds in the inner bay or the mouth of the Saginaw River. Early February finds walleye roaming the vast expanses of the bay miles from shore in 20 or more feet of water. To reach these fish, anglers needed more than boots and a good pair of ice cleats – they needed reliable, on-ice transportation and Martin’s school provided it as well as access to a comfortable, heated shanty for each student.
On the ice, student-anglers gained hands on experience in applying what they heard and saw in the lectures and demonstrations through direct access to Martin or one of his pro – staff who provided valuable tips and assistance with presentations, and encouraged dialog and information sharing about lures and presentations that seemed to work better than others.
The results were quite impressive with student-anglers catching several nice walleye as well as the occasional bonus lake trout or jumbo perch. More importantly, everyone came away from the class a better angler than they were coming in. Even Ben Franklin would have caught walleye.