Friday’s “Snowpocalypse” conditions were no match for the fishing spirit of the LaPorte community on Saturday morning, as dozens of local ice-fishers took part in the Maple City Ice Fishing Classic on Pine Lake.
“You get the itch, and being out there takes the itch off,” says Scott Miller, a local resident of LaPorte, who’s been fishing in the area since his dad and grandfather introduced him to the sport as a kid.
Miller, and other locals who spent their morning out on the ice happily welcomed the snow and freezing temperatures, and were all excited that the entire weekend surrounding the event had created such a buzz around the area. The Maple City Classic itself is actually a preview for Sunday’s ice-fishing event at Pine Lake, which is a professional qualifying event part of the The North American Ice Fishing Circuit Tournament Series.
“I’m adamant about trying to keep the NAIFC here in Indiana,” says Bill Banghart, a native Regioner and member of the NAIFC. “I know Pine Lake, was born and raised here and fished here for forty-six years, and the area has all the things we look for in a professional tournament.”
After hosting the qualifiers down at Culver in previous years, the NAIFC were invited to hold the event at Pine Lake this year by the La Porte County Convention of Visitor’s Bureau. The Visitor’s Bureau partnered with the local Northwest Indiana fishing group Friends of Fishing, and both organizations were happy to put the area on the map in the larger world of professional fishing, while simultaneously stimulating the local winter tourism economy.
“You’re bringing in 30 teams and anywhere between 80 to 100 people, and when hotel rooms in this area are hard to fill in the wintertime, that’s a great thing for them, and for local businesses,” says Brett Binversie, a member of the Visitor’s Bureau. “Not only that, but these events expose a whole different group to our lakes, people who will tell their friends and come back in the summer and years to come.”
Surrounding the events, the NAIFC is also hosting free seminars hosted by the LaPorte Best Western Plus Hotel & Conference Center, designed to teach beginners and intermediates basic skills that every ice fishermen needs to know. The seminar speakers include professionals from Team USA, along with Pro-staff from major fishing manufacturing companies.
“I think it’s great the they get the kids involved, that’s the biggest thing,” says Miller, referring to the Kids Ice Camp - another NAIFC-organized event that immediately followed Saturday’s Classic.
Apart from the weekend’s packed schedule of programs, seminars, tournament fishing, and more, at the end of the day locals like Mike Sutton were moreover just happy to be out spending time with good friends and family.
“Fishing is just a great family event,” says Sutton, who is also a member of the local Friends of Fishing group. “LaPorte has a great lake system, and it’s a great way to get people out in nature, enjoying time together.”
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