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07/31/2014 @ 12:16 AM

Better United

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For nearly ten years I was given the opportunity to stand eye to eye with dozens of sportsmen on a daily basis and discuss anything and everything having to do with the outdoors. One thing I learned in all those conversations; we are an opinionated lot. From choice of lure color to which slug to put in a semi-auto for deer, we all have our personal tastes in such matters and no matter the facts, if they contradict our own they are disregarded and we cannot be swayed.

I have noticed this premise while surfing through posts on topics we are passionate about and bring to discussion here, at this wonderful website. The more passionate we become concerning our position the more uncivil our tone and this is something that we all could use a little work in alleviating. The golden rule holds little sway on most topic pages since we are all insulated to some degree from any serious ramifications for the aforementioned tone. A simple rule of thumb for me: how would I respond if the one I direct the response lives next door?

Ethics is a touchy subject but never more so than in conservation issues. Take the lowly sucker. I have watched men grab these off the hook and toss them into the weeds. Now, let’s change the sucker to a walleye…get my point? Each of our perspectives were gained from years of experience whether on our own or in the company of others. When I come upon a spot to fish and spend fifteen minutes picking up diapers, candy wraps, children’s fruit drinks, empty lure packs I can quickly assume that this was not a lone fisherman but had brought his family along and what are the ramifications of his actions?

As we all head into the new fishing season I wanted to voice some observations such as the ones above for all those willing to read this-for contemplation. If I had caught that family red-handed would I have pulled out my phone and called the DNR Officer? What would the outcome have been if I attempted to confront and shame the individual? A couple months ago I was getting ready to leave a borrow pit when a truck came roaring into the parking lot. A man jumped from the truck, quite excited, and grabbed a bucket of trout he had caught earlier in the day and was going to dump them into the pit. I confronted him and he thanked me for informing him that it was illegal to do so and he replaced the fish in the bed and drove away. Where did he go with those trout? Did I over-step my bounds?

Personally, I have a simple equation I use while fishing. I share it with you in the hopes that it will compel you to do likewise, altering my approach to fit your tastes. The first fish, no matter the size or subject, always goes back. After that, every other fish of that species goes back and no sorting. Size limits are strenuously adhered to: for instance, no crappie under ten inches goes on my stringer…ever. All bass go back but for the occasional large mouth of many, it’s the end of the day and I keep one to split between the wife and myself. This might happen a couple times a year. If I only have one of any type on the stringer, it goes back. This happens more times than I care to admit! I never grasp the fish with my bare hands. Always by the lip or under the chin through the base of the gill plate. Most times I do not even lift them from the water but with hemostats, release the jig with a flick of the wrist. These are all simple things that I like to think help to enhance the fishery that I love. They are not cut and dry but they work for me. There are other rules I live by such as the footprints rule. I’ve been a smoker for forty years and can honestly state that I stopped flicking butts years ago…instead, they go in my pocket until I can dispose of them properly. A small thing but worthy of mention. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been driving behind someone who flips a burger wrapper from the window of their vehicle. I would assume they did not give this a second thought.

As sportsmen, we must give everything we do, a second thought. Do you have your conservation office numbers in your phone? Do you carry the regs for hunting and fishing in your vehicle at all times? It’s the simple things that if we all became more cognizant we would all stand a better chance of grand improvements regarding our passions over time. And, isn’t this really all that we want? That each time out will be better than the last? Or, at least the opportunity is there for it to be so?

Iowa has the least amount of public land per capita than of any other state in the Union. More private property signs go up every day. And, when I walk along the rivers of this great state it does not surprise me one bit that this is the case. Our first task is to be good stewards of the land that we come into contact with. Of course, in most instances, I’m preaching to the choir here but this was an issue I needed to get off my chest and to those who already practice all the above conservation measures in even more enhanced fashion, I beg your forgiveness. If we each concerned ourselves a little more with the preciousness of our resources, every time we are partaking of them, I would venture that there would be less opposition to what we are attempting to enjoy…the great outdoors.

I thank you for taking the time to read this and wish you the best in the coming seasons.


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Frabill Trekker

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Frabill Trekker two man flip shelter. Used four seasons, includes two folding fishing chairs and travel cover. $50 OBO. Call 515-291-5786 or email tmorris73@yahoo.com


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Balancing Act

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There are those amongst us who will be fortunate enough, in the coming weeks, to receive a gift card for their favorite outdoor store. I doubt that I'll be among them. Hey, I suppose I just ain't loved enough. To those fortunate few, a few words of advice from one who has heard quite a few conversations (not to mention tall tales) over the years while standing in a fishing department at one of the said retailers...that is, don't grab and go.

You see, most manufacturers, even those purported to have achieved lofty respect concerning the level of quality they offer with their wares still hire dunderheads in the marketing department, most especially when it comes to the 'combos' that are offered to those unwilling to take the time to consider what they are truly purchasing.

Deep breath.

In all my years I have yet to see a rod mated to a reel that deserved each other. They are always over-engineered with the bobber guy in mind who must hoist a VW from the bottom of a farm pond. So, where to begin? Let's start with what you're trying to achieve. What are you going to be fishing for? After you've answered that simple question, walk straight to the reel department. Hang on! We'll get to the rods in a bit.

There are several factors that need to be considered when determining which is the 'best' reel for any given job. A short list would include; price, quality, weight classification, feel and believe it or not, word of mouth. That's right: what have you 'heard' concerning the company that wants to take that gift card out of your pocket? Not all reel manufacturers are created equal but, needless to say, a twenty dollar reel today is far and above a better value than a fifty dollar reel twenty years ago. The technology is that great!

Would I spend twenty dollars for a reel? Yes, three times over! You see, I fish almost every day and the reels I choose are an investment in that fact. If you won't fish quite that often, then by all means, go cheaper if you like. But, for me, I won't even glance at a reel if it's priced under fifty...or, over one hundred, for that matter. Like any tool, I only wanna buy one, and never again. Quick, Quality, Price. The old adage, pick two of the three.

There's a myriad of reels for spinning outfits, since you asked, that fall within that price range. Let's be realistic. The other reels encompass roughly 25% of our total sales where I punch a clock, so we'll focus on the spinning here. We'll discuss baitcasters at another date and time. Though some of the rules I list here will still apply regardless.

You cannot buy a 'bad' reel in that price range short of defects that occur at every assembly line in every factory from here to Timbuktu. It's a role of the dice when you buy anything, right? So, let's say you've picked several off the wall, hefted them, turned the handle a few times and decided, "That's the one". Since I'm not being paid to write this, and no one is buying my lunch, and I fear a lawsuit, I will not mention models, let alone makers of reels during our conversation. Whatever you do, do NOT open the bail and turn the handle in order to 'feel' how well it closes, or snaps the bail home. This is, next to backing over it with your truck, the worst thing you can do to a spinning reel. I won't deal in the physics and number of moving parts involved but, it's a sure way to shorten the life of the reel...nuff said?

Now, look at the reel's spool. Almost every reel worth its salt will tell you what line it is designed to hold. My Uncle Bob taught me early on, "Look for the middle number and never go past that when you buy line." That is the optimum line the reel was designed to hold. So, consequently, If I'm replacing an ultralight reel the one I'm looking at better say, "2-4-6" on the spool and then, as an after-thought, the quantity of line (in some instances) that the spool will hold. Medium light will read, "4-6-8" medium, "6-8-10" and so on. At this point some are scoffing. So, I'll ask, "Average weight of every fish you've ever caught?" I once caught a forty pound flathead on 4lb. Triline XL. A 44lb. 4oz. trout was caught in Arkansas several years back, a world record at the time, on the same line. If memory serves me, the guy was over seventy!

Techonology is a given at this price range. I never consider a reel on its heft or, the number of bearings it states to have. I'd rather have four fantastic bearings than eleven bad ones. It's in the 'feel' we discussed earlier. Spin the handle: how hydraulic does it feel? We're talking grease on glass here. If you sense a raspiness or gritty grinding sensation while spinning the handle then, by all means, move on to the next model, or choose the lesser of all the evils. Warranted, some reels may have been built on Monday, but if the grease is missing on the worm gears I'll pass and get one smoother and worry about greasing it myself the following spring. I can't stress this enough.

Now that you've picked the reel, go home. Just kidding...or maybe not. I would rather take two paydays to get my rod to match the reel than run the risk of cheapening the combination I'm attempting to build. Don't skimp. Remember that this is an investment that you do NOT want to need to replace anytime soon. Onward and upward: concerning the rod...same thing applies here. Gimickry and fishing show commercials are all well and good, but, what have you personally heard concerning the product? I would rather buy a rod from a single customer's recommendation than having witnessed it's use on TV.

And, we're back in that same price range again. IM-8 is my personal choice in this matter. You could go more and you could choose less, but bang for the buck, it's hard to beat an IM-8 under a hundred dollars. Do the rods in the two, or three hundred dollar range have their merits? Couldn't tell it by me. Again, we're talking bang for the buck here. And, once again, we're back to 'feel'. Hold it, snap it in your hand, watch the tip and picture your lures of choice. Want to upset the salesman? Tap the tip on the floor.

Heft the rod; attach the reel you're considering and if the balance is right you should be able to place your finger halfway up the cork knob above the reel and balance the rod there. If you must move your finger forward of that point, the rod is 'rod heavy'. If on the other hand, you must move your finger back towards the reel, the rod is 'reel heavy'. This is not a good or bad thing. The reel is to the rod, what it is...period. Or, is it, the rod is to the reel? Never mind.

Line will affect the weight balance a bit but not enough to concern us here. Now, look at the shaft. We're looking for something along these lines...(pardon the pun). In the case of a walleye rod for instance, "Medium Light 4-10 lbs." or, something similar. What this tells us is first, the reel you've chosen should say, "4,6,8, or 6,8,10" on the spool. Second, and most important, the rod mentioned was designed to withstand no more than ten pounds of dead weight hanging from it's tip! So, if you load up the rod with twenty pound super braid and set the drag close to its tensil strength, kiss your rod goodbye and don't come crying to me! We see them, here in the store, every day in the summer. Go ahead, test me.

Sure, there is the occasional defect in the rod that would cause it to snap in half...right. Once in a while, there will be a scratch on the rod that can weaken it's backbone...right. Or, the user set the drag at "crack" and got what he was hoping for. Most likely.

This is the balancing act. Reel to line to rod to drag setting. It's as simple as that...trust me. I got nothing to gain in the truth or the lie...do I? I hope you make some sound decisions in this off-season concerning the disposition of your gift card. And, I pray that you've taken some of this advise to heart and receive years of service from your equipment and smile over your investment and the inherent catches associated with your efforts. Now, rain or shine, go get that State Record!


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Intimidating Tributaries

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Once bitten, twice shy.

It is something we all learn at an early age and can determine our courses of action the older we get. When I was younger and lacking gear and knowledge, to look upon one of Eastern Iowa's tributaries with pole in hand would fill me with dread. Like most, I took the path of least resistance...this included a coffee can full of nightcrawlers and a bobber above a baithook. Yet still, it was so much 'safer' to stick to smaller, or more tranquil environs where I could satisfy my angling curiosities rather than attempt to tackle the Wapsi, Iowa, Cedar, Maquoketa, etc.

When customers come to me and want to get started whether for the fact that they are recently retired and want to give it a go, or young families looking for some adventure, my first and foremost rule is to keep it simple. To me it does not get any simpler than a jig and a bait of choice.

And this is all well and good for an outing to the family farm pond, or shore fishing the local city impoundment, but what about that county park next to the Wapsipinicon? As anyone here can attest, nothing can clear out the tackle box quicker than a fishing trip to one of our rivers without much forethought into the best way to approach the attempt. Discouraging would be an understatement.

With some basic understanding this needs not be the result of the attempt. In an effort to keep the article short, I will try to keep to the basics inherent with the art of jigging moving water, which to my way of thinking gives the most bang for the buck.

The first question obviously: where are the fish? There is an old adage; "90% of the fish are in 10% of the water and 90% of that water is along the shoreline. I hold this to be true to a great extent but with all empirical facts there will always be exceptions as we can all attest.

Another adage is this: There are two ways to catch a fish with bait. Enticement, or provocation. You either get them to bite due to hunger, or by dangling your offering in their 'strike zone' where you finally push their tolerance level to the limit. You will swat at a fly, no matter how full you are, a bass on the other hand can only bite it! This is why a simple twister tailed jig can be so deadly. Any type of minnow imitating bait can be quite effective no matter the quarry, so look for the plastics that do just that and I can guarantee you will get action from your results.

But if you retrieve your presentation where there are no fish? Zip. So, we are back to square one. Whenever I come upon a spot along moving water the very first thing I do is look at the surface. And, I am looking for only one thing, the direction of the flow. All water, as we know, flows downstream. But, there are times where it can't seem to make up its mind and these are the areas we are looking for. Where this water that is shall we say, undecided meets the water that is quite determined to flow downstream-that is called the seam. I've also heard it called the breakline. The important thing is this, from top to bottom this is an area of least resistance and will hold fish.

There are two ways to approach a break. From above or below. Counting the jig becomes paramount to your success. If you are above the break and cast out in the current to let the bait drift down to the break, that number you count will be different than the count you will experience if you stood below the break and cast above it to get it in the same zone.

The count that gets you in that strike zone without catching snags and rocks all day is determined by so many factors that only practice and variations on your differing plastics, line class, jig heads, rod length as well as wind and speed of current can gain you the gratification you desire. I fear that I am already making this too complicated and will have lost some of you looking for help, and if that is the case, I apologize and ask that you only go back and read it again, then get out there and start counting...!

Oh, another thing, river specimens are not quite as sensitive to weather fluctuations as their lake and pond cousins so, anytime is a good time to give it a go. Although, river fluctuations can have dire effects on their temperment and only time on the water will teach you how to manipulate these periods to the best of your abilities. The important thing is, spend a few dollars on the most diminutive of baits that A) you don't need to keep alive and B) can provoke a strike from anything at any time.

I hope this gives you some courage to take on one of Iowa's most unappreciated resources, our tributaries to the Mississippi River. I wish you the best memories in your attempts to come.


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Lucky 7, Costa Rica style

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As you long standing members well know, I have a very understanding, long suffering sportsman's wife. This winter I opted to take her someplace warm to compensate for my having filled one of my "someday I'm gonna" dreams by hunting a Dall Sheep. Being the guy I am, however, I requested that there be a couple of days of fishing which I might do or we could share in the process. Hearing no objections, I did some research on places warm, with some chances to fill another slot in the list.. a tarpon.
Some of my earliest memories of reading sporting literature are those of Capt. Stu Apte catching tarpon. As I fill those someday I'm gonna dreams, I still recall those stories and photos. My research (which I did on line, amazing myself), I found several, and queried 4. 3 were in Florida, one in Costa Rica. We opted for the more adventuresome, probably less crowed, international trip.
We did do some touristy things first, and there are lots of them to choose from. Zip lining and aerial bridges we passed on, but saw a lot of neat stuff. We were disappointed that volcano Arenal had stopped erupting. But enough of that, this is a sporting site, not a travel site. After a difficult foggy night, hairpin curve, slick road trip across the mountains we made our way to Tarponville, Manzanillo, Costa Rica.
Local citizens didn't know it by that name, but the policia were kind enough to call the number provided to get the staff to meet us at the creek, beyond which the lodge lay. Jim DeBerardinis they knew, just not his business name. A retired college prof from Montana, he and his wife and staff knew how to make us feel like family from the outset. A barefoot crossing of the stream, and 200 yard hike with our gear had us in comfortable style, surrounded by jungle, beach, the Caribbean Sea, and fine wood structure. We ate fresh fruit from just beyond the confines, in fact, a coconut that fell a mere 20 yards from the porch. No turista here, we were told, and to this time, I've not proven them wrong.
Day one fishing with my guide, Mushe, and his son, made my arm ache casting a heavy jig, but only a couple of short stikes were produced. Jim caters to fly fishermen, but did not object to my spinning tackle. Ann, his wife didn' care how, but wanted a jackfish for a meal, as did Wilson the cook. We spent the day in a 17 foot boat, with a 40 HP motor on the ocean, but I didn't feel uncomfortable.
I took a day off, and spent it seeing the local sights. We began early on day 3. We could see tarpon rolling in near where the rollers broke over, and being careful not to let any breakers occur behind us, we slipped ever closer to where we could see the activity. A big fin and tail rolled a few yards out, and I cast in front of it. One's first encounter with the Silver King should come with more than 3 meters of line out. The first hit I missed, but instinctively let the jig settle. You've all seen fish flash at a bait right? Imagine a 5 foot flash! And again I missed. I reeled up the slack, let the jig settle, just like I'd missed a crappie and that fish hit right now. This time I stuck him. OUT of the water he came, a mere 10 feet from the boat, threw the jig back at me, and splashed down 2 feet from the boat, leaving me awstruck.
Fish number two I was bound to hook deeper, and when he hit a few minutes later, I laid the wood to him. And, as a result, broke the 25 pound line. OUT of the water he came anyway, with my jig stuck firmly in the corner of his mouth as he jumped twice, disconnected from the source of his aggravation. l "Maybe not so hard next time, you tihink?" queried Mushe, as he tied me a new bait. Fish 3 and 4 were one jump wonders. Number 5 lasted two jumps a 30 yard run and into jump 3 before coming unhooked. Mushe said I wasn't far from average, and I remembered Jim telling me that he'd landed strike numb er 22. When number 6 lasted just two jumps, I was ready for lunch. I told Jim that I wasn't sure what my emotions were, but it seemed I'd never before had so much fun being disappointed and unsuccessful.
As we arrived at the reef in front of the river that separates Panama from Costa Rica that afternood, Mushe noted that the other boats were out a bit furthure. "Maybe they go out for the afternoon" stated my guide. "maybe not" says I as I hooked number 7. One jump, two, now a 50 yard run followed by jump 3 and I was still tied on. An hour later, and several jumps, runs around the boat, under the boat, and lots of just plain pulling, my tarpon came to boatside. I spent the hour talking nicely to the fish about staying hooked and I'd make him a place in history and let him go, and now that he was ours, we did so, somnewhere between 80 and 100 pounds of siver king.
Fish 8 was one of a double header Mushe ( who was using a hand line) and I hooked, and lost . Fish 9 staightened the big hook in the jig. Number 10 was a 3 jumper. Number 11 didn't jump, and was predicted to be a jack by the guide, and 20 minutes later he was proven right. I had my fish for the caribbean dish called "rundown"
We fished next morning, but breakers were 300 yards further out, and fish nowhere to be found. We left 15 minutes too late, and got soaked in a rainstorm. I used my last half day the next morning, and it was plain the weather had negatively affected the fish. We saw a few roll, but only a couple light hits. I quit fishing to continue as a tourist and husband, fine with that, and fulfilled with memories of another bucket list spot filled. I leflt my spinning gear with the cook and manager for their use, and safe keeping for if/when I come back. Or maybe I'll try the fly rod thing, now that I have one under my belt.









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Don't believe all the lead banter! Don't ban lead for no good reason!

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It seems there is an abundance of pundits espousing their "knowledge" about environmental issues as they pertain to fishing. It's obvious there is a following of bandwagon armchair biologists (and some real biologists who have forgotten how real science works) lining up to sing the praises of lead bans in Iowa. I'm sharing the following SCIENCE-BASED article on lead in fishing. There are people lining up to take lead out of your ammunition, well they plan to do the same with your tackle box, and there is NO defensible argument for this. Read the following, It's a policy statement that is being considered by the Iowa Chapter of the American Fisheries Society. These are fisheries professionals, in the DNR, universities, and private sector in Iowa who's job it is to follow the science, promote water quality and angling. This isn't the only statement they are considering, but it is the one that is based on science and rationality. It seems that is the way it should be.


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DNR to Try New Approach to Eliminate Shad in Lake Sugema

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Iowa DNR News press release

Posted: October 19, 2010

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will try a new approach to rid Lake Sugema of gizzard shad later this fall.

Mark Flammang, fisheries biologist for the Iowa DNR, said the plan is to apply Rotenone, a chemical toxic to fish, at 3 percent of the normal dosage in a slow, deliberate manner to create a drawn out fish kill targeting gizzard shad and sparing as many game fish as possible.

Read more about it here,

http://www.iowadnr.gov/news/10oct/shad.html


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Tips for More Crankbaiting Success

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From The Iowa Sportsman magazine, August, 2010 issue

Tips for More Crankbaiting Success
By Bill Leonard

Crankbaits are one of my favorite search baits. You can work them at a variety of speeds depending on the conditions. However, there are a few things that need to be done to make sure that we get the most mileage out of our crankbaits.

First, crankbaits put up quite a resistance when you are trolling at 2 mph or higher, so pick a rod and reel combination that matches what you are doing. I choose to go with an 11-foot Elite Tech for my long rod and for an inside rod I use a 5-foot 6-inch to 6-foot Tactix. This gives you a good spread and will keep your lines far enough apart if you do not want to use Off Shore planner boards.

Next, pick a line that maximizes the depth and wiggle of the crankbait. I spool my reels with 10/4 Fireline, and I prefer solar so I can see my line when it is time to net the fish. I like Fireline because of its no-stretch quality. Plus its diameter is thinner and will let crankbaits reach deeper depths. The advantage of a no-stretch line is that it lets you feel if your bait is working and tells you if you have picked up weeds. Nothing is worse than thinking the bait is working fine only to find out that it picked up a weed and you didn’t even know it.

Even if a crankbait is just out of the box, it is important to make sure that it runs true. To do this, I like to run my Ranger at about 3- to 3-1/2 mph and let out about 20 feet of line. At that length, I watch to see which way the bait is running. If it is running true and straight, it is ready to use. If it is running to the left, the eye of the bait needs to be bent to the right. Do the opposite if the bait is running to the right. I use my pliers to make the adjustment. Don’t overdue the adjustment, just a little bit at a time.

It takes some practice, but don't give up until you have the crankbait running true. Fine-tuning crankbaits can make all the difference in a bite.

Every year new crankbaits are introduced to the market. Some of the major crankbait companies’ prices have gotten completely out of hand. This year I have tried some of the reproductions produced by major catalog companies with good success. Many of you who read my articles know that I fish in 6-foot of water or less most of the year. I used to use a #7 shallow rap; now I use a #7 Cabela’s shallow because of the price.

In addition, I have moved one step off the weed edge to that 7- to 10-foot water this year because so many of my lakes are so much deeper and the weed edge has changed and become harder to stay clean. This has been working well, and I use a #5 or #7 Flicker Shad. The beauty of this bait is by holding your rod at different heights you can control its depth.

The Flicker Shad has become my favorite crankbait for just about everything. I like its action, rattle and you don’t need to get a loan to buy them. I have trolled them against major crankbaits the same size and have always out fished them with the Flicker Shad.


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Lure Action

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Featured in The Iowa Sportsman magazine February issue
Fishing the Midwest Department by Bob Jensen

It’s that time in the ice fishing season when we really need to start fine-tuning our presentations if we want to experience ice fishing success. By this point of the season, the easy ones have been caught and the remaining fish have been pounded pretty good, especially on community holes or if you’re fishing out of a shelter that hasn’t been moved. This is when lure action becomes a very important consideration.


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Winterfest at Council Bluffs ia

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$25,000 Winterfest Ice Fishing Derby
Jan. 30, 2010 7:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Lake Manawa, Council Bluffs, Iowa
Over $50,000 in Cash & Prizes!

Reel in Winter Fun with this one-day tournament at Lake Manawa State Park!

New Pre-registration fee is $15.

All Pre-registrants will have the opportunity to win a free ice shack.
Drawings will be held on January 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th. Jim Flowers will announce the winner on the 6:00 news on channel 6.

Pre-registrants will also receive a free raffle ticket for a chance to win the 2009 Arctic Cat ATV 250 2x4 valued at $3,999. Additional chances for this prize are also available for $5 or 5 for $20


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