HOUGHTON LAKE – The Houghton Lake Area Tourism Bureau (HLATB) hosted pro fisherman Mark Martin’s ice fishing school on Houghton Lake Jan. 10-13. This was the fifth year the school had been held here, and while changes had to be made because of the COVID-19 restrictions, it was as successful as any previous school.
“I called Mark when I realized the restrictions wouldn’t be lifted in time for the school,” said Theresa Ekdom, HLATB Administrative Assistant. “We talked at length on what changes would need to happen.”
The restrictions included no large indoor gatherings, and no sit-down seating in local restaurants.
Martin moved his fishing seminar from meeting as a group inside H&H Fireworks to gathering outside the building. Mark and his pro-staff talked to the students one-on-one. Masks were worn and the six-foot distance was observed. While fishing on the ice, the staff were assigned one student to meet with outside of their shanties.
“My biggest change was in how meals were served,” Ekdom said. “Instead of meeting at a restaurant for dinner and discussion, I would take meal orders and deliver them to where they were staying.”
Even with the changes, and the light fish catch, this was one of the best classes Martin had taught he said. Each of the 13 students were matched with a pro-angler on the ice for two and a half days of fishing. They took what they learned at the discussions and put it into practice on the ice. It paid off – on the first day out, one of the students and his pro pulled in a 39 ¼” Northern Pike.
“There’s a lot of Facebook posts with people saying Houghton Lake is fished out,” Ekdom said. “Many fishermen say they can’t catch anything here. But I’ve watched Mark’s schools the last few years. I’ve listened to the discussions at dinner time on what to do when they are fishing. And I’ve seen students come in after a day on the ice so excited because of the fish they were able to catch. This school isn’t just for a novice fisherman, anyone can learn something new!”
Martin’s next school will be held on Saginaw Bay Feb. 7-10. For more information on his ice fishing schools, visit fishingvacationschool.com/ice-fishing-schools.