Mark Martin hosts the annual Ice Fishing Vacation School held on Lake Gogebic in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. / John McArdle/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com
Earlier this month I was lucky enough to attend (as well as photograph and write about) Mark Martin and his Ice Fishing Vacation School held on Lake Gogebic in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was a fabulous event and it’s difficult to decide what to write about so soon after attending the school. My mind is still swimming through many thoughts and ideas for blog posts and columns.
One thing I know for sure is that If anyone wanted to up their game on the ice, this was the place to be. Mark Martin, Team Canada’s Joe Giuliani and Norm Thorkilson and Captain Tim Long, guide and owner of the Timbers Resort, were all on-hand to lead and teach more than 20 students and writers on Lake Gogebic. Other Pro Staff members included Dean Carlie, Jeff Sowa, Brandon Carpenter, Wisconsin’s own Nick Shertz and Todd Sokolow.
The weather was definitely a factor as we took to the ice for two-and-one-half days of fishing. Howling winds and white-out conditions pounded us for much of the event, but it didn't bother anyone in the School. As for the fish, they seemed to love the conditions and cooperated just as well as the students (and in some cases better).
Every day I toured the Otter ice shanties and snapped photo after photo of people catching fish all over the lake. Many people shy away from the outdoors when faced with harsh conditions, but Mark Martin and his crew went at it like it was a walk in the park. Above are some great photos from the Ice Fishing School.
Mark the Professional:
How does a person write about a guy that has a list of accomplishments a mile long? The Mark Martin Fishing Vacation School is the longest running school of its kind but the School is just one aspect of his career. Mark is the 1990 Professional Walleye Trail World Champion. He won the first PWT Tournament of Champions held at International Falls, Minnesota netting him $30,000. That was the highest cash prize in history for a walleye tournament at that time and has earned him the distinction of being "The Original Champ."
Along with being a tournament fisherman, Mark is also an instructor, captain, guide, and seminar speaker. As a fishing promoter, he loves giving back to an industry that has given so much to him. Observing Martin at work for three days, Mark has an engine inside him that doesn't quit. We were all up at 5 a.m. We fished all day long and finished our roundtable meetings every night around 9:30 p.m. Indicative of a true professional, as we faced brutal winds and white out conditions, Mark always had a smile on his face and a positive attitude about the day.
Just as Lake Winnebago is special to Wisconsin, Lake Gogebic is the largest inland lake in Michigan. The lake features over 13,000 acres of water and is full of walleye, small mouth bass, northern pike and mammoth size perch. Captain Tim, owner of the Timbers Resort, refers to the lake as a “Little Winnebago.”
Lake Gogebic has a large weedy bay (Berglund Bay) which flows into the main basin of the lake. The main basin of Gogebic is a mud flat and the structure is towards and on the shores. In the winter, as Berglund Bay’s ice and snow increase, the oxygen level decreases and the fish find their way into the mud flats. Just like on Lake Winnebago, summertime offers the angler a multitude of techniques to catch fish. Like Wisconsin’s rule, Michigan fishermen are allowed three lines and motor trolling is permitted on Lake Gogebic.
Accommodations for the Mark Martin Ice Fishing Vacation School were provided by Timbers Resort on the north end of Lake Gogebic in Berglund, Michigan. Located in the western end of the Upper Peninsula, the year round resort offers 11 fully furnished cabins. They also offer RV and tent camping near the lake and two huge piers for customers to dock their boats. Tim Long and his wife Sara are originally from Wisconsin and are remarkable hosts. The first day I met Tim, he and I talked like we were old time friends. Being from Wisconsin himself, he was eager to teach me about the lake and its surroundings.
The Ice fishing School:
The school itself is comprised of three days of fishing and classroom and students should come prepared to learn. Mark reminds his students in a matter-of-fact way that, "If you’re not going to do it our way, you will be staying on shore.” He points out to the class that he has made a “lifetime of mistakes for them" and that now is the time to start doing things the correct way.
Whether it is the size of the swivel, choice of rod or maybe how to hook the minnow, paying attention to these details are at the top of his learning list. The topic of setting the hook was my favorite discussion at the school and Mark explains that you can’t set the hook too hard. Martin stated, “You have to take them off their fins and get them through the hole before the fish knows what happened.”
Mark the Teacher:
When you’re at the Ice Fishing Vacation School, Mark will ask you to drill a hole right outside your ice shanty door. Then as the day progresses Mark makes his rounds to all the shanties to give a one-on-one demonstration right at your shanty door. He'll offer a jigging tip, or share a hook setting tip or a quick lesson on how to read your electronics. Mark leans on a lifetime of knowledge and experience to teach all aspects of ice fishing. A pesky fish keeps stealing your minnow? Mark will stop over to see if he can catch it.
At one point, I asked Pro Staffer Brandon Carpenter to give me a tutorial on a Lowrance Elite-5X DSI Sonar. Mark, Brandon and I were all huddled in our Otter lodge looking at the sonar, Brandon reached to adjust the screen and we saw a fish appear on the electronics. Mark pounds his Rapala a few times on the bottom and somehow set the hook into a 25-inch northern and flopped it on the ice.
In all my 30-plus years of fishing, that was the best play-by-play lesson a person could ever ask for! Several times throughout the day, Mark caught fish while demonstrating different techniques at students' ice holes that left even his Pro Staff chuckling.
Mark's Pro Staff:
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the pro staff.
It’s not a one man show for Martin. “I have assembled the greatest Pro Staff around and they are here to help you.” he told his class. I personally had the pleasure to room with Canadian pro staff members Joe Giuliani and Norm Thorkilson and when I saw a guitar come through the door of the cabin I knew I was in for some fun. You know what I mean, eh!
If anyone has been curious about ice fishing or wants to “up their game “you need to come join Mark at his schools. There were a few students in attendance that were as new as it gets to ice fishing and they left the class with a grin from ear to ear. Money well spent was the common consensus among attendees as they all left for home.
If you missed this session and are interested in attending one of the next two schools, here are the dates:
Cadillac/Mitchell, Cadillac, Michigan on Jan. 20-23
Saginaw Bay, Linwood, Michigan on Feb. 10-13
For more information visit the Fishing Vacation School site and drop Mark a line.
I received some great news recently when Mark called and said he wants to add me to his Media Pro Staff. I’m busting at the seams with more information, stories and photos from the school and I will share them in my upcoming posts!
John McArdle is a life-long resident of Fond Du Lac and blogs about fishing adventures in the great state of Wisconsin. Anything from trout fishing the Driftless Area to sturgeon spearing on Lake Winnebago, John will provide stories ,tips and photos of his FINtastic adventures in Wisconsin!