“There’s never a bad day on the water, unless you lose a big fish.” -Nate Ice
Lake Minnetonka is an integral part of living in the western suburbs. From the time the ice thaws in the spring until it freezes over in early winter, people are out enjoying the water. For many, it has been a part of their life since childhood, a time to enjoy the great outdoors both as solitary and social endeavors.
“Nate has always loved to fish,” Krista Ice, founder of the Wayzata Fishing Team, explained regarding her youngest child. “When he became less interested in his team sports, I’d heard Minnetonka had a youth fishing team. It sounded like something I could pursue for Nate and for Wayzata. Nate had friends who also fished and were onboard with it, so we started our own club the summer after their eighth grade year.”
It began when the Brainerd Fishing Team pulled together a tournament in 2017, hosting 4-5 tournaments on different lakes over the course of that summer. In fishing terms, Krista describes, this is known as a “tournament trail.” A team consists of two student anglers and an adult (captain) in a boat. “We signed ten of our boys up our first year in 2017, and had five teams competing out of the gate. If a team finished in the top five they qualified for the Tournament of Champions at the end of the season. Out of 30 boats competing that first year we had two teams qualify!” On October 1, 2017 the two qualifying Wayzata teams participated in the Tournament of Champions held on Bay Lake.
“We doubled the size of our team from 10 the first year to 20 kids participating last summer,” Krista stated. “There were 100-150 boats in every tournament, growing from 30 the previous summer. Lake Minnetonka allowed the most in a tournament at 150 boats, the other lakes allowed 100 and each tournament filled up!” Big names support the sport, including Jimmy Bell, a pro fisherman and president of the National Professional Anglers Association, as well as Lund Boats and Rapala. Tournaments are held on Mille Lac Lakes, Leech Lake, Lake Vermillion, the Mississippi River, Brainerd, Minnetonka and more.
Nate Ice and Jack Shoen were voted in as co-captains by their Wayzata teammates and coaches for the 2019 season. I met up with Nate at the end of January on one of the two days school was closed. Although the temp read -28 degrees, Nate’s reflections on fishing were warm that chilly day. During the summer, Nate mused, “Usually a friend will stay the night, we wake up at 4:30 a.m., head to Lake Minnetonka and fish until lunch.” They stop somewhere to grab a bite before heading back out, then resume fishing until sunset. This goes on all summer long an average of six days a week.
When asked how the Wayzata Fishing Team impacts his enjoyment for fishing, Nate responded, “I love it so much, I created my own derbies.” Every Tuesday throughout the summer, Nate holds a tournament for all of the fishing club members. “Competing makes fishing even more fun,” giving all participants the chance to win each week.
“Cloudy days we fish differently than sunny days,” Nate explains. “The fish are spread out so we have a broader area to pull lures in faster.” Sunny days the fish congregate in the shade, so they anchor their boat where the fish are. Does a rainy day makes for a bad fishing experience? Nate smirks, “There’s never a bad day on the water, unless you lose a big fish.”
Due to one mom’s initiative, 10 kids, their passion for fishing, and their supporting cast of family members and volunteers, the Wayzata Fishing Team is on it’s way to becoming a varsity letter activity at Wayzata High School. A lifelong pursuit one can enjoy alone or with someone ~ and best of all for the body and spirit ~ outside and offline.
Anyone who is interested in learning more, whether as a participant or a volunteer, is encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.wayzatafishing.org.