Bayport Custom Rods
Nicolas Barratt, founder of Bayport Custom Rods, talks with Jonah and Cecilia Feuerhelm at 45th Parallel's Hunting and Fishing Expo, Sunday, April 16. 

“I wanted to bring something unique to the hunting and fishing market, because we have so many businesses that are local but have a national presence, and people don’t even know they're located in St. Croix County,” Sarah Jackson, creative director at 45th Parallel Distillery, said as she explained why she pulled together the distillery’s first Hunting and Fishing Expo held Sunday, April 16, at their event center in New Richmond.

Fifteen vendors with roots in St. Croix County were invited to participate, demonstrating products, offering their services, sharing advice and answering questions for more than 750 outdoor enthusiasts who took advantage of the free opportunity and hospitality.

“We wanted to shine a light and support local. That’s the whole goal, to support our local businesses and our customers so that they can get that face to face time with an industry expert that they might not regularly have access to,” said Jackson.

As an extra incentive, 45th offered the first 100 guests who registered by email a free swag bag filled with items from all 15 vendors. The bags were gone in less than two hours.

“We’ve been super fortunate to have the draw. Everybody's excited about it and we’re overly thrilled with the turnout,” Jackson said.

Jackson came up with the idea with the help of her daughter who is a member of the New Richmond-Somerset Trap Team

Team members along with their coach Jen Maier volunteered at the event helping out where needed and overseeing the raffle of a compound bow donated by Donnie Vincent and a beef bundle donated by RJ’s Meats. Proceeds from the raffle benefited the team. 

This year’s team is82 student athletes strong ranging from fifth graders to high schoolers and even a few college students. Students pay a $150 fee to compete virtually every Monday night with teams from Amery, Baldwin, Woodville, Osceola, Prescott and Hudson. Students are responsible for providing their own guns and ammunition. The conference meet will take place in-person at the Amery Gun Club on May 20. Meets are governed by the Scholastic Clay Target Program. 

Sunday’s expo featured live presentations by two of the area's premier professionals, internationally known dog trainer Josh Miller from Retriever Roadmap and Striker Pro-staff Angler Joel Nelson.

Nelson grew up hunting and fishing continuing the traditions and an appreciation for the outdoors taught to him by his grandfather. Today he is passing those same lessons on to his children and lots of other sportsmen and women through his business Joel Nelson Outdoors

“What’s neat about an opportunity like this is you get a chance to ask questions face to face with people who are great at their game, you can pick their brain,” Nelson said.

In that spirit, I asked Nelson to share a tip on spring fishing for crappies.

“What do the old-timers say… When the lilacs start blooming, a spawn is about to happen. Typically the crappies spawn somewhere on either side of the lilacs blooming,” Nelson said.

“When water temps start to hit the low to mid 60’s, crappies push up real shallow to spawn. They’ll be up against old bullrush beds and new reed growth, areas that are typically shallower than the rest of the lake.”

As far as tackle, Nelson prefers to use a bobber.

“A lot of people still want to free swim jigs, but there’s nothing like a bobber to keep the bait in a fish’s face. You reel a little bit at a time and that bait sways a little bit right below the bobber keeping it right in the fish’s face. And who doesn’t like seeing the bobber go down. It never gets old.” 

Josh Miller, founder of the premier online training program Retriever Roadmap, has over 15 years of experience training different breeds for a variety of challenges including hunting and retrieving, bomb detection and therapy companionship. Miller believes behind every successful dog, is an owner who has the passion, patience and dedication to make that dog the “best dog they have ever had.” 

I asked Miller how to approach making an investment in a hunting dog. 

“You have to recognize that this is a big investment not only financially but also of your time. God willing this is a 15 year commitment. Don’t be in a hurry, this should not be an emotional purchase,” Miller said. “Do the research, spend the time and expect a waiting list. Reputable breeders more than likely don’t have puppies on the ground ready to go. Being patient is going to set you up for that longevity and lifetime of happiness by finding the right partner to start with.”

Miller’s goal is to train a well-rounded animal even if hunting is the reason you’re looking for a dog.

“I hunted, just waterfowl, 91 days this year, which is a ton. But even with that, my dogs are still a part of my family first and hunting dogs second,” Miller said. “The average person probably hunts 10 to 15 days a year. That means that for 350 days, the sole purpose of your dog is to be part of your family. Ability is a big deal. We all want performance in the field, but also a dog that’s going to be a great family member.”

(1) comment

Richard Faulkner

Great story! And thanks for the fishing tips.

Now all I need is a rod, reel, fishing line, bait, bobber, and, apparently, a lilac bush ;)

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