Vergas, MN event cancelled.

The NAIFC, and it’s previous names,  has always been about the “best” in ice fishing…The best equipment, the best anglers, the best fisheries and the best competition. It was based on a set of rules and sportsmanship ideology that fit the times, and thru the years things ebbed and flowed, evolved and matured, rules were clarified, added, changed and rechanged.  Other circuits came along, some stayed, some went, but the NAIFC model has been mimicked and copied dozens of times in the last 20 years.


What some teams engaged in and many were exposed to at this event was anything but the best. The continuing behavior is almost as embarrassing…Once teams threaten  to stay away, or not enter if a certain team or teams is going to be there… , the disease is exposed.  The conduct of a few is often how a team, or a family, or a company is judged and the circuit can’t  withstand this type of behavior.


Below is an abbreviated email I sent to all the teams that fished Boji last weekend. I share it with you here


This weekend, several things came to a head and as the only one with the responsibility to make the calls and enforce the rules it is also my responsibility to explain why I do what I do, because transparency and trust are a two way street.


Firstly, on Friday night, despite my efforts to make sure that everyone understood “Teams must be off the ice” by 5:00PM, one team was reported by several others as still being on the ice after 5:00PM. I looked at the evidence and gave this team time to tell their side of the story and then issued what I felt was an appropriate penalty. It was a loss of 20 minutes fishing time, on the lake the penalty was observed on, which happened to be East Lake, where we would fish Sunday. I didn’t feel it warranted taking the starting spot away, nor making them come in 20 minutes early. Right about mid-morning I accompanied the team to an uncrowded area to begin the time out, which was recorded. Penalty issued, penalty served. Agree or not with the penalty, I applied my judgement and issued it.


Secondly, at the weigh in on Saturday, we tried to have an open and visible weigh in, because we knew we would have some observers and interested people. Had to put the scale in the trailer when the wind kicked up right before the first team.  Those who were watching the outer display were not seeing the scale display, which includes a “locked” cursor at the first moment it detects zero movement. I call the weight as soon as I see that indicator…but any basket left on the scale will have a fluctuating weight, the longer it sits, as slime drips off, fish shift etc.   Same will be true with any re-weigh, put fish in the basket, then put them in a bucket, then repeat it…Might weigh more, might weigh less…it will not match exactly every time. I try to match the exact motion and process for each and every basket of fish, but I am not at the meat counter, with dead items, no wind, no slight movement…in a pretty static environment. No, ours is an outdoor environment, with live fish and environmental impacts.  But I do my best to make sure that the recording of those weights is the same for everyone as it can possibly be.  We did a reweigh on one basket and got a good locked weight that seemed like everyone agreed with. But it had everyones attention.


Thirdly, on Sunday, another challenge as we moved to the back up scale which is an older scale, and can’t transmit wirelessly to the outside display…We weighed the third team thru who did not agree with what the scale was saying, and neither did I, so we figured out what was wrong ( the top of the table was warped and the legs were not keeping the bottom of the scale off the top of the table).  We corrected it, got the proper weight and called the team that weighed just prior back to double check their fish. The difference was .24 ounces…(#10.38/#10.62) so we recorded that weight and continued on without any further issues. Again, more attention and now some suspicion…


Fourth, and most importantly, a couple of instances of verbal threats and some very tense moments were witnessed by myself on Friday night and reported Sunday morning AND again in the afternoon in the weigh in line that I I was not made aware of until the next day.


Finally, the pictures and video of the “dead fish” lifted from the FB video. Even if it was cut and dried with irrefutable clarity, which it is not in my opinion, there is not a single thing I can do to legally change any result after the fact, nor am I comfortable issuing any type of penalty.  No matter what you think you see on that video or screen grabs, neither myself or Paul Daniels from the IGLFC who was running the camera saw anything live in the moment that warranted us taking a closer look. None of the other people who were right there when we handled those fish noted it at the time, nor today (Tuesday) when I asked them.  .


YES, I can see what everyone else see’s, one or two fish (that we never see move in the basket) look funny,  that is just simply not conclusive evidence, as several other videos show quite a few similar fish in other baskets…it’s just not good enough video to say so without question…or for me to act on days after the fact, only to make a change so it doesn’t happen again. Upon review of the video, there are some fish seen that we should have looked closer at in that moment, and that is on me, that will be fixed from here on out with a second observer keeping a closer eye on each fish…but this weight will remain official.


Our rules outline the process for filing a complaint or protest,


24.   If a team witnesses a violation of these rules, it is the obligation of that team to notify an official immediately. If a violation is reported after the fact (up to one hour after the 2:00 pm cut-off), the team filing the grievance must do so in writing, with pertinent details, signed by both team members and any witnesses. Pictures and photo evidence will be considered if indisputable.


Updated: The decision has been announced that we are cancelling this weekends MN event. I am not bringing this baggage to MN, and having event organizers and sponsors suffer by association.



Mike Howe

Director, NAIFC