Tom and friend Mike Howe, preparing to start the adventure.

It all started over dinner at the Montana Club in Kalispell, Montana, where I’m sitting with friends Mike Howe of A-Able Charters/Howe’s Fishing Guide Service, and Rob Brisendine from the Kalispell Convention and Visitor Bureau.
Gazing up into the Rockies surrounding us, a wild idea had popped into my head. “Guys,” I say, leaning forward, “do you think it might be possible to charter a helicopter and fly to a remote cirque lake to ice fish?”
I’m intent on their eyes, which glance at each other, then back at me. I’m aware this is a bit out there, but I’ve been meaning to ask, and you never know unless you try. Without any apparent hesitation, Rob nods. “Yeah, I think that could happen.”


Here’s where the idea for this trip began: The Montana Club in Kalispell.

We knock the concept around a bit, and even decide it might also be fun to offer a sweepstakes to TGO viewers, giving them a chance to come along on the adventure, one that would almost certainly comprise an ice fishing trip of a lifetime.
With our group of ‘let’s get it done’ personalities, it’s not long before everything is planned and dates are set. For several weeks we post information about the trip and the related sweepstakes on-line, plus attend several sport shows to help spread the word.
Right after the 2014 holidays, the Kalispell Convention and Visitors Bureau announces the winners are Nancy Suthers and James Fenton of Monroe, Wisconsin. Both will receive an all-expense paid trip to Kalispell, including round trip airfare, lodging at the Red Lion Hotel, meals, a tour of Kalispell…and yes, an ice fishing trip where we’ll fly a helicopter to a cirque lake, led by local outfitter Mike Howe, to fish cutthroat trout and film an episode of TGO, Tom Gruenwald Outdoors!


My long time friend, Mike Howe of A-Abel Charters/Howe’s Fishing, is an avid ice angler and was an ideal companion on this amazing ice venture.

The sweepstakes plans are soon laid down to the finest detail, yet for Mike and I, the work has just begun.
Getting the TGO crew to Kalispell from Wisconsin is the first challenge, as a powerful winter storm shuts down flights from Denver to Kalispell…and wouldn’t you know it, our connecting flight is through Denver. We spend a couple hours reviewing alternate routes with airline representatives in Milwaukee, and the best we can do is book a flight to Minneapolis followed by a late night connecting flight to Missoula—a city 120 miles south of Kalispell.
I call Mike, where it’s 5:30 a.m. in his part of the country. To my surprise, he’s already up. After explaining our situation, I’m about to let him know we’ll try getting to Missoula, then rent a vehicle to reach Kalispell, but I never have the opportunity. When he hears about our altered schedule, he immediately offers to meet us at the airport in Missoula. Wow. After all the stumbling blocks our crew has endured this morning, it’s sure nice to have such great friends!
Once flight changes are made, I spend a very long day in airports with TGO videographer Sean Casper, and our audio technician, Steve Oakley. Now you have to understand, I’m an ice angler, not a videographer. I’m aware cameras have a lens with adjustable apertures for capturing video, and microphones that record the accompanying sound. But spending a day listening to these guys talk is like sitting down to dinner with people speaking a foreign language.
Sean says something akin to, “I really think the K959-B7, combined with the J7600 provides vastly superior resolution, but it won’t be long before they introduce the new F8000,, so we might want to hold out for another year…” Steve listens intently while looking up related information on an on-line site and answering in another code.
I smile. These two talk camera equipment like we ice anglers talk fishing gear, and I’m the one outnumbered today.


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Tom Gruenwald

Tom Gruenwald

Tom Gruenwald is truly passionate about the outdoors and is recognized as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the sport of ice fishing. Throughout the years, his expertise has been sought for in-depth ice fishing presentations, seminars and advanced contributions to various outdoor periodicals throughout the world. He’s appeared as a guest on numerous radio and TV shows, authored four ice fishing books and now hosts his own TV show, “Tom Gruenwald Outdoors,”. TGO is the first program of its kind dedicated solely to ice fishing. 

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