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Illinois hunting and fishing

Tackle entrepreneur battles long odds, death of brother to bring product to market

October 12, 2012 at 09:22 AM

The State Journal-Register

Mick Nelson of Ramsey, Minn. is one of those entrepreneurs who developed a product in response to a frustrating problem.

Nelson wasn’t looking for fame and fortune, just a way to keep some fish alive to eat later during long canoeing and camping trips.

But bringing that product to market took years of work and Nelson had to overcome the death of his brother who also was his business partner.

His product, the Trophy Anglers’ Livewell, is designed to keep fish safe from predators and alive for another day.

Like many good ideas, this one was born after nature dealt a humiliating lesson.

During a camping trip of several days, Nelson’s group caught 15 fish, ate five of them and put 10 fish on a stringer anchored 10-feet deep.

“The next morning, I woke up to this incessant splashing,” he said. “The gulls were dive bombing my stringer and making it.”

Turtles also found the feast, tearing off pieces for the gulls.

“We lost all 10 fish,” Nelson said. “We didn’t catch another fish the rest of the trip, so we ate a lot of dried potatoes, dried onions and oatmeal.”

Once the idea for the product, a mesh basket with a top that cinches closed, took several years to bring to market.

“I worked on this for about two years by myself,” he said. “I initially built it for myself, and I didn’t have any idea that I would actually market it.

“I just wanted something to keep fish alive for me.”

A job and family life allowed little time to develop his idea, so he got his brother Don involved.

“It was a long road and we didn’t know what we were doing,” Nelson said.

Then Don died, and in the settling of his estate, Mick got the business back.

He said he thinks the product could help anglers make better use of live wells on boats, by keeping fish in the water the majority of the time and using live wells only for transportation from one fishing spot to another.

“With this, you can keep them in the habitat they live in daily,” he said. “You can pick it up by both rings and it will slip into a live well.”

And how does it hold up?

“We went up to the Boundary Waters and we stocked it full of our fish,” Nelson said. “We had five smallmouth in there for about a week, and we witnessed an onslaught of every type of critter you could imagine.

“They never gave up, but they were never successful either.”

Nelson’s Trophy Anglers’ Livewell sells for $59.95 and is available at:

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