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Alexandria man receives patent to revolutionize ice fishing

After years of appealing to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Grandpa Jimmy's Ice Hole Trap is on the market.

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Jim Dresch, left, and his longtime girlfriend of 30 plus years, Deb Anderson, hold up both the United States and Canadian patent for Dresch's ice hole trap invention, pictured in the center.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press
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ALEXANDRIA — After years of appealing to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), one Alexandria man is finally on his way to market his invention that he says is a first in the history of ice fishing.

It all started in February of 2016 when Jim Dresch was out fishing with his buddy, Roger Van Surksum, when the all-too-common problem of losing a fish off the line plagued their time on the frozen lake.

"All of sudden (Van Surksum's) chair goes flying, he's down on the ground and his fish is gone," Dresch recalled.

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By pressing down on the lever, tension from the attached paracord lifts the plate to prevent the fish from sliding out of the hole and under the ice.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

It wasn't too much longer until the exact same scenario happened again.

"I said Roger, 'You're going to break a knee cap,'" Dresch said.

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Dresch had enough and set off to work on a solution. The result — Grandpa Jimmy's Ice Hole Trap. The device uses a pivotal plate that runs parallel with the length of the ice hole and closes the bottom of the hole via a foot pedal. It traps a caught fish within the ice hole so that it cannot escape if it gets off the hook.

The trap can mount to ice or to the floor of a fish house. If one doesn't want to to drill into their floor, Dresch provides a wood platform that can be purchased for the trap to mount to.

Alexandria's Jim Dresch was ice fishing with his good friend, Roger Van Surksum, a couple years ago when Van Surksum latched into a nice crappie. He worked the fish up to the hole before his chair went flying. Crappies are known for their paper-t...

The solution came with its own problems, however — years of appealing to the patent office that Dresch described as a "nightmare." He first applied in 2017.

"They told me the process could take up to 18 months," Dresch said. "Eighteen months later they turned me down."

USPTO told Dresch they found something that looks similar to his invention — a device with the same intention but a completely different design and functionality.

Dresch hired a patent attorney to appeal and reapply.

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The patent for Dresch's ice hole trap described how the device works and provides an illustrated diagram.
Thalen Zimmerman / Alexandria Echo Press

"We wrote up about all the differences and why mine works and theirs doesn't and reapplied. About another year (later), they turned us down again," he said. "They didn't know what they were looking for because this has never existed before. Google didn't even know what it was because I invented something that has never been invented in the history of the world."

Again, Dresch appealed the USPTO's decision and again it was denied.

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"As we eliminated each (invention the USPTO countered with), it started getting stupider and stupider. They were struggling," Dresch said. "Mine (invention) has an extension on it and they said they found something else that has an extension. An auger carrier for the front of a snowmobile. I have an extension on my apple picker, what the hell does that have to do with mine (invention)?"

The waiting process between each denial and appeal was between 10 and 12 months. Dresch said his patent attorney eventually had to call the patent office and speak with a supervisor and personally discuss the matter.

Finally, in October of 2021, after nearly five years of appeals, Dresch got his patent. Two months later, he got a patent from Canada. Dresch said that 90% of the time if the U.S. passes a patent then Canada will also approve it.

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Alexandria's Jim Dresch with his Grandpa Jimmy's Ice Hole Trap, an ice fishing product he created to keep fish from getting away after they get free near the top of the hole.
Echo Press file photo.

"You can imagine how excited we got after it passed after almost five years," Dresch said.

When asked what motivated him to keep applying and waiting nearly a year between each hear-back, he said it's because he knew better.

"I've been ice fishing for 60 years. I knew that we had something that was different," Dresch said. "My attorney says you can get a patent on anything, it doesn't have to be marketable. They don't have to be useful."

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Dresch's friend, Jerry Lanie, uses an ice trap in two of his holes while ice fishing.
Contributed photo.

Dresch says he knows that his ice hole trap is not only original but it is useful, marketable and desired by any angler who has lost their catch under the ice. So far, Dresch says he has sold thousands of ice traps from Montana to New York and up into Canada.

Nowadays, Dresch has been spending most of his weekends making trips to areas known for its ice fishing to see if shops are interested in selling his product. He and his longtime girlfriend of 30-plus years, Deb Anderson, work together to package the traps.

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Locally, Grandpa Jimmy's Ice Hole Trap can be purchased at Christopherson Bait Shop in Alexandria. They can also be found in a number of shops from Grand Rapids to Bemidji and up to Blackduck and International falls.

Online orders can be made at his website, www.grandpajimmy.com .

"People have been losing fish their whole life. This invention is literally going to change the whole fishing industry... It's a paradigm shift," Dresch said. "I'm prior military and I was basically retired. I just fished for fun and I stumbled into this thing by accident... It's so much fun because you are helping people catch fish. You couldn't ask for a better job."

Dresch said his goal is to put a trap in every fisherman's fish house and have a business to pass down to his children and grandchildren.

Anderson says she hopes when the money starts rolling in they can help out veterans and charities.

Thalen Zimmerman of Alexandria joined the Echo Press team as a full-time reporter in Aug. 2021, after graduating from Bemidji State University with a bachelor of science degree in mass communication in May of 2021.
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