Heather Rutledge is the executive director of ArtReach St. Croix and lives in Stillwater.
From the snowy mountains of Japan’s Akita Prefecture, Kiryu Aoyama is a senior at Stillwater Area High School. Known to his school friends and alpine teammates as Kii (pronounced ‘key’), he is spending the school year in the St. Croix Valley through Rotary International.
Over winter break, Ray Valley, Kii’s winter-season host father took him ice fishing. “It was on the river. I can’t believe it! I was surprised.” Kii said, “There were a lot of people and tents for ice fishing. That was so cool!”
Kii was the only one getting any bites which included a sturgeon (pictured above) and a mudpuppy. “We started fishing at 3 until 7. It was not boring. I feel that it was so fast. It was so fun!”
The sturgeon was 30 inches and, “…at the end, we had to go home so I rolled up and there was the mudpuppy!”
Kii recalled, “I heard the sound of ice being broken and it was so loud and scary, but Ray said it was normal. It was very scary and very interesting.” Ray taught Kii to move the bait a little bit so it looked alive. “Come here, come here!” It worked for Kii, a first-time ice angler.
In another spot of fun, Kii wrote “Minnesota” in Kanji for a t-shirt design. These shirts are available through a print-on-demand website in a variety of styles and colors. Proceeds support Kii’s adventures, giving him a little more spending money to explore the Upper Midwest.