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Ed Carlson

Tony Dean pass's the torch to Mitchell

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Tony Dean retires from the TV business

Brad Dokken Grand Forks Herald

Published Sunday, May 25, 2008

One of the pioneers in outdoors television is passing the torch.

Tony Dean, longtime host of “Tony Dean Outdoors,” has sold the rights of his popular program to Devils Lake fishing personality Jason Mitchell. Dean, 67, is helping Mitchell through the transition, co-hosting new programs that will air beginning in December and teaching the new host some of the ropes of the trade.

The new show will be called “Jason Mitchell Outdoors.”

Tony Dean, who launched the “Tony Dean Outdoors” TV program in 1985, is retiring from television but will remain involved in outdoors and conservation issues.

“Tony has really set the standard for outdoor TV throughout the years, and he’s been very influential,” Mitchell, 33, said. “I want to continue the legacy he created.”

In a telephone interview from Jackson Hole, Wyo., where he was attending a conference, Dean, of Pierre, S.D., said he’d been thinking about passing the TV show on to someone else for awhile but wanted to find the right person.

According to Dean, Mitchell was a logical choice. He’s not only a savvy communicator, Dean said, but Mitchell also knows sales, having established a successful guiding business and marketing a line of fishing rods.

“You’ve got to be a salesman, and if you can’t sell advertisers, you can have the greatest show in the world, and it’s not going to get on the air,” Dean said. “Jason has proved he’s very good at sales and likes it, and he’s very good at it. I think he’s going to turn into a pretty good outdoor communicator.

“He’s a great kid,” Dean said. “From the day I met Jason, I liked him and saw great potential for him.”

Dean, who launched “Tony Dean Outdoors” in 1985, said he plans to spend more time working as an advocate for conservation issues and hopes to establish what he calls a “conservation think tank” aimed at changing public policy programs and keeping grasslands and wetlands in place.

Dean says he’s developed a plan for the think tank and is exploring ways to fund it. He also plans to continue his daily “Dakota Backroads” radio show and writing occasional outdoors articles for newspapers such as The Forum and the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader.

Leaving the TV business, he said, wasn’t a difficult decision.

“Not really,” he said. “I had my run, well over 25 years doing it, and it’s time to pass the torch.”

Focus on stories

A Minot native, Mitchell said he aims to carry on Dean’s tradition of storytelling. It won’t be a show about how to catch more fish, in other words, but will focus on people and places across the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and northern Michigan.

Nothing will be staged, he says, and the show won’t be filled with blatant product pitches.

“You have to be able to promote and sell a product so advertisers can feel the results, but at the same time, you can do so with a level of integrity,” Mitchell said. “I think the best way to do that is to set down the egos and not, ‘I’ve got a TV show, and I’m the world’s greatest fisherman.’

“There are so many interesting things happening out on the water,” Mitchell said. “People want a good story. It’s our job to find those and tell them.”

Where “Tony Dean Outdoors” also included hunting segments, Mitchell says he plans to keep the new show focused on fishing. Most shows will feature two segments. The first season features 19 episodes, and shows in the works include walleye fishing on the Missouri River south of Bismarck, an interview with Dean looking back on the longtime host’s career, a historical perspective on Devils Lake and the bluegill bonanza on North Dakota’s Lake Metigoshe.

Production and filming for the show will be based in Bismarck, where cameraman Paul Oster lives, but Mitchell said he plans to remain in Devils Lake. Thanks to the Internet, Mitchell said, he and Dean can collaborate with Oster remotely.

Mitchell says he also plans to scale back his time on the water as a fishing guide. The career transition, he says, isn’t scary, and it didn’t take him long to decide when Dean approached him in October about taking over the show.

“It’s pretty exciting, actually,” Mitchell said. “I’ve been in the trenches a long time. I love guiding, but I’m starting to get wore out. People think, ‘Fishing, that isn’t work at all,’ but you fish 100 days in a row with only one or two days off, and it just wears you down. And if you don’t guide that many days, it’s hard to make a living. I’m getting older and slowing down. I’ve got a family now.”

‘Labor of love’

Dean started his broadcast career as a weekend radio host in Bismarck and later worked in Fort Collins, Colo., Sheyenne Wyo., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Huron, S.D. Before launching his TV show, Dean hosted a radio program for South Dakota’s Department of Game, Fish and Parks for 20 years and also spent some time with In-Fisherman Radio.

He said “Tony Dean Outdoors” almost went bankrupt the first year but survived and eventually flourished.

“It’s been a labor of love right from the start,” Dean said. “I had an advantage when I started because I already had communications experience. It was so much easier for me to learn than someone who came from a totally fishing background to try to become a communicator. I enjoyed every minute of it.”

As for Mitchell, hosting an outdoors TV show is a far cry from his early days as a guide, when he’d sometimes sleep in his boat at night for lack of anywhere else to stay and wrap a drift sock around his head as protection from mosquitoes.

“I loved to fish so I just got by,” Mitchell said. “If someone would have told me when I was a kid that I’d be doing this, I’d have fallen right out of my boat.”

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Tony has been, and continues to be, a shining standard for sportsman with his open style of educating sportsman and his demeanor of friendly communication. I have long admired Tony s, style, and at times his willingness to risk controversy when it came to conservation. He occasionally risked controversy not for the sake of sensationalism, or the press, but because it was the right thing to do and it needed to be done. I thank him for sharing his experiences, skills, and advocacy with us over the past 25 plus years.

I too feel Tony has a wise eye for talent and I have long suspected he was grooming Jason for the opportunity to fallow in his footsteps.

In my view Jason Mitchell is a No-Brain'r choice, a sportsman's sportsman, a real Go-Get'r of a guy. I could not think of a better candidate than him to be the next shining example of a Sportsman educator for our region, and beyond.

Jason is most definitely a sales savvy guy, you bet-ch-ya he is. I have had the honor of working with him from time to time and I trust him explicitly. His own product line is built from the ground up from experiences, both good and bad, to refine a quality product that is functional and quality laden.

I wish Tony and Jason smooth waters in there travels ahead.

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When Tony Dean speaks people listen. I'm glad to hear he will still use his voice for conservation efforts. I also would like to thank him for his contribution for the sportsman and the land and the lakes we play on.

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I was wondering when the official announcement would be made, as the talk had been out for a while now about this. I've always enjoyed Tony Dean and I've watched he and Jason Mitchell together on various episodes and think it'll be a smooth transition. Congrats all around!

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I'm going to miss watching Tony Dean.

Jason Mitchell is a no-brainer to take over. I've talked with Jason a few times and the man is a class act. An excellent choice to take over the helm as they say. I'll go as far as to call him the working man's guide, a sportsmans sportsman, and just a flat out honest hard working fella. As an added bonus, I absolutely love his ice rods.

Good luck to Tony and I'm really looking forward to seeing where Jason takes this.

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10-4 to that, his ice rods are Sweet! If you like his ice rods, wait tell you get your hand wrapped around one of his open water rods...very nice indeed. He also has a few new ice ranger tools coming out for 08-09 that I predict will be big hits. I best let him spill the beans on that when the time is right.

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I grew up watching Tony Dean, he is a class act for sporstman to follow. I lost my longtime fishing buddy (my uncle 2 years ago) watching Tony is like a spitting image of my uncle. Whenever Tony is on, it brings me back to memories of my uncle. Have good retirement Tony!!

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I think alot of people watched him over the years when he was on TV. He was always a treat to watch, and learn alot of cool things from him on the TV.

Im sure we will see him around. But enjoy the retirement!

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I love Tony Deans show. Something about his voice that puts me at ease. I hate to see him go but Jason will be a great way to start a new era.

Congrats Tony on your retirement and congrats to Jason on a start of a new adventure. Good luck to you both.

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Tony deans shows were of top notch quality and I'm sure the same will hold through for Jason Mitchell. His ice and open water rods are also of very high quality.

Good luck Jason on your new venture and we all look forward to viewing your shows.

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I really enjoyed Tony Dean also and the hunting segements the most, sorry that the new person isn't going to continue this. The huntings bits Tony did you never see much like it from other shows now it's seems will be gone for good. Thats too bad but things always change.

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Southwest? Where are you getting your info that hunting segments won't continue? I think Tony normally did a goose hunt, and a pheasant hunt each year: I'd think that Jason will most likely have the same opportunities?

Congratulations to Jason for this great opportunity, and good luck to Tony in his conservationist pursuits: He'll be able to do a ton of good for the outdoors and the outdoorsperson!

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I liked the show a lot. It was kind of like "fishing with grandpa". It jsut had that quality about it. It was a lot better than a "midwest magazine bassed outdoors" show that is more about selling resorts and goods.

I will give mitchell a shot though.

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I have absolutely no clue what Jason has up his sleeve, but I'll say this.......If he want's to go to SW MN pheasant hunting I'll take him out. Film or no film. I'd actually rather just go hunting with the guy. I said it before and I'll say it again, he's a class act. Guys like Jason Mitchell are always welcome on the hunt with me.

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I think what SW was referring to was, the goose and pheasant but he had some deer hunting mixed in there. The thing about these shows, were that they were "real". They were more down to earth, Tony didn't go after the 192 point buck like every other show.

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I was just referring to Jason's press release, thats all, never

heard of the guy before but like the one of the posters said above Tony just went hunting and not just looking for trophies,

my young son's liked the hunting segment's, always seemed like

a hunt anyone could go on instead of some of these shows that

you would have to break the bank for the hunt. Hope Jason still

does some hunting shows Tony's were great and fun to watch the

last 20 years.

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