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Jaycees' Ice Fishing Contest gets the go-ahead

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After digging through Tuesday morning’s fresh-fallen snow and ice on Gull Lake, Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl gave the green light for the Brainerd Jaycees’ annual $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza.

The extravaganza will be Jan. 25 on Gull Lake’s Hole-in-the-Day Bay, north of Brainerd. This year will be the 24th year the event has been conducted. More than 10,000 anglers are expected to compete for one of 150 prizes valued at more than $200,000.

Dahl and Sgt. Adam Kronstedt with the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office did the official check of the ice thickness on the Hole-in-the-Day Bay Tuesday to make sure the ice was safe for the fishing extravaganza.

They drilled two different holes and found a good 17-19 inches of ice in the contest area, along with packed snow on top.

“We’re very comfortable with issuing the permit,” Dahl said. “In the past we went as low as 14-15 inches, but we feel much more comfortable with 17-19 inches. This is a good thing.”

Dahl said the Brainerd Jaycees have been great to work with on the project. The Jaycees agreed to wait a few weeks on checking the ice thickness, which has helped the ice conditions.

“We have been on the edge for the last couple of years,” said Dahl. “The permit for this year’s contest will be issued today or tomorrow morning (Wednesday.)”

“We’re excited,” said Matt Castle of the Brainerd Jaycees and chair of the fishing contest. “It is always stressful this time of year leading up to getting the permit.”

Castle was a little nervous, even though the Brainerd lakes area has seen its share of cold weather this season. He said some of the lakes have had slush issues, but not Gull Lake.

Ice conditions on Gull Lake passed the sheriff’s office inspection for the permit and the contest area will be ready for anglers — with the contest a week and a half away.

Castle said 6,500 tickets have been sold so far, which is right where it should be about this time of year. Castle is hopeful the Jaycees will sell around 10,000 tickets. Throughout the history of the event, contestants from as far away as India, Germany and Hawaii have participated.

Tickets are $45 and can be purchased at Mills Fleet Farm, Cash Wise Liquor, Super America, Holiday Station Stores, S & W Bait and the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce or online at

The Jaycees are bringing back the “Extravaganza Catch of the Day” prize giveaway. It is an additional contest within the extravaganza that gives contestants a chance to win an ice fishing prize package valued at nearly $9,000. To participate in the contest, contestants purchase a $5 sticker that must be affixed to the contest ticket. The stickers are available at the event ticket locations.

The Jaycees will announce what species will be the fish to catch two days before the contest. The person who catches the biggest “mystery” fish will be the winner.

The Jaycees always look for volunteers to come out the Friday before the contest to help drill holes. Those interested in drilling holes on Jan. 24 should email

The extravaganza is run by volunteers and all event proceeds are donated to area charities. Last year’s event raised more than $135,000 to area nonprofit organizations with the primary beneficiary being the Confidence Learning Center, an outdoor recreational facility and camp for individuals with developmental disabilities. More than 50 organizations in the Brainerd lakes area have received donations in the history of the event, which is likely to exceed $3 million in charitable donations this year.

More information and official updates may be found at

The Minnesota State Patrol is already encouraging motorists who will be driving near the event location to slow down, pay attention and be alert to traffic slow-downs and lane closures on Highway 371 at Gull Lake’s Hole-in-the-Day Bay and areas around Brainerd International Raceway (BIR). Heavy traffic is anticipated during the event. Highway 371 traffic will be a single lane at Gull Lake to allow for a shuttle bus/vehicle drop off site. Contest participants and spectators are encouraged to use the shuttle service, which is provided from BIR north of Baxter.

Motorists not involved with the contest are encouraged to use an alternate route during the event if possible.

Shuttles are available to the main fishing area and are located at BIR and in Nisswa on Crow Wing County Road 77. Shuttles for disabled persons are only available at the BIR shuttle location.

“Every year, we have some brief periods of congestion and traffic slow-downs, especially a couple hours before the contest and immediately after for about an hour,” said Lt. Brad Bordwell, Minnesota State Patrol.

The state patrol plans to have more driving while intoxicated patrols out in conjunction with this year’s event. Planning ahead is encouraged, along with reporting drivers believed to be impaired. The state patrol reports that there are usually no major incidents on the highway during the contest.

Working along with the state patrol will be the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Department of Natural Resources, Cass and Crow Wing County sheriff’s offices, Nisswa Police Department and other agencies will be on scene controlling traffic and patrolling the area throughout the event.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER, staff writer, may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at