The 2012 Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza is a go. But it doesn’t mean that, as in past years, all roads again will lead to Hole-in-the-Day Bay on contest day.
That’s the message from the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office.
Throughout the years, participants have come from far and near, and from numerous points on Gull Lake, to fish the hugely popular event on Gull’s Hole-in-the-Day Bay. But poor ice conditions this unusually mild winter prompted the postponement of the 22nd annual Extravaganza from Jan. 21 to Feb. 11. A check on ice conditions Thursday found ice consistently in the 18-inch range across the contest site, three inches above the minimum needed. As a result, Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl issued a permit for the event Thursday. But, because of reports this winter of open water elsewhere on the lake, it comes with stipulations.
“We’re going to ask for the public’s understanding that the vehicle traffic will be restricted on the Gull Lake chain,” said Sgt. Scott Goddard of the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office, who was on hand for Thursday’s ice check at Hole-in-the-Day Bay. “There will be postings at all the lake accesses and also staffing at the accesses (informing contestants that no vehicle traffic will be allowed on the lake for travel to and from the tournament area). With the thin ice and open-water spots, we don’t want any traffic coming across the lake. For vehicle traffic, we’re trying to stress using the parking and shuttles that the Jaycees provide. The buses will run like they have in years past. And we’re not restricting ATVs and snowmobiles.”
Officials made the decision Jan. 12 to postpone the Extravaganza for the second time in the tournament’s history — it also was moved back in 2002 and, in 2006, it was moved to nearby Round Lake. An aerial check of Gull on Jan. 13 showed a large open area and several nearby areas with thin ice.
“In 2006, traffic was restricted to ATVs and snowmobiles only,” Goddard said. “That year there were similar conditions on portions of the ice where it was skimmed over, but not enough ice to support vehicles. I know the area is consistent and deemed appropriate in the contest area, but I haven’t checked other areas of the lake. I know some areas are bad.”
Tim Collette, a local DNR conservation officer who was on that Jan. 13 fly-over, said he thinks that large open-water area is at least somewhat frozen over.
“It’s a matter of how much ice is out there,” Collette said. “It (the recent cold spell) has probably made a few more inches since then, maybe. But the thing I’ve been hearing is it’s not making a lot of ice. I’m very concerned about the rest of it (Gull).
“There isn’t open water that I know about other than the usual spots on the channels. And the big hole, as far as I can tell, has froze up. But I just don’t know. It still concerns me.”
The event begins at noon Feb. 11, with $200,000 in prizes for the top 150 fish. Prizes include the winner’s choice of a Ford or GMC pickup, an Ice Castle Fish House and other ice-fishing related products.
“Not a single prize is worth less than $250, so it’s worth the wait for our contestants,” said Troy Imgrund, event organizer. “And new this year is the Crestliner Catch of the Day boat giveaway, where contestants can enter a secondary contest for a chance to win a new boat if they catch the largest perch and have the $5 stamp attached to their contest ticket.”
All tickets pre-purchased will be honored Feb. 11. Tickets are available online, at area outlets and on the ice the day of the event. Refunds will not be issued, but if ticket holders are unable to attend the 2012 event, a voucher for the 2013 tournament will be issued. For tickets and more information, go to www.icefishing.org.
The Extravaganza benefits Brainerd-area charities, most notably the Confidence Learning Center — Camp Confidence — in East Gull Lake, which provides outdoor opportunities for persons with developmental disabilities.
“We were disappointed and nervous,” Bob Slaybaugh, program director at Confidence Learning Center, said of when the Extravaganza was postponed. “When you look at the impact the Jaycees and all the anglers have on the camp, the money they donate is a huge portion of our budget. Without it the camp wouldn’t be able to operate the way it does now. Last year, we had 11,000 camper days. Without this kind of money it would be 6,000 to 7,000. It makes that big of a difference.
“Hopefully, the Brainerd lakes area gets two good weekends out of the tournament and not just one,” Slaybaugh added, pointing out that many people still came up to the area when the tournament was originally scheduled.