Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza organizers are investigating possible cheating by the winners of this year's $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza on Jan. 27 on Gull Lake's Hole-in-the-day Bay, north of Brainerd.
The investigation is to determine whether some of this year's competing anglers, including the winner of a new pickup truck, deceived contest organizers, it was reported in the Star Tribune.
Contest officials confirmed they are investigating whether three men from Ohio, a father, a son and another relative, legitimately caught the fish they say they did, earning first, third and 98th places among the 150 prize winners.
Event chairman Shane Meyer told the Star Tribune in an interview that organizers have no proof that anyone cheated. Calls were made to Meyer by the Brainerd Dispatch, but were not returned.
The title to the new GMC pickup that Stephan Lyogky of Hartville, Ohio, won for catching a 3.10-pound northern pike during the three-hour contest is being withheld pending the investigation outcome, it was reported.
A hold also has been placed on the contest's third-place prize, a $1,000 check, won by Ivan Lyogky, 52, Stephan's father, and on the 98th-place prize, a certificate good for an ice auger, won by a relative, Rostik Lyogky, 23.
Ivan, Stephan and possibly relatives of theirs have registered fish in previous Brainerd Jaycees ice-fishing contests.
Ivan and Stephan Lyogky told the Dispatch they caught their fish near one another in the northwestern point of the 2-mile fishing site on Hole-in-the-day Bay. Neither son nor father were trying to catch northern pike-they were gunning for walleye around a sharp drop-off point in the lake, jigging lightly along the bottom to coax the fickle fish to take the bait, they told the Dispatch on the day of the contest.
The men have told a lawyer for the group they caught the fish according to contest rules and are willing to take lie detector tests, the Star Tribune reported.
In the contest's 28 years, two other anglers were investigated for possible cheating, Meyer told the Star Tribune, "In those two cases, one person took a required lie detector test and passed it, and the other person declined, which was his right. When he did, he forfeited his prize."
The 28th annual Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice-fishing Extravaganza was one of the largest in the event's history-the result of 20,000 hours of labor by 500 volunteers from the area.
The contest is the largest charitable ice-fishing event in the world, accruing more than $3.5 million for philanthropic causes since its inception in 1991. Next year's contest is scheduled for Jan. 26, 2019.
Volunteers patrol the area around the contest area, making sure anglers don't bring in any live fish or anything that is against the ice fishing contest rules. Anglers typically begin to line up for the ice fishing contest at 7 a.m. and are allowed in at 8 a.m. to find their hole on the ice. The contest starts at noon and ends at 3 p.m.
If someone cheated and snuck a fish into the area, they would have to keep it alive long enough to get it into the water without being seen by other anglers or contest volunteers. Fish must be alive when registered to win a prize.