Following accusations of cheating by prize winners at the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza, the organization reported Thursday it closed an inquiry into the matter.
No deception was found on polygraph exams administered to Ivan, Stephan, and Rostik Lyogky, a father, son and relative from Hartville, Ohio, the Jaycees reported in a news release.
The official rules of the contest on Hole-in-the-Day Bay of Gull Lake state the contest judge may require any prize winner to take a polygraph examination. When asked to submit to a polygraph exam by the review committee, the Lyogkys voluntarily agreed to participate. The Lyogkys were interviewed separately by a licensed polygraph examiner. Each of them successfully completed the examination, resulting in the examiner's certification that no deception had taken place with regard to the fishing contest.
"We want everyone to know that we always take matters like this very seriously. We are pleased with the results of this inquiry and appreciate the cooperation of the Lyogky family to ensure to the sporting community that our event is fairly administered," stated 2018 event Chairperson Shane Meyer, in the release. "We congratulate the Lyogky family, as well as all other anglers that participated in the contest this year. What we do makes such an enormous difference in our community."
The Jaycees investigated the matter following anonymous complaints the men might not have legitimately caught the fish they entered, which earned them first, third and 98th places among the 150 prize winners.
Meyer told the Star Tribune in an interview organizers have no proof anyone cheated. Calls were made to Meyer by the Brainerd Dispatch, but were not returned.
The title to the new GMC pickup Stephan Lyogky won for catching a 3.10-pound northern pike during the three-hour contest was withheld pending the investigation outcome, it was reported.
A hold also was 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 Rostik Lyogky, 23.
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.
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," he said.
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 sneaked 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.