WALKER- The annual International Eelpout Festival is scheduled Feb. 21-24 on Leech Lake in front of Chase on the Lake in Walker.

"The festival is known for providing a mid-winter respite for the many hearty Midwesterners looking for an outlet during a long Minnesota winter," organizers stated in a news release. "At the center of the Eelpout Festival is the long-held tradition of angling the world's only true gamefish and one of the ugliest bottom dwelling catches out there-the eelpout."

Entering into its 40th year, the eelpout festival attracts more than 10,000 participants and visitors to Walker. This year's festival officially begins at 6 p.m. Feb. 21 and concludes at noon Feb. 24. All participants must be registered and have in their possession an official International Eelpout Festival button, which may be purchased online at https://www.eelpoutfestival.com/buy-a-button/ at the registration tent in front of Chase on the Lake, or at participating Walker area businesses. Cost of a button is $18. Visit the official site at: www.eelpoutfestival.com.

Activities include:

• Opening ceremonies begin at 6 p.m. Feb. 21 with live music with Corey Medina in The 502 and Pre-Pout Kick-Off Party in the Chase Big Top Tent.

• Annual Eelpout Beer Pong: Qualifiers on Feb. 22 and championship Feb. 23. Cost is $40 for a two-person team into this bracket-style/single elimination contest.

• Pout Curling: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 23. Patrons can throw "The Eelpout Rock" and try "sweeping" to victory. Located behind the Chase Big Top Tent.

• Chain saw carving starts at 10 a.m. Feb. 23.

• Dog sled rides starts at 10 a.m. Feb. 23.

• Helicopter rides Feb. 23.

• Eelpout weigh in: This "cultural submersion" operates daily, capped with an awards ceremony at 9 a.m. Feb. 24.

• Annual Kids Perch Jerk noon-1 p.m. Feb. 23. Savings bonds will be awarded to three biggest perch caught. Holes will be drilled for the kids. Parents, just bring poles and bait.

• Polar Pout Kart Races 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 23.

• Human Whack-A-Mole 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 23.

Annual eelpout traditions include "Kissing the Pout" on the lips and sipping an ice-cold drink at the 50,000-pound Jameson Irish Whiskey ice bar built on the lake.