WALKER-The Cass County Sheriff's Office reported there will be vehicle traffic restrictions during the annual International Eelpout Festival scheduled Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 21-24, on Leech Lake in front of Chase on the Lake in Walker.

Sheriff Tom Burch stated the sheriff's office and Eelpout event promoters have worked closely to monitor lake and ice conditions and the current Leech Lake Walker Bay ice conditions have created a concern for public safety. There is heavy snow and flooding, including slush and water on the ice and a large volume of vehicle and ice house traffic is expected, Burch reported. Event and participant safety is the sheriff's office No. 1 priority, a news release stated.

Vehicle traffic will be restricted to snowmobiles and Class 1 and 2 all-terrain vehicles from 3 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Sunday. All vehicles must be removed from the ice by 3 p.m. Friday. During the restricted time, no vehicles will be allowed in the restricted area for any reason. During restricted times, fish houses may be pulled out by ATVs or snowmobiles in the restricted area. The restricted area will be visibly marked.

A map of the restricted area will be posted on the sheriff's office website, Facebook and the event website.

The Walker City Park Landing and Marine Max Marine landing will be open for vehicle traffic to travel to areas outside the restricted area during the entirety of the event. Violators will be issued citations and towed from the lake during this period. This closure is pursuant to Minnesota Statute 86B.

Officials will monitor ice and flooding conditions through the week and weekend. If conditions require, further restrictions or closures will be implemented and enforced.

Entering into its 40th year, the eelpout festival attracts more than 10,000 participants and visitors to Walker. This year's festival officially begins 6 p.m. Thursday, 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 the registration tent in front of Chase on the Lake, at www.eelpoutfestival.com/buy-a-button or at participating Walker area businesses. Cost of a button is $18.