The 2021 Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza will be virtual due to COVID-19, according to an announcement on the event’s Facebook page Wednesday, Nov. 25.

Tournament organizations, along with the direction of state officials, determined the virtual format is the most responsible joince to continue the tradition during the coronavirus pandemic, the statement said.

“Safety of all involved is our main concern this year,” event chairperson Benji Thoennes wrote “We know that the event will be different, but we hope to encourage everyone to get out fishing with their families and win some great prizes, which keeps in line with what the Extravaganza has always been about.”

The Bemidji Pioneer reported the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in all likelihood would not issue permits for ice fishing tournaments larger than 250 people this winter because of rising COVID-19 cases, according to a DNR fisheries manager. Though holes can be drilled far enough apart, there will always be gathering points — like weigh-in stations and food vendors — where people will be likely to congregate, the representative noted.

The Brainerd Jaycees event typically draws tens of thousands of participants to Gull Lake. This winter, however, anglers can fish on their own on any lake in Minnesota on Jan. 30 and submit their catches virtually. All six eligible fish species native to Brainerd’s Gull Lake will be announced at a later date. Fish will be entered into a web-based application by the contestant. The application will go live the day of the contest. Pre-purchased tickets must be registered at https://bit.ly/3fyR1SI by Jan. 15 to be eligible to participate in the new format.

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Participants will be subject to all applicable Minnesota Department of Natural Resources licensing requirements. More information will be announced in the coming weeks as tournament organizers work through the details of planning a virtual event.

First held in 1991, the Extravaganza has been postponed just three times and moved to a different lake once. Hailed as the world’s largest charitable ice fishing tournament, event organizers have donated more than $4 million to Brainerd‐area charities, most notably Confidence Learning Center.

Find the most up to date event information at www.icefishing.org.