16 inches of ice: Sheriff gives blessing for Jaycees' Ice Fishing Extravaganza
If there were any doubts about ice conditions this winter—there aren't anymore.
The 29th annual Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza received the green light Thursday, Jan. 17, from Crow Wing County Sheriff Scott Goddard. The annual event takes place on Hole-in-the-Day Bay on Gull Lake and is scheduled Jan. 26. Goddard issued the permit for the event after doing an ice check within the 250 acres of the contest area. The contest is about 10 miles north of Brainerd off Highway 371.
At this year's measurement, there was a good, solid 16 inches of ice.
Officials with the sheriff's office and the Brainerd Jaycees drove out on the lake and drilled two holes. They found 14 inches in the northeast portion of the contest area, which is known to have the least amount of ice, and another hole near the center of the contest area had 16 inches.
After reviewing the ice conditions and looking at the weather forecast of expected below-zero temperatures with wind chills—it gave the sheriff confidence there is enough ice for the contest.
"Let's go fishing," Goddard said. "We're confident in saying we're going to have a great fishing contest."
The 29th annual Jaycees' event, considered the largest charitable fishing contest, kicks off at noon Jan. 26 and winners are expected to be announced at 3:30 p.m. The fishing contest began in 1991 with 5,500 anglers competing for $100,000 in prizes and it has since almost doubled the amount of people who attend and prizes are worth more than $200,000, according to event coordinators.
All fish species and sizes are eligible to win the overall contest. Prizes are awarded to the top 150 weights of fish, as well as other random prizes totaling nearly $40,000. In 2017, about 9,000-10,000 anglers attended the contest.
Brainerd Jaycees ice fishing contest chairperson Clint Meyer said he wasn't nervous about getting the permit as there would be plenty of ice.
"I was happy," Meyer said. "The 14 inches was good clear ice, which is the best ice you can have, and the center ice is good."
Meyer said one change with the ice fishing contest this year is the northern pike slot. The new Minnesota fishing regulations require any northern pike between 22-26 inches must go back into the lake.
Meyer said ticket sales are going well and are up a little more than they were last year at this time. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased online at www.icefishing.org or at local outlets listed on the website. All proceeds from the volunteer-driven Extravaganza go to about 45 area charities, primarily the Confidence Learning Center, which provides outdoor activities for people with developmental and physical disabilities. Since the event began, it has raised $3.3 million for local charities.
Next week, as the contest gets closer, organizers will announce the mystery fish for its "catch of the day" contest. Ice fishing enthusiasts can partake in "catch of the day" by adding a $5 sticker to their ticket, and they will have a chance to win a $9,000 prize package if they catch the largest specimen of a mystery species.
The Jaycees also will have about 90 volunteers drill about 20,000 holes for the contest, starting 11 a.m. Jan. 25.
Goddard has worked with the Jaycees on the ice fishing contest for the past 12 years and this year to be able to approve the permit as the county's sheriff makes it special to him.
"It's fun to say, 'Let's go fishing,' knowing there are no hang-ups," Goddard said.
Goddard said the sheriff's office wants to stress to anglers to use the two parking lots the Jaycees have for the contest: the parking lot near the Highway 371/County Highway 77 intersection by the Holiday Stationstore in Nisswa to the north, and the parking lot at Brainerd International Raceway from the south.
For more information on the contest, go to www.icefishing.org.