Measuring fish — as in weighing them — is a big deal at an ice-fishing tournament that boasts more than $200,000 in prizes.
Here, it’s maybe as big as measuring ice.
The measuring of the ice has become an annual to-do leading up to the annual Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza. Actually, it’s a must-do.
In the weeks before the tournament, the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Department drills holes across the 250-acre tournament site on Gull Lake’s Hole-in-the-Day Bay and measures ice thickness — 16 inches or so of good-quality ice across the tournament site is required before the Sheriff’s Department will issue a permit for the tourney.
Most of the time, that’s the case. But there have been years, especially recently, when there wasn’t enough ice, forcing the tournament to either move to a nearby lake here in the Brainerd area or to a later date — last year’s event was pushed back several weeks due to inferior ice conditions.
As many of the anglers come from outside the Brainerd area, the ice measurements and, in turn, the status of the tournament are big news as they plot their travel plans — some come from overseas for what has been called the biggest charitable ice fishing tournament in the world.
Everyone involved will be happy to know that, despite warm temperatures as of late, the 27th annual tournament will go off as scheduled Saturday, Jan. 28, from noon to 3 p.m. Late last week, with time winding down to make a decision on the status of the tourney, the Sheriff’s Department reportedly drilled holes at three spots and found 20 inches of ice at each. So although seasonably warm temps are forecast for the days leading up to the Extravaganza, officials don’t anticipate losing much of that ice for the event, which typically draws around 10,000 anglers.
According to tournament officials, tickets are still available ($50) and may be purchased at icefishing.org. More information on the event also is available at that website. Anglers may access the fishing area starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, and prize-winners are expected to be announced around 3:30-4 p.m.
Once again, anglers will be vying for 150 prizes, including a new pickup for first place. And because some of the top prizes are staggered — the top finishers don’t necessarily win all the best prizes — weighing a fish, any fish, gives you a chance at cracking the top 150. Last year, a 1.12-pound tullibee grabbed that final prize. First place was a 5.33-pound walleye.