NISSWA, Minn. — Measurements by the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office on Friday, Jan. 29, read 14, 20 and 19 inches of ice in Hole-in-the-Day Bay on Gull Lake, officially deeming the ice thick enough to host the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza on Saturday, Feb. 6.
“We are really excited to be moving forward with next weekend’s contest,” extravaganza chairperson Angie Nelson said.
The event was initially scheduled to be held Saturday, Jan. 23, but ice thickness was a concern for the sheriff’s office, resulting in the Jaycees postponing the event two weeks. The contest will run from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday.
The primary concern for the sheriff’s office moving forward is parking, as the lake access is too restricted and on-ice parking will likely be limited. Traffic from accesses on Gull Lake will be restricted, Lt. Scott Goddard of the sheriff’s office said Monday, Feb. 1. Crow Wing County will work with Cass County and will post common entry points throughout the Gull Chain, Goddard said. Signs will indicate no vehicle travel to the contest area.
He strongly encourages participants to park in the lots at Brainerd International Raceway south of the contest site and old Nisswa Flea Market north of the site and take the shuttle service to the lake.
Also, Goddard said the sheriff’s office and Jaycees would look to expand the borders of the contest area and the buffer area, as they have done in past years.
“It’s not going to eliminate the area where a lot of (fish) houses go,” he said. “We don’t know how it will look til midweek.”
But in the official ice test last Friday, Goddard noticed a significant improvement in the ice.
“It was better than when we drilled prior to the (previously scheduled contest date),” Goddard said. “The ice had us concerned and we have been keeping an eye on it, drilling a number of holes. It looks great compared to what it was … It does vary by about five inches in places, but there doesn’t seem to be any places of concern.”
Nelson said the Jaycees would only have integral vehicles on the ice.
“The ice around the center area is 19-20 inches thick. That’s better ice than we have most years. It’s really looking good,” she said. “Safety is our No. 1 concern. We want to make sure everybody is out there having a good time, but we want to make sure they’re doing it safely.”
Goddard agreed. “Everyone have a fun and safe tournament,” he said.
Thanks to the postponement of the event until Saturday, the Jaycees have been prepared for the contest for several weeks now, with only a few things left to do before the contest.
“We are ready to go,” Nelson said. “There is still a little bit of cleanup on the ice and we need to make sure the access is safe for trailers and vendors, but other than that we are ready to go.”
Billed the “world’s largest charitable ice fishing contest,” the Ice Fishing Extravaganza began 26 years ago in the hopes of providing an economic boom not only for the community, but for local charities as well.
“Over the course of the event, we have been able to donate $3.3 million to local charitable organizations and $2.3 million to Confidence Learning Center, which is the primary beneficiary,” Nelson said. “We are making a huge difference, so the event getting the go-ahead affects thousands and thousands of people.”