DEVILS LAKE, N.D. — The weather’s looking downright balmy, and all systems are go for the 36th annual Devils Lake Volunteer Fire Department Ice Fishing Tournament, set for 1 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, on Six-Mile Bay of Devils Lake.
This year’s tournament, the department’s primary fundraiser, features more than $325,000 in fishing and raffle prizes.
According to Cory Meyer, one of three tournament committee chairmen, the ice was up to 23 inches thick when it was checked a couple of weeks ago. As of Wednesday morning, it hadn’t been checked since the weekend blizzard, Meyer said, but he wasn’t expecting any issues.
The tournament is the largest ice fishing event of its kind in North Dakota.
“We’re good to go,” Meyer said.
The biggest concern is the potential for sloppy conditions if it gets too warm, Meyer said. The National Weather Service on Wednesday morning predicted a high of 27 degrees Saturday for Devils Lake, with south winds of 8 to 13 mph gusting as high as 20 mph.
“It’s going to be interesting when it’s going to be a little warmer,” Meyer said. “Hopefully not like a couple of years ago, when it got really warm, and there was really a lot of water and slush and mud. Hopefully, we can get by that this year and not have any issues.
“But we’ll deal with it; we always do.”
The fire department offered 22,500 tickets for the event, and they’re sold out, just like every year, he said.
“If you don’t have tickets by Thanksgiving, it’s really not an easy task to find them,” Meyer said.
Tournament festivities get underway Thursday in the Devils Lake Memorial Building, 508 Fourth Ave. N.E., with angler registration from 5 to 11 p.m. and a soup and chili feed from 6 p.m. until gone.
Registration continues from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, along with another soup and chili feed beginning at 6 p.m., and a Fisherman’s Dance from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
“We’re just here to entertain the people that come in to have some fishing and have a good time,” Meyer said. “Get them here early and then go fishing.”
Anglers who haven’t yet registered for the tournament can do so again from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday in the Memorial Building. Also in the Memorial Building, there’ll be a jam session from 2 to 4 p.m., a Fisherman’s Supper beginning at 4 p.m., the raffle drawing at 7 p.m., and a Fisherman’s Dance from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Grand prize in the raffle is a 2020 Jeep Gladiator, and the 160th and final raffle prize is a 2020 Chevy Equinox. Ticket holders don’t have to be present to win.
As in previous years, the biggest fish doesn’t necessarily mean the biggest prize in the fishing portion of the event. The angler who catches the second-biggest walleye, for example, will win a 2020 Ford Crew XL pickup. First prize in the perch, walleye and pike categories is $2,000, with prizes awarded down to fifth place in each category.
Early on Saturday morning, a crew of about 200 volunteers will converge on Six-Mile Bay to drill upwards of 5,000 holes for the tournament. Meyer said he hopes the warmer weather will draw even more anglers for this year’s event.
“That’s what our goal is – it’s a fishing tournament and a raffle, as well,” Meyer said. “We’d like to have lots of people on the ice if we can.
“We just want everybody to come, be safe and have fun; that’s our goal. We appreciate everybody’s support.”