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Brainerd ice fishing extravaganza celebrates 25th anniversary

GULL LAKE, Minn. -- Ten thousand ice anglers can't be wrong. For 25 years, the Brainerd Jaycees have been striving to keep the the $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza the largest charitable ice fishing contest in the world. With a solid base of ice...

Ice Fishing anglers march on to Hole-in-the-Day Bay on Gull Lake in January of 2014. This year’s Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza is scheduled for Jan. 24 on Gull Lake in Nisswa. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
Ice Fishing anglers march on to Hole-in-the-Day Bay on Gull Lake in January of 2014. This year’s Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza is scheduled for January 24 on Gull lake in Nisswa. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls

GULL LAKE, Minn. -- Ten thousand ice anglers can't be wrong.

For 25 years, the Brainerd Jaycees have been striving to keep the the $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza the largest charitable ice fishing contest in the world.

With a solid base of ice, a fully staffed volunteer crew and the hope of above-average temperatures, Extravaganza chair Sarah Stenerson believes this year’s event on Saturday, Jan. 24, will be another great year.

"We want to have a big party," Stenerson said of the anniversary event.

The Jaycees are looking to not only appeal to the ice anglers this year, but the music fans as well, as they host an anniversary concert on the night of the event.

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Putting together this huge event takes about 350 volunteers and being able to help community charities for 25 years is no small feat.

Last year, the event raised more than $136,000 for 44 area charities that all helped out in some way at the event. A majority of the proceeds go toward the Confidence Learning Center on Sylvan Lake, which is an outdoors learning center for developmentally disabled individuals of all ages.

Those attending the contest can grab a hole on the ice no earlier than 8 a.m. Jan. 24 on Hole-in-the-Day Bay on Gull Lake. The fishing officially begins at noon that day at the sound of the cannon and ends at 3 p.m.

It's at noon every year that Extravaganza marketing chair Angie Nelson gets all teared up.

"My favorite part of the event is standing on the ice at 12 noon on Saturday and just seeing what a small group of volunteers is capable of," Nelson said.

She's been a part of the event since age 10 when she started marketing the event by wearing the official clothes of the contest. She got started thanks to her dad, Bruce Johnson, who was one of the founding members. Her brothers, Gabe Johnson and Tad Johnson, are also active members and volunteers.

Nelson noted that about 9,500 people came out for the contest last year. That was despite a rather cold day in a very cold month.

With the possibility of better weather this year, there could be a boon to the attendance and overall money raised.

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"We probably get about 25 percent of participants the day of the event," Nelson said. "So if it's a good day we're looking forward to more people."

More people doesn't always mean more fish, but it often only takes one little fish to win big in this event.

Any fish caught in the three-hour period is eligible to be entered into the prize drawing. The largest 150 fish will win a prize. Whoever catches the largest fish can choose between a GMC or Ford truck to take home.

The 25th anniversary has much more in store, including the Catch of the Day Extravaganza Give-Away, commemorative Extravaganza beer provided by Cold Spring Brewery, and an anniversary concert that follows the event at 7 p.m. at the NP Center featuring Arch Allies, who play the music of Styx, Journey and REO Speedwagon.

For those who can't make it to the contest or after-party, there is also the Extravaganza raffle, with prizes valued at $40,000. Tickets for this are $10 each and can be purchased from several Brainerd area charities, at all Minnesota ticket outlets or on the ice Saturday.

More information and official updates can be found at www.icefishing.org .

Want to go?

Cost: Tickets can be purchased for $45 at participating businesses. A full listing can be found at www.icefishing.org . Tickets bought online will now be available for pickup on the ice only at the information booth at center ice.

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Parking: Park your ride at Brainerd International Raceway and take the bus to the lake. No parking is available on the ice.

Rules: Minnesota State laws apply. All anglers must have a valid fishing license. One hole per contestant. You can enter multiple fish but only your largest fish is eligible for a prize.

 

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