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World's largest charitable ice fishing tournament turns virtual on any Minnesota lake

Anglers will submit their entries via an online app that will go live the day of the contest; fish length - not weight - will be counted

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Thousands of anglers fish on Gull Lake's Hole-in-the-Day Bay in a past Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza. Echo Journal File Photo
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BRAINERD, Minn. -- Hailed as the world’s largest charitable ice fishing tournament, the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza will take place in 2021, but in a virtual format on any lake in Minnesota.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and because the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources may limit fishing tournaments to no more than 250 people, the contest will occur virtually to avoid tens of thousands of anglers from congregating on Gull Lake's Hole-in-the-Day Bay.

The Jaycees made the announcement in late November on Facebook. The charitable contest -- now called the Brainerd Jaycees Virtual Ice Fishing Extravaganza -- is slated for noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021.

"Tournament organizers, along with the direction of state officials, have made the decision to continue forward with the annual charitable ice fishing contest in a virtual format," the Facebook post says. "Officials have determined that due to the ongoing pandemic the most responsible choice is to continue the tradition of the Extravaganza in a different way, asking anglers to fish on any lake in Minnesota during the normal contest time and date."

First held in 1991, the Extravaganza has been postponed just three times and moved to a different lake once because of ice conditions. Event organizers have donated more than $4 million to Brainerd area charities, most notably Confidence Learning Center.

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Event Chairperson Benji Thoennes said in the post: “Safety of all involved is our main concern this year. We know that the event will be different, but we hope to encourage everyone to get out fishing with their families and win some great prizes, which keeps in line with what the Extravaganza has always been about.”

While many comments on the Facebook post praised the Jaycees' decision, far more people disliked the decision and questioned the possibility of cheating.

The Jaycees followed up with another Facebook post on Friday, Nov. 27, that said: "A virtual contest will allow for the safest possible outcome during today’s pandemic concerns. The concerns behind a virtual contest are valid and we understand your frustration. However, with the web-based application that we choose we are confident this will provide a positive experience for all contestants."

The web-based app will go live the day of the contest. All six eligible fish species native to Gull Lake will be announced at a later date. Participants will be subject to all applicable Minnesota Department of Natural Resources licensing requirements.

The post further explained that in a virtual contest, all fish will be entered in by length and not weight. This requires all contestants to buy a bump board (ruler to measure fish). Each contestant will be required to take photos with their fish, ticket and bump board. Photos will not be able/allowed to be uploaded from a photo gallery; photos will only be accepted when taken within the web application that will automatically time and date stamp the photo.

The Jaycees will also have a team of committee members that will examine each fish entered during the hours of the contest.

The same prizes will be awarded, but the place number will change. Those changes will be announced at a later date.

The Jaycees remind participants that pre-purchased tickets must be registered by Friday, Jan. 15, to be eligible to participate in the new format. Visit https://forms.gle/LyqZcAXPra99rM6z8 to register tickets.

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For more updates, visit www.icefishing.org .

Related Topics: BRAINERD JAYCEES ICE FISHING EXTRAVAGANZAGULL LAKENORTHLAND OUTDOORSFISHINGNO-INSTAGRAM
Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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