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Nisswa man wins Ice Fishing Extravaganza

Art Karsky of Nisswa took home a new GMC pickup truck Saturday, Jan. 25, after catching the biggest fish at the 24th annual Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza on Hole-in-the-Day Bay of Gull Lake in Nisswa.

In Karsky’s second year of fishing the contest, he reeled in a 4.73-pound walleye toward the end of the contest, which runs from noon to 3 p.m. He fished in the same spot as last year — the far southeast corner — where his son-in-law caught a fish that won him an ice auger last year.

“We thought, ‘You know, it worked once. Let’s try it again,’” Karsky said of the lucky fishing spot.

Karsky hooked the winning walleye in 55 feet of water. It took three or four minutes to bring the walleye through the hole. He said he got it to the weigh-in tent with about seven minutes left in the contest.

“I knew I won something,” he said of the fish, which he kept and held up on the leader board stage on the ice. “I didn’t know what.

“We’re feeling good,” he said.

Karsky, who works at Pro Build, didn’t catch any fish at last year’s contest. He usually fishes on Gull Lake and said his winning walleye was the largest fish he’s ever caught on Gull Lake.

Another area angler, Nick Peterson, 15, Brainerd, won the 24th-place prize of $2,400 cash with a 1.4-pound tulibee in about 60 feet of water. Fortunately, he was fishing with the Special Edition Emerald Shiner Color Lindy Rattlin’ Flyer Spoon, which boosted his prize by $3,000. 

When asked what he was going to do with the cash, Peterson said, “I’m saving for a truck as I will be getting my license in the next year.”

James Bruggeman of Buffalo, Minn., won the Catch of the Day Extravaganza Give-Away ice fishing package valued at nearly $9,000. His perch weighed in at .58 pounds, so he also took home a MarCum LX-3 for 66th place on the leader board.

In spite of the single-digit temperatures and strong wind, more than 9,500 people attended the extravaganza, according to a news release from the Jaycees. Tulibees stole the show with 30 of the top 40 fish by weight. Participants came from as far away as California to try for the $200,000 in prizes.

The first angler entered the weigh-in tent amongst a crowd of onlookers at 12:06 p.m. There were 382 fish registered in the three-hour contest, the news release said.

Hailed as the world’s largest charitable ice fishing contest, the extravaganza is completely volunteer run and 100 percent of the proceeds are donated to charities throughout the Brainerd lakes area. The Brainerd Jaycees invest more than 20,000 hours to plan the contest.

The largest beneficiary is Confidence Learning Center, an outdoor recreational facility for people with developmental disabilities, but an estimated 50 charities will benefit from the proceeds of the event. The Brainerd Jaycees have donated nearly $3 million to charities since the first extravaganza was held in 1991. 

All official event information can be found online at, including a complete winner’s list.

The 25th annual extravaganza is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015.

Nancy Vogt can be reached at Follow her on Facebook.