(Parts of this story and photos originally published Thurs. Jan. 17, 2019.) Crow Wing County Sheriff Scott Goddard gave his approval to go ahead with the 29th annual Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza on Saturday, Jan. 26, on Gull Lake’s Hole-in-the-Day Bay, south of downtown Nisswa, after an annual ice check last week.
Participating anglers will want to bundle up Saturday for the contest, which runs noon to 3 p.m. After a fresh 4 inches of snow fell overnight Monday, Jan. 21, and temperatures warmed to the teens, those temperatures are expected to plummet starting Thursday, Jan. 24, through the weekend.
Saturday’s forecast calls for a partly sunny sky and a high near 3 degrees, after an overnight Friday low of around 22 below zero.
Thursday’s high is only expected to reach 5 below zero; it will be mostly sunny and blustery with a northwest wind around 15 mph and gusts as high as 30 mph. Thursday night’s low will be around 23 below zero, followed by a high Friday near 4 below zero with mostly sunny skies. Brainerd Jaycees and volunteers will drill 20,000 holes in the ice on Friday.
Extravaganza tickets can be purchased at Brainerd area outlets and on the ice the day of the contest.
Event coordinators encourage the use of available public transportation to make travel and parking easier. Visit icefishing.org for contest details.
Sheriff’s department staff and members of the Jaycees ventured onto the lake Thursday, Jan. 17, to measure the ice thickness within the 2-square-mile event area. They found ice 14 inches thick in the northwest corner and 16 inches thick in the center of the area. That was before a weekend of below-zero temperatures.
“We’re ready,” said Goddard. “Let’s go fishing.”
The ice was not as thick as it has been in previous years. The ice measured over 18 inches last year, and up to 20 the year before.
“The northwest corner has historically been, I wouldn’t say an area of concern, but an area with the least amount of ice,” said Goddard.
However, the lower measurements don’t worry him.
“Center ice and moving in, we’ve got 16 or more inches, and we’re comfortable with the forecast of below zero temperatures,” he said. “In the night, we’ll be making ice, so we’re confident in saying that hopefully we’ll have some great fishing.”
Jaycees event chair Clint Meyer said he wasn’t worried about how the ice check would go.
“It was good clear ice, and the clear ice is the best to see,” he said.
The extravaganza is billed as the world’s largest ice fishing contest. According to the Jaycees, the event generates more than $1 million in revenue for area businesses and more than $150,000 for area charities annually.
The grand prize this year is a Ford or GMC truck from Mills Automotive Group.
“Ticket sales are about on par, and maybe a little better than last year,” said Meyer.
In preparation for this highly anticipated contest, Goddard said he was glad to find solid measurements for his first ice check as sheriff.
“It’s fun to finally be the one to say, ‘Yes, we’re going fishing,’” he said.