Despite inconsistent ice conditions, Brainerd still anticipate holding 'largest charitable ice fishing contest in the world'

Updated: January 10, 2020 07:15 PM

It's the question everyone is asking leading up to the "largest charitable ice fishing contest in the world," the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza: will there be enough ice on the lake? As much as 10,000 anglers will take to Gull Lake to show off their fishing skills.

KSTP took to the ice with the Brainerd Jaycees to check how thick the ice is out there.

"Seems to be quite a bit there," said Jeff Baillif, chairman of the 2020 event.

The ice has been questionable around the state due to heavy snow, rain and mild temperatures. But conditions have gotten colder, especially up north, which is a good thing for the tournament.

"The last week has really turned things around for us," Baillif said. "A lot of the area lakes froze over when we [had] the big Thanksgiving snowstorm. To our advantage, for this contest anyway, Gull Lake wasn't frozen over at that time. So that large amount of snow didn't stay on the lake and [ruin] the ice that was there."

The Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office checked a different location in the contest area and found "14 inches of dark, solid ice."

Safety is a top priority, and Sheriff Scott Goddard says they'd like to see 16 inches of ice but have permitted 14 with conditions in the past.

Officials warn of inconsistent ice conditions on Twin Cities lakes

"This is one of the areas where we hope our meteorologists are right on cue with the forecast. We don’t care about sun, we don’t care about rain. What we really need, I hate to say it, we need it below zero, that’s what we need," said Goddard.

In roughly 30 years of the event, the tournament has never been canceled. It was moved to Round Lake one year and postponed twice, but Baillif said it brings in the most to charity when it goes on as scheduled.

"There is a ginormous impact to the Brainerd Lakes Area. In general, we estimate that impact to be right around $1.1 million," said Baillif.

Since it started, it has raised roughly $4 million for numerous charities around the area.

Last year, there was a lot of public pushback after garbage-like hay bails and pallets were left out on the ice and then froze in, making it very difficult to get off the ice, but the Jaycees have a plan to avoid that this year.

"We’ve taken steps this year. We spoke numerous times to our vendors and our sponsors, and everybody else that comes out on the ice, to help us make sure whatever you’re packing in [that] you need to pack out, you need to clean up after yourselves," Baillif said.

The final call will be made next week, but so far, the ice is looking good enough to fish on.

"We’re just excited to have a contest. We’re waiting for 10,000 of our best friends to show up and have a great time with us," said Baillif.

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Jessica Miles

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