Ice fishing event expects enormous crowd

ICE FISHING
Ice fishing tournament draws more than 10,000 fishermen and spectators to frozen Gull Lake in Minnesota; photo from Caters News Agency and used with permission

For three hours on Saturday, more than 10,000 people will gather on the frozen ice of Gull Lake, making it the second-largest city in Crow Wing County to nearby Brainerd, Minnesota.

What exactly will they be doing?

Ice fishing.

ICE FISHING
Ice fishing tournament yields mostly northern pike and walleye; photo from Caters News Agency and used with permission

Fishermen will be huddled around the 20,000 pre-drilled holes in the ice trying to catch a northern pike or walleye big enough to qualify for one of the 150 luxurious prizes—the top one being a new pick-up truck.

The 24th Annual Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza is said to be the world’s largest charitable ice fishing contest, and conditions for the short, catch-and-release event are looking great.

ICE FISHING
Ice fishing tournament boasted a 4.41-pound northern pike as the winning fish; the largest was a 13.34-pound northern pike in 1997; photo from Caters News Agency and used with permission

The forecast calls for 12-degree temperatures and mostly sunny skies, which will easily beat last year when the wind chill made the temperature minus 40.

Photographer Robert Benson of San Diego took amazing photos of the event that were released Wednesday for the first time, including an incredible aerial shot from a helicopter that begs the question, “Where’s Waldo?” Winds ultimately forced Benson to land and start shooting photos on the ice.

“I was really nervous about driving out on the ice, especially with the weight of all those people standing on it,” Benson told MailOnline. “As I jumped into my car, the organizers stopped me and told me to make sure I kept my window down and my seatbelt off; that way I’d be fine if the ice gave in or if I needed to get out in a hurry.”

The ice should be fine Saturday. The last report said its thickness was between 17 to 19 inches.

Angie Nelson told GrindTV Outdoor that more than 7,000 tickets at $45 each have been sold with another couple thousand expected to be purchased by fishing time at noon Saturday. Those and another 1,000 spectators will make for quite a gathering. And charitable organizations in the area will reap the reward from a pot of around $250,000.

ICE FISHING
Ice fishing tournament prepares by pre-drilling 20,000 holes in the ice at Gull Lake; photo from Caters News Agency and used with permission
ICE FISHING
Ice fishing tournament last year saw the wind chill drop temperatures to minus 40; photo from Caters News Agency and used with permission
ICE FISHING
Ice fishing photo from Caters News Agency

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