It was more a relief than a disappointment. After all, it was a postponement, not a cancellation.
“It’s a huge decision,” Todd Dahl, Crow Wing County sheriff, said of Thursday’s announcement that the 22nd annual Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza has been postponed from Jan. 21 to Feb. 11. due to a concern over ice conditions on Gull Lake, site of the event. “It’s huge for the area and a great thing. We certainly wanted to see it go (off as scheduled).”
Dahl is the one who issues the permit for the hugely popular event, but he alone doesn’t make that decision. He seemed relieved that all those involved — the sheriff’s department, the Jaycees and tournament officials — made the decision to postpone the Extravaganza, saying it was the right move. The Jaycees ultimately made the decision at a meeting Wednesday night.
“I told them (the Jaycees) I wasn’t real happy with it,” Dahl said of the ice on Gull Lake’s Hole-in-the-Day Bay, site of the tournament that annually draws about 10,000 people.
In a check of ice conditions last week, Dahl found 11 inches of consistent ice at the site; he said a minimum of 15 inches is needed to issue the permit. And while colder weather should add to the ice totals between now and next Saturday, there also was a concern about open water recently on other sections of the lake.
“That was a factor as well,” Dahl said. “(Participants) will be traveling in and out of those areas. There will be a lot of traffic on the lake. It would be overwhelming for us to have to monitor that.
“It (the decision to postpone it) was a joint decision between all of us. It’s about safety and wanting it (the event) to go on.”
Dahl said he has issued the permit for the contest on the Monday of Extravaganza week in the past, but with record warm temperatures in the area recently, colder temperatures the last two days and a cool forecast for the next week didn’t figure to be nearly enough. Now, Dahl and tournament officials are hoping three more weeks will do the trick.
“We’re just hoping and praying we have enough ice by then,” Dahl said.
First held in 1991 and now hailed as the world’s largest charitable ice fishing tournament, the event has been postponed one other time, in 2002, and moved to a different lake once — to nearby Round Lake in 2006. That wasn’t an option this year, though, as Round and other surrounding lakes also have less ice than usual for this time of the year.
“Safety of our participants is the No. 1 concern,” said Troy Imgrund, event organizer, “We also want to give participants enough time to adjust their plans so they’ll join us in three weeks.”
All tickets pre-purchased will be honored Feb. 11. Tickets will continue to be sold online (www.icefishing.org), and outlets will sell tickets until the day of the event. Refunds will not be issued, but if ticket holders are unable to attend the 2012 event, a voucher for the 2013 event will be given.
More than $200,000 in prizes will be offered, with the top 150 fish weighed earning prizes. First place is a Ford or GMC truck. Other top prizes include Arctic Cat ATVs and an Ice Castle fishing house.
For more information, go to www.icefishing.org.