Winter returns from an untimely vacation this weekend, which is welcome news for organizers of the 17th annual Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza.
"Right now we're all encouraged by the forecast," Taylor Fitterer, contest chairperson, said in a news release issued Tuesday. "We don't see the need to discuss a postponement or relocation."
Colder-than-normal temperatures are forecast for the next 10 days, with overnight lows dropping below zero on Sunday and Monday. A lack of snow on the ice means it won't be insulated from the cold. If the cold air arrives as forecast, then ice on Gull Lake could thicken by an inch per night, the Jaycees said in the news release.
The contest is scheduled for Jan. 20.
"Those who think that the winter of 2006-2007 will remain mild are in for a shock," Joe Bastardi, long-range forecaster for Accuweather.com, said in a news release issued Tuesday. "Winter is coming with a vengeance. A week from now we'll see truly cold air across much of the country, and we expect the change to last."
Terry Peterson of Merrifield headed out onto Hole-in-the-Day Bay on Gull Lake Tuesday for a day of fishing. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
On Monday, Sgt. Phil Stoll of the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department met with the Jaycees at the contest site on Hole in the Day Bay. They found 11.5 inches of ice in the middle of the bay and about 16 inches near shore. Earlier, Sheriff Todd Dahl said 16 inches would be the minimum needed to have the contest.
Dahl said he will check the ice again Thursday and periodically until Jan. 20. Though he hasn't issued the contest permit, Dahl said he's working closely with the Jaycees and is confident the contest will go as planned.
Wednesday: Partly sunny. High temperatures of 30-35 degrees. Winds 10-20 mph.
Wednesday night: Mostly cloudy. Lows 15-20. Winds 5-15 mph.
Thursday: Partly sunny. Flurries. Highs 15-20. Winds 5-15 mph.
Thursday night: Mostly cloudy with a 20 percent chance of snow. Lows to 3 below.
Friday: Mostly cloudy. Highs 6-11.
Friday night: Lows to 2 below.
Saturday: Mostly cloudy. Highs 6-11.
Saturday night: Partly cloudy. Lows to 2 below.
Sunday: Partly sunny. Highs 7-12.
Sunday night: Partly cloudy. Lows to 7 below
Monday: Partly cloudy. Highs 2-7.
If you go
Tickets for the 17th annual Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza are $45 and may be purchased online at www.icefishing.org. Tickets purchased online or postmarked Jan. 11-15 need to be picked up at the will-call window of the information booth at center ice on the day of the contest. After Jan. 15, tickets must be purchased at local retail stores or on the ice on the day of the contest.
Dahl told Crow Wing County commissioners Tuesday he was proceeding as if there will be enough ice for the contest. County board Chairman John Ferrari asked Dahl what liability the county had for the contest. Dahl said there is a certain liability because the sheriff's department grants the permit, and if he doesn't believe it can be safely conducted, it wouldn't be allowed. However, Dahl said the department has a wonderful working relationship with the Jaycees.
County Attorney Don Ryan told the board the county is not certifying the lake ice as safe, but by issuing the permit, the county wants to be sure that the ice is safe for the event. Dahl said the requirement of 16 inches of ice was picked because ice conditions have been inconsistent. As a rule, Ryan said, the county doesn't mark ice with signs for safe or unsafe conditions except for certain channels where officials know ice is never safe. Ryan said the sheriff's department has historically done a good job of considering all factors, with a good blend of public and private resources.
Monday night, the Jaycees had one of their biggest meetings of the year, said Bob Slaybaugh, media coordinator.
"Everyone is excited," Slaybaugh said. "Ticket sales are on pace with some of our larger years. Right now, we're concentrating on running a good, quality event."
Last year's contest was moved to Round Lake when ice on Gull was deemed too thin. For the past several years, the contest has drawn more than 10,000 anglers from throughout the nation.
"Safety is our No. 1 concern," Fitterer said in the news release. "We're planning site adaptations to ensure this remains one of Minnesota's greatest winter events."
Adaptations to the contest site could include weight restrictions for vendors, limiting official vehicles to ATVs and moving the stage closer to shore. The weigh-in tent would remain in the center of the 250-acre site.
For tickets and more information on the Extravaganza, go to www.icefishing.org or phone 828-2344.
(Renee Richardson, Dispatch senior reporter, contributed to this story.)
VINCE MEYER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5862.
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