On Saturday I was one of the thousands of ice fishermen at the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza on Gull Lake.
It was my first time at the Extravaganza and my first time ice fishing.
The day before the Extravaganza my Dad and Mom flew in from Houston. We went around to area sporting good stores to get some ice fishing poles, glow jigs and other related ice fishing equipment.
We ran into various fishermen along the way. There is no doubt that the Extravaganza has a positive impact on the local economy.
I have spent many summers fishing bass and sunfish on Lake Alexander with a leech and bobber, but the Extravaganza was quite a different experience than quiet summer days in Cushing.
Dispatch sports copy editor Trevor Williams was unsuccessful in catching a fish at the Extravaganza. Photo/Brock Williams
Taking the bus in, everyone was in high spirits. With all of us dressed in various winter clothing combinations to beat the cold, one fisherman remarked with a smile, "We all look like hobos!"
The entrance walkway was lined with American flags. It was a great touch and reminded me that the Extravaganza is civic pride at its finest. Hundreds of volunteers including my sister helped make the event happen. And thousands of fishermen buy tickets, come out and make the event the success it is for local charities like Camp Confidence.
Being on the ice felt like tailgating before a football game. Radios blared. Small charcoal grills cooked brats. But instead of throwing the football around, people prepared their poles and some kids played hockey.
Once choosing a hole, Dad and I used a combo ice chipper-scooper to break the ice, but it was too small. Thankfully a courteous fisherman allowed us to borrow his four-foot chisel which made quick work to get to the open water.
Another person near us was having trouble breaking through the ice with his chisel. His friends cheered him on with "You gotta want it!" and "Dig, dig, dig!"
When the cannon sounded at noon, a yell of "Fish on!" went through the crowd.
Within the first couple minutes, the first fish had been caught. Fishermen with their catch began heading to the weigh station. A group of fisherman on the path to the station encouraged them with "You gotta run!" every time someone passed through.
Scampering over the ice, the fishermen brought their fish into the weighing station by carrying them, in buckets or in Ziploc bags.
Once when getting some cheese curds and apple cider (which is the best food in my opinion to stay warm), my Dad saw a fisherman in line with a perch in a bucket. But the perch was upside down, frozen in the water. I don't know if attempts to resuscitate it were successful.
Dad and I didn't have much luck fishing. On separate occasions I tried a glow jig with a crappie minnow, a plastic minnow jig and a plastic worm, but nothing worked. The closest I came to catching a fish was cleaning out my hole with the ice scoop when a small perch came up into the hole, looked at me and then went back under the ice.
As my late Granpa Wisnieski always told me, "You can't catch a fish if your line isn't in the water."
But that was besides the point. Most people on the ice were more about having fun than catching anything.
Once behind us there was commotion. A fisherman was bringing up something. There was hooting and hollering until he brought his catch to the surface a beer can. His friends had distracted him long enough to rig a can onto his line and then put it back in the water to give the impression he had caught a big one.
In a different incident, while trying to fight a fish that eventually came off the line, a female fisherwoman lamented, "My beer froze!"
And while most people including myself were dressed to be comfortable in the cold, there were some like the "Ice Princesses" who wore costumes.
As Dad remarked, "This is Brainerd's Mardi Gras."
TREVOR WILLIAMS, sports copy editor, can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5866.
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