Call it Extravaganza Eve. Or the Extravaganza before the Extravaganza.
Thousands of anglers flocked to Gull Lake's Hole-in-the-Day Bay on Saturday for the 20th annual Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza.
But beginning Friday morning, ice-fishing camp after ice-fishing camp sprung up in all directions around the tournament site. Anglers weren't allowed on the tournament site until Saturday morning, but anything outside of that was fair game.
And Extravaganza participants took full advantage.
Glenn Johnson kicked back in a recliner - complete with paddles - in a duck boat at Johnson's camp Friday on Hole-in-the-Day Bay. Brainerd Dispatch/Brian S. Peterson
For years, anglers have gathered outside the tournament site the day and night before the event to test the waters - or to get the party rolling in what is regarded as the world's largest ice-fishing tournament. Set up camp, spend the night and walk to the nearby contest site.
It's becoming a big part of the Extravaganza experience. And this year's Extravaganza Eve may have been the biggest ever.
By early afternoon Friday, hundreds of ice-fishing houses already surrounded the tournament site. Traffic on and around the access at Hole-in-the-Day Bay was brisk, with even a temporary traffic jam on the ice at the access in mid-afternoon.
Once on Hole-in-the-Day Bay, ice-fishing houses dotted the landscape for as far as the eye could see.
For those at "Camp Vikings" on Friday on Hole-in-the-Day Bay, the first order of business was starting a good-sized fire. Brainerd Dispatch/Brian S. Peterson
And there it was.
Massive camps weren't unusual, but this one may have been the granddaddy of them all. At least as of Friday afternoon.
Let's call it "Camp Vikings." With the Vikes playing in Sunday's NFC title game, Extravaganza officials dubbed the 2010 tournament "The World's Largest Vikings Tailgate Party." That wasn't lost on this group, all originally from the St. Cloud area. From the Vikings flag that flew - along with an American flag - from over the camp to the Vikings bumper sticker on the massive ice-fishing shanty to the porta-pottie sporting Vikings horns, this group was ready for some football.
Or tailgating. After the group arrived early Friday afternoon, the first order of business was getting a fire started in a large portable fire pit. Then it was a matter of setting up the bar.
A porta-pottie at "Camp Vikings" on Friday on Hole-in-the-Day Bay featured Vikings horns - and inside, an ice-fishing hole. Brainerd Dispatch/Brian S. Peterson
"It's an extension of deer camp," Stan Radniecki, now of Lakeshore, said of the weekend's gathering.
Ivan Netter of St. Joseph said anywhere from eight to 15 anglers typically make up the camp. He figured a dozen would make it this year.
The camp includes a massive overnight ice-fishing house that could probably sleep a half dozen or so hunters or anglers, as well as a camper that sleeps about the same and a small bus used to transport supplies and could also sleep a few.
Brainerd Dispatch/Brian S. Peterson
Not that this group - or most of those on the lake Friday - necessarily planned on getting a lot of sleep.
"We make it fun," said Jake Rassier of St. Joseph.
Next door, the same could be said for Glenn Johnson's camp. One camper unloaded the bowling balls and empty propane pounders for ice bowling. Soon after, the group unloaded the camouflaged duck-hunting boat, complete with recliner and paddles. They planned to pull it to the tournament site in the morning, with an angler or two dropping line from there in the tournament.
And by early afternoon Friday, they already had a couple of lines in the water with tip-ups.
April Wilkus (left), Sean Wilkus, Doug Holbrook and David Mausak slogged through the water that had collected on the ice overnight on Hole-in-the-Day Bay on Gull lake Saturday morning. The anglers were heading for their spot at the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza. Brainerd Dispatch/Brian S. Peterson
"We always catch fish the night before (the tournament)," Scott Kivisto said.
"It's just good to get together."
BRIAN S. PETERSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5864.
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