There will be the usual challenges for participants in the fourth annual Minnesota state ice fishing tournament.
Not the least of which is the slot limit.
The fourth annual event, put on by the Garrison Wildlife Chapter of Ducks Unlimited, will be Saturday on Lake Mille Lacs' Garrison Bay.
Mille Lacs is known for walleyes, but the lake's slot limit permits anglers to keep only walleyes under 20 inches, and one over 28 inches. Walleyes between 20 and 28 inches likely would garner attention, and prizes, at such a tournament, but they can't be kept and thus don't qualify for this event.
It's no wonder that, in the first three years, eelpout have ruled.
"An eelpout of more than 5 pounds," Greg Erickson, tournament director, said of last year's winning fish.
And the winners the first two years? "Two more eelpout," Erickson said.
According to Erickson, about 400 tickets have been sold as of Wednesday. The early bird special ($30) ends Sunday; tickets are $40 thereafter. Tickets are available at Dondelinger auto in Brainerd, Reed's Sporting Goods in Walker, several locations in Garrison and at www.fishingforducks.org.
"We sell a ton (of tickets) the day of the tournament," Erickson said. "We're hoping for 3,000 this year. We had 1,260 last year."
Should 3,000 tickets be sold, entrants still would have a good chance of winning a prize. In all, 75 prizes totaling $65,000 will be awarded, including a 4x4 Chevy extended cab pickup for first place. Other prizes include a 2008 Polaris Sportsman ATV 700 for 50th place and a 14-foot Ice Castle fish house for 75th place. There's also ice shelters, fish locators, guns, fishing equipment, Ducks Unlimited gear and more. Door prizes, a raffle and silent auction also are scheduled.
About 4,000 to 5,000 holes will be drilled the morning of the tournament. Gates open at 9 a.m. and the tournament runs from noon to 3 p.m., with the awards ceremony following immediately after. Entry fee covers one hole per angler, with a limit of two holes per person.
According to Erickson, water depth at the site runs about 18 to 26 feet. And according to the Weather Forecast Web site, the extended forecast calls for a high of 33 degrees and a low of 22 with a 30 percent chance of snow on the eve of the tournament (the extended forecast only runs through Friday).
For more information on the tournament, call Erickson at (218) 678-2116.
BRIAN S. PETERSON may be reached at brian.peterson@brainerd dispatch.com or 855-5864.
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