The 2024 Brainerd Ice Fishing Extravaganza looks to open with a bang – Twin Cities
The Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza will be held on Saturday, January 28, 2023, on Gull Lake’s Hole-in-the-Day Bay. This is an archive photo from the 2022 event. (Kelly Humphrey/Brainerd Dispatch)
BRAINERD, Minn. – It’s in full swing at the 34th Annual Brainerd Jaycee Ice Fishing Festival.
The extravaganza will take place from noon to 3pm on Saturday, February 3, on Hole-in-the-Day Bay, where thousands of anglers will gather in hopes of winning prizes and supporting local charities.
And yes, the tournament will be held as scheduled. A recent Facebook post announced the tournament’s cancellation, making the post appear to be an official announcement for the Brainerd Jaycees. This post was not official and was not true.
Icy conditions will be the biggest hurdle now, but more than a week of freezing temperatures points icy conditions in the right direction.
Catherine Thonis, president of Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza, said they are excited to bring back the larger-than-life splash party for the first time in a few years.
“After COVID, we kind of haven’t had much success with our kickoff party in parts, because we also need our committee members and volunteers to be able to handle that,” Theunis said.
This year’s sold-out kickoff concert will feature Charlie Berens on his Good Old Fashioned Tour, on February 2 at the Gichi-ziibi Arts Center.
Thoennes said the extravaganza chair often takes over and begins work around June, although this year they started a few weeks after the 2023 extravaganza ended as they had some changes and ideas they wanted to implement.
“We wanted to review our rules to make them clear to our racers,” Theunis said. “We wanted to go ahead and revise our FAQs to bring up the things we were constantly missing that the contestants needed to know. Then we had some passionate panelists who really wanted to bring back the kickoff ceremony in a big way. And, man, they nailed it with Charlie Berens this year.”
One change this year was how the marketing team approached the competition. They usually start advertising the contest in the fall, though this year they started selling tickets early with Father’s Day and Fourth of July sales to spread the word, Thonis said.
The marketing team worked to advertise the contest outside of Minnesota to attract new contestants, said Mike Cook, co-president of the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza.
Cook said they are working to put it on the map for people who haven’t been to Minnesota, haven’t done ice fishing or people who wanted to try something really big.
“If you’ve never tried it before, it’s a whole new world,” Cook said. It has turned into a bucket list item I would say for many people all over the world.
For those who haven’t practiced ice fishing and are looking to try their luck, they just need a pole, a hook and some bait, Cook said. Oh, and some appropriate warm clothes.
“One of the most incredible things is the people who come to our competition who have never been out on the ice before,” Theunis said. “We have people traveling from other countries and coming out. The question is: “Okay, what do I need?”
Proper equipment includes bundling up, dressing in layers, using hand warmers, wearing heavy shoes and knowing where the Mr. Buddy Heater ticket tent is when a quick warm-up is needed. The beer tent is also heated.
When it comes to a fishing competition, all it takes is a little luck, and anyone will have a chance at winning. That big winner of 2023 was 13-year-old Zach Padernos of Hutchinson, who received a brand-new Ford truck with a gray eye weighing 9.45 pounds.
Anglers competing in the competition should remember to bring a pick or chisel with them to reopen the holes they will be fishing from.
“Some people say you should fish deep, some people say you should go shallow,” Cook said. “Or just pick a spot because you never know where the fish will be.”
Thoennes said they will continue to offer shuttles from Brainerd International Raceway, including a handicapped shuttle because they want everyone who wants to fish to be able to do so.
Thenis added that the event is family-oriented, and the Youth Snowboard Olympics will be for kids looking for something more to do.
The Youth Ice Olympiad is described in the rule book as a free event to educate and entertain children while they wait for the great event to begin. There are stations designed to teach kids how to ice fish, and the first 100 participants will win an ice fishing bucket filled with prizes from several ice fishing vendors provided by Fleet Farm. The Youth Ice Olympics will be held near the Ice Center from 10 to 11:30 a.m
This extravaganza is entirely volunteer run with the funds raised being donated to the volunteer groups who help run the competition. Last year, the Brainerd Jaycees raised $137,866 for local charities.
Those looking for a free ticket can volunteer to pre-dig holes before the contest.
Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza tickets can be purchased online at Icefishing.org/shop or at any Fleet Farm location before February 3. To find more information, visit Icefishing.org.