By FishRecycler | January 26, 2009
Looking for your photo from the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza? They’re now online in the Recycled Fish “On Ice” Photo Center.
The word chattering from everyone’s lips at this year’s Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza was c-c-c-cold. With a day that started at -35 with wind chill and a natural temperature hovering right around 20 below, we peaked at a balmy 2, but wind chill temp certainly never broke zero.
Nevertheless, this is the kind of weather that lets you know what you’re made of, and over 9,000 anglers were made of the stuff that says, “Cold! You are no match for me! I’m going fishing.”
And fish they did!
Hundreds of fish were weighed in, from perch to pike, walleyes to rock bass. And what’s more, the best fish of the day – a walleye nearly touching the six pound mark – sent angler Zachary Bailey from Nisswa, MN home in a new Ford 4×4 truck.
For a complete list of prizes and winners, visit the Brainerd Jaycees site here.
The party actually starts Friday night with a very nice reception event. For $25 you get access to a sensational food spread (from stuffed mushrooms to prime rib, a pasta bar to a to-die-for dessert table) and samples of dozens of beers and liquors. We were there inviting people to take our Sportsman’s Stewardship Pledge, and had a great response.
Out on the water, Recycled Fish was on hand on derby day to help support the stewardship side of the event. Together with the Jaycees and Muskies Inc, we provide bags that anglers use to bring their fish to the weigh-ins submerged in water. This allows fish to be released alive. We handed out thousands of bags, and the vast majority (over 90%) of fish that were brought to weigh-ins came in submerged in water.
Bags that aren’t used for fish transportation are used for trash cleanup on the lake, effectively enlisting every participant as a custodian of the lake.
“This is as it should be,” says Teeg Stouffer, Recycled Fish Executive Director. “It’s the wrong mentality to recruit a dozen guys to clean up at the end of an event like this. It’s right for all of us to see ourselves as stewards, doing our part, and making up for the other guy when needed.”
Muskies Inc circulates the lake during and after the event to give anglers a place to deposit trash, and local Boy Scouts comb the windblown shoreline the next day to capture any trash that might have blown away.
So what happens to all of those fish that are caught and then released? Minnesota DNR is onsite monitoring survival rates in a release pool. Healthy fish right themselves and swim back into the depths. Those that aren’t going to make it are removed and donated to a veteran’s home, so none are wasted. Survival rates this year were lower than last due to extremely cold temperatures, but fish handling practices were up – few fish were brought to weigh that weren’t in buckets or bags of water.
Another hallmark of the event is the Youth Ice Olympics. Kids test their fish ID, turn a hand auger, and race to see who can scoop slush out of an ice hole the fastest, but they also play our “Drop in the Bucket” game which is like Plink-O but with a Stewardship Education twist. Every kid leaves with a bucket of gear from Fleet Farm that would leave any adult angler envious.
In addition to being a truly fun festival on ice, on top of being the biggest ice fishing event in the country, and besides the $150,000 in prizes – the event also raises a TON of money for charities. Our hat is off to the hundreds of volunteers, the many great sponsors and all the anglers who participate to help fund important causes in Brainerd.
After the first wave of fish are caught – usually in the first half an hour, many contestants just roam the ice. “This is about people watching for me as much as anything,” said one contestant.
So with that, some of our favorite views from the lake! (To see, download and order from all of the photos we shot, visit the On Ice Photo Center here.)
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