How often do you get a chance to contribute to charity, have loads of fun doing it, and win fantastic prizes along the way? Well, thanks to Brainerd Jaycees, a Minnesota non-profit organization, you’re able to do just that.
Every January since 1991, the organization has been running the now famous Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza. As we look forward to the upcoming event scheduled for February 3, 2024, we invite you to learn all you need to know about the largest ice sporting event in the world.
Back in 1991, the Brainerd Jaycees organization had the desire to create a project that would rally locals around a noble cause, raising money for charity and providing opportunities for personal growth. Never did they imagine that the project would grow to become the biggest ice fishing contest on the planet. In recent years, the event has raised $150,000 for charities annually, as well as over $1 million in revenue for local businesses.
You could say that the Extravaganza has put Brainerd on the map for winter tourism. It’s also gone went a long way in promoting ice fishing as a sport in general.
The tournament takes place on Gull Lake’s Hole In The Day Bay, 15 miles north of Brainerd. The locale takes its name after Chief Joseph Hole-In-The-Day. The lake isn’t as big as some of the neighboring ones, but still, there’s always that awe-inspiring feeling when you’re standing on such a massive body of frozen water. Seeing thousands of excited people dotted all around you only adds to the spectacle.
There’ll be as many as 20,000 holes in the ice drilled for the Extravaganza – all done by hardworking volunteers. It takes just 4 hours to drill all these holes, but a whopping 20,000 volunteer hours go into making the whole event.
The tournament itself is scheduled for February 3, and will run from 12:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m.
Of course, there will be a number of other events before and after the contest, starting with the Friday Night Kick-Off Party. The fun starts at 5:30 p.m. and will feature a variety of family-friendly action, such as stand-up comedy, music, dinner, ice fishing discussions and, of course, fundraising.
Before the main event starts, youngsters will have their own contest – the Youth Ice Olympics. The competition will include tasks like recognizing a fish species, drilling a hole with a hand auger, and pulling a sled. The first 100 kids will get an ice bucket full of goodies.
You can get your tickets online or at the local Fleet Farm stores. The price is $50 and there is no age limit. If you’re not sure whether you’re going to make it in time, you can still purchase tickets on the lake on the day of the event.
A Good Cause
One of the best things about this tournament is its commitment to local charities. As a matter of fact, all proceeds are donated to local organizations.
The prime beneficiary is the local Confidence Learning Center, an outdoor development center for persons with cognitive disabilities. The center, also known as Camp Confidence, is committed to building self-esteem and well-being through education and the development of skills necessary to become full-contributing members of society. Campers engage in fun activities such as archery, cross-country skiing, canoeing, and fishing.
Apart from the camp, as many as 50 local charities receive donations each year.
The Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza is completely organized and funded by volunteers. A lot of people come here year after year to make a positive contribution to the community. This spirit is contagious, and the volunteers often say how they receive back much more than they have given.
Another reason for the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza’s soaring popularity is of course, the prizes. 150 prizes were awarded in 2023. Ranging from a Ford or GMC Truck to top-notch fishing gear and cash prizes, there’s a lot to hope for.
Dos and Don’ts
Make sure to:
- Wear good boots – the last thing you want is a hard fall spoiling your day
- Bring your ticket – you won’t be able to fish without it
- Have cash – most of the vendors on the lake will only accept cash
- Have a valid fishing license – Minnesota state fishing regulations will apply
- Bring a bucket or a plastic bag – the tournament is catch and release and you can only bring live fish to the weigh-ins
- Buy your bait ahead of time – it can get hectic around the start time
- Bring a fishfinder or depth locator – you’re going to want to know what area of the lake you’re fishing
- Bring a radio – radio B93.3 will be broadcasting the action live. The station will also have a giveaway you can participate in
- Be at the weigh-in line at 3:05 at the latest
Make sure not to:
- Lose your ticket – your ticket must be visible at all times
- Use an ice auger – all holes will be drilled prior to the contest. You can use a chisel to reopen the hole if needed
- Use a windbreak or shelter
- Leave your line unattended – if you have to visit the toilet, please remove your line from the water
- Have bait longer than 4 inches – any bait longer than 4 inches will be not be allowed
– You may fish a maximum of two holes. If fishing two holes, you need to purchase two tickets.
– There is no age limit to enter the contest, but all participants under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult.
– Alcohol is allowed – but drink responsibly, the ice is tricky to walk on as it is.
If you’re a first-timer, don’t worry, there will be more than enough volunteers on the lake to assist you or point you in the right direction.
The Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza embodies the idea of strength in numbers. It shows how we can rally to make a positive influence in our communities and have fun at the same time. It is where sport, compassion, and family meet to create some truly unforgettable moments. And that’s why it should be your next winter destination.
What do you think about the Extravaganza? Do you know of any other similar fishing events? Let us know in the comments below.