2,500 converge in Park Rapids for huge local ice fishing tournament
PARK RAPIDS - A city of 2,500 sprang up on the Fishook Lake in Park Rapids on Saturday, partaking in the region's largest ice fishing tournament.
Young and old dipped lines into the frozen lake, taking their chances on winning $100,000 in prizes.
The 11th Annual Community Fishing Contest attracted professionals, families, old guys and teenagers onto the ice - most dressed as if they were attending a casting call for the movie "Fargo."
Platoons of cheerful volunteers directed traffic, drove school buses to carry fishers to the ice, then hauled people, sleds, plastic buckets, portable chairs and fishing gear out onto the ice.
"It's going great!" the pink cheeked volunteers told everyone who asked.
A stream of contestants began lining up at the judges' tables within one minute of the siren sounding the start of fishing. Until then, the more serious fishers unpacked depth finders, high-tech fish finders and bought minnows.
People were out on the ice nearly three hours before the 1 p.m. start gauging the conditions.
Blaine David of Moorhead joked that he would mount his "trophy-sized" perch on the wall - all t3 inches of it.
Little Nolan Dumonceaux of Columbus had more fun sitting on plastic buckets than fishing. The three-year-old wasn't quite sure what to do when his tip-up flipped. It turned out it didn't matter - seaweed had triggered his line.
Megan Edelman patiently perched over her ice hole dressed in a bright pink and purple snowsuit. The 10-year-old was enjoying her second tournament with her dad and other family members.
"I haven't caught anything yet but I'm having fun,' she said.
There were so many people on the ice, they needed cell phones to find each other.
Jerry Joy, punching numbers into his cell phone, asked the receiver where they were.
"Right by the American flag," came the answer.
"OK, I'm dressed in camouflage, I'll be there soon," Joy, of Akeley, said into the phone.
Oops! There were several flags out on the ice. That didn't seem to bother him as Jerry headed out, bucket in hand.
The tournament featured two minnow-eating contests. One mother, joining her son for the gross competition, ended up spitting her minnow out onto the ice.
"I just couldn't do it," she said.
The minnow was thrown down an ice hole, where some lucky northern probably won't regurgitate it.