Minnesota Ice Fishing Tourism on Solid Ground, Despite Tournament Cheating Allegations

21 Feb, 2018

By: Michael Popke

The cold weather gripping the upper Midwest in recent weeks has kept lakes frozen, which is good news for the hosts of ice fishing tournaments in Minnesota.

On the final Sunday of January, more than 500 people participated in an ice fishing contest sponsored by the Hanska Firemen’s Relief Association on Lake Hanska in south-central Minnesota. Over the next two weekends (including Super Bowl Sunday), other organizations held ice fishing tournaments around the state. The Sleepy Eye Sportsmen ice fishing derby on Sleepy Eye Lake, also in south-central Minnesota, was expected to attract 800 participants, while the New Ulm Area Sport Fishermen hosted its own ice fishing contest on Clear Lake northwest of Minneapolis, with an anticipated 600 participants.

In fact, nearly ever lake in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” has an ice fishing tournament, according to The Journal of New Ulm, Minn.

“This is some of the best ice in a long time,” Sam Domeier from the Sleepy Eye Sportsmen told The Journal, explaining that snow can insulate the ice and keep it from freezing. “We’ve had lots of cold weather but no snow.” Ice as thick as 19 inches was reported on Lake Hanska and Sleepy Eye Lake.

“The [Department of Natural Resources] guidelines state ice must be at least four inches thick to walk on foot,” the paper reports. “Ice that is five to seven inches thick can support a snowmobile or ATV. For a car, ice needs to be eight inches thick and 12 inches for a truck. This guideline is for clear ice. For white ice or snow ice, the guidelines should be doubled.”

The fishing might be good, but officials with the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza — which is billed as the world’s largest ice-fishing contest and attracted 12,000 anglers on Jan. 27 — are investigating whether three men from Ohio legitimately caught the fish they say they did.

“Event chairman Shane Meyer of Brainerd stressed in an interview that organizers have no proof anyone cheated,” reports the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. “Still, the title to the new GMC pickup that Stephan Lyogky of Hartville, Ohio, won for catching a 3.10-pound northern pike during the three-hour contest is being withheld pending the investigation’s outcome.”

“We’re not only the biggest ice fishing contest in the world, we’re the best,” Meyer told the paper. “We want there to be no question whatsoever by participants that the contest is legitimate and on the up-and-up.”

According to the paper, a hold also has been placed on the contest’s third-place prize, a $1,000 check, won by Ivan Lyogky, Stephan’s father, and on the 98th-place prize, a certificate good for an ice auger, won by a relative, Rostik Lyogky.

“Anyone trying to sneak a fish into the area would have to keep it alive long enough to get it into the water without being seen by other anglers or contest volunteers,” writes Star Tribune outdoors columnist Dennis Anderson. “To be counted for a prize, the fish must be alive when registered. It’s also possible, Meyer said, that someone could sneak onto the ice the night before the contest to leave a live fish in a hole.”

“We’ll have additional security protocols in place next year,” Meyer told the paper.

Ice fishing event organizers in other states aren’t as fortunate, weather-wise, as those in Minnesota. The Fish Lake Perch Tournament, slated to begin Feb. 24 on Utah’s Fish Lake, has been canceled— grounding almost 2,000 anglers.

The ice at Fish Lake, normally between 18 inches and two feet thick by this time of year, was less than five inches thick in some spots, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.

“If the whole lake were the same, it’d be easy to make decisions,” Richard Hepworth, aquatic manager in southern Utah for the state’s Division of Wildlife Resources, told the paper. “Instead, in one area it’s 10 inches — really safe — and two or three steps later it’s 3 inches. It’s scary.” 


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