BRAINERD — Thrilled to be back on the ice, almost 9,000 anglers attended the 32nd annual Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza and this year did not disappoint.
The Extravaganza, hosted annually on Gull Lake’s Hole-in-the-Day Bay, welcomed veterans and first-timers on Saturday, Jan. 29, for its annual charity tournament.
Scheduled to run from noon to 3 p.m., the gates opened at 8 a.m. as anglers rushed to grab their “lucky hole” in hopes of getting and staying atop the
For Brainerd Jaycees 2022 chairperson Andrew Jay and all the Brainerd Jaycees, watching everything come together is the exciting part. From seeing everyone roll off the bus and race to find their lucky fishing hole.
“It's kind of a wave of emotions, but it's pretty awesome to see,” said Jay. “You know, when the anthem’s going on and the flag’s waving and the whole crowd is still, it's — you kind of just take a step back and look around — it's pretty incredible to see what this team of 18- to 40-year-old kids do and put together. I think we're gonna make a big splash in the community with some big donations this year.”
At 12:02 p.m., the first lucky angler Nathan Solar of Baudette registered the first fish of the tournament, a 0.11-pound perch. Only giving away that he was in 19 feet of water, Solar said that he caught the perch using “just a little jig.”
There were 750 fish registered during the three-hour tournament this year. Cody Sablatura of Corpus Christi, Texas, using a Sucker minnow on a tip-up, who ended up besting the rest of the competition with his
9.15 pound northern pike
Though toward the end of the tournament, some people started throwing back some of the smaller fish, not wanting to waste time registering a fish that would not make the board. But for many, it’s not the catching of fish that draws them out to the Extravaganza year after year.
“Oh, it's a good cause and it goes towards a really good cause,” said 31-year tournament veteran Doug Piepenburg. “It's a good gathering with a group of guys. We've had up to 14 out here but we're down to six. We're just getting a little older and it's getting a little tougher to do it.”
Brainerd city council member Gabe Johnson has been volunteering with the Brainerd Jaycees for 15 years. He grew up watching all that his parents did within the organization saying he wanted to give back to the community too, and getting involved with the Jaycees was the best way he thought he could give back.
“It's a great event for the community,” Johnson said. “It brings people to Gull Lake, one of the greatest lakes in the greatest state and it does so much for the local economy, filling the hotels and restaurants. Then when it turns a profit, we donate it all back to charity. And over the life of the event, we've given over $4 million back to local charities and it's just, I'm proud to be part of that.”
Jerry McCrory has been finishing in the tournament for close to 20 years and though he has yet to register a fish in years of going to the Extravaganza, he keeps trying because he said, he’s “too stubborn to stop now.”
Whether volunteering or fishing, the one thing that remains constant over the years is that coming out to the tournament and making memories to last a lifetime, has little to do with the fish that are or are not caught.
Dan Schlough, from Greenburg, Wisconsin, has come out the last few years with some friends and said the excitement of seeing all the anglers and all the “crazy stuff” keeps them coming back.
1/89: Photo Gallery: Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza 2022 (Use arrows on photos to navigate)
5/89: Almost 9,000 anglers attend the 32nd annual Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, on Gull Lake's Hole-in-the-Day Bay.
6/89: The McKibbon family ice fishes Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, during the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza on Gull Lake's Hole-in-the-Day Bay.
7/89: Blair McKibbon, left, helps Briggs McKibbon get a drink open as Noah Mckibbon lounges in a chair Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, during the Brainerd Jaycees 32nd annual Ice Fishing Extravaganza Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, on Gull Lake's Hole-in-the-Day Bay.
There is no lack of creativity when it comes to what contestants come up with. From the practical, such as see-through fishing boxes to abide by the rules of the tournament, to things that make you look twice, from blow-up hula dancers to a full bar.
For Jay, his year of coordinating and preparing for Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza is in the books.
“I'm extremely proud,” Jay said. “I am such a small piece of this wheel. The committee is as full of people that, even with a year off the ice, they come right back and they've been just incredible. There's no way I can be in this position without them.”
are an organization that empowers and helps develop young leaders between the ages of 18-40 in the Brainerd lakes area. To get more information about the Brainerd Jaycees, email to
For many who fish through holes in the ice, there’s an anticipation for that first ice fishing excursion that surpasses – dare I say – the attraction of getting in a boat for the first time after a long winter.
Retired teacher Larry Weber, a Barnum resident, is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him via Katie Rohman at firstname.lastname@example.org.