WALKER, Minn. — In what would have been the 41st year of celebrating the notoriously ugly fish, the International Eelpout Festival has bid an unexpected adieu to upcoming plans for a 2020 bash in Walker, leaving its fate uncertain.
Jared Olson, the organizer of the festival, announced the cancellation on the event’s official Facebook page Thursday morning, Jan. 2, citing “an impasse on lake enforcement” with Cass County as a primary reason for its indefinite postponement.
“Because we are the only permit holder required to supply services and clean up, and are not allowed to control the lake, the economics no longer work,” the announcement said.
On Dec. 31, the Pilot-Independent in Walker reported changes to the event, detailing that “the festival (could not) justify the cost of conducting activities on the water, prompting the festival to move all commercial and vendor activities to land.”
“A street closure and city park permit (had) been approved by Walker City Council so the festival (could) move off the lake,” the article added.
However, the Facebook announcement stated, “this too was not going to allow for acceptable permit process for both parties.”
The festival, which was scheduled for Feb. 20-23 on Leech Lake, faced additional setbacks leading to its cancellation, including the omission of its fishing contest.
Only recently, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reclassified the eelpout from a rough fish to a game fish, which would make contest rules too difficult for promoters to accommodate.