The arrival of February triggers a parade of ice-fishing enthusiasts to the 18th annual Park Rapids Ice Fishing Contest and Raffle. The popular event is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 6 on Fish Hook Lake – a little over two weeks away. “We do have plenty of ice,” said organizer Jerry Benham. “We’re good to go.” Thanks to recent sub-zero temperatures, Fish Hook currently has 16 inches of ice, he said.
The Legion is selling 3,500 tickets this year. “Our goal is to sell them all,” Benham said. A ticket – at $40 each – grants access to the derby, plus a chance to win raffle prizes. More than $110,000 in prizes will be given away. This year’s raffle grand prize is a brand-new 2015 4WD Ford truck from Park Rapids Ford. More than 60 other raffle prizes will be awarded, such as a portable fish house, fish locator, pedal tractor, gift certificates and golf packages. Cash prizes total $11,000, with winnings ranging from $100 to $1,000.
The 18th largest fish of the day, in any category, wins an Ice Castle fish house from the Smokey Hills Outdoor Store, with $2,000 awarded to the seller of the winning derby ticket. The 16-foot, top-of-the-line fish house is “decked out,” said Benham, complete with bathroom and other features. Additional prizes can be won in four fishing categories: Division I – bluegill and crappie; Division II – northern, walleye and largemouth bass; Perch Division; Rock Bass Division and White Fish Division. Derby prizes range from cash to fishing gear to a Polaris ATV. Also, $2,000 is awarded to the seller of the most tickets. Tickets are available at the American Legion and at participating locations throughout the area. A list of ticket vendors, including an interactive map, can be found www.ParkRapidsIceContest.com/get-tickets.
Everyone who wishes to enter the contest area must have a ticket. If the event isn’t sold-out, tickets may be purchased at the legion or at the gates until 12:30 p.m. on the day of the derby. Ticket sales are currently on track compared to last year, Benham said. The fishing contest is from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Gates open at 10:30 a.m. New this year, door prizes will be given away on the ice. Derby contestants will be handed a special door prize ticket as they pass through the gate. “We want to give fisherpeople who are braving the elements an extra incentive to get out on the ice,” Benham said. The contest is made possible because of numerous volunteers. Clubs or individuals who would like to help can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteers are currently needed to pre-drill 3,500 holes on the morning of Feb. 6. Parking and shuttle service will be available from the legion, the old Pamida parking lot, Smokey Hills Outdoor Store and 71 Bottles of Beer and Liquor. The shuttle service begins at 10 a.m.
Contestants are required to have a fishing license. Three-sided, portable shelters are allowed for a windbreak. Depth finders and underwater cameras are also permitted. A Rotary food stand will offer hot food and beverages on the ice. Boy Scouts will also serve goodies. The raffle drawing will be held at 2 p.m. and announced both on the ice and on-air (KDKK/KPRM) at 3:30 p.m. The fishing derby weekend kicks off Friday, Feb. 5, with a fish fry by the Park Rapids Youth Hockey Association and a welcome dance from 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., with entertainment by “Billy D & The Crystals.” A Sons of the American Legion breakfast will be served from 7 to 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 6 and a Post 212 fundraiser lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. that same day. Both meals are at the legion.
The awards presentation will be held at 5 p.m. at the legion, followed by a Fisherman’s Ball from 8 p.m. to midnight. Entertainment is provided by “Billy D & The Crystals.” Six courtesy cars will be available via freewill offerring both Friday and Saturday nights. A Boy Scouts breakfast will be served from 8 a.m. to noon Sunday, Feb. 7 to wrap up the weekend. For additional rules and information, call 732-3360, check out the Facebook page or visit www.ParkRapids IceContest.com.