Published January 13, 2013, 05:30 AM

OUTDOOR NOTES: Devils Lake Fire Department Ice Fishing Tournament sells out

They added 3,000 tickets, but organizers of the annual Devils Lake Fire Department Ice Fishing Tournament said the winter extravaganza still sold out... and more.

By: Brad Dokken, Grand Forks Herald

They added 3,000 tickets, but organizers of the annual Devils Lake Fire Department Ice Fishing Tournament said the winter extravaganza still sold out.

So, if you don’t have a ticket, better luck next year.

This year’s tournament, the 29th annual, is set for Jan. 26, and the fishing will take place from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on the east side of Six-Mile Bay off state Highway 19, the same location as last year, when organizers moved the tournament from the west side of the bay.

According to Jim Moe, Devils Lake fire chief, organizers increased the number of available tickets for this year’s tournament to 18,000, compared with 15,000 tickets in previous years, and upped the total value of raffle prizes to $150,000 from $125,000.

Grand prize is a 2013 Chevy Silverado four-wheel drive pickup.

Despite offering 3,000 more tickets, Moe said the tournament still sold out quickly.

“It was like we didn’t add anything,” he said. “The phone calls and requests for tickets are still unbelievable. At this point, we’re calling it a sellout.”

Ticket holders don’t have to fish the tournament to qualify for the raffle prizes, but Moe said organizers this year doubled the prizes for most of the fishing categories, which include $2,000 for largest perch, walleye and northern pike. Meanwhile, the angler who catches the third-largest walleye will win a brand-new Ford extended cab four-wheel drive pickup.

A fisherman’s supper will begin at 4 p.m. in the Devils Lake Memorial Building with the raffle drawing set for 7 p.m. Ticket holders don’t need to be present to win raffle prizes.

As in previous years, Moe said volunteers will drill about 5,000 holes for the ice fishing tournament. Conditions on Devils Lake are good, with anywhere from 16 to 20 inches of ice in the fishing area, Moe said.

Now, the weather just needs to cooperate for the tournament and raffle, which is the fire department’s main fundraiser for the year. The tournament always is held the last Saturday in January.

“Knock on wood, we’ve never had to cancel one yet,” Moe said. “Hopefully that doesn’t happen.”

Anyone who’s looked through the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s Whopper Club listings during the past couple of weeks likely has noticed a run on big white bass.

Traditionally, anglers don’t catch a lot of white bass during the winter months on Devils Lake. According to Randy Hiltner, northeast district fisheries supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Devils Lake, white bass tend be in the deepest water available during the winter.

Earlier this winter, some of the best perch fishing on the lake was in deep areas of Creel Bay, Hiltner said, and so the white bass were caught incidentally.

To qualify for recognition in the Game and Fish Department’s Whopper Club program, white bass must weigh at least 3 pounds. They grow big in Devils Lake and also tend to live a long time. Hiltner said fisheries crews aged some larger white bass recently on Devils Lake.

“They ranged from 7 to 11 years old,” Hiltner said. “Pretty old fish, but similar to what South Dakota found in a study.”

To search listings for the Whopper and Catch-and-Release clubs, go to gf.nd.gov/fishing/whopper-club-catch-and-release-club.

For anglers out there who think they spend a lot of money putting those walleye, perch or panfish fillets on the table, consider the price a bluefin tuna recently fetched at a Tokyo fish market auction.

According to the New York Times, a Tokyo-based sushi restaurant chain owner paid the equivalent of $1.76 million for a 488-pound bluefin. That works out to about $3,600 a pound.

By comparison, walleye purchased through the Red Lake Nation Fishery in Redby, Minn., would cost $14 to $15 a pound, according to the fish plant’s website.

Tuna is prized by sushi fans for its taste. According to the New York Times story, the bluefin that fetched $1.76 million was caught by a fisherman from a “town renowned in Japan as the source of the most delicious tuna.”

— Compiled by Brad Dokken

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