Courtesy of the Annual International Eelpout Festival
Is there anything more truly Minnesotan than ice fishing? With our “Land of 10,000 Lakes” namesake and furiously cold winters that like to overstay their welcome, the sport of ice fishing just makes sense here. And it’s taken seriously, too! No cold fronts are going to stop these fishermen for enjoying their favorite sport.
As the daughter of an ice fisher, I remember the cold, sunny days spent in a makeshift ice fishing tent, listening to my dad’s sports radio and sitting on upside down on 5-gallon buckets as I (somewhat) patiently waited for a fish to bite on whatever treat my hook had to offer. It was always a special outing to go ice fishing with my dad. My siblings and I didn’t care about the cold. Twenty degrees? No problem! As a kid, I never cared what kind of fish I caught, either—I just wanted to catch something. Sunnies, walleye, perch … whatever fish wanted to bite, I’d take it! This weekend though, in the small town of Walker, Minn., the focus is on a specific type of fish—the eelpout, one of the ugliest bottom dwelling fish one could hope to fish for.
A welcome respite to the mid-winter months with plenty of activities for avid ice fishers, families, and friends, Walker invites old and new visitors alike to its 39th Annual International Eelpout Festival this weekend, Feb. 22–Feb. 25, on Leech Lake.
Opening ceremonies will kick-off the event at Chase on the Lake tomorrow night from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. with a pre-party starting at the same time. A perk? $3 pints of beer for early arrivals!
Other festival events besides ice fishing include two eelpout fish fries, eelpout curling, an annual beer pong tournament, eelpout rugby, official weigh-in times, and an official fishing contest awards ceremony on the last day of the festival.
Although the event is inherently fishing-related, non-fishing events will be happening, too. Dog sled rides, helicopter rides, an annual jalapeño eating contest, a polar pout plunge (benefiting the Walker Area Community Center) will all be happening on Saturday, Feb. 24. And then there is the “Kiss the Pout” booth—not for the faint of heart, but legend says it will provide good luck for the entire year, so maybe it’s worth a try?
Whether you’re an avid ice fisher with tons of experience or simply an outdoor-loving Minnesotan through and through, the 39th Annual International Eelpout Festival is an experience you won’t want to miss.
For more information about the event visit eelpoutfestival.com.