January: An odd time for the BIGGEST outdoor event in the region
It’s almost unbelievable that one of the events that brings the most people each year to the Lake Region happens the last weekend in January.
According to Devils Lake Fire Chief Jim Moe, who has been with it from the very start, what we know now as the Devils Lake Volunteer Fire Department’s Ice Fishing Tournament began humbly in 1984 at the Devils Lake Eagles Club. There were about 100 two-man teams and they could fish just about anywhere on the lake. The Devils Lake Fire Department and guys like Alvin Schroeder, always helped out managing and judging the event, but it was an Eagles event. Then after doing it that way for three years, it needed to change, so they modeled it after a tournament one of their members had attended in Park Rapids, Minn. Starting in 1987 everyone was to fish in one place, they’d drill the holes. The Eagles, as a club, was really struggling to survive and it eventually closed in 1998. The DLFD stepped in and took the ice fishing tournament over, many had been trustees of the Eagles, so it was logical they would take it on. Tee Kurtz got involved in the late 1980s. He said he remembered when they only printed 4,000 tickets and sold them at $20. In the following years whenever they even talked about increasing the number of tickets to be sold, there were those who said it couldn’t be done, “We can’t sell that many!”
Today they sell over 22,000 tickets and they are $25. The contents of the Fire Hall’s garage has been transformed with the trucks and equipment purchased from the income from those tickets over the years. Moe points out the economic impact of this event is enormous when you consider how many people come to the area from far and wide, spending money in the city’s motels and restaurants for three days for the past 35 years. Also consider the prize list. This year’s has over 160 items including Grand Prize, a 2020 Jeep Gladiator, and the 160th prize, a 2020 Chevy Equinox - you name it - and each was purchased with money raised by the tournament. Though occasionally a merchant might give them a deal, Moe admitted, most all the prizes are purchased, and purchased locally, another economic boost to the area.
The schedule: Thursday, Jan. 23 there’s tourney registration from 5 to 11 p.m. in the Memorial Building with a soup and chili feed starting at 6 p.m. until gone. Door prizes will be given out regularly each night and you must be present to win those! Remember to make use of the Courtesy Vans and don’t drink and drive! Friday, Jan. 24 tourney registration continues and there’s another soup and chili feed from 6 p.m. until gone followed by the Fisherman’s Dance from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 25 tourney registration moves out to the ice from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. just follow the signs on Highway 19 west of Devils Lake to Six Mile Bay. Fishing takes place 1 - 3:30 p.m. on site as the horn blows! There’s a Jam Session from 2 - 4 p.m. back in the warmth of the Memorial Building. A Fisherman’s Supper (for a nominal fee) from 4 p.m. until gone, the raffle drawing party begins at 7 p.m. (you need NOT be present to win raffle items) and the Fisherman’s Dance starts at 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Fishing prizes This year’s fishing prizes include the following: Perch: 1st prize $2,000; 2nd prize $1,500; 3rd prize $1,000; 4th prize Side by Side and 5th prize $500. Walleye: 1st prize $2,000; 2nd prize A 2020 Ford Crew XL pickup; 3rd prize $1,000; 4th prize $750 and 5th prize $500. Pike: 1st prize $2,000; 2nd prize $1,500 3rd prize A Hard Shell Fish house; 4th prize $750 and 5th prize $500. All taxes must be paid upon receipt of prizes over $5,000. All anglers 14 years of age and under are eligible for Youth Starter Fishing Package.
For the whole story, see the print edition of the Devils Lake Journal, Jan. 23, 2020.