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Ice fishing event begins on Saturday

FAIRMONT — This time of year may not seem ideal to venture outdoors, but that is exactly what ice-fishing enthusiasts will do Saturday in Fairmont.

The Fairmont Lakes Foundation will host its 6th annual ice-fishing tournament, beginning at 11 a.m. at Gomsrud Park. It will conclude with a weigh-in at 3 p.m. at The Marina Lodge.

“Last year, we had 220 [participants]; we can only go up to 250, so I’m hoping somewhere in that neighborhood,” said organizer Justin Sommers of Sommer Outdoors in Fairmont.

“A lot of people come from out of town lately,” he noted. “I bet you over half the people will be from other places from outside a 50-mile radius.”

Sommers believes the tournament has some unique things going for it, hence its popularity. For one thing, the Lakes Foundation puts an emphasis on fun. And, he said, many people who come do so through a connection to someone locally. So, locals invite friends from out of the area who make a weekend of it.

Sommers said ice fishing has a lot to offer because it lets people do something outside in mid-winter, when they might otherwise be stuck indoors. At the same time, ice-fishing enthusiasts are able to enjoy what has become a camping-like experience. This is thanks to quality ice houses, allowing those out on the lakes to bring almost all the amenities of home with them.

“I know people who sleep in the ice shack, and they have stoves and microwaves and TVs,” Sommers said. “So a lot of them, like on football days, instead of sitting at home watching the game, everybody’s out on the ice watching games now.”

It would be a mistake, though, to think there is not some serious fishing involved.

“Right now, our lakes our probably one of the top panfish lakes, probably in the state,” Sommers said. “The other thing that we have in our lakes that nobody else in the state of Minnesota has that I know of is yellow bass. People are finding that having no limit on them, that that’s an added benefit. And they taste fantastic; they taste like a crappie. And they can fill buckets full if they would like. The crappies are decent size; they’re running 10 to 11 inches average, and then some of the bluegill fishing that we have is right in there, above average. So we have the fish in our lakes and people are pretty much guaranteed to catch something if they come out here.”

Those who wish to take part in the tournament must check in at Sommer Outdoors, 1547 Albion Ave., between 8-10 a.m. Saturday. The event will start at 11 a.m. at the shelter house at Gomsrud Park.

At the end of the day, fishermen must be in line and waiting to weigh by 3:10 p.m. at The Marina Lodge, 501 Lake Ave.

The tournament will issue a colored ribbon to those taking part in the tournament. It must be tied to the exterior of the ice house. Those using permanent-style ice houses must leave their doors unlocked so that tournament officials can randomly check on anglers during the event.

Ice houses can be no closer than 20 feet from another house. All ice houses must be equipped and licensed according to state law.

Prizes for the catch will be awarded at the end of the day. There are also random door prizes.

Inclement weather date for the tournament is Feb. 1.

Fairmont Lakes Foundation is a non-profit group formed to promote the stewardship of the local lakes. Its general purpose is to lead and educate the community and visitors to take responsibility for the quality and care of the lakes, and also to enhance their value.

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