Hot Dogs, Schnapps, and Live Minnow Shots: Grub From the World’s Biggest Ice Fishing Tournament

ALTHOUGH all of the nearly 9,000 participants of the 32nd Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza presumably signed up to catch fish on one day in late January, most will tell you it’s really an occasion to get together. (And for a good cause too: The annual tournament in Nisswa, Minnesota, raised more than $98,000 for local charities last year.)

“The fishing aspect ain’t all that great,” says Tucker Vetsch (above), who has attracted attention for his taxidermy buck hat. Although the 18-year-old placed second overall in 2022, he didn’t catch a single fish on Saturday. “I go for the experience and all that goes on, rather than the actual fishing.”

For most folks, that includes grilling out on the ice, sipping half-frozen beers with old buddies, fishing with the kids, snagging raffle prizes, and, occasionally, catching a walleye or perch.

“It started out with my grandfather, my dad, and me as just a yearly thing, but as we got older and the friendship between the guys who went out there got stronger, we all made it a staple every year,” says Ronald Enrooth of his high school buddies. The Enrooth crew has attended the tournament since 2006 and has slowly turned the weekend event into a full-blown vacation, sometimes heading there as early as the Wednesday before the tourney weekend. “We go up, we eat, we play cards, we snowmobile. We just enjoy the northern Minnesota atmosphere. And then we fish.”

So in the true spirit of the Jaycees Extravaganza, here’s a look at some of the food and drink that power the funnest ice-fishing tourney in the world.

A drone shot of anglers on the ice at Brainerd Jaycees.
Anglers spread out on the ice of Hole in the Day Bay on Gull Lake, which lies about 10 miles north of Brainerd. Jenn Ackerman and Tim Gruber
A food truck on the ice that sells deep-fried oreos to ice fishermen.
Participants line up for $6 deep-fried Oreos, hand-dipped corn dogs, and cheese curds (regular or jalapeño, or available by the bucket). Jenn Ackerman and Tim Gruber
A couple in red buffalo check pajamas toasts each other with a hot chocolate.
Cody and Amy Hines kick off the tournament with a pair of Drunken Rudolphs, because spiked hot chocolate is “a nice way to warm up the insides.” The high on Saturday was 3°F. The couple has attended the tourney together for eight years (Amy once won an ice auger after catching a 1.18-pound walleye); Cody has attended for 17 years. Jenn Ackerman and Tim Gruber
An ice fishing sled complete with busch light.
A sled with all the necessities—including a 30-rack of Busch Light. Jenn Ackerman and Tim Gruber
A small kid holds up a sign that says $1 hot dogs.
John Wely, 8, helps sell $1 hot dogs to raise funds for the local wrestling team. Jenn Ackerman and Tim Gruber
A small charcoal grill with three hot dogs sizzling on the ice.
After cold beer, hot dogs were top of the list for cheap and easy fare on the ice. Ackerman + Gruber
A man in overalls grills hot dogs at an ice fishing tournament.
Dave Moonen of Danger Moon Farm in Pequot Lakes, Minnesota, nurses a hot drink while grilling, as his sign on the trailer advertised, wieners made from "old school pigs." Jenn Ackerman and Tim Gruber
A woman with a yellow sweatshirt holds a minnow shot.
Minnow shots (something something PETA has griped about in the past) are a staple at certain Minnesota bars, and the tourney's drinks tent was no exception. Ackerman + Gruber
A woman takes a drink of a minnow shot.
Sydney Wold throws back a minnow. Ackerman + Gruber
A red haired girl in a yellow coat fishes.
Grace Lenhardt, 13, sits on a heated couch that her dad built on skis and focuses on fishing. Jenn Ackerman and Tim Gruber
Three men prepare to tip back a shotski while ice fishing.
The Enrooth fishing crew takes a shot on their “shotski.” The group of six (seven, if you count their grandad who comes out when it's not -5°F) started participating in 2006. Jenn Ackerman and Tim Gruber
A skillet of hot steak with steam coming off it.
The Enrooth Fishing Crew cook up steak and potatoes. Jenn Ackerman and Tim Gruber
A man in fur holds out a bottle of peppermint schnapps.
Sheldon McCoy stays warm with a fur-lined hat and gloves, and a bottle peppermint schnapps. Jenn Ackerman and Tim Gruber
Two men dressed in coats and hats eat hot dogs on the ice.
Mark Welna (left) and Mike Ronayne put away a pair of hot dogs. The two have been friends since the first grade. Jenn Ackerman and Tim Gruber
A fake memorial on the ice with a Coor's light tied to some flowers.
A fake memorial erected to pour one out for a (very alive) buddy who missed this year’s Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza for the first time since 2004. Jenn Ackerman and Tim Gruber

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