ALTHOUGH all of the nearly 9,000 participants of the 32nd Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza presumably signed up to catch fish on Jan. 28, 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 I as just a yearly thing, but as we got older and the friendship between the guys that went out there got stronger, we’ve 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 Wednesday before the tourney. “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.
Natalie Krebs is the Executive Editor of Outdoor Life, where she tackles everything from reporting digital features to producing podcast episodes. Originally from Missouri, she currently lives in northwest Arkansas with her bird dog, Hatchet.