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Brainerd Jaycees Extravaganza: Latest Ice Checks

Brainerd Jaycees Extravaganza: Latest Ice Checks

Temperatures remain high in the wider Brainerd area as many ice anglers wait for the annual Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza on Feb 3.

The latest ice measurement on Gull Lake on Wednesday, Jan 31., showed that ice depths had remained relatively stable compared to last week’s ice check.

However, the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office, which measured the ice, advises caution when going on the ice!

Continue reading for the latest ice measurements, updates about the Brainerd Jaycees Hybrid Extravaganza, and important ice safety tips for tomorrow’s event.

This winter has been anything but kind to us ice anglers, and the weather appears to remain pretty mild over the coming days. 

Day temperatures for the Brainerd area could get as high as 45°F during the weekend. 

For the beginning of next week, temperatures could even reach 50°F. Not ideal for ice fishing, to say the least!

Nevertheless, northern Minnesota experienced some cold weather in January, resulting in thicker ice depths of about 10 to 15 inches. 

Over the last week or so, however, temperatures have been abnormally high, and the ice on many lakes has suffered to some degree. 

Last year’s Brainerd Jaycees Extravaganza (Courtesy of Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza)

The Extravaganza’s organizers have reacted appropriately by adopting a hybrid solution that will spread out contestants over several lakes in the Brainerd area. 

Many people remain doubtful, though, as the warm weather persists and the ice can only take so much warmth! 

The Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office and its deputies have conducted several ice checks over the last week to make things as safe as possible.

According to the Brainerd Dispatch, last Wednesday, on Jan 24., checks of Gull, Round, and North Long Lakes revealed depths between 8.5 and 11.5 inches. 

The latest check, precisely one week later, on Jan 31., showed that the ice thickness on Gull was 9 inches out on the lake. A second check closer to shore measured 10 inches. 

A local fishing guide reported similar results and added that the insulating snow on top of the ice had helped preserve its thickness during the week. 

So far, so good! However, the deputies stressed that ice conditions could vary significantly between different lakes and areas!

Also, this latest check is only for Gull Lake. Other lakes in the Brainerd area may have thinner ice than what was measured on Gull!

EDIT: Here is a recent update from the Cass County Sheriff’s Office:


The Sheriff’s Office urges caution on all area lakes but with special consideration to southern Cass County, including the Gull Lake chain area, where a hybrid version of the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza will be held on Saturday, February 3rd.

A wide variety of ice conditions were found in these areas, ranging from 5” of ice to 12” of ice. It is extremely important to check ahead, know, and understand the ice conditions in the area you are traveling.”

That is why both local authorities and the event organizers recommend foot traffic only on all approved lakes!  

Safety Tips from the Sheriff’s Office and Event Organizers

The Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office and the Extravaganza’s organizers have published several safety tips for the Extravaganza’s contestants and spectators:

  • Contestants should walk out onto their lake of choice and not bunch up.
  • We recommend foot traffic because of the conditions; they can change rapidly as people go out there.
  • Coordinate with local resorts and get advice from them.
  • Check aerial photos of lakes through Google Earth to see where rivers and streams come into the lakes. Narrowings of a lake with channels lead to thinner ice.
  • Check the ice thickness frequently when venturing out there.
  • Avoid inlets and bridges.

According to the Extravaganza’s organizers, event coordinators will be stationed at various access areas. You can ask them for directions to safe fishing areas on the ice. 

The County Sheriff’s Office will also place thin ice signs at known spots. Be aware, though, that those signs will probably not be placed everywhere. 

Wherever you’ll be fishing, please be mindful of the ice around you and do not take any risks!

Some Basic Ice Fishing Safety Tips

Lastly, I would like to mention a few essential ice safety tips that could save your or someone else’s life:

Tip #1: Always check ice thickness

The first and most important thing is always to check the thickness of the ice! 

Generally speaking, you should stay off areas with ice that’s less than 4 inches thick. PERIOD! 

Personally, I prefer 6 to 8 inches, just in case, but 4 will generally do on most waters. However, you must check the ice on your way out constantly. 

Remember, 4 inches of ice can quickly turn into 2 or 1 inch without you even realizing it. And boom, you’re going through! 

Tip #2: Trust your spud bar

Courtesy of Tommy Rudack

A spud bar or ice chisel is probably your most important tool on the ice! It’ll help you check the thickness and compactness of the ice. 

Personally, I wouldn’t head out without one. It’s really vital! 

A spud bar allows you to test the ice quickly and frequently, saving you time and energy, as you won’t have to drill dozens of holes with your auger. 

Tip #3: Always wear ice picks

Never go on the ice without wearing that good old trusted pair of ice picks around your neck!

If, God forbid, you should fall through, these things can end up saving your life! 

Without them, you might never be able to pull yourself out of the water and onto the ice.

So please don’t take them off while ice fishing. That’s not the point of bringing them!

Tip #4: Don’t go ice fishing alone

Courtesy of Sonia Lien

This is a great safety tip for areas that you might be uncertain about. 

The buddy system can ensure that your friend or friends can help you in case of an emergency or that you can help your friend or friends!

Making your way back onto the ice alone can sometimes be an impossibility. Having someone around who could help you or quickly get help can make all the difference!

Besides, it’s always more fun to go fishing together with your buddies. 

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Featured image by Chad Cooper, CC BY 2.0

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