The Chaska Fire Department is hosting its annual ice fishing contest at Firemen’s Clayhole this Saturday, Feb. 8.
From 1-3 p.m., people can fish, participate in a raffle, play games and enjoy food and drink.
Fire Chief Tim Wiebe is expecting anywhere from 250 to 1,000 people, depending on the weather. It’s the 63rd year of the fishing contest — something Wiebe says is of note.
“Our fishing contest has been going on nine years longer than the Super Bowl,” he said.
There is no entry fee for the event, but raffle tickets are $20. Retired and active firefighters have been selling tickets since Thanksgiving. Up to 1,500 will be sold at the station up until the day of, if there are extra. Raffle prizes are anywhere between $100 and $5,000.
Door prizes will also be given away during the contest.
“Years ago, it was probably one of the only winter events in downtown Chaska,” Wiebe said.
The nearby Chaska Event Center will be open to warm up, play games, win potential prizes and grab something to eat or drink.
Free crappie minnows will be available for contestants, and wax worms and sucker minnows will be available for purchase.
All participants will need a fishing license, and each angler can only use one hole and one line. Windbreaks or set-up shelters are not permitted, according to the city website.
Holes will be drilled prior to the fishing start time, and anglers can’t drill their own holes. The city said people may want to bring an ice chisel or scoop to better prepare the ice.
People can start arriving at 11:30 a.m., but the announcement for fishing won’t happen until 1 p.m.
As for contest rules, only game fish will be eligible to be weighed in for prizes. These fish include any bass species, bluegill, crappie, northern, perch, sunfish and walleye. Rough fish like bullhead or carp are not eligible.
Wiebe said the fire department is staffed with 44 on-call or volunteer firefighters. That leaves the department with just five full-time staff.
“To keep this model going, we do utilize the proceeds from this to do different events and recognize our staff,” Wiebe said.
Some of the money is used to buy smoke detectors, to install sprinklers in group homes, and other projects.
As for ice contest preparation, the fire department and city staff are broken into subcommittees. They divide themselves into raffle and ticket groups, food coordinators, bonfire volunteers, bait sellers, and hole drillers.
“Everybody kind of chips in to make the event successful,” Wiebe said.
“It’s a good time for the firefighters to interact with the community and people from the area to come and visit,” he added. “I think the community is very thankful for our service and I think that’s really kind of a neat thing, to see how grateful people are for the service we provide.”