Each February, members of Minnesota's Garrison Wildlife DU chapter march out onto frozen Lake Mille Lacs in the early-morning darkness and drill 5,000 holes through two feet of solid ice. These dedicated DU volunteers need to get an early start because thousands of people will arrive in a few hours to claim these holes to fish for the lake's famous walleye.
Starting in 2005, the Garrison Wildlife chapter has hosted the Fishing for the Ducks ice fishing tournament on Lake Mille Lacs. The first tournament attracted 652 people. Last year, more than 2,400 showed up.
"The event is a great time," says Greg Erickson, who helps organize the event and has been a DU volunteer for 13 years. "Minnesotans are a hearty bunch and we have a good time whether it's 30 degrees or minus 10."
Winning fishermen claimed $65,000 in prizes last year, including a new Chevy truck. The Garrison Wildlife chapter has ranked among DU's Top 25 chapters for the past two years. To date, this event has netted nearly $250,000 for DU's conservation work. This season's tournament will be held on Feb. 19, 2011.
"The tournament brings together ice fishermen who don't normally go to DU events and DU people who don't normally fish ice fishing tournaments," Erickson explains. "Everyone knows it is all about wetland conservation, so that's the best part about it."
For more information on the Fishing for the Ducks event, visit the chapter's website at www.fishingforducks.org.