Skip to main content
Updated:
Original:

The Eelpout Festival could be moving lakes

The event has been held on Leech Lake for 38 years, but that may be ending.
Author:

Every winter for the past four decades, thousands of outdoor aficionados descend on Walker, Minnesota to celebrate the International Eelpout Festival.

But that tradition could be coming to an end, with the organizers considering a new location.

The three-day ice fishing and winter games festival attracts as many as 10,000 people to Leech Lake in the north-central Minnesota community, but last year warmer weather led to local sheriffs implementing vehicle restrictions on the lake ice.

This week it's been revealed that festival organizers have applied for a permit to hold the event on the smaller Lake Bemidji, about 40 miles northwest of Leech Lake, according to a Beltrami County Commissioners agenda.

In a statement on the official Facebook page, festival organizers said that no final decision has been made on a move for the event, which usually takes place in February, but that they will "continue to explore any and all options to ensure a feasible future for the festival."

"We are committed to providing a top-notch experience for our host community, patrons and event sponsors and partners," it said.

"We have been in discussions with Walker officials, as well as community leaders in other potential locations, to identify the best course of action for the long-term growth, community support and sustainability of this unique event."

It continues to say "no final decisions have been made at this juncture," but it's still proceeding with holding the 2018 festival this February, with dates to be confirmed.

As well as the vehicle restrictions, the Bemidji Pioneer notes that last year also saw organizers being held financially responsible for the post-festival clean-up on the lake. Previously it had been done by the Cass County environmental services department, sheriff's office and local jail inmates.

Local lore has it that the festival started out as a group of friends gathering together on the lake for some ice fishing, with one of them getting the idea for an annual event when they reeled in an eelpout.

And if you don't know, an eelpout is an eel-like bottom-feeding fish, which the Minnesota DNR says looks like a "cross between an eel and a catfish."

It's also known as a burbot.

Next Up

Klobuchar - MTP - NBC screengrab

Klobuchar says Congress should pass law to protect abortion rights

Her comments came as the Supreme Court appears poised to weaken — or gut — Roe v. Wade

MPD missing Heard - crop 1_

Police ask for public's help finding Mpls. woman missing a week

The 36-year-old hasn't been seen or heard from recently.

unsplash cold winter breath dark

Hello, winter: List of the coldest wind chills in MN Monday morning

The state went from a relatively mild start of the season, to downright frigid wind chills.

deer

1 CWD-positive deer in Brainerd Lakes area, so surveillance will continue

The CWD monitoring measures were supposed to end after this year.

unsplash - visitor patient doctor hospital emergency - crop

MN program will train, hire 1,000 nursing assistants for long-term care

The facilities are facing a severe staffing shortage.

Minnesota State Fair - main gate day 2021

Minnesota State Fair reestablishes a police department

The fair had been contracting with the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office.

teacher, covid, masks, school

Minnetonka to consider removing middle school mask requirement

The school board has been impressed by vaccination rates among middle school students.

snow, plow

Friday winter storm could hit Twin Cities, southern Minnesota

Meteorologist Sven Sundgaard is already monitoring the forecast.

Sauk Rapids Middle School street view, Minnesota - November 2018_

Teen student arrested for threats toward MN middle school

The Sauk Rapids middle school and high school were closed Monday.

_DSC0318

Rally for trans child outed during Hastings school board race draws big crowd

Hastings has been in the spotlight since the child's family was featured in a CNN story.

chad davis arradondo flickr

Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo to retire next month

He's overseen the MPD since mid-2017, following the killing of Justine Ruszczyk Damond

covid

Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Monday, December 6

The latest from the state health department.

Related

The Eelpout Festival won't be moving lakes after all

Organizers had been considering an alternative venue.

Man found dead in fish house during Eelpout Festival

The 21 year old was found unresponsive on Leech Lake.

Man, 21, died at Eelpout Festival from CO poisoning

Sam Schooley was found unresponsive in a fish house on the final day of the event.

International Eelpout Festival

Ice safety forces restrictions at 40th annual Eelpout Festival

The festival will have activities and events Feb. 21-25.

International Eelpout Festival

Impasse with county forces cancellation of Eelpout Festival

The shocking announcement was made Thursday.

Are muskies taking over our lakes? 2 lawmakers think so

Proposed bills would curb the expansion of muskies in Minnesota lakes.