The Eelpout Festival won't be moving lakes after all

Organizers had been considering an alternative venue.
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Despite flirting with the idea of another lake, the organizers of the International Eelpout Festival will be staying faithful to the event's home of almost 40 years.

The future of the festival, which attracts 12,000 ice fishermen and women to Leech Lake every February, was a little uncertain last month when organizers were considering a move from Leech Lake to nearby Lake Bemidji.

It would have spelled the end of almost 40 years of history in Walker, on the shores of Leech Lake, where the ice fishing event has grown over the decades into the giant festival it is today.

But the festival confirmed on Saturday that Walker Bay will once again play host to the event, with the 39th International Eelpout Festival officially taking place on Feb. 22-25.

A motivating factor in the decision to stay on Leech Lake was a new offer from Chase on the Lake Resorts, but there are also indications that Bemidji wasn't too enthralled with the idea of hosting the festival.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that the Bemidji City Council was set to formally oppose the festival being held on Lake Bemidji.

The decision would ultimately have been up to Beltrami County, but the Bemidji Pioneer notes that local residents and officials had raised concerns about the impact the festival would have on the quality of Lake Bemidji.

It follows the mess left on Leech Lake in previous years, with an estimated 900 pounds of trash left on the lake ice in 2016.

Last year saw organizers being held financially responsible for the cleanup of the lake for the first time, which it was suggested was one of the reasons they were considering an alternative venue.

The 2016 festival also saw vehicle restrictions implemented by police amid concerns about the thickness of the ice on Leech Lake.

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