We live in Minnesota. It’s winter. It’s cold. What is there to do?

We live in Minnesota. It’s winter. It’s cold. What is there to do?

Well, if you are lucky, like we are in Sleepy Eye, there is a frozen lake nearby, and the answer for many is, “Go ice fishing.”

In Sleepy Eye, we are especially lucky that the Sleepy Eye Sportsmen’s Club organizes one of the largest ice fishing contests in southern Minnesota each winter. This year is the same, as they invite area ice fishing fans to Sleepy Eye Lake for the 37th Annual Fishing Derby, on Sunday, Feb. 3, from noon to 3 p.m.

Several members of the Sportsmen’s Club stopped in at the Herald-Dispatch office last week to talk about the coming fishing derby. Dave Hertling said there were 950 registered entrants at the 2018 contest, and the guys said they expect much the same for this year. They also expect a large crowd of people who simply enjoy being on the lake and taking in the fun.

“We figure we had about 1,500 people on the lake last year,” said Lynn Krenz. “The day is kind of like a tailgating party. It’s all about family, food, prizes and fun.”

That’s the reason the event draws those who don’t even fish — fishing is just one thing happening. There is a food stand, door prizes and three raffles during the day. The Grand Prize Raffle, with a first prize of an Ice Castle Fish House, is always popular—with raffle tickets sales starting in the summer. This raffle also has five $500 cash prizes and four $250 cash prizes. Tickets for the raffle are sold at several local businesses and by members of the Sportsmen’s Club.

The day of the fishing derby there will also be two other raffles with prizes large and small, plus great door prizes. Every one who enters the contest will be in the drawing for door prizes, which include a Humminbird fish finder and a buddy heater, along with many more. Children who enter the fishing contest will all receive a prize, until they run out.

This party on the lake actually is a fishing contest, so there are prizes for the biggest fish. Trophies and cash prizes will go to the four largest fish, in two categories, game fish and panfish. The fishing contest runs from noon to 3 p.m., with registration starting at 9:30 a.m.

The club members always pay attention to ice conditions for the contest and expect no problems this year. When asked Tuesday morning, Parks Director Steve Lingen said he measured 15 inches of ice this week and agreed the current cold spell should add to that number.

The Sportsmen’s Club is supported by many local and area business sponsors, and volunteers, who help make the Fishing Derby such a successful event. The profits from the Fishing Derby, and from the two soup and sandwich luncheons the club holds each December and March, are donated to local parks and lake projects, including generous support of the Sleepy Eye Sportsmen’s Boating and Bobbers program.