Winter’s most popular destination… A City on the Ice

Staff photo by Connor Cummiskey Hundreds of ice fishermen gathered on Lake Hanska last Sunday for the annual ice fishing competition.

BROWN COUNTY — Ice fishing season is in full force. There is no better time to get out on the ice and land a record-breaking walleye.

The ice fishing fever is especially contagious around this time year, thanks to several ice fishing contest.

Last Sunday the Hanska Firemen’s Relief Association hosted their annual ice fishing contest of Lake Hanska. Well over 500 people took part in the contest.

According to the Minnesota DNR website, on Lake Hanska a fishermen can hook black bullhead, black crappie, bluegill, channel catfish, green sunfish, hybrid sunfish, largemouth bass, Lepomis, northern pike, orange-spotted sunfish, walleye, yellow bullhead, yellow perch, bigmouth buffalo, common carp, white sucker, fathead minnow, and golden shiner.


Staff photo by Connor Cummiskey During the 2017 Sleepy Eye Ice Fishing Derby, Luke Wunderlin and Dave Wirth both caught impressive fish. Wunderlin caught a .742, 11” crappie and Dave Wirth caught a 4.31 lb northern

Fishing Contests

Sleepy Eye



Feb. 4,

Sleepy Eye Lake



Feb. 11

Clear Lake


This Sunday, The Sleepy Eye Sportsmen are holding their annual ice fishing derby on Sleepy Eye Lake, which typically attracts 800 fisherman each year.

Sleepy Eye Lake is home to black bullhead, black crappie, bluegill, brown bullhead, channel catfish, green sunfish, hybrid sunfish, largemouth bass, northern pike, pumpkinseed, walleye, white crappie, yellow bullhead, yellow perch, common carp, and white sucker.

On Feb. 11, the New Ulm Area Sport Fisherman host their Ice Fishing Contest on Clear Lake which is estimated to have 600 entrants. Clear Lake Fish Species include black bullhead, black crappie, bluegill, green sunfish, hybrid sunfish, largemouth bass, walleye, yellow perch, common carp, and fathead minnow.

These are just a few of the dozens of ice fishing contest scheduled for the season. Nearly every lake in Minnesota has some type of ice fishing contest.

New Ulm Area Sport Fisherman Club president Jason Kuester said his favorite part of ice fishing is the camaraderie. Ice fishing is the perfect time to hang out with friends and family and enjoy a relatively inexpensive hobby.

New Ulm Area Sport Fisherman club will be celebrating its 31st annual ice fishing derby this year. Club president Jason Kuester said his first memory of ice fishing was at the New Ulm Area Sportsman Ice Fishing contest. He grew up with the program, which to this day works to promote youth fishing.

Kuester said each year during the fishing derby between 600 and 650 prizes are awarded to the kids. Its a way to keep the tradition going. The club supports youth all the way to college. Special scholarship programs are available.

“We go from handing them a rod to handing them a scholarship,” Kuester said.

Kuester said this year there was a slow start to ice fishing, but now with safe ice people are getting in decent fishing. Kuester said he has been out on the ice between 30 and 40 times this season and has had success each time. This season he has managed to catch a 26 inch walleye, a 14 inch perch and 16 inch crappie.

Sam Domeier with the Sleepy Eye Sportsmen said he enjoys the sport for its relaxing nature. You don’t have to put too much effort into ice fishing, and each ice fishing trip is an adventure, he said.

“You get together with your buddies and you never know what is on the other end of the rod,” Domeier said.

And there is the competition aspect of fishing. Everyone wants to catch the biggest fish. Domeier said he usually releases the larger fish to allow someone else to catch them and keep the population up.

Domeier said the best part of fishing Sleepy Eye Lake is its proximity to town. If you have a permanent fish house on the ice a person could go from home to fishing in under 5 minutes.

In addition, Domeier said the largemouth bass are especially impressive growing to huge proportions.

Asked about ice conditions this year, Domeier said, “This is some of the best ice in a long time. We’ve had lots of cold weather but no snow.”

He explained that snow can insulate the ice and keep it from freezing. This year the ice nearly two feet thick. Both Lake Hanska and Sleepy Eye reported ice as thick as 19 inches, which keeps people safe.

Safety is an important aspect of ice fishing. Domeier said there have been times where the fishing derby had to forbid vehicles on the ice when the ice was only a foot thick, but that should not be a problem this year.

Most of the ice fishing in the Brown County area takes place on lakes, but some people ice fish on the Minnesota River. Its a matter of finding the right spot.

Kuester said the backwaters of the Minnesota River are producing large crappies.

Domeier said the Minnesota River was good for walleye and some of the best fishing was under the bridges, but advised people go out with people who have experience on the river since the current can be dangerous.

The DNR guidelines state ice must be at least four inches thick to walk on foot. Ice that is five to seven inches thick can support a snowmobile or ATV. For a car, the ice needs to be eight inches thick and 12 inches for a truck. This guideline is for clear ice. For white ice or snow ice the guide lines should be doubled.