Rising temps claim eelpout festival tradition

Sit right down here, sonny, and let your old grandpa tell you about the time we drove cars and trucks onto the ice on Leech Lake for the annual Eelpout Festival.

See, back then it got cold enough around here for lakes to freeze so we thought nothing about driving out, drilling a hole and trying to catch a fish to win a prize.

Or, as a county commissioner once called it “the biggest drunk in the state,” but that’s a story I’ll tell you when you’re older.

Here. Look.

Caution: Obscenities ahead.

The sheriff isn’t going to let vehicles onto the ice this year and who knows whether it’ll ever happen again? He says the ice is too thin to sustain the traffic, the Star Tribune reports.

Organizers are none too happy.

The Duluth News Tribune says organizers insist the ice is two feet thick.

“That hurts all the businesses in town, from the local minnow guy to propane suppliers to the guy renting fish houses,” Jared Olson, who heads the festival, said. “This is a big decision.”

It might be good news for the people who have to pick up the trash when it’s over.

[Update 10:01 a.m. 2/14/17]- News release from organizers on clean-up plan:

A recently approved plan initiated by organizers of this year’s 38th Annual Eelpout Festival and approved by the Leech Lake Association and Cass County Board will ensure proper cleanup of the lake from the festival, taking place February 23 – 26.

Walker Eelpout Festival, LLC has voluntarily hired a third-party contractor to clean up during the festival. The contractor was recommended by the Leech Lake Association, and approved for use by the Cass County Board.

“It’s a huge priority to us that we leave no trace. Certainly, we want guests to enjoy themselves and continue the beloved tradition of the Eelpout Festival, but we also want to go the extra mile to protect the lake and we are very confident this crew will do a thorough and efficient job,” says Jared Olson, Event Organizer.

As part of the agreement between Eelpout Organizers and Cass County officials, the Festival area will be inspected on Monday, February 27th, when the contractor has completed the work. If additional cleanup is required after the event, only deposits from the other permit holders at the festival will be available to recover expenses.