Cheating In an Ice Fishing Tournament? Only In Minnesota! [Updated]

In today’s news environment, it is hard to be shocked. But I was taken aback by this headline: Brainerd Jaycees investigate possible cheating at ice fishing tournament. Is nothing sacred?

For the first time since the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza was launched in 1991, a major investigation is underway to determine whether some of this year’s competing anglers, including the winner of a new pickup truck, deceived contest organizers.

Contest officials confirmed this week that they are investigating whether three men from Ohio, a father, a son and another relative, legitimately caught the fish they say they did, earning first, third and 98th places among the 150 prize winners on Jan. 27.

It wouldn’t have occurred to me to cheat in an ice fishing contest, but if a new pickup is at stake, perhaps anything is possible. And Brainerd’s competition apparently is the biggest anywhere:

The Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza is billed as the largest ice-fishing contest in the world. An estimated 12,000 anglers were on Gull Lake a week ago Saturday, attracting local, regional and national media attention, including from Sports Illustrated, which published a major online photo spread of this year’s contest.

The Brainerd Ice Fishing Extravaganza

But how do you cheat at ice fishing? The Strib article explains:

Volunteers patrol a cordoned-off area where anglers must fish, but the presence of so many anglers makes the task challenging. And while competition doesn’t begin until noon, countless anglers begin lining up as early as 7 a.m. to ensure they get their choice of the 20,000 holes volunteers drill in the fishing area the day before.
Entry-point volunteers attempted to check anglers’ equipment and coolers, Ruttger said. But the vast number of contest participants made the job difficult.
Anyone trying to sneak a fish into the area would have to keep it alive long enough to get it into the water without being seen by other anglers or contest volunteers. To be counted for a prize, the fish must be alive when registered.

It’s also possible, Meyer said, that someone could sneak onto the ice the night before the contest to leave a live fish in a hole.

Sounds doubtful, even with a pickup in the balance. And the suspects from Ohio say they are willing to take a lie detector test. But no matter how the investigation turns out, we can chalk up another first for Minnesota: we are the only state where ice fishing is a serious enough sport to have to worry about cheating.

UPDATE: Whew! The three fishermen from Ohio who were suspected of cheating in Brainerd’s ice fishing contest have passed lie detector tests and been cleared to retain their prizes. It is good to know that the sport of ice fishing remains pure, at least in Minnesota.