February 20, 2014
It’s the International Eelpout Festival once again and we can feel the energy here in town! This tradition is now in its 30th year and goes from today until February 23.
Leech Lake is 112,000 acres of good ice fishing, but it can get lonely since Walker only has a population of 1,069. Solution? Our community has invited 13,000 of our closest friends to form a crazy city-on-the-ice and celebrate with dance parties, auto racing, plenty of beer, and, oh yeah, also some ice fishing.
“It’s basically everybody from all over the upper Midwest,” publicist Michael Deering says. “It’s a never ending line of people.”
There are many other fish in the lake, but at this festival, the eelpout—an ugly bottom feeder with a chin whisker—is king. To compete to catch fish, you must have an International Eelpout Festival Button, which can be purchased at the Walker City Park or at participating Walker area businesses. Prizes will be awarded for the biggest ‘pout caught, most total tonnage, and also the best shelter.
About those: they’re incredible. One of the best parts of the festival is seeing how creative people can get with their ice houses.
“I’ve seen trailers of lumber,” Deering says, “Contractors who come and build their own encampment. It’s a double decker building with a full bar and a dance floor and a DJ system. It’s just amazing.”
Of course, that’s a lot of work. It’s a lot easier to stay at an affordable luxury resort. We can recommend one if you’re curious. We’re full this year, but we’re already booking next year if you’re “hooked!”
But enough about us. Live music, fish fries, mechanical bull riding, and a beer pong tournament provide a festive atmosphere, and there are also family friendly events like the Polar Pout Plunge and the EelPout 500 Races (both February 22). It’s wild, it’s crazy, and it’s very Leech Lake.
“You can just hear the buzz coming from the area,” Deering says. “I think we’re going to have another huge year.”