Canadians Rusty Heron, left, and Erick Hodgins, right, stand with Midwest Open Ice Fishing Tournament organizer Jim Knutson following their win Jan. 31, 2016 at Columbia Central High School.
The annual Midwest Open Ice Fishing Tournament near Brooklyn has been postponed for two weeks.
Mother Nature has kept the area on a Yo-Yo this winter. Temperatures nearing 60 degrees swept through last week destroying ice conditions in the area.
The two-man tournament that pays $20,100 to the winning team is scheduled for Devils Lake near Addison, Mich. The 2016 tournament was moved from Devils Lake to Wamplers Lake due to ice conditions.
“The tournament is tentatively still a go right now at Devils Lake,” tournament organizer Tom Knutson said. “Mother Nature keeps throwing warmups at us.”
“I will spend Friday Feb. 3 looking at the ice conditions.”
Knutson said he will make the call at that time based on ice conditions.
“We will not make a second attempt to move the event if the Feb. 12 date is a no go,” Knutson said. “If the tournament is cancelled, I will announce the 2018 date at that time.
Teams have until 5 p.m. on Feb. 3 to make any changes to team members or cancel out of the event.
The annual tournament has become a nationwide event, with a prize money and merchandise of more than $35,000. A change in the draw system a few years ago allowed anglers from all over the United States to enter the one-day tournament. Teams are scheduled to be coming from 11 different states and Canada for the tournament.
Last year Canadians Rusty Heron and Erick Hodgins became the first non-Michigan anglers to win the top prize.
The tournament features a rule meeting Saturday, Feb. 11, with more than $10,000 in door prizes. Fishing will start Sunday Feb. 12, at 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Devils Lake and a weigh-in at Columbia Central Junior and Senior High School at 2:30 p.m. The top weight of eight crappies and eight bluegills will win the top prize of $20,100.
Knutson said there will be an increase in the overall prizes.
“The prizes will be the best ever, coming from every angle,” Knutson said. “The tournament format is starting to catch on.”
Case in point, the Minnesota State Panfish Championship will be held Feb. 25 with a 75-team tournament using the same format. Knutson said winners in that tournament will be qualifiers in the 2018 Midwest Open Ice Fishing Tournament.