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More than $125,000 in prizes up for grabs

The American Legion Fishing Derby returns to Park Rapids on Feb. 4.

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Bob Ford of Park Rapids came equipped for a day on the ice, with a portable shelter, a depth finder and a heater to battle the bitter cold during the 2022 American Legion fishing derby on Fish Hook Lake.
Park Rapids Enterprise file photo

The 24th annual Park Rapids American Legion Fishing Derby is more than an ice-fishing contest.

Besides prizes for catching fish, ticket holders can also win drawings for additional prizes.

“It’s a huge thing for the community,” said derby coordinator Kasey Krautkremer. “It brings a lot of people to this town, for the restaurants and the hotels, things like that. Not to mention all the money that we get, that eventually goes back into the community.”

Krautkremer stressed that Legion is “not just a bar that makes money and puts it in their pocket. They give most of it away,” using its fundraiser proceeds to buy prizes for the derby and to donate “tons of money to all sorts of groups around the area” throughout the year.

The festivities begin with the welcome dance from 7:30 p.m. to midnight Friday, Feb. 3 at American Legion Post 212, with Two Weeks Notice providing live music. Meanwhile, starting at 6 p.m., 42 prizes totaling $5,000 in value will be given out, with free tickets going to everyone who walks in the door and everyone who buys a drink.

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Events surrounding the derby on Saturday, Feb. 4 include:

  • A breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. at the post, hosted by the Sons of the American Legion.
  • The Legion Leap at 11 a.m. on Fish Hook Lake, a polar plunge-like event where people can jump into a hole in the ice to raise funds for the Lakes Area Dive Team. “They’re actually going to be putting it on,” said Krautkremer, adding that they’ll be in the water to make sure everyone who jumps in is OK. “All proceeds go right to them.” Registration and pledge sheets are available at the post or at www.facebook.com/ParkRapidsMNAmericanLegionPost212.
  • The Post 212 fundraiser lunch, served from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • The presentation of fishing prizes and raffle drawings, starting at 5 p.m. at the post.
  • The American Legion Fisherman’s Ball from 8 p.m. to midnight at the post. The band is DJ and the Atomics.

Out on the ice

Of course, the main event is the ice-fishing contest, running from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on Fish Hook Lake.

There are more prizes available this year for catching big fish in all four divisions – bluegill, sunfish and crappie; northern, walleye and largemouth bass; perch; and rock bass. Cash prizes of $2,500 will go to the ticket holder catching the largest qualifying fish in each class, followed by $1,000 for second place, $500 for third, $450 for fourth, $400 for fifth, $350 for sixth, $300 for seventh, $250 for eighth, $200 for ninth, $150 for 10th and $100 each for 11th through 20th place.

Krautkremer noted there used to be cash prizes for places 1-10 in each division, with $5,000 as the top prize. “We added 10 more slots at the back half,” he said, so “there’s 20 fish per category that you can win money on. A lot more people will win prizes this year.”

Also, whoever catches the 20th largest fish overall will receive an Ice Castle fish house from Smokey Hills Outdoor Store, and a $2,000 prize goes to the seller of the winning Ice Castle ticket.

Extra hole tickets will also be available on the ice, and will be entered in a separate raffle for five fish finders and five ice augers.

According to Krautkremer, said the ice has yet to reach the required 15-inch thickness for the event – although the wind earlier this winter has helped clear a lot of snow off the ice. “Which is a good thing,” he said, “because it gets rid of that insulator of snow. It helps the ice. We just need some cold temps and we’ll be good to go. I have a ton of people watching the ice and letting me know.”

Krautkremer noted that Shawn Hagen does the plowing and hole drilling for the event, setting up a perimeter and rows with snow ridges between them.

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Reichert Bus of Baxter will be providing shuttle service between the Legion post and the lake throughout the contest.

Besides the dive team, Krautkremer also acknowledged the Park Rapids Fire Department, which will be setting up gates and snow fences and helping with the Legion Leap, so no one accidentally falls in; first responders, who will be driving around to make sure everyone is safe; the Hubbard County Mounted Posse, who will be at the gate, checking to make sure nothing is brought in against the rules; and city police and county deputies, who will also be helping out.

Back at the post

Besides fishing prizes, 82 raffle prizes are being given away this year at the Legion’s 5 p.m. awards presentation. The grand prize is a side-by-side from Up North Power & Sports.

In past years, the derby’s grand prize drawing was for a gift certificate to buy a new vehicle at a local car dealer, alternating between Park Rapids Ford and Thielen Motors. Krautkremer said they changed this for 2023, due to issues with the availability of vehicles.

“This year,” he said, “we bought a 2022 Polaris four-seater General, fully loaded, and that’s what we’re giving away.”

Other raffle prizes include:

  • Prize bundles and gift cards from various sponsoring businesses, ranging in value from $100 to $1,500.
  • A Polaris ATV from the American Legion and Up North Power & Sports.
  • Two portable fish houses, two cookout grills, and two kayaks.
  • A rustic furniture piece, a recliner and a piece of custom woodwork.
  • A golf package and some overnight hotel or casino stays. 
  • A pair of water skis with rope, an inner tube with towing rope and a fishing reel.
  • A pizza oven, a microwave, a buddy heater and a dehydrator/sealer.
  • A car cleanup, a load of gravel and a roll-off dumpster.
  • An electric filet knife and a Bubba knife.
  • Some newspaper subscriptions, helmets, sweatshirts, etc.

The value of this year’s fishing and raffle prizes totals over $125,000. Krautkremer called this a bit higher than last year, with more prizes overall.
“Last year, we sold 3,431 tickets,” said Krautkremer. “That doesn’t mean that’s how many people were fishing, but that’s how many tickets were sold.”

He said they’ve printed 5,000 tickets this year.

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Tickets are available at the American Legion (218-732-3360), local bait stores and other businesses throughout the area and beyond, about 70 locations in all.

“And there’s no fishing out of the polar plunge hole!” Krautkremer added with a laugh. “That’s in the rules!”

Visit americanlegionderby.com for more information, including full fishing contest rules and to view live results during the derby.

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