A day after wintry winds swept across the state, a decades-old ice fishing contest has been canceled due to lack of ice.

The Maple Lake Ice Fishing Derby has been hosted on its namesake lake for more than 40 years with only one cancellation, but event organizers announced Monday the event will not happen this year due to “inconsistent” ice thickness.

The Wright County tradition, which usually draws 8,000 to 9,000 participants, already was pushed from its original date of Feb. 6 to Feb. 20 because of thin ice.

Ice conditions are poor because inconsistent temperatures have made it difficult for a thick layer of ice to form, said Sgt. Brian Johnson of the Wright County Sheriff’s Department.

In heavily traveled spots, such as lake access points where vehicles track in salt and sand, ice thins to only 3 inches, Johnson said.

“The safety of our volunteers, sponsors and participants has always been our primary concern,” said Greg Thomes, chairman of the Lake Property Owners Association committee organizing the event.

Ice on much of the lake is reported to be from 13 to 15 inches thick, which fits Minnesota Department of Natural Resources guidelines for ice fishing. However, it is considered too thin for some trucks and other large vehicles.

Some fishing houses used during the contest weigh around 7,000 pounds, Thomes said, and require a truck to bring them out to the lake, making them unsafe for thin ice. While almost all events are canceled, Thomes said organizers are still planning to raffle off a fishing house.


Ben Farniok is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.