This year marks the 28th year for the Annual International Eelpout Festival on Leech Lake, located in Walker, Minnesota. This festival is one of THE biggest annual events in this area, drawing eelpouters from around the world. Thousands turn out for this weekend of thrills, spills, and chills, hoping to win the coveted awards and thousands of dollars in prizes.
What is an eelpout, you may ask? Some consider it to be the ugliest fish in Minnesota, others consider it to be a rich tasting delicacy sometimes referred to as "poor man's lobster". No matter which way you consider it, the eelpout festival is downright FUN!
Yes, fun and games are a major part of the of the weekend, with creative anglers setting up camp on the ice, disguising themselves as Hawaiian dancers, space aliens, cowboys, and just about anything else the inventive mind can conceive of. Events include a five mile run, a polar plunge, an on-ice auto race (the Eelpout 500), a rugby match, and a snowmobile radar run. Even those who do not succumb to fishing fever over the weekend can rest assured they will have a good time watching the antics and camaraderie that abound throughout the festival.
Local businesses thrive during the weekend, catering to eelpouters and non-eelpouters alike. Campgrounds, resorts, and motels fill up quickly, with a good section of anglers setting up weekend homes on the lake, in fish house "mansions" made especially for this event. Newspapers from around the country send reporters to catch the wildly comedic festivities. This is Northern fun at the peak of cabin fever.
Vendors abound for the "crafty" minded traveler. O'Fish'al Eelpout Festival Apparel is available on site, along with hundreds of other original and creative items that one will only find here. There is no limit to the imaginative expression of the loyal anglers who thrive on this type of competition.
Of course, all the latest technology and the newest fishing gear is displayed throughout the festivities, with professional sportsmen touting the best of their wares. This is a great place to get up on what's new and what's happening for the upcoming year, for anyone who loves the sport.
The 2007 festival runs February 16th through 18th, with a $10 entry fee. Award categories include largest 'Pout, smallest 'Pout, team tonnage, inspirational young angler, longest distance traveled, and more. Prizes are awarded in individual and team categories, with a Grand Prize of a custom made fish house valued at $5,000.
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By Jennifer L. Thompson