NEW ULM - Although this warm winter hasn't been a stereotypical one in which a person usually thinks about ice fishing, the sport is still thriving in above average temperatures.
Today at Clear Lake, the New Ulm Area Sports Fishermen is putting on its 25th annual ice fishing contest. The contest begins at 11 a.m. with registration at 10:30 a.m. The cost is $5 per person.
The contest itself will have food and refreshments available on the lake and there will be an ice golf driving range with cash prizes. There are also five grand prizes available, including an Aqua-Vu underwater camera, a Canadian fishing trip for two, a portable fish house, a power ice auger and a Dixon Lake Resort fishing trip for four.
The New Ulm Area Sport Fishermen hold an ice fishing contest on Clear Lake every winter.
The group encourages children to take part in the events and also hosts a kids fishing contest on the Minnesota River in New Ulm in August.
The ice fishing contest on Clear Lake
There will be prizes for the biggest fish. First place is a trophy and $30, second place is $20 and third place will be awarded $10. For panfish, a trophy and $30 will be awarded for first place, $20 for second and $10 for third. The event draws about 800 participants every year.
For more information, call club president Jason Kuester at 507-381-2041 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Club Itself
New Ulm Area Sports Fishermen
Club Benefits and Activities
All monies, dues, and goods donated are tax deductible.
Monthly meetings of full membership on last Thursday of the month.
Free club cap and membership card with membership.
Club building and grounds for meetings and member usage.
Club fishing boat for use by members.
Ice fishing houses on area lakes for member use.
Yearly ice fishing trip to northern Minnesota.
Summer fishing contest.
Annual Winter fishing contest.
The "Stoney" Award given annually for an outstanding membership performance.
The New Ulm Area Sports Fisherman organization was formed in 1986. Currently the club has almost 200 members with an open membership and the club owns, operates and is in charge of maintenance of Clear Lake Aeration System.
Jason Kuester is the president of the club and has been for the last four years.
Kuester said the club has many events that it hosts throughout the year to get people of all ages involved with both fishing and keeping the lakes and rivers clean.
"We also host the kids fishing contest down on the (Minnesota) river which is held in August and we do a coalition for river clean-up and that's one of our spring time events," Kuester said. "We go around and clean all the storm drains in the spring and we do leaf and bag pick up and that helps keep phosphorus out of the river."
They also help at Riverblast and they do riverbend clean-up projects. The club is an active participant in fish management for Clear Lake in Brown County.
There are also scholarships available each year for students who are thinking about a career in the DNR. They typically give away three to five scholarships each year for students in a 30-mile radius.
This year is the club's 25th anniversary, they're also giving away a $10,000 ice fishing house. They are selling raffle tickets at the ice fishing contest for $20 apiece starting at 10:30 a.m. and tickets will be available until 3 p.m.
The club prides itself on keeping area lakes and rivers clean. This means that each of the members spends about 50 hours each year cleaning up garbage, leaves and other debris along the river or lake shores.
Kuester said that a lot of casual fishermen in the area comment on how clean the lakes and rivers are because of their efforts and he's also trying to get more kids involved with the clean-up.
"A lot of people are just excited to see someone taking the time and the initiative to help," Kuester said. "We try to get the kids involved, that's one thing we try to do is educate the kids, because if we're going to change this society around in 10 years, we need to start from the ground up."
The club will do an event for children with special needs this coming year. Kuester said to watch in the paper later this summer for more information.
"What we're doing is we're going to take some of the kids with special needs and take them on to a private pond so they can fish," Kuester said. "It's going to be a summer time event, depending on the weather too."
Since being a member of the New Ulm Area Sports Fishermen group, Kuester has loved every minute of it. He said it's a rewarding experience for anyone who may want to join.
"It's awesome," he said. "What makes this whole thing rewarding is taking my kids down to the river and seeing how clean it is and seeing how people are helping in keeping it clean. The other thing is, doing this for nine years, seeing those kids come back and have a fishing pole that they won there [at a fishing contest]. They may have won it when they were six, and now they are 10 and seeing the impact it's had on them."