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Organizers are hoping the second time's a charm for a national-level ice fishing tournament scheduled for the weekend of Feb. 9 and 10 on Lake Maxinkuckee -- and if recent temperatures, and the ice forming on the lake as of press time are any indication, they may get their wish.
Last year's North American Ice Fishing Circuit (NAIFC) sponsored tournament, which was rescheduled multiple times in hopes of enough ice forming, had to be canceled due to the unusually mild weather conditions, which never did result in a frozen Lake Maxinkuckee. And while this year's winter has fallen far short of many in the past, in terms of ice-inducing weather, it certainly seems an improved prognosis.
The Culver Chamber of Commerce and Marshall County Tourism are partnering with the NAIFC to make the event happen, which will require four to five inches of ice on the lake, according to Chamber president Tony Sellers.
"They're hopeful with the weather," he says, adding anything above five inches will allow fishermen's ATVs and other vehicles onto the ice.
There's a $21,000 payout for the event, which is hoped to draw as many as 150 teams from multiple states. In fact, teams from six states are already registered on the NAIFC's website (check www.naifc.com/eventlist.php) and look for Lake Maxinkuckee. TV crews will also be in town, as the event is planned to be televised on the Versus! cable TV network.
Local ice fishermen are welcome to register online and participate as well; registration deadline is set for Friday, Feb. 8. The tournament rules and other info may be found online at www.naifc.com/rules.php.
Also of interest to the local public is a free seminar Friday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. Billed as "round table discussions with a variety of tournament anglers," the seminar program "is geared toward educating fishers to the world of tournaments ice fishing and the best products in the industry. The seminar is open to the public and free of charge."
On Saturday morning, a Cabela's Kids Event will start, outside the beach lodge in the town park, with an in-class tutorial at 10 a.m., followed by an opportunity for children to try their hand at ice fishing for free.
"NAIFC Pro Staff will promote fishing education through demonstration in classroom tutorials," explains the website. "Parents must accompany their kids during the event. The kids and parents will then be invited to fish on Lake Maxinkuckee with the NAIFC Pro Staff. Equipment will be provided. This is an outdoor event; please dress for the weather...each youth will receive a HT Enterprises Ice Rod and promotional items for their future ice fishing adventures. Winter Fishing and introduction to the newest technology will give the parent and child a first look at ice fishing."
Sunday's indoor weigh-in for participating fisherman starts at 2 p.m.
The event's main location will be the depot - train station on Lake Shore Drive, according to Sellers.
Obviously an influx of so many fishermen, TV crews, and national-level exposure is hoped to be a boon to local businesses and tourism, not only over the Feb. 8 weekend, but on an ongoing basis as well. Sellers and the Chamber also hope the event will not only become an annual one, but will also increase interest in visiting Culver during the traditionally slow, quiet non-summer months.
The hope, says Sellers, has always been to transition the tournament into a Culver winter festival with a variety of events and offerings for the entire community.
"Hopefully we'll grow this thing into more," he adds.