Aerial view


Aerial view of the 2019 Fishing for Ducks festivities on Mille Lacs.

The Superbowl will soon be over, what little ice fishing going on around these parts is in the doldrums or non-existent and whether or not the groundhog shadow myth is true, it’s a long time until spring really blossoms. For duck hunters it’s worse. Their season is over and won’t kick in for months. It’s time for a road trip.

Most people think of heading south in the winter, following the ducks or perhaps hoping to find some fish not in a winter stupor, but those who are winter hardy anglers, especially those who are lovers of ducks and extra-especially those who want a way to combine the two — along with a party attended by 4,000 other people may consider a trip north.

Ducks Unlimited in Garrison, Minnesota, will sponsor its 16th annual Fishing for Ducks ice fishing contest on Mille Lacs Lake from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15. The event is the largest Ducks Unlimited event in the nation. Last year about 4,000 people attended enjoying fishing, food, prizes and music on the frozen lake. When the last fish was filleted and the final ice hole skimmed over with ice, the attendees had raised $200,000 for wetlands conservation.

Many of the attendees came home with more than just some walleye or perch fillets. Fishing for Ducks will have more than $100,000 in awards as well as chances to win a variety of other prizes with on-ice raffles.

It’s also a fishing contest, paying out $20,000 for first place, three Polaris Sportsman 450 ATVs and numerous additional prizes to the icers skilled enough or lucky enough to pull in the “big one” or big ones.

From this area, a participant could leave at sunrise on Friday, Feb. 14, eat a quick lunch near Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and be in Garrison in time for the kick-off party at the VFW Post, which starts at 5 p.m. If you have pre-purchased your entry online for Saturday’s Fishing for Ducks event, the party is free!

Proceeds benefit conservation efforts by Ducks Unlimited, the world’s largest wetlands and waterfowl conservation organization. Ducks Unlimited’s conservation programs have always had a strong biological foundation. That science and research tradition continues today with hundreds of studies to address the habitat needs of waterfowl.

Although a great deal of work has been done and many important questions answered, there is still much to learn about how the birds respond to landscape, habitat and environmental changes.

Originally, DU purchased specific properties in major waterfowl breeding areas and developed or restored them. These days, it’s more common for Ducks Unlimited to partner with private or public landowners to develop or restore properties for the benefit of waterfowl and other wildlife, then allow the local land managers protect and maintain the properties.

Ducks Unlimited got its start in 1937 during the Dust Bowl when North America’s drought-plagued waterfowl populations had plunged to unprecedented lows. Determined not to sit idly by as the continent’s waterfowl dwindled beyond recovery, a small group of sportsmen joined together to form an organization that became known as Ducks Unlimited. Its mission: habitat conservation.

Thanks to more than 80 years of abiding by that single mission, Ducks Unlimited is now the world’s largest and most effective private, nonprofit, waterfowl and wetlands conservation organization. DU is able to deliver its work through a series of partnerships with private individuals, landowners, agencies, scientific communities and other entities.

Waterfowl are not the only beneficiaries of DU’s habitat work. Wetlands improve the overall health of our environment by recharging and purifying groundwater, moderating floods and reducing soil erosion. Wetlands are North America’s most productive ecosystems, providing critical habitat to more than 900 wildlife species and invaluable recreation opportunities for people to enjoy.

Mille Lacs has many species of fish including walleye, northern pike, muskie, jumbo perch, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, black crappie, burbot, and tullibee. An easy drive north from the Twin Cities, it is one of Minnesota’s most popular fishing lakes and due to it’s huge size, it contains plenty of fish.

For rules, tickets and photos of previous events, visit or on Facebook at