GRAND FORKS — For the first time in its 37-year history, the Devils Lake Volunteer Fire Department’s Ice Fishing Tournament has been canceled, but the raffle portion of the big event will go on virtually, organizers say.

There just wasn’t enough ice to safely hold the tournament, which draws thousands of anglers onto frozen Six-Mile Bay of Devils Lake, said Cory Meyer, a member of the Devils Lake Volunteer Fire Department’s tournament committee.

“It’s good ice, it’s just that conditions weren’t good enough for us to have the fishing tournament itself out there,” Meyer said. “We’re a fire department, we preach safety, so we have to err on the side of caution.”

The tournament was scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 30. Combined with a huge raffle event traditionally held that night in the Devils Lake Memorial Building, the tournament is the fire department’s largest fundraiser.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Organizers already had canceled in-person indoor activities associated with the tournament, including the raffle, because of crowd restrictions and risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Meyer said.

“Unfortunately, Mother Nature must have COVID, as well, because she’s had a fever, and it hasn’t been very cold,” Meyer said.

With the cancellation, the fishing and raffle prizes both will be awarded during a virtual drawing set for 7 p.m. Saturday. The drawing will be streamed online, over the Devils Lake cable access channel and on local radio, Meyer said. This year’s event features more than $325,000 in prizes, including the grand raffle prize of a 2021 Chevrolet crew cab pickup, and a Ford Bronco Sport that originally would have been awarded to the lucky angler catching the fourth-largest northern pike.

The fishing prizes will be awarded first, Meyer said, and all of the winning tickets will go back in the barrel for the raffle drawing.

“You can win a Bronco Sport ‘fishing’ on your couch” instead of on the ice, he said. “It is what it is.”

The Fire Department’s ice fishing tournament is one of the largest events in the Lake Region and has a big economic impact, said Suzie Kenner, executive director of Devils Lake Tourism.

The Fire Department annually sells all 22,500 tickets, which cost $25 each, weeks in advance. That alone generates $562,500, Kenner said. If 3,000 local anglers and 2,000 nonlocals fish the tournament, the resulting economic impact is more than $1.3 million, Kenner said, citing estimates compiled from a North Dakota State University report.