The World’s Original Ice Fishing Contest was first held in 1947 and quickly became one of White Bear Lake’s most popular winter traditions. Each year, the White Bear Rod and Gun Club would coordinate the event—some years with co-sponsors. Organizers were surprised by the response from the several hundred people who came out that first year. That was nothing compared to the 2,196 anglers who set the record in 1948 for the largest participation in a single sporting event. From there, things continued to flourish. For many years the contest was an official event of the St. Paul Winter Carnival and attracted people from all over Minnesota and beyond.
Thousands of contestants, from as far away as the southern states and New York, as well as from St. Paul and the surrounding metro area, competed annually for prizes that included fishing boats and other gear. In 1968, 16-year-old White Bear resident Kay Rukavina won the top honors.
The ice fishing contest continued into the 1980s. In 2010, it returned for one season, but there are no current plans to continue the event.
Today, the Bear’ly Open golf tournament is White Bear’s participation in the St. Paul Winter Carnival.
Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society. She will be sharing history thoughts monthly on this back page.