The best and biggest in the ice fishing business are coming to La Porte in February.

A North American Ice Fishing Circuit Open Qualifier is set for Feb. 11 on Pine Lake.

The NAIFC holds eight qualifying events during 2018 which feed into a championship in Minnesota. In all, NAIFC has competitions in eight states from the Dakotas to Michigan and now in Indiana.

"They had an opening and we jumped on it," Jack Arnett, director of the Laporte County Convention & Visitors Bureau, who will host the event, said. "If we can put butts in hotels in February, well, that is what we do. It will highlight La Porte and its lakes."

Jack Baker, NAIFC director expects a good turn out.

"Probably 40 teams for a first-year contest," Baker said. "Maybe 60. We typically draw (participants) from five or six states — we have some interest from Ohio, even Pennsylvania, being down your way."

Entry is $200 per two-person team. Winners are determined by total weight of eight crappie and eight sunfish during the 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. contest period. Pay-outs are large, as you'd expect with bigger than normal entry, and pay down one spot for every five entries. Complete rules and entry forms are at www.naifc.com.

"There will be traveling teams here, but typically the local guys have the home-water advantage," Baker said.

Hmmm, just 16 fish between two anglers for a championship. I may have to sharpen the ol' auger.

Baker emphasized there will be plenty of free, ice-fishing related events to get the community involved leading up to the fish-catching contest

"There will be free seminars on Friday night, which are open to the public, with our NAIFC pro staff, USA Ice Fishing Team members and representatives from the tackle industry," Baker

"On Saturday, its Kid's Ice Camp, where we start indoors to go over safety and equipment and techniques, then we go out on the ice and let them get involved. Its for entire families to learn from some of the best."

Again, Kid's Camp and the seminars will be free and open to the public.

To top the weekend off, Friends of Fishing and the LCCVB will team up to host a ice fishing contest open to the public — the Maple City Ice Fishing Classic — on Feb. 10. Details below under contests.

• Contest calendar: From the didn't-see-this-coming department ... the Steelheaders' annual Coldest Day Contest has been postponed due to the cold. The fun competition had been set for Saturday. Seems the current, prolonged arctic temperatures have locked area streams under ice.

"There's hardly any open water," chairman Mike Ryan, said. "We will reschedule in March."

A Stone Lake contest for pike, bass, bluegill and crappie is set for 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Sunday. Entry fee is $20 per person. See Ice Fiends on Facebook for additional information, or be at the Stone Lake boat launch before 6 a.m.

The Spring Lake (Hobart) chapter of the Izaak Walton League will host a ice fishining contest on Jan . 13; contact Stan 730-0496.

Friends of Fishing and the Valparaiso Parks Department will hold a contest at Loomis Lake on Jan. 20; contact Randy (219) 730-1566.

The Eagles Club of La Porte has scheduled a contest for Stone Lake on Jan. 20. Entry is $5 per fish species (4 categories). See Fraternal Order of Eagles #2439 on Facebook for flier, or call (219) 326-8540.

The 46th annual Fish Lake Ice Fishing Derby is Feb. 3; call (219) 778-2027.

The Maple City Ice Fishing Classic, put on by Friends of Fishing, is Feb. 10 on Pine and Stone Lakes. Registration starts at 5 a.m. at Cummings Lodge, weigh-in at 2 p.m. $20 entry, pay-out for largest fish in pike, bass, crappie, bluegill/redear, perch and walleye categories. Each entrant goes into a drawing for a gas auger. For more information, call (219) 510-3193.

• Ludington Workshop: The annual Ludington Regional Fisheries Workshop, one of best meetings for gathering current information on the Lake Michigan fishery, is set for Jan. 13. Topics on the agenda include ciscoe rehabilitation, salmon and trout stocking options for Michigan and updates on fish diets, quagga mussels and the coded-wire tagged chinook research. For more information, see http://www.miseagrant.umich.edu/news/2017/12/04/ludington-regional-fishery-workshop-2/

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