An estimated 7,000 people attended the seventh annual Battle on Bago Saturday in Oshkosh, where the biggest ice fishing tournament in the country drew ice fishing enthusiasts from near and far.
For the first time, Battle on Bago added an extra day to the event. It more than doubled its ticket sales and proceeds, as organizers said 8,500 tickets were sold and an estimated $300,000 was raised.
Fourteen stations were set up inside a heated tent to weigh fish in about 10 seconds, and organizers said the scales could weigh some 2,500 fish per hour. About 600 fish were weighed Friday, and organizers expected 4,000-5,000 more on Saturday.
A steady flow of competitors came to submit their heaviest walleye, white bass, burbot, perch or other fish, then grabbed a bite to eat, a cold beer or just warmed up under layers of winter gear.
There were $160,000 in cash and prizes for the 700 heaviest fish, as well as numerous raffle prizes. Competitors eyed up a 2013 Ford F-150 and two Lund fishing boats.
Amy Zalewski came from Stevens Point with some friends. She fished about three miles out on Lake Winnebago throughout the day Friday and started again at 6 a.m. Saturday. Like many, she was hoping to win a Lund boat.
More photos from Battle on Bago
View photos from Friday at Battle on Bago.
She said she likes ice fishing because it’s a lot of frozen fun.
“I roast all summer long waiting for winter,” Zalewski said.
All ages were out on the lake, which looked like a neighborhood of ice shanties.
Stephanie Bouchard and Kimberly Schroeder, of Freedom, came to cheer on a few of their friends out on the ice. It was their first time to the event, which they didn’t know had so many people attending.
“I didn’t realize you could have so many ice shanties,” Bouchard said. “It’s like a town over there.”
Glenn Curran, Vice President of Commercial Banking at Associated Bank in Oshkosh and founding group member of Battle on Bago, said the tournament is successful because it’s a group effort.
“It’s just been a group effort all around the lake,” he said. “All the fishing clubs, all the volunteers.”
Battle on Bago was started in 2007 by the Oshkosh Southwest Rotary to support area youth and conservation efforts in Wisconsin.
According to Curran, $493,000 has been raised since its formation to benefit 20 youth fishing events, and in 2009 the committee started working with area high schools to either form or enhance outdoor programs.
The tournament benefits conservation efforts through Walleyes for Tomorrow, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and numerous conservation clubs that are involved in the event.
This year the Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services was added into the proceeds. Fish that people didn’t want to keep were donated and put in packages to feed four people.
Travis Moore and Peter Doman, friends from Brillion and Lomira, weren’t having too much luck early Saturday, but said the fun of ice fishing is the camaraderie.
They weren’t aware of how much the event benefits other people.
“It makes you wanna do it even more,” Moore said.
They said the format of the random prizes makes it even more fun, because everyone has a chance to win.
Noell Dickmann: (920) 426-6658 or firstname.lastname@example.org