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2013-01-25 / Features

The Bobber Stop ice fishing contest on Ely Lake

Popular event helps those in need across the Iron Range
By Jesse White
Minnesota North Outdoors

FAYAL - The fish in Ely Lake near Eveleth, Minn. might not like the Bobber Stop but those around the Iron Range in need of some assistance sure do.

As do area anglers of all ages who have made the annual February ice fishing contest such a success since it was started in 2009 by officials at Range Transitional Housing (RTH) as a fundraiser for the organization's Furniture Donation Program.

This year's version, which will feature thousands of dollars in cash and prizes, takes place from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, on Ely Lake in Fayal Township. Entry tickets are $30 if purchased before February 10 and $40 after that.

Prizes will be awarded for the top 25 fish caught including $1,000 in cash and a Vexilar FL-22 Ultra Pack with Pro View for first place. Second through fourth places will win various Vexilar packs and fifth place will win a Vexilar Cold Snap Parka and Bibs.

The top three youth anglers will win ice fishing starter kits which include an ice house, hand auger, sled, fishing rod, and tackle tote. Anglers who catch the top 25 fish (including youth) will be automatically entered into a drawing for a 2013 Polaris Sportsman.

There is also a separate cash raffle with 500 tickets available (at $10 each) for: First place, $1,500; second place, $1,000; and third place, $500.

Tickets are available by contacting RTH at 218- 735-6324 or at Ely Lake Short Stop, Goodfellas in Eveleth and Silver Creek Liquor in Mountain Iron.

Adam Venne, Executive Director at RTH, said organizers wanted to create a contest that would become a yearly tradition when they came up with the idea for the Bobber Stop and judging by past participation it seems they have done just that.

The one-day event annually attracts 350 to 400 people and raises $5,000 to $7,000 for the worthwhile program aimed at getting furniture into the hands of area residents who need the donations the most.

"We pick up furniture donations from local businesses and community members and distribute to those in need free of charge," Venne said. "We need money to pay for staff, vehicle and storage expenses. Typically we serve about 400 people every year with that program and half of those people are kids."

The furniture program was set up to help people in need of household goods and not only serves RTH participants but also low-income households that are in need depending on availability of resources. Referrals come from St. Louis County, AEOA and Range Mental Health, among other places.

Before the contest was started in 2009, Venne said RTH was having a hard time paying for the program.

As part of this year's Bobber Stop there will be a "Kegs and Eggs" event at Goodfellas from 9 a.m. to noon which includes a free breakfast buffet and drink specials for Bobber Stop participants.

Bus rides will be available from Goodfellas to the lake between 10 a.m. and noon and back to Goodfellas from 2:30 to 4 p.m. There is also free parking at 7487 Ely Lake Drive (the Ely Lake Aviation Landing Strip).

An awards ceremony and prize giveaway will be held at Goodfellas after the contest.

Venne said that last year there was almost $22,000 in prizes and that if you do the math it becomes obvious that contest organizers give out a lot more in prizes than they take in for entry fees.

"(That is) thanks to our sponsors and donations from other individuals and businesses in the community," Venne said. Some major sponsors include Minnesota Ore Operations United States Steel, Goodfellas, Short Stop, Silver Creek Liquor, Miller Lite distributed by Norri, Ely Lake Aviation and Herc- U-Lift, among others.

Venne said he hopes this is the most successful contest yet.

"This will be our fifth year, the previous four years have been pretty consistent from about 375 to 415 people. The last few years there were typically 60 to 70 fish caught. Usually smallmouth bass and perch," he said. "We are hoping for more than 400 (participants) this year so we can raise more money."

He also said the Bobber Stop is a great family event.

"We have the bonus Youth Division for youth who do not place in the top five spots. We have three really nice fishing packages for them. And they are still eligible for the four wheeler and other prizes if they get in the top 25," Venne said. "Normally we have other prizes to hand out to the youth like fishing rods and other door prizes. Typically there are quite a few kids signed up. Two years ago an 8-year-old won the four wheeler."

More information is available at

Jesse White is publisher/editor of Minnesota North Outdoors ( and has a Facebook page of the same name. A long-time and award-winning outdoor writer, Jesse is an avid hunter and angler and enjoys guns and archery.

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