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National ice fishing tourney coming to Mitchell

Two ice fishermen are silhouetted against the ice as the sun begins to set over a frozen Lake Mitchell in this December 2011 file photo. (Daily Republic file photo)

Get ready to battle the cold, and some big bluegills.

Lake Mitchell will be the site of a national ice fishing tournament next winter, according to Mitchell Parks and Recreation Director Dusty Rodiek.

The tournament will be held Feb. 1 at Lake Mitchell and hosted by the North American Ice Fishing Circuit. It will be preceded by two other events -- a Jan. 30 ice fishing education program open to the public at Cabela's and a Jan. 31 youth education program known as Ice Camp.

The tournament will be one of several qualifying tournaments held by the NAIFC, at which two-person teams of competitive anglers attempt to qualify for the organization's national championship.

"It's one of the more elite series out there," Rodiek said of the NAIFC tournaments.

Rodiek said the tournament will be a great promotional opportunity for the city and the lake.

"It will be a destination for the high-caliber fisherman who fish in these tournaments," Rodiek said. "It will really showcase our lake, too. We've got great fishing here."

The tournament will be open to anybody, but there will be a $200 entry fee per team, Rodiek said.

Rodiek hopes as many as 40 two-person teams will compete in the tournament, which would mean more visitors for the city's businesses during a typically slow time of the year.

Participants in the tournament will try and put forward their eight best bluegills and eight best crappies. Payouts to the top teams will be based on the number of entrants.

The city will pay $1,000 to NAIFC to host the tournament, plus $100 for each team that enters, Rodiek said.

"The economic benefit will far outweigh the cost," Rodiek said.

The expense of hosting the tournament will be paid by the city's sports authority, which was created last year when a new $1-per-night tax on occupied hotel and motel rooms in the city began to be imposed.

Other cities in the state have hosted NAIFC tournaments in the past, including Watertown and Aberdeen. Rodiek said he has been in contact with the organizers of the tournaments for several years trying to bring a tournament to Mitchell.

Rodiek envisions the tournament returning to the city in future years, if this first year goes well.

"I would like to see that happen," he said. "We'll see how successful it is and if the sports authority continues to support it."