Wild Party Celebrates Ugliest Fish In America

Walker, Minnesota’s annual International Eelpout Festival is a cross between the Bassmaster Classic and Mardi Gras.

Today and for the next three days, during the International Eelpout Festival, thousands of fishermen, spectators and partiers will gather on Leech Lake, Minnesota, to celebrate what many call the “world’s ugliest fish,” the eelpout.

Known by other names, such as “lawyer” and “burbot,” the eelpout is related to the cod, but spends its life in freshwater. And the Pout Festival, as the event is popularly known, does include a fishing contest, complete with prizes for the heaviest eelpout, Individual Tonnage and Team Tonnage, where up to 20 team members attempt to amass the heaviest total weight during the contest.

But the real draw—what brings thousands of cabin-fevered folks out of their cozy homes each year—is the chance to party like Monday will never come. Even 73-year-old Pout Festival founder Ken Bresley admits that “consuming huge amounts of alcohol” was a foremost focus when the first event was held in 1979.

A quick look at the list of presenting sponsors, Coors Light, Windsor Canadian Whiskey, UV Vodka and Ice Hole Vodka, confirms that the partaking of adult beverages is still a major activity among festival goers. But nowadays, it all happens around a long list of outrageous, enter-at-your-own-risk events, such as the Polar Pout Plunge, the Eelpout 500 on-ice auto race, eelpout curling and rugby (separate events, of course), and the highly popular Bikini Ice Fishing Show.

This weekend’s weather forecast for Walker calls for high temps ranging between 3 degrees below zero and a balmy 9 above, but that won’t keep these hardy Northerners from enjoying themselves at the most unique fishing event in the world.

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