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Harry Smith: Anglers Fish for the Big One

More than 9,500 anglers competed in the world's largest ice fishing contest in Brainerd, Minn.

. When it comes to winter, Minnesotans pretty much think the rest of us are wimps. With a daytime high of about 2 degrees on Jan. 25, almost 10,000 people showed up on Gull Lake to fish. The annual Brainerd Ice Fishing Extravaganza is a big deal because whoever catches the biggest fish wins a pickup truck. And while it may look like it, it is no day at the beach. The cold hard truth is that most people don't catch a thing. Ice fishing is less about fish than it is about beer, and buddies. It is Minnesotans staring into the icy void, with unbending faith that somewhere down there is the catch of their dreams. The big one. The legend maker. Or not. Some of the trophies were barely bigger than bait. And Minnesotans once again proved to the rest of that we need not be casualties of the cold, but conquerors. -- Harry Smith, NBC News. Ackerman and Gruber / for NBC News

. Anglers look like colorful dots in an aerial photo taken at the world's largest ice fishing contest. More than 9,500 anglers competed in the fishing tournament that benefits local charities in the Brainerd area. Ackerman and Gruber / for NBC News

. Icicles gather on Greg Schroenghamer's mustache during the event. Anglers competed for one of 150 prizes valued at more than $200,000. Ackerman and Gruber / for NBC News

. 'Alaska Bushman' Mark Braaten poses for a portrait. Eager anglers braved near-single digit temps for their chance to win prizes. Ackerman And Gruber / for NBC News

. A walleye caught by Daniel Schwanke measured just under 23 inches and weighed 4.17 lbs. That was good enough for second place in the contest. Schwanke won a new Arctic Cat ATV with his catch. The winning fish was a 4.73 lb. walleye, caught by Art Karskoy of Nisswa, Minn. Ackerman and Gruber / for NBC News

. Tony Loosbrock walks around Gull Lake with a horse's head during the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza. Contestants had a chance to win generators, golf getaways, ice augers, a fish house, space heaters and polar suits, among other prizes. Ackerman and Gruber / for NBC News

. John Kolbe, owner of Sleepy Eye Pottery and Garment, stands for a portrait in front of his ice-fishing stand. Ackerman and Gruber / for NBC News

. Jill Smith enjoys a cold beverage while she competes. As many as 20,000 holes were predrilled into the ice for anglers. Ackerman and Gruber / for NBC News

. A cooler of some the prize winning fish. Most fish caught during the contest were released alive back into the lake after being weighed and registered. Ackerman and Gruber / for NBC News

. An angler drops his line in the water. Ackerman and Gruber / for NBC News

. Adam Crotteau and Kristen Gill brave the cold temperatures. Ackerman and Gruber / for NBC News

. Frozen beer sits on the ice on Gull Lake. Beyond hand warmers, beer also was one of the many ways anglers tried to stay warm during the ice fishing contest. Ackerman and Gruber / for NBC News

. Kurt Rayhorn reclines on the ice while he competes. Ackerman and Gruber / for NBC News

. Nolan Swenson patiently waits for a fish to bite. Swenson and his friends bought the Superman outfits at Target thinking they'd be perfect for the event. Ackerman Gruber / for NBC News

. Names are posted on the big fish leader board. The 150th-largest fish weighed in at the contest was a .26-pound perch by Scott Clark of Bagley, Iowa. For his small fish he won a new ATV. Ackerman and Gruber / for NBC News

. Anglers file off the ice after competing. The largest beneficiary of the contest proceeds is Confidence Learning Center, an outdoor recreational facility for people with developmental disabilities in Brainerd. Ackerman and Gruber / for NBC News