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Big Freeze Winter Festival Logo

The Big Freeze Winter Festival


The Walleye Capital of the World is hosting one of the most exciting events of the year. In 2022, Visit Escanaba hosted the inaugural Big Freeze Fishing Derby as a fundraiser for Delta County Search and Rescue. This year, The Big Freeze has expanded from an ice fishing derby into a two-day winter festival and fundraiser event. Cut a hole, wet your line and start reeling them in — the bigger the fish, the bigger the prizes!

The Big Freeze Winter Festival details

Dates: Feb. 17-18, 2023

Location: U.P. State Fairgrounds, Ruth Butler Building, 2401 12th Ave. N., Escanaba

Friday, Feb. 17 from 5-8 p.m. (EST):

This fun-filled weekend starts with the “Fire & Ice" themed warm-up party! There will be live music, a silent auction, a 50/50 raffle, games, photo booths, a live ice carving performance by Food Network Star Randy Finch, and beer from Upper Hand Brewery, plus a chili cook-off with all the fixings included!


Check-in for the ice fishing derby will also be held on Friday night at the Ruth Butler Building. Anglers will be required to register and pay ahead of time, using the FishDonkey App.

The $89 entry fee will include admission to “Fire & Ice Night: Chili Cook-Off & DCSAR Fundraiser,” an event hoodie, an official Big Freeze bump board, a wristband, an opportunity to win prizes (including door prizes and wildcards), and a meal and beverage ticket for Saturday’s catered dinner.

Contestants will also be required to sign a waiver at check-in. All participants under 18 will need a parent/guardian signature as well.

Ice Fishing for Walleye

Saturday, Feb. 18 from 4 a.m.-2 p.m. (EST):

On Saturday morning, the ice fishing derby opens up bright and early at 4 a.m. and competitors are free to fish anywhere within the derby’s boundary waters. Using the FishDonkey app, fishermen will upload photos of their catch and can follow the competition’s live leaderboards.

The bigger the fish, the better chance they have at winning more prizes.

The fishing derby closes at 2 p.m. ALL ENTRIES MUST BE SUBMITTED PRIOR TO 2 P.M. TO QUALIFY!

A special fishermen’s dinner will be catered at 3 p.m. in the Ruth Butler Building, and the prize ceremony will follow. Competitors must be present to claim prizes!

Saturday, Feb. 18 from Noon-6 p.m. (EST):

There will be plenty of other fun on-shore activities throughout the day including:

There will also be a bounce house and photo booth. We will end the night with a campfire, s'mores and hot cocoa!


Registration: FishDonkey app 

Go to and download the app from Google Play (Android phones) or the Apple Store (iPhones). Register your name and password, then click the Fish in a Tournament button and search The 2nd Annual Big Freeze. You will use this app during the contest to upload your measured fish photos. The bigger the fish, the bigger your chance to win a whole mess of prizes.    

VisitEscanaba | Tip Up Ice Fishing

The Big Freeze Ice Fishing Derby Rules

Please read the complete rules and regulations, and review the boundary map on the FishDonkey app BEFORE arriving for check-in. Here is a quick recap:

No Michigan fishing license required!

Feb. 17 -18 is a FREE fishing weekend throughout Michigan. The state will waive fishing license fees on both days for Michigan and non-Michigan residents. So, encourage your family and friends to join in The Big Freeze fun, too!

Qualifying fish

Northern pike, walleye and yellow perch. All state fishing regulations will apply during the derby.

What to bring to check-in

How to qualify for and claim prizes

Contest categories and prizes

There are lots of ways to compete and lots of prizes to win! We hope to see you and your fish on the leaderboard.

Grand Slam - measured by the total length of the 3 different species of fish

Largest -  measured by lengthStringer - measured by the total length of several fishWild Card - random winner

There will also be a Most "YOOPER" Ice Shanty decorating contest and Door Prize(s)!

Ice fishing hut

The Big Freeze Ice Fishing Derby Tips

  1. Open the app.
  2.  Join “Practice Entering a Fish.”

Have any questions? Contact Morgan. 

Please email your questions about The Big Freeze to Tournament Director Morgan Eagloski, the event manager at the Bays de Noc Convention and Visitors Bureau:

Thank the Big Freeze Ice Fishing Derby sponsors

While you are in the Bays de Noc area, please support the following area businesses:

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