For the angler who likes to catch his or her fish through the ice, this weekend will offer up the first opportunity of the new year to compete in an ice fishing derby.
The Laramie Plains Lions Club Ice Fishing Derby, running from Saturday through Sunday afternoon, will see anglers on Laramie’s Lake Hattie wet their lines for a shot at more than $3,500 in prize money.
The derby, now in its 27th year, has traditionally been held in early January, said Lewis Lyon, chairman of the derby for the Lions Club.
“We try to start the year’s ice fishing season and I think Saratoga follows us by a couple of weeks,” he said.
The event usually draws from 200 to 250 adults and 20 to 25 youths — under the age of 14 — who compete for cash prizes for the largest fish caught. In addition, if someone catches a fish that has been specially tagged and returned to the lake, he or she will win $2,000, Lyon said.
This is the third year for the specially tagged fish and in past years, the prize has gone unclaimed, he added.
The adult who catches the largest fish, as determined in measures of length, girth and weight, will receive $1,500. Cash prizes will also go to those who catch the second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-largest fish. A $25 prize will go to the person bringing in the smallest fish.
In youth competition, the angler bringing in the largest fish will win $150. Prizes will also be awarded for the second-, third- and fourth-largest fish, as well as for the smallest fish — again, $25.
While fishing through ice in frigid weather might not sound comfortable to some, Lyon said most of the ice fishermen are well prepared for the winter conditions.
“I like to stand up by the fire and get warm, but there’s people who like to stand out there on the ice,” he said. “You look at some of the huts that they have, they’ve got heaters in them, they’re pretty comfortable.”
Lyon predicted that up to two-thirds of those competing will be return visitors to the derby.
Fishing begins at 8 a.m. Saturday and ends at 4 p.m., resuming at 8 a.m. Sunday and ending at 2 p.m., when the derby closes.
The winners of the derby will be announced about 20 minutes after the fishing ends, Lyon said.
“We shut down at 2 p.m. and give them 20 minutes to get in off of the ice in case somebody caught one right at 2 p.m.,” he said.
The admission fee for the derby is $35 for adults and $5 for children and money raised during the event will be used to support one of the Lions Club’s several charities, which include providing assistance to those who need glasses or eye examinations, support for the Allen H. Stewart Lions Camp near Casper and support for the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank in Colorado.
For more information on the derby, visit the Lions Club’s website.