Almost 2,000 anglers participated Saturday in the 18th Annual American Legion Ice Fishing Contest and Raffle on Fish Hook Lake. Attendance was good but fishing slow. According to Jerry Benham at the American Legion only 195 fish were registered, which is 100 fish less than last year.
Each angler had the option to keep a fish they caught, however they were clipped to prevent them from being turned in again. All others were collected and cleaned by the Knights of Columbus and then donated to the nursing home.
There were a lot of “firsts” this year, according to Benham. It was the first year they had a category go completely unfilled; no one registered any bluegill or crappie. This was the first year an angler turned in a Bowfin, which is more commonly known as a dogfish. It was also the first year participants were allowed to bring beer on the ice. Benham noted that most other fishing derbies do allow it, and in past years participants were bringing it anyway. He said the American Legion has always felt that the derby is a family event therefore they did not advertise the allowance of beer, but they did take it out of the rules.
Contest officials were happy no incidents were reported and everyone was “well-behaved,” therefore they plan to allow beer again next year. Even though the fish were not cooperating this year the weather did. The temperature reached 34 degrees and the snow held off until Sunday.
“They have had snowy conditions in the past and good weather makes all the difference in the world,” Benham said.
Participation was up from last year with an increase of nearly 300 entrants including first time contestants, among them Mark and Camille Stone from Wadena. Mark had a positive attitude. “Don’t get here too early, just enjoy the day,” he said explaining that the two of them were not participating to win, they came to have fun.
Larry Marliere moved to Park Rapids from Illinois three years ago and said this was his first fishing derby ever. When asked if he was catching anything, his response: “Just a cold.” It was noted he had the “primo people watching spot.” Being near the judges’ stand he was able to see all the fish being turned in for weighing. Also, close to the bathrooms and not far from the food vendors. Among the food vendors were the Boy Scouts with their top sellers – brats and hot chocolate.
Christy Munson, a Park Rapids resident, and her family are not new to the contest. According to Munson, they have been participating in the derby for at least 10 years. They hauled out their portable fish house and set it up as a three-sided shelter. Contestants were not allowed to have structures that were fully enclosed. The fishing was not the only competition on Saturday. As in years past the event featured a minnow eating contest, however Benham remarked, they have never had so many people interested in participating as they did this year. Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes drew 62 lucky raffle winners out of a ticket drum who were awarded various prizes.
For a list of full results for both derby and raffle winners visit: www.parkrapidsicecontest.com/prizes-winners/