Published February 21, 2011, 03:15 PM

Angler makes special trip to ice fish at derby here

At least 68 fish were caught this weekend at the third annual Jamestown Rural Fire Department Fishing Derby — and one of those was an early birthday present for an angler.

By: Ben Rodgers, Northland Outdoors

At least 68 fish were caught this weekend at the third annual Jamestown Rural Fire Department Fishing Derby — and one of those was an early birthday present for an angler.

Raymond Cramer, 69, lives in an assisted living facility in Fargo called Friendship Inc., dedicated to improving the lives of people with developmental disabilities. This was his first time on the ice and he turns 70 on Saturday.

A few weeks ago Cramer eyed a billboard in Fargo promoting the 2011 Jamestown Rural Fire Department Fishing Derby and knew he wanted in.

“It was a lot of fun to go out of town and make a day trip of it just for him,” said Julianne Lowe, Cramer’s direct support professional.

After stops at Gander Mountain in Fargo for some supplies and tackle and a quick cheeseburger in Jamestown, Cramer and Lowe were ready for whatever the day held.

But navigating the icy stretch on the Jamestown Reservoir — by Pelican Point — can prove difficult in a wheelchair. That’s when the Jamestown Rural Fire Department stopped by to lend a hand.

“I’m not good with words but that’s why we’re firemen. We’re there to help,” said Perry Kuss, volunteer fireman and derby founder and coordinator.

Cramer and Lowe were loaded onto the back of a Polaris Gator ATV and delivered to a freshly drilled hole in the ice.

“The firemen that ran the tournament were absolutely amazing for us,” Lowe said.

Cramer said the ATV ride was one of the highlights of his trip to Jamestown.

But as any ice angler knows, fighting off the cold can be the real battle.

“He did not want to go in (leave the ice),” Lowe said. “He’s a true fisherman. He wanted to be out there.”

That patience paid off when Cramer landed one of the biggest walleyes caught in the derby at roughly 1 1/2 pounds.

“He’s a very happy guy but you could just tell that was a very special moment for him,” Lowe said.

In fact, Cramer said it was the biggest fish he ever pulled in.

“I pulled it out of the hole and Ray was just smiling and then he burst out laughing,” she said.

There were about 1,000 people on the ice ranging from bundled up toddlers to the elderly in wheelchairs. Still, the firefighters took notice when Cramer landed his catch.

“That was quite something when he got that fish,” Kuss said. “Everyone went over there and talked to him and got pictures.”

Cramer’s success on the ice was a small part of a fishing derby that keeps on growing every year.

The numbers aren’t final yet but Kuss said a near-record number of anglers were on the ice and the amount raised for the rural fire department was close to $18,000.

Rick Woehl, assistant chief, said he counted 434 vehicles and there were participants from Minnesota and even Williston, N.D.

“It was a good turnout and everyone was happy, which is good to see,” Woehl said.

The funds raised will go toward the purchase of new turnout gear for the firefighters, but the department still gives back to the community by making donations to various causes.

“It (the fishing derby) would never happen without the support from the people, and we have to give that back,” Kuss said.

The raffle held in conjunction with the derby saw ticket sales rise past 3,000 with purchases coming online from as far away as California.

Those who landed a top-three fish also caught a cash prize, and those who held winning tickets won everything from firearms to a new truck. Ramon Haman took won the new Dodge pickup.

Cramer and Lowe, however, had their prize later that night back in Fargo when fresh walleye was the main course for dinner.

“At any age you can still do the things you enjoy and have a good time doing them,” Lowe said.

Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by e-mail at