The 14th Annual Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware & Fishing Ice Fishing Derby will go on record as one of the most challenging winters in the history of the event. The derby began as a call from the Miller family, owners of Soldotna Hardware, for folks to get outdoors and enjoy the Peninsula's Winter Wilderness and take kids fishing. The 30 some inches of lake ice, followed by heavy snow, over flow, then high winds didn't discourage some 800 folks from participating in this year's derby, and they were rewarded with some great fishing according to Scott Miller. "It was very worthwhile, but tough, you had to really want to get out there and go ice fishing this year, but for those who rose to the challenge there were some nice fish. We had the biggest burbot ever caught in the derby and it was landed by 3-year-old Damon Braden, a fish I'm sure he'll never forget and a highlight in the derby because for us it's really about getting the kids the thrill of fishing. The kids never really care about the weather, they just want to get out there with their families and fishing," said Miller.
Miller says there were more kids this year then in any other division, "That minnow division of six and under was really popular this year and had the most participation ever and that means families are fishing and overcoming the challenges of mother nature and those are some great life lessons for kids," he said. The Derby was rich in prizes this year for kids and adults alike with the grand prize being a complete ice fishing outfit including power auger, tent, heater, rods and reels and everything to head out on the ice for the big ones, "We also had a nice Aquaview underwater camera, underwater fish finders provided by Markum products and Berkeley always does a great job giving us tons of combo rods and reels and Lamaglass this year pitched in this year with a nice Kenai River special and of course the Troopers provided the kids bikes like they do every year, so the dividends were good for those who put the effort out," added Scott. The weather didn't deter Christine Cunningham of Kenai who retained her title as Queen of Ice Fishing landing a 4.01 lb rainbow and took 1st place again in the Women's Division. Even though the Derby is history for 2012, Miller says the best ice fishing may still be ahead, "Spring is the best time to go ice fishing, it's getting warmer and there is more light as the days get longer and fish become more active and hungry the closer we get to spring and the ice conditions should be good if it doesn't get too sloppy, ice fishing will just get better and better and the prices for gear get better and better with our clearance sales going on until the summer gear goes on sale." For complete Derby results and more photos go to www.soldotnahardware.com.