Mild, thin ice and easy lake access made the 17th Annual Ice Fishing Derby sponsored by Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware & Fishing, one for the record books. There were more participants and a lot more kids according to Derby coordinator Scott Miller. “It was the best year ever and the mild weather got a lot of families out on the ice and as a result for the second year in a row it was one of our minnow division kids, 6 and under, little Tanner Moore who brought in the biggest catch of the derby just 20 minutes before closing. The Moore family has been involved in the derby ever since we started and Matt grew up and had a son, Tanner who was out there the very last day and brought in a 10.06 lb. lake trout with only minutes left in the derby. It’s no easy task getting a lunker like that through a small hole in the ice but for a 6-year-old it makes a lifetime memory,” said Miller.
At Wednesday’s award gathering at Soldotna Hardware, it was standing room only as families crowed around to collect their prizes. “We had great sponsor support again this year with Kenai River Sportfishing Assoc. getting involved to encourage families to get out there. They donated a lot of prizes for the kids divisions. The guys at the Masonic Lodge and the Troopers, donate the bikes for the little guys and it was like Christmas around here today. We had to adjust the prizes a little as it was the youngest kids that caught the biggest fish. They scored remote control helicopters to BB guns and all the popular things in-between,” he said. According to Miller the participation of ladies in this year’s derby was also an all-time high and very competitive. “Over 40 women brought in fish this year and the winner Christine Cunningham, made it by on 3/100’s of a pound so ice fishing is not a male dominated sport any longer,” added Scott.
The success of the ADF&G pike eradication programs was again evidenced in this year’s derby. “A few years back the derby winner was a 15lb pike that came out of Scout Lake but the pike are gone and there is a great population of rainbow and graying in both Scout and Arc lake so they’ve done a great job in stemming the pike invasion caused by misguided bucket fishermen,” he said. Christine Cunningham, author of “Women Hunting Alaska” may have to write a new book on women ice fishing in Alaska. For the last 5 years Cunningham has completed a Straight Flush in the ice fishing derby and this year also brought in the largest rainbow trout at 3.63 lbs. “A flush is 5 different species of fish all taken from lakes on the Peninsula and to make a flush you have to go to different places and that’s what makes it fun and challenging. Each specie feed differently, hit the lure differently, circle the lake at different times and depth so it’s not easy; you have to know what you’re doing, but it’s the most fun and in the end it’s luck more than ability. Soldotna Hardware does such a great job with the derby and prizes this year were phenomenal, which really encourages new folks to get and have winter fun in Alaska and makes the effort worthwhile, I won a beautiful new fly rod this year and am excited about learning to fly fish without a reel,” said Cunningham.
For complete results and photos of the Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware & Fishing 2014 Ice Fishing Derby stop by the store or go to www.soldotnahardware.com.