The prospect of winning one of more than $2,000 in prizes with no entry fee is almost enough to get anyone out of their cabins and onto the frozen lakes of the Kenai Peninsula.
Despite the peninsula's lack of winter weather, there is one thing that has not been lacking -- ice. So a sure-fire cure for boredom and cabin fever is the 2001 Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware Ice Fishing Derby.
"It's just a lot of fun for everybody involved," said Trustworthy manager Scott Miller. "There are a lot of prizes. It makes the derby interesting because people can just go out to anywhere and catch just about any fish and stand a chance to win something."
The fishing derby has only been held for four years, but in that time it has seen many changes.
"Four years ago when the derby first started, there were only 28 people who signed up," Miller said. "This year we are expecting more then 500 people to enter, and we have gathered over $2,000 in prizes. It all started out with a sign we threw up in the store and $500 in prizes that we put together from here in the store."
The prizes have grown from the $500 in Trustworthy merchandise to an underwater camera, a free mount for the largest fish caught in the derby, ice rod combos and even the possibility of a new spear for northern pike enthusiasts. There are also hats, T-shirts and gloves to be given away in random drawings. All of that and the possibility of a grand prize worth more than $400 -- a power ice auger to make those drilling woes fade away in the flurry of flying ice.
"It works out so that the person who gets the biggest fish in the derby doesn't necessarily get the grand prize," Miller said. "We take the winners of the first places from the different divisions and put them in a hat and draw the name that way."
The derby is open to all entrants of any age, any gender and any experience. This year there is a separate women's division along with a new spearing division that was created through popular demand.
To qualify for the derby, participants must first sign up at Trustworthy Hardware. The derby is open to any species of fish on the peninsula living in fresh water and caught within the guidelines for fishing set by Alaska Fish and Game.
According to Miller there is another aspect of the derby that everyone who participates should remember.
"The whole purpose of this derby is to get everyone out on the ice and having fun," he said. "That was why the derby was started, and that is why we still run it now."
This year also brings a new method of research for the Kenai Watershed Forum. The derby and the Watershed Forum have begun to cooperate in an effort to see how far and wide the northern pike population has spread around the peninsula.
For anyone interested in participating in the research, there will be a form to fill out about the whereabouts of the pike and what they were feeding on, along with information on size and weight. Another portion of the research will focus on the potential of pike becoming a danger to the natural inhabitants of the peninsula's fresh bodies of water.
The derby will begin Feb. 1 and run through the 28th. Anyone interested in participating in the derby can sign up at Soldotna Trustworthy or can get more information by calling 262-4655.
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