A postcard perfect arctic afternoon greeted ice fishers at Sport Lake for the 14th Annual Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware Ice Fishing Derby Kick-Off. As campfires crackled nearby, and eagles soared overhead, staff and volunteers from Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware & Fishing set up tents, bored holes in the thick ice, prepped gear for the kids, and roasted hot dogs and cocoa for the more than 300 folks who turned out. “It’s just one of the most fun afternoons of the year! The kids love it so much and the adults really get involved with helping them get their first fish,” said Dawn Nushart of Soldotna Hardware& Fishing, who organizes the event each year. Nearby six-year-old Ayden See, dressed in a Batman ski hat, peered into the fresh cut ice hole and dipped in his line and started whispering, “Here fishy-fishy, come fishy-fishy, time for me to catch you.”
Fish whispering was pretty effective at the Kick-Off with several rainbow trout in excess of 12.5 to 15inches weighed in during the day. “Those are nice size fish for this lake and so far we’ve had some good size fish entered in the derby. Of course the first day, Christine Cunningham - who is going for the royal and straight flush this year showed up right away. Christine always puts a big effort into the Derby, hiking into remote lakes that you can’t drive to. She’s the Susan Butcher of the Ice Fishing Derby and really makes the guys work harder,” said Nushart.
Once again this year, Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware and Fishing is offering an incredible array of prizes as an incentive to participate in the derby, with more prizes than ever earmarked for the kids’ divisions. “Our vendors have stepped up as sponsors and provided thousands of dollars in prizes and sponsorships. Some of the grand and first place prizes include an Eskimo power auger and Quickfish II ice shelter. Aqua View has provided an underwater camera. And of course we will have hundreds of rods reels and other exciting prizes,” said Scott Miller of the family-owned store. The Derby continues through the last day of February and there is no charge to enter. To participate, you simply need to stop by to register before you go fishing and then weigh in your fish at the Soldotna store. Last year according to Miller, the largest fish entered in the Derby was a 12.9 lb Lake Trout. “This is one of our favorite times of the year because we get to interact and inspire our customers to get out with their kids and try ice fishing. We offer a lot of advice and can show you how and where to get go and get those big fish. We also have all the latest gear at prices lower than Seattle or Anchorage,” added Miller
To view the current Derby standings and see photos of all the kids and their fish visit Soldotna Hardware & Fishing or stop by the store in Soldotna at the corner of the Sterling Highway and Kobuk Street in Soldotna, Alaska.
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