Warm weather and low snowfall this winter is helping to make this one of the best years for ice fishing seen here a while.
Scott Miller, of Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware and Fishing, said their annual ice-fishing derby is set to break a participation record this year.
The 13-year-old, month-long event has attracted over 1,200 entrants so far this year, and with more than a week to go, Miller said he expects to see another 100 to 200 people get in on the action before the end of February.
He said that the popularity of the contest has grown beyond the central Kenai Peninsula to attract anglers from Homer, Anchorage, Fairbanks and even a few people visiting from Outside on vacation.
While the competition is thick this year, Miller said many of the derby's divisions still have potential.
"There's still lots of room and lots of divisions open that have room for a winning fish," Miller said on Wednesday.
The derby features numerous categories for individual and combined species for both men and women. The event is also kid friendly, with two separate youth divisions to get the little anglers out and excited too.
Entry is free, but anglers do have to sign up before they hit the ice, and bring in their catch to be weighed within a day of being caught.
This year's biggest fish so far is a 12.4-pound lake trout pulled out of Hidden Lake by Larry Wall.
Miller said they've seen a lot of decent lakers coming out of Hidden, but he expects that area will slow down as the warm weather makes access harder.
Miller said they've seen good-sized rainbow trout coming out of the Swanson River Road lakes where anglers have been willing to hike in.
Burbot entries, mostly from Juneau Lake, have been strong this year as well he said.
Island Lake in Nikiski has produced more than a few arctic char, but Miller said the bigger dollies don't usually come in until the end of the month.
"We haven't seen a any big four- to five-pounders yet," he said.
Stormy Lake, while infested with pike, generally produces a few big dollies he said.
For a full listing of contest rules, prizes and current standings visit the store's Web site at www.soldotnahardware.com or visit their location at 44648 Sterling Highway in Soldotna.
Tight Lines appears on the third Thursday of each month through the winter and will return as a weekly feature in May.
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