A couple hundred ice fishers turned out for the awards presentation at Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware & Fishing Friday. According to Scott Miller and his family who started the areas first Ice Fishing Derby 14 years ago it was a bit chilly but the best derby ever, "It was truly a great derby with over 1,000 participants and lot more kids than we usually have and that's just great, that's been our goal from the beginning and we are happy to see the kids coming in with their fish and families and getting outdoors in the winter," said Miller.
There were no records broken size wise this year, but more fish were caught by more people than ever before and some very nice fish brought in said Miller, "It was very competitive this year with some really nice lake trout, one over 7 pounds, we had some big burbot and some of the largest land locked salmon that we've ever seen. The sizes of the pike have diminished making pike a tough derby fish for the first time. Last year the winning pike was 10 pounds and this year it was only 4 pounds, so that's shifting the effort toward other species as well now that the pike are declining. Folks are also getting out to some lakes that they haven't been to before and bringing in nice size fish like dolly varden this year." When derby began it was common to have over 1,000 total pounds of pike weighed in, this year says Miller a little over 50 total pounds of pike were weighed in, "We think that shows the efforts of Fish & Game have been successful," he said.
Ice fishing in Alaska might be perceived as "man's sport" but Christine Cunningham killed that perception this year by being the only ice fisher to complete a straight, catching one fish of five wild species and the pike, "You have to fish a lot different lakes to complete it some lakes may have different species but you may not catch them," says Christine who took a vacation week not on the beaches of Hawaii but on the frozen lakes of the Kenai in order to catch her straight, "It's fun, it's diverse, instead of simply trying to get lucky catching one fish I go after the different species to make the straight. The days are short but it's really beautiful and very peaceful out there and I think more women are participating in the derby than ever before and it keeps the pressure on the guys," she said.
Photos of the winners are posted at Soldotna Hardware & Fishing on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna, and you're invited to stop in and enjoy the miles of smiles on the kid's faces with their fish while checking out the latest Trustworthy bargains, "These kids have a ball with it and the expressions on their faces is priceless," added Scott. The Derby may be over for this year but the fishing is still great and the weather fine for ice fishing on the Kenai Peninsula. You can see complete Ice Fish Derby results at www.soldotnahardware.com.
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