Clusters of colorful huts surrounded by activity appeared on Saratoga Lake’s icy surface as fishermen gathered for the 2013 Ice Fishing Derby sponsored by the Saratoga/Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce. The 30th annual Derby recorded a total of 585 anglers by Saturday afternoon. The new Women’s Division brought in 78 women entrants, along with 55 Small Fry, and 452 men. The mild weather and camaraderie added to the festive atmosphere as family members waited hopefully to land a big fish along with some of the over $6,000 in prizes.
Action started early on Saturday morning with a rush of big fish brought in during the first and second hours. C.J. Bates of Cheyenne, Wyo., brought the first fish in for weighing and although it wasn’t the biggest, it did get a prize for the First Fish caught.
It was 15-year-old Noah Fernandez from Wheatland, Wyo., who came into the official headquarters during the first hour on Saturday with the fish that would be the biggest fish of the derby. This is the 10th year Noah has been a participant at this Ice Fishing Derby, entering the Small Fry Contest until last year when he moved up into the Adult Division. Noah’s 22.75-inch long fish with a girth of 12.25-inches for a total score of 35 won $2,000 for him.
Ken Wilcox of Wheatland, Wyo., took second prize of $1,000 for his 22-inch-long fish with a girth of 12.5-inches and total score of 34.5-inches. Third place $500 prize went to Jon Larson of Rawlins, Wyo., for his 21.75-inch fish with 12-inch girth and total score of 33.75.
The Small Fry winner was Benjamin Swieter, Keenesburg, Colo., with his 20-inch fish with a 10.5-inch girth for total score of 30.5-inches that won him $100 cash. The weight of the fish is only considered in order to decide a winner when there is a tie.
Another Small Fry, Aliyah Ogburn of Rawlins, Wyo., gained considerable attention for winning the prize for the “Most Fish” brought in to be weighed beating even the adult entrants with her five fish total. First grader Aliyah also won $20 three different hours for the biggest fish of the hour in the Small Fry Contest. In addition, she won a Door Prize in the drawing.
All three Bounty Fish prizes were captured as well, with Johnney Gomez of Rawlins, Wyo., bringing in the first Bounty Fish worth $500. Tim Armstrong of Evans, Colo., brought in the second fish winning $250 for him; and Robert Webster of Rawlins, Wyo., won $50 for the third Bounty fish. Bounty fish were marked with a pink tag on the dorsal fin, but were not eligible for hourly or other prize money.
Some other special events were added in celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Derby, with time for recognition of notable experiences of the past at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. “Kings and Queens of the Derby” recognized people who played key roles in organizing and running the derby over the years.
Saturday afternoon, at 5:30 p.m. the gathering also allowed time for Storytelling, and the Hole of Fame which listed fishermen who had fished in the Derby every year for 30 Years, 25 Years and 20 Years. Two 30-year honorees present were local Saratoga residents, Jerry Hamel and Mike “Hack” Patterson, owner of Hack’s Tackle and Outfitting business.
Results from the Best Hut and Best Fishing Story were not available at the end of the Derby, but will be posted later on the Saratoga/Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce website at www.SaratogaChamber.info. Winners also earned “Braggin’ Rights” for a year.
The large number of prizes made for many happy fishermen and others simply enjoyed the moderate weather and visiting with family and other fishermen over the weekend. ❖