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‘Holesome’ winter fun

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Casey George, Minot, brought this “pounder” perch to the scale at the recent Souris River Basin Longbeards Ice Fishing Derby held at Lake Darling. Perch numbers have been in decline the past several years at Lake Darling, making George’s catch quite unusual.

FOXHOLM – People have fun drilling a hole through the ice and sitting on an overturned bucket during a North Dakota winter?

You betcha’!

Welcome to the wonderful and curious world of ice fishing. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. To those who enjoy time on a frozen lake there is nothing like pulling a fish, any fish, through a hole and up onto the ice.

This past Saturday 50 hearty ice anglers eagerly took part in the annual Souris River Basin Longbeards Ice Fishing Derby. While there were a few fishermen sitting outdoors on a bucket and watching a string of tip-ups, most were seated in comfortable chairs inside warm ice shelters.

Today’s ice shelters come in many sizes, shapes and colors. All are designed to protect ice fishermen from wind and cold. Portable heaters keep the interiors of the tent-like shelters very warm.

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Volunteers are a big part of a successful ice fishing event. L-R Steve Weiskopf, Peter Yung, Brian Lokken and Ken Shaw. All are members of the Souris River Basin Longbeards.

Comfort is king for those ice anglers who prefer today’s modern towable ice fishing shelters. Many are suited for multi-season use. On the ice they have all the comforts of home, including cushy seating, big screen TV’s and stovetops for cooking. The scent of hamburgers, chili or sausage drifting across the lake is well known to ice anglers.

Rex Reisenauer of Minot was one of the anglers enjoying a day on the ice during the SRLB annual event. He brought a couple of walleye to the scale at derby headquarters, an Ice Castle fish house located near Landing No. 3 at Lake Darling.

“I’ve always fished this one. It’s for a good cause,” said Reisenauer while keeping an eye on the numbers popping up on the official scale.

Reisenauer’s walleye weighed-in at 1.74 pounds. It was caught on a plain hook and minnow. The “good cause” Reisenauer referred to was a number of SRBL events supported in part by proceeds from the derby. In addition, 10 percent of the entry fee dollars is returned to the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge and dedicated to improvements related to fishing.

While fishermen knew their participation helped support a variety of causes off the ice, they were also enjoying their time outdoors. Fresh air and agreeable weather makes for a good time to outdoors in North Dakota. This year 50 fortunate anglers took part in the event.

“Every year there’s more enthusiasm for this derby,” said Percy Ottmar, SRBL. “This year I think we filled it in four or five days.”

Casey George was one of the fortunate 50. He fished the derby alongside his father. It made for a memorable day on the ice.

“We hadn’t done it in a while so my dad and I decided to fish this one” said George. “It’s a good time. We are having a lot of fun.”

Part of the fun was bringing a couple of large perch to the official scale. George said he and his father were targeting the coveted panfish even though perch numbers at Lake Darling have been very limited for the past few years.

“It used to be really good perch fishing four or five years ago, but it’s gone downhill,” said George shortly after wowing the judges and on-lookers with the big perch he brought to the scale. “This is probably the biggest perch I’ve caught here in the last couple of years.”

George brought his perch to the scale shortly after the noon hour. He quickly hopped back on his 4-wheeler so that he could resume fishing. There was still plenty of time remaining in the tournament.

“I remember years ago we couldn’t fill this tourney at all,” remarked Ottmar. ” Now they are happy to come and they really enjoy it.”

Souris River Basin Longbeards Ice Fishing Derby results:

January 12 at Lake Darling

Northern pike – 1 – 7.49 lbs., Brian and Casey George, Minot.

Largest – 7.49 lbs., Brian and Casey George, Minot.

Walleye – 34.99 lbs., Aaron Puuri and Nicole Lefevbre, Glenburn.

Largest – 9.23 lbs., Aaron Puuri and Nicole Lefevbre, Glenburn.

Perch – 4.06 lbs., Dalton Broadus and Travis Bush, Minot.

Largest – 1.08 lbs., Brian and Casey George, Minot.

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