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Largest ice derby canceled

North Dakota’s largest ice fishing derby canceled due to ice concerns

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Thousands of fishermen annually take part in the Devils Lake Volunteer Fire Department fishing derby, the largest in the state. This year’s event has been canceled due to concerns about too much weight on the ice.

DEVILS LAKE – It has been a much different winter than usual across most of North Dakota, including the Devils Lake region. Warmer than usual temperatures late into the winter season has resulted in less ice than what is normally to be expected on lakes throughout the state at this time of year. So, exercising caution, the organizers of the state’s largest ice fishing derby have called off the event for 2021.

The Devils Lake Volunteer Fire Department fishing derby is looked forward to by ice fishermen, thousands of them, every year on the last Saturday in January. Not this year though. The Jan. 30 extravaganza has been canceled.

“It’s a bummer on our part, not happy about it,” said Cory Meyer, a member of the fire department. “I want to make sure everybody out there knows the ice is good but, for that many people in one area it may not be safe. It’s the only time this has ever happened.”

This year’s derby was to be the 37th annual, but drilling 6,000 holes in the ice to accommodate all the fishermen was deemed a little too risky this year. Of course, ice fishermen have been on Devils Lakes for much of the winter, just not thousands in one area. It was determined, said Meyer, to exercise caution rather than take a chance on holding the big event on a single section of ice.

“We decided that to have that many people in one area might not be safe. We are a fire department and our goal is to be safe,” explained Meyer. “We’re disappointed in not having it.”

Furthermore, said Meyer, the committee couldn’t be sure how many people would show up. The possibility of having more anglers on the ice than ever before was very real.

“Maybe we’d have more because they wanted to get out of the house and have a good time,” said Meyer. “We had plans for spacing to keep from getting crowded because of COVID.”

Not only has ice fishing portion of the derby been canceled but so too have events associated with the derby, such as soup and chili feeds and Fisherman’s Dances held at the Memorial Building.

Another of the state’s popular ice fishing derbies is still a go – the annual Bis-Man Reel & Rec event at Lake Audubon. Due to coronavirus concerns, some changes have already been made, especially to indoor activities such as registration and prize drawings.

“We’re not going to have the big things inside at the Totten Trail,” said Don Shick, Bis-Man Reel & Rec. “Our plans are to have everything on the ice, so a little less than usual.”

The Bis-Man derby is set for Feb. 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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