The beginning of February marks the beginning of Trustworthy Hardware’s annual Ice Fishing Derby, and those involved say that conditions are ideal for dropping a line in one of the many frozen lakes on the peninsula.
Haley Miller, daughter of Trustworthy Hardware owner Scott Miller, said the the derby started on the first of the month, and most of the biggest entries so far have been in the youth division. Miller also said that the participants of the derby have already scoped out where the prime fishing spots are this year.
“Sport Lake, Scout Lake, Longmere Lake, those have been doing really well and are probably about 20 inches thick,” Miller said. “And we just got a big Dolly Varden that was caught out of Island Lake, that’s a good one for bigger fish.”
Sgt. Glenn Taylor with the Alaska Wildlife Troopers said that he had recently visited Johnson Lake and Arc Lake and confirmed that ice conditions at those lakes were good.
“With the big cold snaps we’ve had this winter, things are generally pretty safe this time of year,” Taylor said. “What gets people in trouble is rapidly changing conditions, which we haven’t seen much of.”
Neither the Alaska Department of Fish and Game nor the Alaska Wildlife Troopers actively monitor ice conditions on the peninsula, so anglers are advised to used caution and drill a few holes close to shore to determine if the ice is safe. ADF&G does offer an ice fishing guide that offers tips on gear, drilling patterns and ice thickness available on their website, adfg.alaska.gov .
The Derby started Saturday and runs through Feb. 29, and entrants can compete in three different divisions. The adult division is for entrants 13 and older, and a first place prize is awarded to the largest fish in each of the following categories, according to Trustworthy’s website: Rainbow Trout, Dolly Varden/Arctic Char, grayling, Lake Trout, Landlocked Salmon, Burbot and Whitefish.
In addition to the first place prizes, a women’s first place prize and a Royal Flush prize will also be awarded in the adult division. The Royal Flush prize is for participants who have entered in each of the categories, and the winner will be chosen by a total weight of the largest fish of each species entered.
For the Kids Division, ages 12 and under, first place prizes will be awarded to the largest fish of each of the following species: Rainbow Trout, Dolly Varden/Arctic char, Lake Trout, Grayling and Landlocked Salmon. Kids who win first place will receive a tackle box and a new ice fishing rod and reel. Ten Honorable Mention awards will be given out in addition to the first place prizes, and any kids who catch and enter one of each of the first-place division species will also qualify for the Grand Slam prize.
There is also a Minnow Division for kids ages 6 and under. Any kid in this division will receive a prize when they bring in a fish.
Participants in the Ice Fishing Derby must sign up at Trustworthy Hardware, and all fish must be caught in a freshwater lake on the Kenai Peninsula. The complete rules are available at Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware’s website, Soldotnahardware.com.
Trustworthy is also hosting a Catch and Release Derby in partnership with Fish for the Future in order to promote conservation practices in fishing. Submissions are judged by length instead of weight, and entrants must submit a photo of the fish next to a measuring stick to email@example.com and include the angler’s name age as well as the fish species.