The ice is in and the augers are out. February is here and so is the annual Trustworthy Hardware Ice Fishing Derby.
The annual winter fishing derby kicked off on Feb. 1 and will run all month long. Those interested in participating can sign up for free at Trustworthy in Soldotna or by liking their Facebook page.
The competition spreads across all age groups, with divisions for kids, men and women.
The minnows division is for children 6 years and younger. There is also a junior’s division for 12 years old and younger.
“That’s a little more competitive than the minnows,” said Scott Miller, co-owner of Trustworthy. The minnow division participants will all receive a prize for participating, while the junior’s division compete for trophies for largest rainbow trout, lake trout, kokanee, grayling and Dolly Varden.
“We try to focus on the kids. We really want the families to get the kids out there,” Miller said. “But, the adult competition is pretty competitive this year.”
This year’s competition brings one major change.
“The one thing we did this year is take out Northern Pike since Fish and Game did such a good job getting rid of just about all of them,” Miller said.
Northern pike populations have nearly been eradicated since Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists netted and used piscicides to eradicate the invasive fish from the lakes in the area.
Fish in the adult division include rainbow trout, lake trout, kokanee, Dolly Varden, burbot, white fish and grayling.
There is a prize in both the junior’s and adult’s division for an anglers who catch one of each species. Each year, the derby sees one or two adults accomplishing the fishing feat known as a ‘grand slam.’
The catch and release division is also growing this year, according to Miller. The division is in its third year and this year Trustworthy is offering troughs for effective catch and release.
“We make them here, so you just take the fish out of the hole, put them in the trough, take a quick picture and put them back,” Miller said. “We’ve rented close to 30 of those this year. It helps the fish and keeps them off the ice.”
Miller said that the catch and release category is gaining in popularity for several reasons, including stricter size restrictions put on Hidden Lake.
Catch and release participants can send photos of their catch in to Trustworthy. Other participants can bring their catches in to the store to be measured and counted.
One main rule applies, though, fish must be caught on a fresh water lake on the Kenai Peninsula, Miller said.
“It’s got to be through a hole in the ice on a Kenai Peninsula lake,” Miller said. “We’ve had guys bring in winter kings and try to enter them … We’ve even had a halibut come in.”
The competition runs through the month of February. For updates and standings, visit Trustworthy’s Facebook page.