There have been two decades of family ice fishing memories on the Kenai Peninsula thanks to the family-owned Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware &Fishing. And as the 20th year of the winter event closed two records toppled as Jimmy Miller became the first ice fisher in the history of the derby to complete a Royal Flush and 8-month-old Ariel Voight became the youngest participant to bring a fish through the ice.
The Royal Flush is only completed when a fisher successfully lands one of each fish species found on the Kenai Peninsula.
“It was our first royal flush division winner in our 20-year history,” said Scott Miller, Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware and Fishing co-owner.
“Jimmy Miller is quite a fisherman. You have to be a very accomplished ice fishermen to complete that challenge. Every fish is different, bite different and are in different lakes. Getting the rainbows and the Dollies and kokanee aren’t easy, but getting those lake trout and pike and then going after the burbot and white fish and grayling takes a tremendous effort and commitment from a tremendous fisherman. To find a burbot you have to get up into Resurrection Pass and hike up in there. It’s quite a hike in the winter and you pack a hand drill and usually have to stay overnight on the ice and totally takes a dedicated angler to do it, but the reward is being out in nature and experiencing the best that Alaska has to offer.”
The other record that toppled and will probably stand is the youngest participant to bring a fish through the ice and into Soldotna Hardware and Fishing. At only eight months, Ariel Voight took that honor.
“It was a .6-pound rainbow trout caught by Jeremiah’s youngest and he has been fishing this derby for a long time and himself has gotten a straight flush several times, not the royal, but now he has his little ones out there following in his footsteps. Jeremiah is an Alaskan through and through and we have a lot of fun with him and his whole family and he’s been fishing the Derby since he was just a kid himself now he has a family of his own out on the ice. And speaking of families that ice fish, the Copenhaver’s have built quite a reputation over the years as being pike killing machine and that’s a good thing. We’ve made great progress at stemming the pike invasion, but there are some small lakes that still have some in there and until they’re all gone from Brian down to his youngest will be getting out there. This year they came in with about 25 total pounds, but that was down from years past of some 200 pounds of pike being caught,” said Scott.
The local Wildlife Troopers again this year donated new bikes for the kid’s divisions this year and John Iverson, award winning Sterling wood carver, handmade each trophy for the kid’s divisions.
For the big kids in the adult division there were big prizes that included propane powered ice augers, underwater cameras, Eskimo ice fishing tents and Soldotna Hardware gift cards.
“We have great sponsors that help make this derby possible every year and of course Jessica and Dawn register the fish and take the photos every year, they are a great part of this event. Our employee division winner this year was Shawna Ashmore and she caught a real nice lake trout and we’re very proud of her getting out on the ice this year and showing us how it’s done,” added Miller.
After several years of thin ice and unseasonably warm winter weather, the 20th anniversary of the Derby may have yielded the largest harvest of fish through the ice ever, according to Scott Miller.
“We got a lot of fish and fishers this year. Every species on the Peninsula and people were able to get on the big lakes that got frozen up really good — Skilak, Hidden and Kenai lakes, so people were able to spread out and bring in the fish.”