The 18th Annual Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware & Fishing Ice Fishing Derby is off to what just might be its biggest start ever. Not just in participants but in big fish already being weighed in. What has become a challenging destination event for hearty Alaskan ice anglers is also a family motivational opportunity for making lifetime memories. Last year’s derby winner was hauled in by six-year-old Damon Braden, grandson of longtime Alaskan Roland Braden and was a 5.68 lb. Burbot. They don’t make taxidermy molds for burbots that large according to Brian Miller of Trustworthy Hardware, “So Greg Landis of Soldotna hand carved the mount and it’s a thing of beauty. Folks should stop in the store just to see it,” said Miller.
Dawn Nushart of Soldotna Hardware has coordinated the weigh-in and registration station at the store since the derby began and says she has never had such a large fish weigh in this early, “We are blown away! We already have a 7.21 lb. Dolly Varden weighed in and a healthy 3.46 lb. Rainbow as well as a 3.3 lb. Lake Trout so the fish are coming in big this year, but that Dolly Varden is going to be tough to beat,” said Nushart. The Derby however, has many categories and tons of prizes, “We have the adult division men or women that includes the largest of each species, then we have the kids division, which is one of the most fun parts of the derby for us to see these families getting out on these beautiful winter days and having fun. Then we have the minnow division which are children up to six years old and then ages 7-12 years old. We also have a women’s division with the top three winners. And it’s a free derby all you have to do is come in before you go fishing and sign up and get a ticket stub with your name and address and a phone number where I can reach you if I have any questions. Then we have grab bags for the kids under 12 whenever they bring in a fish and the standings are posted on Facebook. The ice has thickened up now but we still encourage people to drill as you go to sure especially before driving out on the ice,” she said.
Thousands of dollars of prizes will be awarded at the end of the derby which goes through the end of February. Kenai River Sportfishing Assoc. is again partnering with Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware & Fishing in making the ice fishing derby a fun family experience. Not only can you register for the free derby at the store, but you’ll also find the lowest prices in Alaska on all your ice fishing gear from augers to tents and tips ups, plus friendly expert advice on how to use the gear and where to go to be successful. Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware & Fishing is a local family owned store. For more information check out their website at soldotnahardware.com like them on Facebook or call 262-4655.