The snow may have been light and the temperatures warm in the month of February, but the ice fishing was the hottest ever in the 18th Annual Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware & Fishing Ice Fishing Derby. “We had a ton of participation this year and the kids division was just incredible. The smaller lakes stayed frozen and safe through the Derby so we were happy with that, but early on Larry Walls pulled up an 11.29 lb. lake trout that held through the Derby as the biggest fish,” said Scott Miller, one of the family owners of Soldotna Hardware & Fishing that sponsors the derby each year.
According to Miller the kids did a great job eradicating pike this year, but the size of the pike have gone down since the early years of the derby, “Fish & Game has gone out and eradicated the pike out of some of the lakes and restocking them and that has made new opportunities for fishermen and especially the kids. There is some great grayling fishing now in Scout Lake since they got the pike out of there a couple of years ago and that has really increased the incentive for families to take the kids out. We’ve seen a real increase from just a few regular families to this year more like 30 families getting out every weekend as a group, dads and moms and grand moms and that is what the derby is all about and is what makes it a spectacular event,” said Miller.
The Ice Fishing Derby also draws visitors from out of town to the Peninsula, “We had a lot of entries from out in the Valley, Anchorage, Fairbanks and one gentleman from McGrath come in for a weekend to fish and we even had a visitor from Texas join in the derby this year one weekend,” said Miller. At the annual awards presentation Soldotna Hardware & Fishing was packed with ice fishers waiting to claim their prizes, “We have a lot of people to thank this year for making all the prizes possible this year. Kenai River Sportfishing Assoc. stepped up and sponsored our kids division this year with us, Berkley, G Loomis and Okuma and all those guys really help us out and are great sponsors of the event, we couldn’t do it without them,” said Miller. For complete results log on to www.soldotnahardware.com or stop by the store on the Sterling Hwy in Soldotna.