TUPPER LAKE - Ice fishermen showed up in droves for the Northern Challenge ice fishing derby on Simond Pond Saturday.
"We've got about 900 contestants out there," derby Chairman Dave McMahon said at 2 p.m. Saturday. "Fishing is going really, really well. We've got fish that are averaging 9 pounds. The first hour, I think we had something like 45 fish. Of course, during the afternoon, everything slows down a little bit. But the fish are still coming in, and everybody is bringing the fish in when they should and having a good time out there."
Contestants from all over New York show up for the annual fishing derby because of its reputation for large fish and big prizes.
Charles Blackman of Tupper Lake checks his
tip-up during the Northern Challenge fishing derby Saturday on Simond Pond in Tupper Lake.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
The event, organized by the Tupper Lake Rod and Gun Club, ran from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and fishermen were awarded $500 for the largest fish every hour. Second-place winners received $200, and third garnered $100.
There were a total of $6,500 in door prizes given away, McMahon said. That didn't include two $6,000 four-wheelers. All anglers who paid the $35 entry fee were eligible for those prizes.
In addition, there are 50/50 raffles with winners averaging between $1,800 and $2,000.
Justin Glinski of Greenfield said he caught five northern pike, each in the 3- to 4-pound range. He also pulled up some yellow perch. He said he was using some shiners and a secret liquid formula as bait.
"I'm a big-time pike fisherman," Glinski said. "I heard there's walleye in here, too, but I'm mostly in it for the pike, when I come up to fish this.
"It's just a good time and pretty good thing they put on here, and hopefully it'll keep going."
Larry Gemmil of Ogdensburg said this was his first year in the tourney, and he was hoping to hit it big with one of the prizes.
"Caught a couple of small ones - about it," he said. "Nothing to enter in the contest or nothing, but had fun - about it. Hopefully, we can win something on the 50/50s."
Overall, conditions were pretty good for fishing. The ice was thick, and there wasn't any snow or water on top.
"The ice that is out there is averaging about 8 inches," McMahon said. "That thaw that we had last week hurt a little bit, but it actually helped a lot, too, because what it did, it got rid of any snow cover that we had on the ice, and then it got really cold, and that helped make ice."
Charles Blackman of Tupper Lake said the brisk wind and cold temperatures made standing on the ice all day a little bit tough.
"But it's a lot of fun," he said. "It's good for the community, so you have to give it a shot. There's so much money involved that you have to take a chance, but yeah, it's a little brisk."
Blackman said he only catches "one fish every 9,000 hours, but I thought I was getting close. Maybe next year."
The event not only draws a lot people to the community, but it raises money for programs run for the Tupper Lake Rod and Gun Club.
"The money that we make off this derby goes to sponsor a lot of the programs that we give to the kids that we do for free," McMahon said. "We have youth archery and all kinds of things that we put out for the kids, and the money that we make on this derby, we're able to give this stuff to the kids free of charge. The youth archery program that we have, if a kid doesn't have a bow, doesn't have arrows, and he thinks that he's going to be interested in archery, he can come to the club and he can shoot a bow that we will give him, and we don't charge him."
Contact Mike Lynch at 891-2600 ext. 28 or firstname.lastname@example.org.