The Hay River Off Road Society held its third annual ice fishing derby March 15, drawing hundreds of people to town – and the lake – for the weekend.
“It gives people something to do in Hay River,” said Spencer Pike, a co-organizer of the event. “It’s a good time for it. Everyone’s getting over winter and shaking off the cabin fever, I guess.”
The weather was warm, even a ways out on the ice where the lanes were set up across from 2 Seasons Campground. There was a total of 375 fishers who turned out for the event. According to Fraser Pike, the derby’s co-organizer, about 200 of those entries were from out of town.
“The gas stations and restaurants will be happy,” he said, laughing. “We got a real nice turnout for this year and it just keeps growing every year.”
The top prize, a 14-foot boat, went to Ron Jungkind through a raffle. Robert Plamondon netted the biggest fish – and won $1,500. Jules Weib and Sancie Gostick caught second and third largest fish, respectively, while Logan Price and Chad Plamondon scored the best hut distinction with their construction aptly named Ice Hole Truckers.
“We’ve been coming out for three years now,” said Plamondon. “The best part is catching fish, I guess.”
Lines dropped at 1 p.m. with the competition ending at 4 p.m. Pike said last year there had been just more than 350 people out for the derby but that this year, the 500 tickets on offer had almost sold out.
“It brings in at least 150 out-of-towners every year,” he said.
“Lots of people come from Alberta – La Crete, High Level, Grande Prairie. As long as people are coming out to derbies, that’s good.”
But the one-day event takes a lot of effort to pull together. Apart from building the lanes, parking lots, and other areas out on the lake, organizers have to co-ordinate more than $10,000 in door prizes on top of the regular prizes for biggest fish, draws, and other events like the appropriately named tuna toss, where a can is chucked as far as the competitor can throw.
As for whether they will do it again next year, Pike’s answer was simple.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Every year.”