Beat winter boredom by fishing on ice Bruce Gollmer of Niskayuna, N.Y., holds a northern pike he caught while ice fishing on Great Sacandaga Lake in Mayfield, N.Y (AP photos)
Beat winter boredom by fishing on ice
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Standing on an icy lake. Watching a 10-inch hole all day. Waiting for a fish to bite.

It's a popular pastime in colder climates like the Adirondack Mountains, especially when there's cash on the line.

More than 1,700 competitors spread out across the icy expanse of Great Sacandaga Lake in New York recently. They were there for the seventh annual Walleye Challenge. Contests like this that offer cash for big catches are common around the country. It's a frosty bit of Americana that combines fish, fun and money.

Participants on the southern Adirondack lake bored holes at dawn and stayed until dark. They kept an eye on their fishing holes from inside windblown tents and cozy trailers. Some simply stood outside amid single-digit temperatures.

"This is where it's at," said Tim Delaney. He was with his wife, Tina, and their sons. "You've got to live the winter and be outside and enjoy it to the fullest or it's going to be a looong winter."

Ice fishing is often associated with the Great Lakes region. But is popular across the higher latitudes. The American Sportfishing Association says there were 1.9 million ice anglers in 2011. That is a 12 percent increase from five years earlier. Contests are a way to bring ice fishing lovers together. One of the most famous contests is the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza on Gull Lake in Minnesota. It attracted more than 11,000 people last month, according to organizers.

The all-day Sacandaga competition offered cash prizes totaling $1,649 an hour for the biggest catches plus big-ticket prizes like a snowmobile and off-road vehicles. Though ice fishing is popular on the lake all winter, the competition is an added incentive to go out in the elements.

Lou Stutzke started the contest with Hank "Beaver" Ross. Ross had been inspired by a competition in the northern Adirondacks that had hourly prizes. Seven years ago, they capped the number of contestants at 1,000. But they have bumped that up. Now, their 1,750 slots sell out in a few weeks.

"It grew into a monster, basically," Stutzke said.

Fishing holes are topped by spring-loaded "tip-ups." They have little orange flags that whip up when a line is pulled. But pulling in a fish takes skill. Bruce Gollmer kneeled on the ice with the line in his hand. He pulled it in with his bare hands, then let the fish run out some. He finally landed a 32-inch northern pike.

"They've got a mouthful of teeth. They'll snap a line with one shake of the head so you want to tire them out and just slowly bring them in," Gollmer said.

Gollmer's big catch was not eligible for the walleye contest. But it qualified for a companion contest run at the same time by the Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation.

The main basin of lake is about five miles wide, meaning shanties are spaced out and fish need to be motored to weigh-in stations by snowmobile and off-road vehicles. Walleyes are weighed and plopped back into the water through a hole in the ice. (Stutzke said he has been assured by wildlife biologists that chances of a walleye getting caught twice in a day are slim.)

The cash prizes are nice. But the competition has the vibe of a big party on ice. And if the cold bites more than the fish, few seem to complain.

"The brain gets frozen a little bit, I think, but nah," Dave Mt. Pleasant said with a laugh. "We have fun just coming out and just getting together and fishing."

Critical thinking challenge: Why do people in cold climates continue to fish in the cold of winter?

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COMMENTS (62)
  • KathrynHBlack
    2/19/2015 - 05:45 p.m.

    I think Ice Fishing is a great pass-time. It's a great way to be active and have fun, yet you have to be patient and be focused while doing so. I would love to go Ice Fishing!

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    2/19/2015 - 08:52 p.m.

    I think that it is cool for people in New York City(N.Y.C) to fish in the frozen lake because I think that they are trying to catch the most longest northern pike so they would win the contest, well the winner gets a prize cash $1,670 also a ticket for a snowmobile even the off-road vehicle. Well if people wanted to fish in the frozen lake, they might wanted to win the contest because they think that the prize cash might be good for them if they win.
    Critical thinking challenge: Why do people in cold climates continue to fish in the cold winter?
    Answer: People in cold climates wanted to just continue fishing in the cold winter because they wanted to win the contest.

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    2/19/2015 - 11:28 p.m.

    I think this is amazing because it is not everyday when someone catches a 32-inch long northern pike. The northern pike are carnivorous, judging by the teeth they have, so Mr. Gollmer was correct when he said they could snap a line easily. Their teeth would cut the line up with a small tug. When catching fish that could easily snap your line, you have to tire them out first before reeling them in. If you try to reel it in, then the line would snap off.
    Critical thinking challenge: Why do people in cold climates continue to fish in the cold of winter?
    Answer: There are a lot different reasons. One of it is that people enjoy it. Another is that they do it for money. Finally, another reason would be to enjoy winter at its fullest.

    • Steve0620-yyca
      7/22/2015 - 06:42 p.m.

      REBUTTAL:

      I think that if people had bee good at fishing then they could catch a thirty-two inch fish. Some people even catch alligators, catfish, tunas, and other big fish for a living. If they get hooked then the fish will try to tug at the line but the people could use harpoons or reel in the line with a lot of strength to pull the fish back in.

  • SpencerR-2
    2/19/2015 - 11:44 p.m.

    This article is about a annual contest for frozen lake fishing all over America. This is supposed to give big bucks. Many people also do it for a pass time during the winter. These contests are a show of the biggest fish caught. These contests take skill and patients.

    This article was pretty cool. I wish i had the chance to do this because i love fishing.

  • ksadat-5
    2/19/2015 - 11:56 p.m.

    For some people skiing is the ideal fun in the winter season. For others, ice fishing is a very fun activity in the winter.
    In the Adirondack Mountains, ice fishing is extremely common in the winter because the climates get amazingly cold. People make holes with drills, and set up tents because on most occasions, ice fishing is an overnight activity. Infact, come people just stand outside in the very cold temperatures. Many of the participants enjoy the cash prizes but most think of it as a gathering on ice.

    I think that this is very cool. Ice fishing is the kind of thing you would see in a Tom and jerry cartoon. Personally, I am a skier, so I do not understand why people would want to fish in the winter. As I thought more about it, I realized, it's not only about catching fish as it said in the article, it's about being around people, in a community. That is what makes this special. When I ski, I like skiing a lot, but I like skiing with my friends even more.

  • EthanY-1
    2/20/2015 - 12:28 a.m.

    The east coast is getting pounded with snow right now. People don't know what to do. Some are trapped in their house. Bruce Gollmer went ice fishing and caught a 32 inch northern pike. I think ice fishing is really cool. I also think it's very dangerous.

  • jm1999gizmo
    2/20/2015 - 08:39 a.m.

    they continue to fish because they need to provide for there family and they need a hobby to do on a boring day so fishing is a good option.

  • D.F2001Rex
    2/20/2015 - 08:46 a.m.

    I think people in cold climates continue fishing even when it is winter is because they can not find any other jobs so they have to support their families with the money they earn from fishing.

  • teaguens-Sch
    2/20/2015 - 11:24 a.m.

    Some of this article is opinion because they are saying that ice fishing will kill boredom when not everybody likes it. A connotation that was in the article was "bumped up."

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