Many participants in Saturday’s Park Rapids American Legion Fishing Derby commented on the perfect weather, especially given a previous string of sub-zero days.
Temperatures in the 20s combined with clear, sunny skies and a general lack of wind to make it a comfortable day on Fish Hook Lake – all without warming up too much and turning the ice to slush.
Rick Weme of Osage called it “a nice day to be out fishing, whether you get anything or not.”
Paul Shol of Fergus Falls reminisced about last year’s derby, when it “snowed sideways.”
“We’ve been here many years,” said Shol. “Haven’t placed, though. We keep on trying.”
Randy Griffith of Hubbard, who has participated in about 10 derbies since 1992, said it was one of the nicer days the event has had, though he felt the turnout was light, possibly “because everybody got scared off from the cold (on Friday). And then it turned out beautiful. Those that came out, they got rewarded.”
Within the first hour or so of the three-and-a-half-hour contest, it seemed the fish agreed.
“We’re having a lot of fish weighed in today,” said Hendri Ernst with Smokey Hills Outdoor Store. “There’s a lot of nice fish being caught early on. Some walleyes over 2 pounds, a lot of northerns over 2 pounds.”
Ernst acknowledged there were some changes in this year’s fishing derby, with the holes laid out differently, and tickets being sold on the ice right up to start time.
“This is about getting friends, family and kids out here and exposing them (to ice fishing),” he said. “We have people that drive very far. We have people from all over the country that come and do this, and for a lot of them it’s the first time they fish. And it’s always fun if you can win something nice,” like a $2,500 for the biggest fish in each of four divisions.
Winning the grand prize for catching the 20th biggest fish of the day was Ken Pike from Hubbard, with a 1.69 lb. northern pike.
The big fish of the day was a 3.82 lb. walleye caught by Ken Hopen of Walker.
Other winners included those whose fishing tickets were drawn out at a raffle later Saturday afternoon at the Legion post, with additional prizes drawn from the “extra hole” tickets that were sold on the ice.
Among the 92 drawing winners were Ed Becker of Nevis, winning a 2022 Polaris General; Jason Christenson with a $1,500 prize bundle; Kristene and Caleb Gorder of Park Rapids with a portable fish house; Jacob Zinniel of Park Rapids with a multifunction BBQ grill; Don Kolarsky with a Polaris ATV; and Ken Hopen, Chris Reak and Derek Reichling, each with a $1,000 prize bundle.
And of course, Park Rapids’ elder residents also came out as winners, with a big catch of fish to be cleaned by the Knights of Columbus and served in a fish fry at the Senior Citizens Center.
Fishing derby chair Kasey Krautkremer acknowledged that one of the contenders in the big fish ranking had to be disqualified at the last moment, due to bringing an ice auger and drilling their own hole in violation of the rules.
Apart from that, the event went smoothly, with very few issues arising, said Krautkremer. “Every single person that I talked to said everything went fantastic.”
Prizes ranging from $2,500 down to $100 were in store for the contestants who caught the 20 biggest fish in each division. Ties were broken in favor of the first fish to be registered.
Bluebrill, sunfish and crappie division
Winners in the bluegill, sunfish and crappie division all caught bluegill. In order from first to 19th place: Harley Gummert of Motley, .45 lb.; Becky Johannes of Motley, .43 lb.; Julie George of Park Rapids, .35 lb.; Kevin George of Park Rapids, .33 lb.; Brandon Crissinger of Park Rapids, .29 lb.; Owen Hoverson of Park Rapids, .28 lb.; Cory Andrea of Hillman, .28 lb.; Michelle Geise of Rice, .28 lb.; Jeremy Davis of Big Lake, .28 lb.; Dan Zimmerman of Park Rapids, .27 lb.; Daryll Welinski of Little Falls, .27 lb.; Jeff Winter of Little Falls, .24 lb.; Doug Hanson from Sauk Rapids, .23 lb.; Tayden George of Park Rapids, .21 lb.; Abby Hoverson of Park Rapids, .20 lb.; Darrin Hoverson of Park Rapids, .18 lb.; Braden Crissinger of Park Rapids, .16 lb.; Rodney George of Park Rapids, .15 lb.; and Carol Hanson of Park Rapids, .14 lb.
Northern, walleye and largemouth bass
The top two fish in the northern, walleye and largemouth bass division were walleye, with all the rest being northern pike. Winners from first to 20th place: Ken Hopen of Walker, 3.82 lb.; Nathan Panek of Bowlus, 2.22 lb.; Virgil Eskola of Park Rapids, 2.19 lb.; Brandon Tisland of Park Rapids, 2.15 lb.; Zach Deshayes of Park Rapids, 2.02 lb.; Grant Larson of Park Rapids, 1.97 lb.; Cody Chouanard of Eden Prairie, 1.96 lb.; Heidi Krueger of Laporte, 1.93 lb.; Patrick Daugherty of Moorhead, 1.92 lb.; Hunter Rohde of Brainerd, 1.92 lb.; Mark Casey of Inver Grove Heights, 1.92 lb.; Ryan Blumberg of Bemidji, 1.91 lb.; Aaron Donahue of Bismark, N.D., 1.84 lb.; Richelle Ostlund of Blackduck, 1.84 lb.; Paulette Buchholz of Vesta, 1.78 lb.; Jared Hoefs of Park Rapids, 1.78 lb.; Luke McNamee of Nevis, 1.72 lb.; Ken Pike of Hubbard, 1.69 lb.; Sue Miller of Aldrich, 1.67 lb.; and Weston Schug of Becker, 1.65 lb.
In the perch division, the top 20 fish went to D.J. Lien of Barrett, .56 lb.; Sue Tomte of Park Rapids, .49 lb.; Russell Heinonen of Sioux Falls, S.D., .47 lb.; Andrew Troyer of Gonvik, .47 lb.; Randy Kiphuth of Menahga, .43 lb.; Dave Dahl of Hanley Falls, .40 lb.; Jordan Salber of Browerville, .40 lb.; Jacob Zinniel of Park Rapids, .39 lb.; Kaine Lundmark of Bemidji, .39 lb.; Ron Glaesman of Lake Park, .38 lb.; Aiden Stoehr of Park Rapids, .37 lb.; Travis Skudlarek of Sauk Rapids, .36 lb.; Owen Wagner of Park Rapids, .35 lb.; Joseph Willson of Park Rapids, .34 lb.; Rob Wendt of Fergus Falls, .34 lb.; Brent Rogers of Backus, .32 lb.; Gary Hare of Remer, .31 lb.; Nate Elsen of Grand Rapids, .31 lb.; Nancy Parizek of West Fargo, N.D., .29 lb.; and Justin Janssen of Bagley, .28 lb.
Only 15 fish were caught in the rock bass division, including: Jeremy Anderson of Nevis, 1.08; John Ulschmid of Detroit Lakes, 1.05 lb.; Aaron Pappas of Park Rapids, 1 lb.; Tayden George of Park Rapids, .99 lb.; Kevin George of Park Rapids, .95 lb.; Bernie Schumacher of Park Rapids, .89 lb.; Isaiah Olson of Park Rapids, .84 lb.; Jeremiah Uschmid of Detroit Lakes, .81 lb.; Dale Raven of Laporte, .75 lb.; Terry Kritzeck of St. Cloud, .74 lb.; Jason Durham of Park Rapids, .73 lb.; Doug Hanson of Nevis, .72 lb.; Curt Eischens of Park Rapids, .62 lb.; Randon Beber of Pine River, .45 lb.; and Katie Hemsworth of Pine River, .34 lb.
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