COLEHARBOR, N.D. — Not even deep snow could keep nearly 200 anglers from descending on Lake Audubon. The occasion was the Bis-Man Reel and Rec’s 35th Annual Ice Fishing Derby, an event that has become a “don’t miss” for many fishermen.
“This time of year people just want to get out and have some fun,” said Don Schick, Bis-Man president. “It doesn’t matter if it is three feet of snow and cold.”
Several of the participants have been fishing the popular derby for many years, Minot Daily News reported. Mike Hutchins of Minot, who caught the largest northern pike of the derby, thought he’d been drilling holes at the derby for about 20 years. But it’s not just the fishing that attracts eager participants. The money raised through the event goes toward the Bis-Man club’s “Take A Kid Fishing” endeavor.
“Everything is geared toward that,” said Wayne Blohm, vice-president. “We have a little over 700 members and this is one of our fundraisers for the year.”
“We are geared to get youth involved in the sport of fishing,” added Jeffrey Herman, board member. “We have a youth event out at Sweet Briar Dam. We try to get as many children out there as we can. There’s many activities to do that day and they go out and fish too.”
Club members volunteer their time and their boats for the yearly event at Sweet Briar. Adults helping children learn and enjoy fishing is a priority for the club.
“There’s so many kids that have never even been in a boat,” said Schick. “They don’t have that opportunity. It’s a big thing. It’s a very good day. That’s what it is all about.”
The Audubon fishing derby is very kid friendly too. Bis-Man Reel and Rec holds a children’s fishing derby alongside the adult derby. Generous prizes are handed out as well. Every child who catches a fish is rewarded with a free lure donated by one of many sponsors. Some young anglers walk away with fishing rods and other prizes. Every child gets something to take home from the yearly outing that is free to youthful participants.
“There’s no entry fee for the kids,” explained Schick.
The entry fee for the adult derby did go up in price this year — from $5 to $10, still the bargain of the year for an angling competition. Many fishing tournaments have entry fees of $150 or more. Not so for Bis-Man Reel and Rec on the ice at Audubon where the emphasis remains on having fun outdoors with minimal expense.
“It’s easy on the pocketbook,” said Herman. “Sponsors and donors help us keep our costs down. What really makes this thing go is all the people that support us, like the 190 to 200 that showed up today. There’s no doubt about it.”
“This fishing tournament is family oriented,” said Schick. “There’s a lot of repeat people that come. There’s three college gals out there. I remember when they were just little and fishing this derby. Now they set up their own tent, drill their own holes and are having a blast! That’s just great!”
Conditions on the ice at Lake Audubon were similar to what ice fishermen are experiencing at lakes throughout the state. The snow was too deep to allow anglers to travel at will on the lake. To make sure the derby could be held a truck-mounted plow was used to open a few pathways on the ice to help prevent vehicles from getting stuck.
“The guys at the Totten Trail plowed the day before the tourney,” said Blohm. “The conditions are tough. The snow gets to about three feet deep on the ice. If you get off the plowed roads you are not going very far.”
As a result, nearly all of the derby fishing was done in relatively close proximity to the access point at the Totten Trail boat ramp. Traveling elsewhere on the lake was too difficult to attempt, especially with a hard-sided icehouse. Furthermore, explained Herman, the idea for the derby is to enjoy it.
Many people were. There was an abundance of smiles and laughter from those who brought fish to the official weigh station. That, said Herman, is the way fishing is supposed to be whether through the ice or on open water.
“You can’t always explain it. It’s peaceful. It’s relaxing and it’s not always the fishing,” remarked Herman. “We’re a fishing club but we also support camping and getting outdoors, especially during the summer months. You can get a little frustrated but then you realize you are thankful to be alive and out there enjoying a beautiful day.”
Another big event on the Bis-Man Reel and Rec calendar is their spring walleye derby. It is held on the Missouri River out of Graner bottoms located south of Bismarck. Typical participation is 80 or more fishing teams consisting of two or three participants per boat.
While many fishing clubs in the state have come and gone, Bis-Man Reel and Rec has been one of the few that have persisted throughout the years. They’ve done so by remaining committed to enjoying the fun fishing has to offer and by always welcoming new members.
“If you become a new member we’re not going to throw you into things right away,” explained Schick. “Come to our meetings and we take them under our wing. It’s a bunch of friends getting together and doing what we are doing. That’s what it is all about.”