HENDRICKS - Lake Hendricks was a hot spot Saturday as a large number of people stormed onto the ice for the 33rd annual ice fishing derby sponsored by the Lake Hendricks Improvement Association.
While only a handful of people actually caught fish, no one really seemed to mind. By the time the contest started, the fog had lifted and the temperature had risen, making way for a pleasant day on the lake.
"Last year, the snow would melt on you and make everything wet," said Kate Aydin, who lives on the lake. "I think we got a foot of snow that night. But this year, you don't even need a coat."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Marshall resident Leon VanDenBroeke, who, because of the pleasant weather, was able to use his own truck as a portable ice house during the 33rd annual ice fishing derby Saturday at Lake Hendricks.
Aydin did wear her red and black "ice fishing derby hat" though.
"I wear it every year," she said. "Some call it my Elmer Fudd hat."
Because of the warm weather this winter, Jeff Robbins, president of LHIA, said there was a great deal of concern about even getting on the lake this year.
"Even as late as Wednesday, we were concerned about being able to get on the ice," Robbins said. "But the weather cooperated and we have about 16 to 19 inches of ice on the lake where we're holding the derby. And, it's a beautiful day."
People of all ages, in fish houses of all sizes, came to the derby. Some, including Marshall resident Leon VanDenBroeke, fished from their vehicles.
"I fish out here a lot," VanDenBroeke said. "The best part about ice fishing is the camaraderie."
Most of the time, VanDenBroeke fishes with some of his buddies, but he opted to fish from his truck for the tournament.
"I've fished for years, both in the summer and the winter," he said. "It's just nice to be out."
Sarah Delaney of Sioux Falls, S.D. echoed that thought. She and husband Casey were accompanying her brother Chad VanDenBerg and father Dan VanDenBerg on the ice.
"It's a good time whether we catch any fish or not," she said. "The derby is one excuse to get out here in the winter."
With a cabin on Lake Hendricks, the family has caught its share of fish, but not on that day. They even resorted to using one of the holes as a cooler for their refreshments.
"We haven't even seen one on the camera or in the holes or anything," Delaney said. "I think I'm going to go turn our chub in pretty soon."
Mary and Vince Zylstra of Hendricks were two of the volunteers manning the official derby headquarters in the middle of the crowd of fish houses.
"Mary organizes the chili contest each year," said Vince Zylstra, secretary of the LHIA. "They'll award the winner $50 and the rest of the proceeds will go to the LHIA."
Five individuals went head-to-head for the chili cookoff, including Russ Smith and his son Noel Smith.
"My chili is better than sex," Russ Smith said. "It's a no-bean chili, with lots of Tabasco sauce. I offset it with a little bit of honey."
Noel Smith and his wife Heather flew in to the event from their home in New York.
"I try to come every winter," Noel Smith said. "My wife has never been to Hendricks before. I was kind of disappointed because I kept telling her about how much snow we usually have here. But it's a good time. You can't beat it."
John Pitzl of Hendricks said he enjoyed Russ Smith's chili the best.
"I like my chili hot," Pitzl said. " There was also a white chili with chicken in it. That was different."
Pitzl said he wasn't fishing, but enjoyed zipping around on his four-wheeler.
"I'm trying to scare the fish under the ice," he said.
At the conclusion, Mary Zylstra announced that Russ Smith had won by a landslide. Smith ended up donating the money back to the LHIA. According to many, the LHIA has done a remarkable job in recent years.
"This is a great event to support the LHIA," said Aydin, who is also Smith's daughter. "They're doing an awesome job. You can really see the improvements already in the last couple of years, so I like to support that."
Aydin said the lake used to have a bad aroma and have dead carp strewn around the banks.
"But not anymore," she said, "thanks to a dedicated group of people who have done an amazing job."
Canby resident Daron Otto, who was fishing with his daughter Emily, commented on the clearness of the water.
"The fishing is pretty slow on a nice day like this," he said. "The fish just sit still on a sunny day. But you don't get many days like this."
Emily Otto enjoyed being out on the ice though she hadn't caught a fish yet for the derby.
"I've been going sledding down the little snowbank over there," she said. "I'm hoping to catch a fish. I was the first one in our family to catch a fish this year."
In the near future, Otto will likely bring along his two youngest children, too.
"Hopefully, they'll enjoy the outdoors too," he said.
Barry and Nila Meyer, who live on the South Dakota side of the lake, brought along five of their grandkids, all of whom seemed to be having a blast.
Rylee Zylstra, who will turn three at the end of the month, was content to sit snugly in her sled for much of the contest.
"She loves the sled," said Stephanie Sorensen, Rylee's mom. "She's been sliding around and she was also digging with a spoon. She wanted to dig a hole and go fishing."
A number of people brought their dogs along, including Radke the labradoodle, Bacon the chocolate lab and Copeland, a 10-month-old springer spaniel.
"(Copeland) loves jumping up to get the snow," said Berit Amundson, who is originally from Hendricks. "He can jump as high as my head. The first time he started chasing snow was when we were shoveling."
Amundson, who now lives in Staples, said she was surprised that the contest could be held this year.
"Up by Staples, a lot of the derbies were canceled," she said. "It's been too warm. I'm amazed they could have it. But it's perfect."
Of the three brothers-in-law fishing by Amundson, only Nick Tubbs, who is originally from Arco, caught a fish - a 1-3/4 pound Northern.
"It was 770 grams," Tubbs said. "I used a Gemini with a fathead minnow. Hopefully I'll stay in the lead. It's been tough to fish this year."
Cody Krier, 12, of Hendricks, was the first competitor to land a fish, a 1- 1/2 pound walleye. Though there was a lot of excitement around him, Krier remained grounded.
"People are making a big deal out of it, but I've seen a lot bigger ones," Krier said.
About a minute later, 10-year-old Cole Hanson of Ivanhoe brought a small Northern into the headquarters to be weighed.
"It felt good to catch one," Hanson said.
About five minutes later, Brett Lawrence also recorded a small Northern.