Hundreds of people turned out Saturday to compete for the biggest whopper at the 7th annual Highway 24 Ice Fishing Derby in Sheridan Lake.
Fishing Highway 24 president Irene Meili said 300 tickets were sold and 40 fish didn’t get away - an all-time record for the derby.
Rob Tait, of Bridge Lake Towing, took home the prize for the biggest fish - a 5.75-pound rainbow trout. Meili said the winning fish is usually between seven and eight pounds but Tait’s fish was a really healthy-looking trout.
Tait said he was excited to try out the new auger he won.
“I’ve been ice fishing since I was a little kid. I like staring down a hole and peace and quiet,” he said. “It was a beautiful day for ice fishing, we couldn’t have asked for a better day.”
Shawn Chatterly and Don Thibeault both caught fish that weighed four pounds five and 16 ounces. Chatterly, who turned his fish in earlier, took second place, while Thibeault won third.
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Meili said the event drew a lot familiar faces, as well as new ones.
“So many people have moved up here and came here for the first time while others checked everything out for next year,” she said. “They asked about how it works. Everybody who lives up here knows how to ice fish but now we have people asking if they can just walk on that ice.”
The good weather encouraged fly fishermen like 83 Mile’s Jeff Bruce to try his luck. Bruce said he only goes ice fishing when the weather is right.
“When you’re a fly fisherman there’s nothing else, it’s just one of those things,” Bruce said. “This is colder and ain’t for everybody but it gets us out, that’s the main thing. Catching fish is secondary, as long as you’re out on the water that’s what it’s all about.”
Langley’s Nicola Jones came up to the Cariboo just for the derby. Jones said she and her husband got into ice fishing three years ago but noted that there aren’t many opportunities down in the Lower Mainland. She didn’t catch anything but plans to return in the summer and try again.
“It’s fun, you stand at a hole and wait for your fish to come up,” Jones said. “It’s beautiful up here and it turned out to be a great day for it. We like to adventure so getting out fishing in the wilderness is great.”
Sheridan Lake Resort owner and highway director Tammy Midgley, who hosted the derby at her resort, said everyone seemed happy to be out.
“You get locals out and people visiting, it’s just a lot of good old-fashioned fun,” she said. “It’s just such a great community. We all come together, pitch in and have fun.”