Break out the fishing rods and augers, it’s almost time for the seventh annual Highway 24 Ice Fishing Derby.
Irene Meili, president of the Fishing Highway 24 Tourism Association, is preparing to host the annual event on Sheridan Lake from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4. Meili said she expects 2023 to be the biggest they’ve seen yet after 228 people participated online last year.
“Ice fishing is an event where if you’re not really into you might look out the window in the morning and go ‘I think it’s too cold’ and then you don’t show up,” Meili said. “It’s hard to predict but I’m thinking between 200 and 300 people will be on the lake.”
Tickets for the ice fishing derby are being sold now at Lone Butte Sporting Goods, the Country Pedllar, Interlakes Rona, the Interlakes Market and the Screaming Reel. They cost $5 for juniors six to 16 years old and $10 for adult tickets. Meili said that by buying a ticket, participants consent to having their photos taken during the derby for use in the media and advertisements.
This year the derby is being run out of the Sheridan Lake Resort, where fishers can buy last-minute tickets during the derby. While participants can fish wherever they want on Sheridan Lake, Meili said they have to bring their fish back to the resort to be weighed.
Size is king during the derby, Meili said. The biggest fish, regardless of species, will win the prize. In the past, Meili said they’ve had brook trout entered but this year the lake was stocked with rainbow trout which should make up the bulk of catches. She advises those looking for advice to reach out to local outfitters, like Lone Butte Sporting Goods, for tips on what bait to use.
The winners will be announced at 2:15 p.m. after the weighing station closes. There are prizes for first, second and third place. First place will receive a Strikemaster 40v Lithium 8” auger, second place will receive an Eskimo Outbreak 250XD Tent while third will receive a Garmin Striker Portable fish finder.
Everyone who participates will also earn the chance to win a door prize made up of donations from local businesses. Meili said even if you don’t win anything, ice fishing is a relaxing and healthy activity for the entire family.
“What I always find nice about the event is that it’s very lowkey and you don’t need a lot of money to do it. It’s an inexpensive family event for friends and family,” Meili said. “It’s been almost a tradition actually. It’s the seventh time that we’ve done it and it has always been on Sheridan Lake.”