SARANAC LAKE – When an event can be held annually for decades in a row, and even become a local tradition, things need to fall into place to help make it happen.
That seems to be the case with the Colby Classic ice fishing derby that takes place each year over the first weekend of March.
On Saturday and Sunday, the Colby Classic was held for the 30th time, and just like previous years, the derby made for a fun-filled family gathering of ice fishing enthusiasts.
Derby chairperson Cecilia Martin said the consistent size of the field, reliable help, longtime sponsors and generations of the same families returning for the event each year have been factors in the success of the Colby Classic.
“We had about 270 entries this year, and that’s about normal,” Martin said. “I really think because we are keeping it small, things tend to go pretty smoothly. It’s not so big where the lake is so choked up that lines are getting crossed.
“It’s a lot of the same people, the same families coming back year after year. And now, you see the third and fourth generations of the same families out here,” Martin added. “It’s more of a family tradition instead of a big, huge fishing derby.”
The Colby Classic offers prizes in adult and youth divisions for salmon, trout and perch taken from Lake Colby, as well as northern pike caught on surrounding lakes and ponds. In one regard, this year’s derby started out with a bang, as three of the 15 tagged fish that were recently stocked by the state Department of Environmental Conservation were pulled through the ice Saturday Morning.
Normally, the DEC stocks 15 tagged salmon in the lake each year about a week before the derby takes place. This time around, two splake and five rainbow trout were included with the salmon. Both splake were caught, with Bruce Baker hooking a 2-pound, 7-ounce fish around 9:30 a.m, and Travis Boucher bringing in a 4-pound, 12-ounce fish later in the day. Carl Rivers also caught a 6-pound, 2-ounce salmon Saturday. The tagged fish were each worth $100 in prize money.
Prizes were also awarded to the top three catches in each division.
In the adult trout division, Forrest Morgan took first with a 3-pound, 10-ounce catch; Mike Sapone placed second at 3-pounds, 1 ounce and Greg Walker placed third with a 2-pound, 13-ounce fish.
Shawn Warner was first in the adult salmon division with a 4-pound, 12-ounce catch; Larry Strack was second at 3-pounds, 9-ounces and John Skiff was third with a 3-pound, 6-ounce catch.
Bob Gunyup won the adult perch division with a 15-ounce fish; Gary Ottavinia was second at 13 ounces and David Cole was third with a 12-ounce fish.
Rob Boushie won the adult northern pike division with a 12-pound, 13-ounce catch; Larry Duprey was second with an 11-pound pike and John MacNaught was third with a 9-pound, 13-ounce fish.
Gage Coryea won first place in the youth trout class with a 2-pound, 5-ounce fish; Cedar Rivers was second with a 1-pound, 2-ounce catch and Nolan Durfee was third with a 12-ounce fish.
Dylan Strack won the youth salmon division with the only fish entered, which weighed 12 ounces.
Cedar Rivers won the youth perch contest with a 14-ounce fish; Cole Coughlin was second with a 12-ounce catch and Cody Skiff was third at 11 ounces.
Connor Burgess won the youth northern pike division with a 9-pound, 8-ounce catch; Brandon Boudreon was second at 9 pounds, 7 ounces and Connor Sells took third with an 8-pound, 11 ounce fish.
Fishing with his friend Cathy Martin, Boushie hauled in the first-place northern pike near his hometown of Tupper Lake. He caught the winning fish in a pond in Coreys where about a half-dozen people were working the ice.
“I caught it on a jigging pole,” Boushie said. “It took me 15 minutes, but I pulled it through a small hole. I always like going for the big stuff. When you first hook one, when you first grab one, you know if it’s a big one.”
Martin said youth numbers were down a bit this year, and she also said the size and number of northern pike caught were also lower this year.
On the plus side, she was pleased to see a good catch of brown trout over the weekend.
“We had a lot of good-sized brown trout coming in, but we didn’t get those monstrous northern pike like we usually do,” she said. “We usually have somebody bringing in a 13-, a 14-pounder.”
There are a number of participants who have entered every or almost every Colby Classic since it began, and at the same time, there are also volunteers who have worked at all 30 derbies, including Richard Mose of the Saranac Lake Fish and Game Club.
“There’s always one group of gentlemen who we can count on,” Martin said. “First of all, there’s the commitment of the Fish and Game Club to put this on every year, and then there are the guys who help out every year.
“We have the same people coming back to fish, and the same people coming back to help,” she added. “Ernie Lantiegne of Fish Doctor Charters has been there every year for us, the DEC stocks the tagged fish for us, and we have lots of people volunteering their time. At some point, though, we are going to need the younger people starting to help out more.”