The 34th annual Saratoga Lake Ice Fishing Derby will be held Jan. 21-22 and will offer prize money to ice fishers who brave the cold and ice of Saratoga Lake.
The event will bring ice fishers from the Valley and afar to the frozen surface of Saratoga Lake for a weekend of fishing and, perhaps for a lucky few, some significant cash prizes as well as the fisherman’s favorite; bragging rights.
There will be over $6,000 in guaranteed prize money at this year’s event plus up to $35,000 in other prizes, according to a release by the event sponsor, the Saratoga/Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce. The chamber will offer $100 for the largest fish measured per hour, and there is a grand prize of $2,000 for first place, $1,000 for second place and $500 for third. There will also be three trophy fish worth $20,000, $10,000, $5,000 and pink-tagged bounty fish worth $500.
The bounty fish have pink tags behind their dorsal fin and will net $500 to the first fisher who catches one. The three trophy fish are worth a combined $35,000, but those payouts will only be made if the fish are caught during the time of the derby. According to Stacy Crimmins of the Chamber of Commerce, in summer 2015, one fisher caught the $20,000 tagged grand prize trophy fish. However, because it was after the event, there was no cash prize Crimmins said, only adding that the summer capture of the fish is proof positive that they do really exist.
This year, Crimmins said, the Chamber of Commerce had to purchase fish to stock the lake for the event. Typically, she said, the lake is stocked by the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish. However, the Game and Fish department had difficulties with its usual hatchery and did not have a reliable stock of acceptable fish with which to stock the lake.
Because of that, the Chamber worked with the Game and Fish Department to select an alternate hatchery that met standards, and the chamber purchased the fish to stock the lake.
“We want to make sure that there are fish to catch,” Crimmins said, adding that the chamber purchased 170 fish to stock the lake for this year’s event. The fish the chamber stocked the lake with are between 8-14 inches, she said.
While the hope is that most of the prize money will be collected by participants the weekend of the event, Crimmins said that anyone fishing in Saratoga Lake any time of year who catches a fish that has been tagged should stop by one of the reputable fishing guide and supply companies or the Department of Game and Fish to find out what the tag means.
The tag could have been placed there by Wyoming Game and Fish, another agency, or it may be a tag for a fishing derby fish.
“They should stop by and find out if the tag on the fish they caught is worth money or not,” Crimmins said.
All participants must have a valid fishing license issued by the state of Wyoming to register, the Chamber’s release said.
The Ice Fishing Derby will be held Saturday, Jan. 21, and Sunday, Jan. 22. Saturday, the derby will be held from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sunday, the event will run from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The registration fee is $35 for an adult fisher, and $10 for the small fry class, which is only open to anglers 14-years-old or younger. Participants can register and pay fees online at the chamber of commerce’s website. Hopeful participants can also call the chamber at 307-326-8855.
Anglers can also register in person during business hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or on Friday until 8 p.m. Fishers can also sign up the morning of the derby at the lake starting at 6 a.m.