Angling For A Good Time

Ice fishing aficionados come from near and far for the 40th Annual Saratoga Lake Ice Fishing Derby

“This is the best fishing derby, the best organized, best location and best run,” Frank Gutierrez, of Cheyenne, said. “The food is really good too,” he added. Guiterrez said other fishing derbies don’t have the food trucks like the Saratoga Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) does. “The people are friendly too,” Gutierrez said.

Alvi Cerise is one of those reasons the fishing derby keeps people coming back. He has volunteered at the fishing derby for several years and he makes friends easily. Known as “Sonny” to his friends, he spends the third weekend of January driving around the lake offering rides to people who need it. He even gives his phone number out so anglers can call him if they need a ride.

While it may be about the prize money, most anglers were just having fun on the ice over the weekend. “I am just glad we are catching fish,” one angler remarked.

Saturday was a frenzy for the first two hours as a steady stream of anglers brought in fish to be measured and weighed. Some would turn back without a weight-in when they saw a fish bigger than theirs on the scale.

Amanda Knotwell, the Chamber’s CEO, said she was busy before 7 a.m. Saturday registering more than 60 anglers. She didn’t have time to get everything set up. As soon as the 7 a.m. mark set in, anglers were lining up outside to have their fish weighed.

Fishing wasn’t the only thing happening on the ice. When the fish slowed down, people took to playing games, making snow sculptures and skating on the ice. Moms and dads were taking their children on sled rides.

The youngest person on the ice Saturday was Gabriel Arellano, the son of Dominic Arellano and Amanda Bacon. He is just two months old, but he spent most of his time in the warm hut sleeping.

Reed Hetherington at 3 years old was all smiles while clearing the ice from the holes at his dad’s fishing spot.

Blake and Ty Hanzlik, brothers who hailed from Gillette and Torrington, respectively, were cooking Italian Elk sausage patties during the slow times. This was Blake’s second time attending and his brother’s first. Blake said the first time he came to the fishing derby it was so cold, he had to put his beer in the fishing hut to keep it from freezing. This year, he and his brother Ty were enjoying the 45 degree weather.

A group from Windsor, Colorado were playing bottle bash. A game where you throw a frisbee toward a stick with a bottle on it. The opponent must catch the bottle and the frisbee.

Jared Marion, of Saratoga had the Wyoming flag on his fishing hut. For him it’s a tradition. His friend, Brady Huntzinger of Greenfield, Indiana, was flying the United States of America flag on his hut. Huntzinger lived in Saratoga for a few years but moved back to Indiana to help with the family farm. He came back for the fishing derby.

Clara Everett, of Saratoga, brought her ice skates out to the lake and still had time to sculpt a snow dog with the help of her friend and her mom.

The Schrock family, of Rawlins, had a snowman next to their hut which was built on Saturday afternoon. Instead of a carrot for a nose, he had a hot dog. The snowman was accompanied by a duck made of snow.

The funniest sculpture was one of a woman splayed out on the ice. A familiar scene for anyone who has spent any time on the ice. She was built by Chris Varner, of Eaton, Colorado, with the help of his son Ethan. The 10-year-old also won for the biggest fish in the small fry division with a total score of 33”, which is length and girth of the trout.

The biggest smile came from Barrett Cary, who brought in a fish with a score of 29.5”. At six years old, he won the biggest fish for small fry in the final hour of the derby. The little angler has been fishing in the derby for five years.


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