Hundreds make Saratoga Lake home for the weekend
Saratoga Lake was turned into an outdoor village last weekend, replete with RVs, food trucks, a temporary Chamber of Commerce office with an ATM and hundreds of ice fishing shelters. The occasion was the 40th Saratoga Lake Ice Fishing Derby held January 20 & 21, staged and hosted by the Saratoga/Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce. Under the capable leadership of Chamber Director, Amanda Knotwell, this year’s event saw over 700 people at the lake village; 637 of them registered participants.
The Saratoga Lake Ice Fishing Derby is the oldest ice fishing tournament in the sate, one of the biggest and probably the most popular. Fishermen, women and kids came from all over Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota. There was one registrant that traveled 1000 miles to the derby, and another, who could lay claim to the longest distance traveled, logging 2,748 miles round trip. A significant number of participants were recording ten or more years in attendance, and several others could claim all 40 years the event has been held.
The weather over the past ten days or so set up perfectly for an ice fishing derby. The previous weekend’s cold temperatures, which included many hours below zero, provided a solid ice base, but the weather during the event was sunny and mild. Not that the ice fishing crowd is afraid of a little cold weather, but the conditions made it comfortable to fish outside the huts, hit up the concession area and visit with old friends. The overall atmosphere was a combination of fishing tournament and festival.
The economic impact on Saratoga was a positive as well. Hotels and restaurants were full and all stores, not just the gift shops, reported an increase in traffic and an uptick in business.
While Amanda Knotwell did a truly commendable job organizing this large event with all its logistical and organizational challenges, she points to one of her predecessors, Chuck Box, for his role in getting the ice fishing derby started. Also, Stacy Crimmins, another former Chamber Director, who ran and grew the event during her 17 year tenure.
Everyone involved was pleased by the success of this year’s Saratoga Lake Ice Fishing Derby. Especially since the derby could not be staged last year. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department went through a process to eliminate invasive species in 2022-2023, which forced the cancellation of the tournament. Among all of Amanda’s other duties, during this period she worked very closely with WGFD to restore and restock the lake, even going out in the field with their teams. She credits the department with being very supportive, since the lake is important year-around, in addition to for the derby. This past weekend, however, was proof that despite the pause of a calendar year, that this is a premiere event in the fishing community, and for the community of Saratoga.
The complete results can be found on the Saratoga/Platte Valley Chamber website, https://www.saratogachamber.info