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Jay Roepke of Park Rapids caught this northern on Fish Hook Lake weeks before the 12th Annual American Legion Community Fishing contest. Had Roepke landed the same fish last Saturday, it undoubtedly would've earned him a prize. (Jason Durham/For the Enterprise)

Dock Talk: Fishing tourney was a blast for the kids

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Last weekend a crowd of anglers took to the frozen terrain of Fish Hook Lake for the 12th Annual Park Rapids American Legion Community Ice Fishing Contest.

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Though the majority of those ticketholders dropping jigs, spoons, minnows and maggots never caught a fish, a number of fortunate contestants went home with prizes.

The result of 1,750 competitors was 245 fish brought to the scale, which averages one fish for every 7.14 anglers, though a number of people entered more than one fish.

Personally I did not, though I had the opportunity to watch a youngster haul up two fish and, unfortunately, lose another two seemingly respectable fish.

On the other side of me sat my dad, which made a good day perfect - even though the fish didn't choose our baits over the 1,748 other hooks dangling like marionettes in the chilly water.

I did everything right, or so I thought. I arrived to the derby "waiting line" at 8 a.m. and stood for a full two and a half hours with the other dedicated, or arguably insane, anglers fixated on certain holes.

Once the officials opened the gates, my legs churned through the first 20-yards of slush like a full-throttle snowmobile, or so it felt, but after clambering over four snow banks, another 80-yard dash with heavily insulated boots, layers of clothing, a five gallon bucket of gear and a rod bag, my lungs ached and spastically heaved as I scooped out my ice hole. My chest tightens up just thinking about it.

I'm sure spectators didn't rate my sub-arctic sprinting as graceful or speedy, but if I looked half as clumsy as I felt, their sides probably hurt as much as mine.

Those who attended the tournament may have noticed a healthy number of children competing alongside adult counterparts. One of those kids, 8-year-old Luke Dickinson of Park Rapids, was one of those lucky anglers when, early in the event, he ran a nice Fish Hook Lake perch, weighing .82 lbs to the scale.

Luke is no stranger to ice fishing tournaments, since he has participated in the Menahga, Wolf Lake and Osage ice tournaments with his father, Pete, in the past.

I listened to the announcer bellow the top weights for each category throughout the day and heard Luke's name at the top of the perch division. Additionally, he was sitting in position to win the Ice Castle fish house for the tenth largest fish overall.

In the end, Luke did win the perch division and earned a Polaris Sportsman four-wheeler as his prize.

However, Luke missed out on the Ice Castle fish house by just 17 minutes. No, not 17-ounces, 17 minutes. You see, Luke Dickinson's fish tied with the .82 lb. rock bass entered by Rob St. Claire. Since St. Claire's fish was entered earlier in the event than Luke Dickinson's, the tie was broken by time of entry.

So congratulations to Luke for both winning and coming close in his first Fish Hook ice derby.

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