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Flashback: Park Rapids Lions Club hosts 1962 ice-fishing contest

Park Rapids Enterprise staff delved into our newspaper archives to explore the history of the Park Rapids community fishing contest.

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The fish weren't active at the 1962 Park Rapids Community Fishing Contest, hosted by the Lions Club, but anglers were said to have had fun.

The first-ever Park Rapids ice-fishing derby was launched by the Lions Club in 1962.

In a Feb. 1, 1962 article in the Enterprise, club president Lloyd Stigman and chairman of the prizes committee Bob Grover set up a display in the window of Larsen’s ACE Hardware to promote the event.

It was held Feb. 4 on Fish Hook Lake. Tickets were $1 each “and include a hole to fish in.”

Hundreds were said to enjoy the Lions’ first fishing derby, “despite the recalcitrance of the most uncooperative fish ever gathered together in one body of water,” the Enterprise reported.

Mike Gravdahl, former publisher of the Enterprise, recalled that the Lions Club fishing derby was put together on a much smaller scale than the mega contests hosted later by the Eagles Club, Rotary, Jaycees and American Legion.

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In his 1999 sports column, Gravdahl wrote about the 1962 tourney. “The first one was bitterly cold and that trend has carried over to more than one of the mega tournaments. But there have been some nice days also and those are the ones our minds remember the most.

“If my memory serves me correctly, the first Lions Club Derby was extremely cold and a small bluegill caught by Bob Ohlgren was the top fish and won a three horsepower Johnson outboard. When the first mega tournament was held, it was minus 30 degrees the morning of the contest, much like the Lions contest before it. Catching the top fish that first year was Dick Thoreson of Park Rapids. He won $1,000 for a 4-pound, 2-ounce northern.”

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Robert Ohlgren, 14, won the Johnson motor and a $25 Savings Bond for the first and the largest game fish caught, a 4-ounce bluegill. Other prizes, totaling more than $750, were awarded by the Park Rapids Lions Club.

In addition to the hardworking committee members that make the event successful, Gravdahl credited Fish Hook Lake. “Fish Hook Lake is one of the finest fishing lakes in the state of Minnesota,” he wrote. “I feel I can say that from experience. I grew up on Fish Hook River and fished in Fish Hook Lake on a regular basis.”

Proceeds from the Lions Club fishing derby were used to “defray the cost of the Lions many civic improvement projects,” reported the Enterprise. “Chief among these programs is the ‘Sight Saving Program.’ In this program, local Lions have spent $980 to provide eyeglasses for children who could not afford them and who could obtain them from no other source.”

Related Topics: HISTORY
Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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