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Park Rapids American Legion fishing derby catches 2,000 people

According to Jerry Benham with the Park Rapids American Legion, there were "well over 2,000 people on the ice" for the 21st annual fishing derby Saturday on Fish Hook Lake. (Photos by Robin Fish)1 / 3
Aleashia Carlson won $500 for catching this .77-pound rock bass at Saturday's fishing derby.2 / 3
Ron Ahmann with Knights of Columbus in Park Rapids collects a tubful of fish caught by anglers at Saturday's derby. "We’re cleaning them and taking the filets to the senior citizens" at the Park Rapids Senior Center, he said.3 / 3

There were "well over 2,000 people on the ice" during the 21st annual Park Rapids American Legion Fishing Derby, according to derby chairman Jerry Benham.

At 1:30 p.m., half an hour into the competition, Benham estimated that approximately 1,750 anglers had come out, "but people are still coming in. It's going great. You can't beat the weather. A lot of perch are getting caught."

Many participants commented that the mild weather was an attraction, compared to last year's frigid event.

"The weather's great. It's not so cold like last year," said Barb Parries of Park Rapids.

"That was brutal," agreed her friend, Rachel Lovin of Fargo.

Diane Vry of Wadena, who started bringing her two sons to the Park Rapids derby 16 years ago when they were young boys, had only one son with her on Saturday.

"The other one chickened out because last year it was so cold," she said.

"It's going fantastic," said Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes, who was on the ice as well. "Every year, it's a well-organized group doing this. The weather is perfect. You can't ask for more."

Butch De La Hunt, president/CEO of the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, said, "The Tip-Up Bar and Warming Lounge has been a good hit. I think, overall, there's big numbers out here. It's a beautiful day. You can't complain about weather. So, that usually helps. Overall, people out here are having a good time."

Thanks to this winter's generous snowfall, holes in the ice were lined up along lanes plowed between long, narrow snowbanks, like furrows in a field.

"There's a lot of snow out there," said De La Hunt. "It was a lot of work to get ready for it. But they did a great job, and we've got a lot of families out here."

Richard Johnson of Fergus Falls found the snow furrows inconvenient. "The snow is a little disappointing," he said. "You can't just hop willy-nilly across."

Besides the city maintenance workers who helped plow the ice, volunteers included members of the Park Rapids football program selling extra hole tickets and Boy Scouts collecting garbage after the event.

Derby results

In fishing derby results, Nate Deshayes of Emily won the Ice Castle fish house for catching the 20th-largest fish.

Division first prizes, a Polaris ATV, went to Dale Raven for a .53-pound crappie, Shawn Mork for a 5.85-pound northern pike, Duane Wallace with a .49-pound perch and Rodney George for a .77-pound rock bass, in a tie with Aleashia Carlson, which George won because he caught his fish first.

Cash prizes from $100 to $500 went to the second- through tenth-place anglers in the northern/walleye/largemouth and perch divisions, and to second- to sixth-prize winners in the rock bass division.

In raffle drawings, the grand prize, a $45,000 gift certificate to Thielen Motors, went to Mark Grotberg.