Great weather, big turnout for Colby Classic

Above, from left, brothers Brandon, Colby and Dillon Boudreau display their catches of 13 northern pike, a perch and a bull head Sunday after completion of the 35th annual Colby Classic ice fishing derby. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — Unbeatable conditions and a huge field of entries all came together over the weekend as the Colby Classic ice fishing derby aptly fit its description. This year’s tournament was truly a classic.

An impressive number of ice fishing enthusiasts, around 370 strong, showed up for two fun days to help the Colby Classic celebrate its 35th anniversary in style.

On Saturday, participants gleefully soaked up the sunshine and pleasant temperatures as the fishing got started on an amazing day for early March. Although Sunday’s weather cast some snow, a little wind, and cooler temperatures on Lake Colby and other area lakes and ponds being fished, enjoying a second straight winter day outdoors wasn’t tough to do.

The tournament is organized by the Saranac Lake Fish and Game Club and prizes, including $100 for each winner, were awarded for the top three places in both adult and children’s divisions. Prize-winning fish were for a combined trout-salmon division and perch taken from Lake Colby in Saranac Lake, and northern pike caught through the ice on other bodies of water in the Tri-Lakes area.

On Lake Colby, thick, hard ice covered with just a little snow and no slush made it easy and safe to get around, which accounted for the large number of pickup trucks, suv’s and cars carting people to and from their fishing spots of choice. Of course, the traditional dozens of snowmobiles and four-wheelers crossing the ice were also a preferred method of transportation.

Lexie Laramee of Lake Clear walked away from this year’s Colby Classic with the winning northern pike, which weighed more than 12 pounds. Laramee also claimed the grand prize of a chartered fishing trip on Lake Ontario. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Matt Glaude, the first-year director of the Colby Classic, was thrilled with the turnout.

“Definitely, the weather was great for sure, perfect ice conditions; not a lot of snow cover on the ice itself, and just word of mouth,” Glaude said, describing how everything came together. “It was just a beautiful two days, especially Saturday, and people came around. It’s just a good time of the year to come out here.

“I’ve never organized anything like this before,” Glaude added. “Organizing this event, I’m relieved that’s it’s over with, but I’m happy for all the winners, and everybody was a winner today. This was amazing. So many prizes, so many happy faces, a lot of good times.”

Every year, northern pike are eagerly pursued on local frozen waters away from Lake Colby, and Lexie Laramee took top honors for the adults in that category. Fishing on Lake Clear in her home hamlet Sunday, Laramee caught her biggest fish ever, taking first place with a 12.36-pound pike.

“Holy crap,” Laramee said describing her reaction when she realized what she had hooked. “I’ve caught decent sizes, but not that big. She kept running, but we eventually got her in.”

Pictured from left, are Ciarra Rivers, Carl Rivers and Julia Pickard, showing off trout they caught Sunday at Lake Colby. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Laramee’s day turned even more memorable when the prizes were doled out after the derby officially ended at 4 p.m. Sunday. The names of all the winners in the adult contests were put in the drawing for the Colby Classic’s traditional grand prize, and Laramee came out on top again, winning a Lake Ontario fishing trip with Fish Doctor Charters.

Saranac Lake’s Bob Zatorski took second with his 11.51-pound northern, which was Saturday’s biggest catch in the derby. Zatorski is a longtime fan of the derby who joins up with the same group of friends who come from Westchester County each year for the tournament. This winter, they fished on Follensby Pond.

“I think that this weekend, when you have good weather and you have wonderful attendance, you’re going to have an event that is enjoyed by all,” Zatorski said. “It’s predicated on the weather. We had a banner day yesterday and a banner day today.

“It’s something that people look forward to on a year-to-year basis, and we’re very happy to have an event like this which supports the entire community,” he continued. “We’ve been doing this for 15 years. Regardless of how many fish were caught or not caught, everyone had a nice time being outside. If you can get people to recreate and get away from their gadgets and out of the house.

“It’s predicated on the weather. We had a banner day yesterday and a banner day today,” Zatorski continued. “Regardless of how many fish were caught or not caught, everyone had a nice time being outside. If you can get people to recreate and get away from their gadgets and out of the house, that’s good.”

Doug Peck placed third in adult pike, weighing in at 11.47-pounds.

Jeff Santoro took first in the adult trout-salmon category with a whopping 10.64-pounder, Scott Erbald was runner-up with a 7.19-pound catch and Steve Chebetar placed third at 6.09 pounds.

Henry Denis Jr. had the top perch at .94 pounds, David Bishop was second at .88, and Steve Bombard placed third with a .74-pound fish.

Ciarra outdid her brother Cedar by just a little bit to win the youth trout-salmon contest. Her first-place fish weighed in at nine-tenths of a pound, with Cedar placing second at .85. Brendan Bombard placed third with a .76-pound catch.

Jayden Dennis won the youth perch division with a 1.01-pound fish, Haley Dennis placed second and Allyssa Barney was third. Tupper Lake’s Brendan Boudreau had the top youth northern pike, weighing 8.14 pounds. Rex Peria placed second with a 7.99-pound pike and Kealan Ryan finished third with a 7.55-pound fish.

For the Boudreaus, the Colby Classic is a family thing. Along with their father Matt, brothers Brandon, Colby and Dillon spent the weekend fishing Middle Saranac with northern pike the main quest. After the derby ended on Sunday, the boys happily displayed their catch of a dozen pike, along with a fat perch and a bullhead.

“We’re going to grind then up and make pike burgers,” their dad said.

Locals Walt Farmer and Bill Vaughn haven’t missed a single winter of ice fishing in the Colby Classic during its 35-year history, and to honor the event, they teamed up to sponsor one of the $100 tagged trout put in the water. Theirs was one of two tagged trout caught, with Adirondack Health sponsoring the other fish taken through the ice.

An interesting story played out with the tagged trout, which were both taken on Saturday. Youngster Anna Provost caught the first one, and less than an hour later, her father Michael Provost brought the next one through the very same hole in the ice.

In the tradition fashion of telling fish tales, Glaude said the words he heard most frequently over the weekend were about the “The ones that got away. Those stories. The guy’s holding on inside the hole, trying to pull the fish out, and he doesn’t get it.”

Glaude went on to say that the family atmosphere is a big part of the Colby Classic’s identity. “A lot of it is the family scene,” Glaude said. “A father and son come in with a fish, they put it on the scale, and it’s big enough to go on the leaderboard. They smile and high-five. It’s great to see.”