SARANAC LAKE - The fishing was pretty good for some. For others the bites were few and far between, and some even got skunked.
But for most of the 271 entries in this past weekend's 29th annual Colby Classic, it was two more days of ice fishing fun as another season on the frozen Adirondack lakes is nearing its end.
Sticking to tradition, the derby held on the first Saturday and Sunday of March drew a mix of youngsters and adults who bundled up for the winter weather and tested their luck and skill in an attempt to land trout, salmon, perch and northern pike. Fish taken from Lake Colby in Saranac Lake were eligible for prizes in both youth and adult classes for salmon, trout and perch, while pike were permitted to be caught in area lakes.
Vermontville’s Warren Bickford displays a salmon he caught early Saturday on the first day of the 29th annual Colby Classic ice fishing derby in Saranac Lake. Bickford took second place with the catch and released the fish later in the day.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
"It seemed to be hit or miss this year," Derby Chairperson Cecilia Martin said. "Some people caught one or two fish, and then there were people who had buckets of perch. One thing is for sure; it was certainly a good weekend for those who put fish on the board."
Martin said the number of participants in this year's derby organized by the Saranac Lake Fish and Game Club was higher than in recent winters, and the size of the event was ideal, especially when it comes to rewarding the young boys and girls who turned out.
"It's a good thing that this derby isn't too big because it gives the kids a good chance to walk away winners," she said. "When they come out here in the cold, it's nice to see them get a door prize or a raffle prize or even land a winning fish. When that happens, they keep coming back."
Winning fish in the adult division were worth $100 for first place, $75 for second and $50 for third. First-place catches in the youth class were awarded $75, with $50 going to runner-up fish and third-place catches earning a $25 gift certificate from the Blue Line Sports Shop in Saranac Lake.
In the adult trout division, Ed Hart III took first place with a 1 pound, 9 ounce catch, second place went to John Booth with a 1 pound, 7 1/2 ounce fish and Lori Duchaine captured third place with a 1 pound, 6 ounce entry.
Jason Barney, along with his girlfriend Kaleigh DeCarr had a weekend to remember. This marked the seventh year the North Bangor couple have participated in the derby to celebrate their anniversary, and they walked away as double winners. Not only did Barney take the win in the adult class for salmon with a 2 pound, 1/4 once catch, but the pair also won the derby's grand prize - a fishing trip for four on Lake Ontario with Fish Doctor Charters. DeCarr also hauled a winner through the ice in the adult perch division.
It marked the second year in a row that Barney went home a winner after he had the top catch for perch in 2012.
"I first heard about the Colby Classic from a friend at the Malone Fish and Game Club," Barney said. "That was seven years ago, and we've haven't missed one since then.
"Jason won about everything last year," DeCarr added. "He had the top perch, he won raffle prizes, and he did it again. We had a great time, we had some success, and we'll be back next year for sure."
Barney edged out Vermontville's Warren Bickford, who took second place with a 2 pound salmon he caught early on Saturday. In addition to taking home $75, Bickford also won a gas-powered ice auger.
"We got beat out by a quarter-once," said Bickford, who fished with his friend Leon Lester each day. "The nice thing is that I was able to release the fish."
Josh Rouse captured third in the adult salmon contest with a 1 pound, 14 ounce fish.
DeCarr's winning perch weighed 12 3/4 ounces, second place went to Ricky Belile with a 12 ounce perch and Levi Bombard placed third with a 11 3/4 ounce fish.
Ross Friend placed first in the adult northern pike with an 11 pound, 8 ounce fish, Taylor Munn was second with a 10 pound, 9 ounce catch and Derek Thurber was third with a 7 pound, 14 ounce catch.
In a rare occurence, just first and second place was awarded this year in the youth trout and salmon contests. Cedar Rivers brought in a winning fish for the second year in a row, taking first in trout with a 1 pound, 4 ounce catch. Second place went to Harley Woodruff with a 1 pound, 2 1/4 ounce catch.
Colby Minbiloe caught the winning the youth salmon, which weighed 2 pounds, 1 ounce, and Gavin Coryea placed second with a 1 pound, 2 1/2 ounce catch.
The three top perch in the youth class all weighed within one once of each other. Cayleen Skiff placed first at 11 ounces, Coryea captured second with a 10 1/4 ounce catch and Cody Skiff was third with a 10 ounce perch.
Tanner Courcelle won for the fourth straight year as a young fisherman. This time around, he took top honors for northern pike with an 8 pound, 12 ounce fish caught in the Rollins Pond area.
"28 tip-ups, 12 hours, one flag up and one fish," Courcelle said describing his fishing party's outing over the weekend. "We only caught one fish, but it was a winner."
One of the adults who joined Courcelle on the ice was Saranac Lake High School graduate Brandon Patraw, who recalled bringing in plenty of winners in the derby when he was a youngster. Although he came up empty this year, Patraw said he loves fishing for pike, whether they are biting or not.
"It's all about getting out there and trying," Patraw said. "I loved doing it as a kid, and I love it now. We've been fishing that spot for a while now, and usually, we don't catch much, but it's almost always a winning fish. I won six years in a row as a kid, and now it's Tanner's turn. We had a blast."
This year, two members of the New York State Conservation Officers Association - Jeff Hovey and Jim Cranken - were on hand to present the four winners of the youth divisions new fishing poles.
Each year, the not-for-profit organization supports youth activities across the sate to promote awarness and appreciation of natural resources.
Martin said plans are already being discussed to make next year's Colby Classic even more special as the event celebrates its 30th anniversary.