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Tom Messak of Amsterdam took first place in the northern pike category with this 36-7/8 inch fish during the Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation Ice Fishing Derby. (Photo submitted)

An unidentified angler holds one the many perch that was caught during the Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation Ice Fishing Derby. According to GSLFF Chair Randy Gardinier, the event drew a record 402 anglers – 344 adults and 58 children. (Photo submitted)


Hamilton County Outdoors -- 02/05/2014 By Dick Nelson

Wednesday, February 05, 2014 - Updated: 11:22 PM

Ice fishing derbies draw thousands of anglers

Much the same as it has been doing since old man winter turned open water into frozen expanses the wind blew across the Great Sacandaga Lake like a howling coyote last Saturday, Jan. 15, and if the more than 2,000 anglers competing in the Sixth Annual Walleye Challenge and/or Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation (GSLFF) ice fishing derbies didn’t keep their bodies in motion, they were at risk of becoming a permanent part of the landscape; it was that cold.

Of course anyone who was sitting in a heated shanty jigging a minnow, shiner or hunt through a trap door in the floor while dining on venison chili or other warm vittles probably wasn’t affected by the 20 degree temperatures and accompanying 17 mph winds, at least not until they motored across the ice to register their catch.

Still it didn’t stop any of these hearty hardwater anglers from going about their business, each hoping to cash in on part of the $70,000 prize money.

I never did get to see any of the frosted faces weigh in their catch. Having just purchased a new vehicle, I didn’t want to risk sliding off an icy road. This is the first all-wheel drive vehicle I’ve owned and I don’t have as much confidence in it as I had in my 4x4 Jeep.

But thanks to Lou Stutzke of Food n’ Fuel and Randy Gardiner of GSLFF, who provided me with information, I can pass the results on to you.

To say the Walleye Challenge was a huge success would be an understatement. Not only did the $70,000 prize structure draw hardwater fishermen from just about every corner of the state, it attracted anglers -- 1,750 in all -- from Connecticut, Idaho, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Vermont. No matter how you drill it, it was a boom to the local economy.

Together those 1,750 anglers caught 378 walleye, according to Stutzke 140 more than last year. And, for those who may think the walleye were all fished out, think again. All but a few were released back into the lake.

Surprisingly there wasn’t a five-pounder among them. The 4.62-pound walleye Kyle Bundy of Broadalbin weighed in was closest to it, and earned him $599.

In addition to fantastic door prizes such as a four-wheeler, snowmobile and Bombardier UTV side-by-side won by Cody Lane of Troy, Ronald Blowers of Northville and Tim Mclnerney of Florida respectively, the contest provided $1,649 in hourly payouts of $599 for first; $400 for second; 300 for third; $200 for fourth; $100 for fifth and $50 for sixth.

During the 7-8 a.m. hour the respective winners were: Christian Miceli, Ballston Lake, 3.15 pounds; Greg Johnson, Gloversville, 2.4 lb.; Joshua Buchanan, Gloversville, 2.32 lb.; Paul Close, Amsterdam, 2.23 lb.; Frank Alvarez, Ft. Hunter, 2.18 lb. and Joe Iannuzzi, Mayfield, 2.15 lb.

Between the 8-9 a.m. hour the respective winners were: Shawn Babcock, Petersburg, 3.8 lb.; Don Rubscha, Gloversville, 3.3 lb.; Tim Thomas, Ontario, 3.06 lb.; John Tremblay, Ballston Spa, 3.05; Jennifer Albert, Schenectady, 2.65 lb. and Matt Cornell, Broadalbin, 2.58 lb.

Third hour: George Eissler, Springfield Center, 3.57 lb.; Pete Robinson, Northville, 2.75 lb.; Owen Potter, Fonda, 2.5 lb.; Matt Flint, Fonda, 2.3 lb.; Jim Meyers, Amsterdam, 2 lb. and Duane Garlock, Palentine Bridge, 2 lb.

Fourth hour: Kyle Ropeter, Gloversville, 3.65 lb.; Rick Mendetta, Gloversville, 2.5 lb.; Matt Wolfert, Northville, 2.47 lb.; Mitch Hayes, Johnstown, 2.45 lb.; Zach Szurek, Johnstown, 2.44 lb.; and Matt Angelo, Scotia, 2.31 lb.

Hour five: Kyle Bundy, Broadalbin, 4.62 lb.; June Brownell, Gloversville, 2.84 lb.; Keith Briggs, Salisbury Center, 2.52 lb.; Lou Miller, Schoharie, 2.5 lb.; Jeff Holt, Ft. Johnson, 2.3 lb.; and Lynn Hime, Gloversville, 2.2 lb.

Hour six: Kirk Vedder, Ballston Spa, 2.46 lb.; John Biggerstaff, Schenectady, 2.1 lb.; Michael Paul Miller, E. Berne, 2 lb.; Donald McConkey Jr., Hadley, 1.82 lb.; Nolan Paro Jr., Ft. Plain, 1.8 lb.; and Brian Harper Sr., Salisbury Center, 1.75 lb.

Hour seven: Paul Spranger, Canajoharie, was first with 2.15 lb., and Jared Boles of Gloversville picked up the second and third place prize money with fish weighing 1.9 and 1.85 pounds. Kayleigh Calderwood of Canajoharie, Mark Miller of Broadalbin and Keith Manganaro of Albany finished fourth, fifth and sixth with 1.75 lb. fish.

During the eighth and final hour it was Mark VanValkenburgh, Johnstown, 4.35 lb.; Brent Muhlberger Sr., Gloversville, 2.1 lb.; Dave Kallen, Northville, 2.05 lb.; William Potts, Cohoes, 1.96 lb.; Brian Tourville, Lake Luzerne, 1.95 lb.; and Dave Lepine, Fonda, 1.95 lb.

The 6- by 10-foot ice shanty was won by Bob Wisegarber of Mayfield.


The Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation’s annual ice fishing contest took place the same day with cash prizes for perch, northern pike and trout. According to Randy Gardinier, the event drew a record 402 anglers -- 344 adults and 58 children.

Tom Messak of Amsterdam took first place in the northern pike category with a 36-7/8 inch fish; Fonda’s Steve Monk was second with 36-5/8 inches; John Lampher of Gloversville was third with 35 inches; and Greg Jones of Schenectady and Justin Glinski of Edinburgh split the fourth and fifth place prize money with a 32-inch pike.

In the perch division Fonda’s Barney Sponenberg and John Perry tied for the top spot with 14-1/4 inch perch; Glinski was third with a 14-1/16 incher and Chris Stankus of Northville and Jim Meyers of Amsterdam rounded out the category with a 14-inch perch.

Ira Cromling of Broadalbin caught the largest trout of the day -- a 23-inch brown that hit the scale at five pounds. Fishing with a group that included his two sons Ira and Zach, Brian Mooney and George Eissler, they hauled up 15 walleye, 12 perch and a mess of smallmouth bass. One of Eissler’s walleye –- 3.57 pounds -- took the top prize during the third hour of the Walleye Challenge.

Cromling’s trout was caught on a walleye rigged hunt over 25 feet of water. In a show of support he donated his first place prize money back to the GSLFF for its fish-stocking program.

Meanwhile Mike Towne of Gloversville was second in the trout category with an 18-5/8 inch brown while Roy Winchell of Kingston finished third with 16-7/8. Surprising there were no fourth place entries.

Along with Gardinier, GSLFF committee members included Jack Smith, Bob Nielson, John Fura, John Wszolek, Gus Muller, Brian Kedik and Rich Kedik.


Those of you who can’t get enough hardwater fishing can register for the Fish House Fish and Game Club Walleye Ice Fishing Contest on Feb. 8 and/or the Reid Hill Fish and Game Club Third Annual Ice Fishing Derby Feb. 22.

Held on the Great Sacandaga Lake from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., registration for the Fish House event is $20 prior to Feb. 7 or $25 the day of the event. Flyers are available at area bait shops, or you can contact Tom Ferguson at (518) 883-6533 or visit

The Reid Hill Fish and Game Club derby will be held out of Wally’s Driftwood Park in Mayfield from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is an 80 percent payback event with 20 percent used to fund the kids’ fishing derby May 18. Cash prizes will be awarded in four categories -- pike, walleye, trout and perch –- and here too you can save $5 by pre-registering ($15 compared to $20 on derby day). For more on this one call Clem DaBiere at 843-2063 or 207-5208; Ed Krzysko at 842-5456, Penny Ross, 843-0186 or Ray Fyfe at 843-3451, all in the 518 area code.

The Schroon Lake Fish and Game Club will hold its 2014 Schroon Lake Ice Fishing Derby from 6 a.m. March 1 through 4 p.m. March 2. There will be three categories of fish -- trout, salmon and northern pike -- with three cash prizes in each category determined by weight. There will also be a cash prize for the heaviest pickerel and perch.

Pre-registered fishermen do not have to sign in at the clubhouse before fishing. Pre-registration is $12 through Feb. 23 and $15 after, either in person or by mail. To pre-register by mail send a check made out to the S.L. Fish & Game Club with a printed list of entrants’ names, complete addresses including zip codes and phone numbers to POB 725, Schroon Lake NY 12870 to arrive by Feb. 22. Email to


There is still a lot of hunting going on, although the season for bobcat and fox ends Feb.15. Rabbits, squirrels and grouse can be taken until Feb. 28 in the Southern Tier, but bunnies (snowshoes and cottontail) can be hunted in the Northern Zone through March 16. Coyotes can be hunted through March 30.

Why the DEC closes the coyote season one day before the end of the month is beyond me. But crows can be hunted through March 31, keeping in mind the season is closed Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.


Reports of hunting-related shooting incidents received by the DEC in 2013 show safety is no accident. With some 650,000 hunters taking to the field last year only 19 were involved in a hunting-related shooting incident, none of which took place in Hamilton County. What’s even more remarkable is that only two of those incidents were fatal, one of which was self-inflicted.

It happened in Washington County last March when the victim slipped on a patch of ice while attempting to shoot a possum at his bird feeder. The other happened in Otsego County when the shooter shot at what he thought was a deer, hitting the victim in the chest.

Officials point out that, given the increase in rifle zones and the passage of the youth mentoring law, which now allows 14- to 15-year-olds to hunt under adult supervision, the record is even more significant.

This past hunting season, the number of two-party shooting incidents was five compared to a five-year average of 16.8. On the other hand, the number of self-inflicted injuries were up -- 14 compared to 8.2.

The reports indicate the most accidents occurred during deer hunting (10) followed by squirrels (two), spring turkey hunting (one), fall turkey hunting (one) upland birds (one), raccoon (one), fox and coyote (one) and other non-game species (two).

Accounting for seven each shotguns and rifles were used in 14 of those incidents, handguns in three, and muzzleloader and bow one each.

The fact that New York hunters set a new record is largely due to the more than 3,000 dedicated volunteer sportsmen education instructors who teach the hunter safety courses.


Speaking of hunting, lottery applications for New Hampshire’s nine-day moose hunt are currently available. The cost for the non-refundable application fee is $25 for nonresidents with the odds of being selected 1 in 121. If interested visit, and enter online or print out a mail-in application. Either way the lottery applications must be postmarked or submitted by midnight May 30. Winners will be selected through a computerized random drawing June 20. The hunt runs from Oct. 18-26.

?Dropping anchor ‘til next time.

To contact Dick Nelson with event or club news or to send a photograph email or Events should include the what, where, when and cost (if any). Photographs should include name of subject(s), town of residency and a brief description of the photo.


Feb. 1-9 -- Great American Outdoor Show, State Farm Show Complex, 2300 N Cameron St, Harrisburg, Pa. Produced by the National Rifle Association this show is without a doubt the largest consumer event of its kind in the Northeast. If you plan to visit this show, plan on spending at least two days. Show hours: Weekdays 9 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sundays 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 seniors, $6 for children ages 6-12. A two-day pass $20, group (10 or more) $10. For information call 1-800-672-4868. Web site:

Feb. 7-9 -- Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs of Sullivan County seventh annual statewide Coyote Hunt Contest (hunting only). Entry fee $30 ($40 after Jan. 27). Along with a $2,000 grand prize and $200 daily prizes the entry fee includes a banquet dinner Sunday from 1-3 p.m. at the WSS Firehouse, Rt. 52, White Sulphur Springs and a free $5 gun raffle ticket. Registration applications are available online at: Contact Kay or Jack Danchak at 845-482-4987 or Linda Loughrey at 845-482-4985.

Feb. 8 – Fish House Fish and Game Club Walleye Ice Fishing Contest, Great Sacandaga Lake, 6 a.m. – 4 p.m. Registration $20 prior to Feb. 7, $25 the day of the event. Flyers at area bait shops. Contact Tom Ferguson at (518) 883-6533 or visit

Feb. 15-16 – Ninth Annual Adirondack Outdoorsman Show, Johnstown Moose Family Center, 109 S. Comrie Ave (Route 30A), Johnstown. Hours: Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission: $5 adults and $1 ages 15 and under. Contact: Mike Hauser, 518-725-5565; email Website:

Feb. 20-23 -- 31st Annual Springfield Sportsmen and Boat Show, Big E Exposition Center, Springfield, Mass. Hours: Thursday 3-9 p.m.; Friday 12-8 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $13 for adults, $5 ages 6-12, and free ages 5 and under. Contact 413-467-2171. Website:

Feb. 22 -- Reid Hill Fish and Game Club Third Annual Ice Fishing Derby, Wally’s Driftwood Park, Mayfield, 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Cash prizes in four categories -- pike, walleye, trout and perch. Entry fee is $15 pre-registration, $20 derby day. For more information on this one contact Clem DaBiere at 518-843-2063 or Ray Fyfe at 518-843-3451.

Feb. 27-March 2 -- 37th Annual World Fishing and Outdoor Exposition, Rockland County Community College, Suffern, NY. Hours: Thursday, 2-8 p.m., Friday, 1-8 p.m., Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $13 adults, $3 under age 12, under age five admitted free. Directions: New York Thruway, Exit 14B, Airmont Road and follow signs. For information call 603-431-4315. Web site:


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