Event draws more than 1,000 to ice fish
By ZACH SUBAR, The Leader-Herald
POSTED: February 1, 2009
MAYFIELD - Conditions on the Great Sacandaga Lake were windy and
cold for ice fishermen during the first Walleye Challenge, but
that did not stop the roughly 1,000 contestants from coming in
droves to the lake on their snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles.
"We love fishing. This is what we do," said Travis Jones
of Dover, N.H. "It's never too far."
The event was primarily organized by Lou and Nancy Stutzke of
Route 30's Fuel & Food and was the brainchild of Beaver Ross,
from Ross' Bait Shop in Hagaman. Prizes of $500, $300 and $100
were given out each hour respectively for the heaviest, second-heaviest
and third-heaviest walleyes caught, and the contest lasted eight
hours, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
It attracted fishermen and women from Massachusetts, Connecticut,
Vermont and New Hampshire. Lou Stutzke said one contestant had
come from Maryland.
Vergennes, Vt. fisherman Daniel Barrows said he had heard about
the event from his friend, Gary Varmentte, in Crown Point, Essex
County, while Varmentte said he had heard about it from a friend
"Fishermen chit-chat," said Barrows, who left at 1 a.m.
and survived a vehicle breakdown before he made it to the event's
staging location at Lanzi's on the Lake. "They spread the
Ross said organizers had distributed 3,000 fliers advertising
the event, and said tournament organizers had to turn away hundreds
who attempted to sign up after the 1,000 slots had already been
filled. Even with the big numbers, participants praised the tournament's
"As a fishing event, it was very good," said Barrows,
who also fishes often at Tupper Lake. "It was very well organized."
"Couldn't be better," said Ross, as he surveyed the
final participants coming in to the weighing tent on the ice below
Lanzi's. "Everything went right as planned."
Lou Stutzke said credit for the event's smooth operation was also
due to roughly 35 volunteers who patrolled the lake to ensure everyone
was obeying the rules. He praised the state Department of Energy
Conservation for allowing municipalities around the lake to plow
their boat launches, and lauded the towns of Northampton, Mayfield,
Broadalbin and Edinburg for plowing them to allow contestants easy
access to the lake.
Not all aspects of the program were fishing related. Organizers
raffled two all-terrain vehicles and two snowmobiles as well as
power augers and gift certificates from local restaurants. A table
inside the weighing tent held trays filled with hot dogs, chili
and pulled pork, and a line containing hungry patrons consistently
snaked through the tent. Others stopped by to admire the biggest
fish caught during the day as they swam around in a tank.
Edinburg resident Jeremy Baldwin, who caught the day's biggest
fish, called his achievement "long overdue."
Baldwin has been fishing since he was two, but has never won a
competition outright. His fish weighed in at 6.1 pounds and was
27 inches long.
"It's awesome," he said. "Pretty much, we were
expecting to catch some 17-inch fish or something like that, but
nothing that big."
The Great Sacandaga Lake Fisheries Federation, which stocks the
lake with fish each year, received a $2,000 check from the event.
Federation Chairman Randy Gardinier said analyzing the walleyes
that came in throughout the day was, for him, more than just pure
"It kind of gives you an idea of the overall health of the
lake," he said.
Next year, Stutzke said, he hopes to have two weigh stations and
an unlimited number of entrants, which would be welcome to some
at the event who complained about the long distance they had to
travel to weigh their fish at Lanzi's.
Still, those who spend plenty of time around the lake were pleased
with the way things went.
"It brought a lot of people in from all areas, people who
might not come here [otherwise]," said Gardinier. "There's
Zach Subar covers rural Fulton County news. He can be reached
to The Leader Herald