By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN The unseasonably warm weather this winter has led many winter events to be cancelled, postponed, or changed to adapt to the conditions, and the 66th annual Howard Lake Fishing Derby is no exception.
Although the derby will still take place Saturday, Feb. 11 from 1 to 3 p.m., the events will be centered at Lions Park, rather than on the lake near Memorial Park.
“I think this will be the first year we have decided to keep the headquarters for the fishing contest right on shore,” said Howard Lake Sportsmen’s Club President Denny Decker.
In other years when the ice has not been ideal, the headquarters remained close to shore, Decker noted.
“I’m hoping for good weather, where people will come into town to participate and visit Howard Lake businesses,” Decker said, noting that those who choose to will still be able to go onto the ice and fish.
After the derby, there is a raffle drawing for those who purchased a $2 ticket from Joe’s Sport Shop or members of the Howard Lake Sportsmen’s Club.
The grand prize is a 14-foot Ice Castle fish house with a V-front and wheels. First prize is an FL8 Vexilar, and second and third place winners will take home framed prints.
Despite the warm weather, ticket sales have been going well, Decker said.
He noted that it was a good thing, since this is the only fundraiser for the sportsmen’s club for all the things it contributes to throughout the year.
While the ice chiseling and auger contests will still take place, participants will have an easier time getting through the ice this year than in previous years.
“I heard today (Wednesday) that there is 14 inches of ice,” Decker said.
Usually, contestants in the ice chiseling and auger contests have to get through at least 20 to 24 inches of ice. The least amount of ice in the past was 16 inches, Decker said.
Most of the contestants in the ice chiseling and auger contests are regulars, such as Tom and Steve Bobrowske and Dan Zachmann.
The Bobrowske brothers have been participating in the ice chiseling contest for about eight to 10 years, Decker said.
“It’s a rivalry. They could care less about the $10 to $20 they will win in the contest; they want the bragging rights for the year,” Decker said.
Decker noted that ice chiseling is about the hardest a man will work for the three to four minutes it takes to get through the ice.
Despite that, there is usually at least one first-timer who will give it a go, he added.
Before the derby, The Country Store will be offering free Heat Factory hand warmers, coffee, cocoa, and cookies from 10 a.m. to noon.
A drawing for door prizes at The Country Store will take place at 11:30 a.m., and entrants must be present to win.