The Creston and Afton area holds several lakes that offer strong fishing holes for ice fishermen.
But, there hasn’t been an ice fishing tournament in the area in recent years.
That all changed when member Adam Randall approached High Lakes Outdoor Alliance about holding an ice fishing tournament on Twelve Mile Lake.
The inaugural Snow Down Ice Fishing Tournament is 7 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 21 at Twelve Mile Lake. Registration begins at 6 a.m., and weigh-in is at 1 p.m.
“There’s tons of tournaments around. You’ve got one down in Diagonal, there’s a ton up north. The West Lake one brings a great draw each year,” Randall said. “There’s tons of great lakes around here, and they just don’t get promoted during the winter as much as they do during the summertime. I think if you can get one going, start it and get the ball rolling, you could probably see them popping up on all the local lakes, especially once Three Mile gets back running.”
Randall, an avid fisherman himself, took templates from several other tournaments he fishes in and used them to help set up the Snow Down Ice Fishing Tournament. Along the way, he’s tweaked a few things.
Entry fee is $100 for a team of up to two people. Team members must fish within 10 feet of each other.
There is an optional big fish contest that costs $5 per team with a prize for biggest crappie and biggest bluegill. The tournament is open to both bluegill and crappie, with a limit of 40 panfish per team to stay within state regulations.
There is a mandatory fish house and equipment inspection prior to takeoff.
“We’re going to have two starting locations to kind of split up the lake so you’re not traveling a quarter of a mile to get to your fishing locations,” Randall said. “Come out and try to catch the biggest 40 fish. We’re going to give away a lot of money and there’s great prizes from sponsors we were able to acquire for the tournament.”
The top three teams will split 50 percent of entry fees paid for the tournament, with first place receiving 25 percent, second place 15 percent and third place 10 percent. Fourth place receives two JT Outdoors custom fishing rods. Fifth place receives eight $25 gift cards to Scheels and sixth place receives its entry fee back.
Other prizes come from 3 Northern Jigs, Joker Custom Tackle, Get Bitten Tackle, Eurotackle and Fastenal, among others.
Austin Berry, High Lakes Outdoor Alliance member, said the organization was excited to partner with Randall on this tournament to promote its versatility.
“We were excited because I feel like a lot of people think High Lakes Outdoor Alliance is just shooting, because we have a lot going on with the shooting range north of Three Mile Lake,” Berry said. “But, really, it’s fishermen and people who like to camp and people who like to hunt and shoot and kayak and canoe. It’s outdoors people. So, this is a good way to remind people High Lakes is interested in all things outdoors in Union County.”
Berry said High Lakes Outdoor Alliance shared the flier for the Snow Down Ice Fishing Tournament on its Facebook page and it received more attention than anything the organization has ever posted.
Twelve Mile Lake is a prime spot for ice fishing right now, according to Randall.
“It’s just loaded with big crappie and big bluegills,” he said. “The way the lake is set up with deep structure, deep drop-offs and how deep the lake is, it gives the fish nothing but room to get bigger and bigger. It’s a good possibility someone could catch a state record out of that lake. And, with the ice as thick as it is, you’re free to move around basically everywhere.”
Randall said sponsors from Joker Custom Tackle fished the lake over the weekend and caught some of the biggest bluegills he’s ever seen.
According to Randall, Twelve Mile Lake also houses large perch and walleye. He said fishermen who catch a perch or walleye the day of the tournament and want to keep them are able to, as long as they are kept in a separate bucket from the bluegill and crappie that will be weighed for the competition.
The event will also include a cookout during weigh-ins.
The remainder of the proceeds, not given away as prize money, will stay in Union County.
“This will be a fundraiser for High Lakes Outdoor Alliance,” Berry said. “This money will go back into Union County, potentially to stock lakes, potentially for other projects.”
For more information on the Snow Down Ice Fishing Tournament, visit the High Lakes Outdoor Alliance Facebook page.