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Hundreds at derby; Funds raised help Jamestown Rural Fire Department

A fisherman brings a fish in a bucket to be weighed during the Jamestown Rural Fire Department Fishing Derby Saturday on Jamestown Reservoir, fish houses dotting the lake behind him.(Kari Lucin / The Sun) 1 / 2
Collin LeMieux, 10, of Jamestown, clips the tail of a fish to ensure that it won’t be weighed twice Saturday at the Jamestown Rural Fire Department Fishing Derby. (Kari Lucin The Sun)2 / 2

Armed with ice augers, rods and reels and their wits, nearly 800 anglers braved the icy winds Saturday at the Jamestown Rural Fire Department Fishing Derby to catch more than 175 fish — crappies, perch, walleye and northern pike.

“This area’s pretty well-known for good fishing, and the people who fish it do well,” said Rick Woehl, fire chief with the JRFD.

The annual event typically raises about $30,000 for the all-volunteer JRFD, helping defray its equipment costs. This year, the funds raised will likely go toward a 3,000-gallon tanker that costs about $200,000, with grants and funds from the rural fire district making up the difference.

The tanker is especially needed given the growth projections for the rural Jamestown area, said firefighter Dave Klatt.

A variety of anglers turned up on Saturday to try their luck at the $400 and $500 first prizes for the heaviest fish.

“We have a wide range of people, from 1 year old to 80-year-olds who are out here … at least 50 kids out there under 12,” Woehl said.

There were also plenty of women out on the ice as well as men, and international anglers from Canada, as well as contingents from Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota.

“It is a very good turnout,” Woehl said.

More portable fish houses seemed to be on the ice than cabin-style fish houses, and a few brave or well-insulated fishermen even sat outside in the open air to fish.

The one thing missing from the ice Saturday was vehicles —trucks and cars weren’t allowed due to their weight.

“We allow everybody to bring ATVs out and set up their fish houses where they wish. That makes it a sought-after fishing tournament,” Woehl said.

In some other tournaments, holes are pre-drilled and people don’t get to choose their locations.

The rules for the tournament are fairly simple. Each person can win just one fish prize, and fish must be alive when they’re weighed. Their tails are clipped with a scissors so that no fish is weighed twice. The heaviest fish of each kind wins, and there are first, second and third prizes for each of the four species in the tournament.

“It’s just fun to get out of the house,” said Jordan Slusser of Jamestown, one of many people who brought in a perch to be weighed.

About 40 volunteers collaborated on Saturday to help participants park, register, get fish weighed and ensure safety, but even more people sell tickets for the event — likely about 100 people across the state of North Dakota, Woehl said, calling it a “community effort.”

“A lot of guys will get none, and some will get three (fish),” said Joel Guthmiller, first captain with the JRFD.

“That’s fishin’,” Woehl said with a nod.

Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by email at