It was another successful perch derby held by the Oxford Lions Club.
This event has been held for 16 years and provides local people of this area fishing competition in a family friendly environment. Perch Derby numbers have been down the last couple years, likely because the Whitney Point Crappie Derby has been held on the same day. This was of concern to many contestants that I talked to.
The first auger sounded off on Chenango Lake, just after 4 a.m. Saturday. I wasn't there to hear it, but a die hard group of derby enthusiast were. It was mind numbingly cold out, the most common number that I heard was 14 below. When told the group had been woken up by the auger, I had to see how they stayed warm through the night. They said that they had set up the previous evening and were sleeping on army cots, with a wood stove for heat. It was quite cozy in the tent that they had anchored onto the ice and made for a great place to warm up between fishing sessions.
Besides, the extra chilly temperatures, anglers had to trudge or ride, through nearly eight inches of snow to reach their fishing destination. Before long, the water from boring holes began to be wicked into the snow on the surface of the ice. This made for some sloppy walking conditions. Deep snow and slop on the ice can be rough on machinery, as one attendant, Charles Drexler, of Norwich found out. The engine on his snow mobile was blown and he was over a quarter mile from shore. Lucky for him, he had a spare motor and the skills to change it. He placed a small sled under the engine to prevent any oil or gas from getting into the lake. With freezing fingers he replaced the engine and had the machine running in just over a half an hour. I was totally impressed, as was everyone hanging around.
I received a message from my buddy’s boy, Dylan Angle, at around 5 a.m. He wanted to know if he could borrow my fish finder. I was happy to help and met him on the ice, with the little electric wonder of modern technology. When he was ready to go home, he dropped it off where I had spent most of the day hanging out with friends. They asked what it was, so I set it up for a demonstration. The screen shows open water as a black area. The bottom shows up red and flickers yellow when fish pass. As you drop your jig down, it is picked up by the sonar and shown as a green line. I showed how you set your jug on the bottom and shake it vigorously to stir up the sediment. I was using Jordan Alger of Endicott's rod, to demonstrate. He grew up in Norwich and said that he had never caught a perch out of Chenango Lake before.
As I begun to lift the jig off of the bottom, three fish identified as green lines followed and looked as if they would bite. I quickly handed the rod back to Jordan and said get ready. He wasn't paying attention and didn't know a fish was going to bite. Within a split second, the fish bit and Jordan reeled in and landed his first Chenango Lake Perch. Derbies like these are the perfect chance to help others learn to ice fish.
Appreciation was extended to Dick Chapmen by the Lions Club for catching, tagging and releasing 100 perch for the derby.
The most common gripe about the event, is that it has been held the same day as the Crappie Derby. I heard this numerous times as I walked amongst the crowd. Many were saying that there used to be more people in attendance in derbies of the past. Several anglers said that something needed to be done to make sure they would not be held on the same day in the future. This conflict of schedule keeps people from our area here and those closer to the Whitney Point area there. Between gas needed to travel to an out of town derby and ticket sales, both communities stand to make less profit and benefit – less economically in what should be considered a tourist attraction. We can and will communicate with the people of Whitney Point to prevent future conflict.