FORT ANN — As the minutes inched closer to 1 p.m., a crowd started gathering around the fish-size scoring station, while ice fishing competitors packed up their catch, pop-up shanties and gear onto jet sleds before the final weights and measurements.
And one by one, fisher kids and adults, pulled the morning’s best catch from buckets to see if they might win a spot on the winner’s board at Lake Hadlock on Saturday.
“Here’s a heavy one coming,” a spectator said.
“What’s its measure?”
“We’ve got a 29 and a half incher here,” said George F. Smith, the official scorer, who measures length and weight of the fish entered.
“Here’s a perch, 12 1/4-inches and 14 ounces,” he said.
More than 100 — 89 adults and 29 children — vied for a first, second or third place win at the 7th Annual Fort Ann Ice Fishing Derby and the winners included yellow perch, crappies and Northern pike.
“I just love ice fishing day,” said Gina Cantanucci-Mitchell, who lives on the lake and whose daughter won the Northern pike kids division.
And even though temperatures were hovering over 50 degrees, and the top layer of ice was mostly water, the ice on the private lake was still eight or more inches thick. That’s strong enough to hold a light weight car.
“We always make sure it’s safe,” said one of the organizers, Jaime Laczko. “Right now we’ve got close to nine inches of ice.”
Sponsored by the Town of Fort Ann, the ice fishing derby proceeds from ticket sales and raffles go back to fund local youth programs.
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“We give the proceeds to the backpack program, the Fort Ann Library, Make a Wish and the youth sports program,” Fort Ann town board member Gretchen Stark said.
Before the first derby, Stark put together a recreation committee that asked residents what events they might like the town to organize and an ice fishing derby on Hadlock was among the top suggestions.
So seven years ago, they kicked off their first.
Lake Hadlock is a small Adirondack lake about one and three-quarters of a mile long and a half-mile wide and there are about 270 properties around the lake.
The Lake Hadlock Association — comprised of Lake Hadlock property owners — provided crockpots full of comfort for the competitors and their families.
“It’s crock pot heaven,” said Cathy Matier, owner of the Hadlock Inn. Each year, Matier has donated the use of the inn and surrounding property for the fishing derby.
Among the steaming choices are, corn potato soup, cream of broccoli, minestrone, hot dog chili, beef stew, chili, mac and cheese, sausage and pepper soup and another chili. And the Fort Ann Library provided the cookies.
“We’re a good neighbor today,” said LHA Vice President Tim Stachnick. “This is the one time each year that the lake is open to the public.”
But the kids who fish in the derby also all win a prize donated from dozens and dozens of sponsors.
“Every kid gets something,” Stark said.
“It’s all about the kids,” Matier added.
Kathleen Phalen-Tomaselli is a reporter and photographer covering Washington County, arts and life, features and breaking news.