A sloppy start didn’t keep anglers away form the ice of Lake Nokomis and the AMVETS Post 724 and NCO Club Ice Fishing Tournament last Saturday.
Balmy overnight temperatures coupled with rain left the surface of Nokomis covered with water for the start of the tournament. Fierce winds and steadily dropping temps were what anglers faced throughout the day.
Still, the lake was busy, with trucks, ATVs, snowmobiles, shacks and people sprawling across its ice.
For a modest entry fee of $10 ($5 for kids nine and younger) ice anglers could participate in some friendly competition, have a shot at some really nice prizes and benefit a good cause.
Registrants fished from 8 a.m-2 p.m. then gathered at the AMVETS tent, near the boat landing on County Highway N, for the prize ceremony.
AMVETS Post 724 Vice Commander Dan Keck said the event is about supporting members and veterans of the armed forces and their families.
“This is our fifth annual ice fishing tournament. The (National Guard) NCO Club and the AMVETS put it on,” Keck said. “All proceeds go directly in support of, basically the 951st, which is the National Guard unit here out of Rhinelander and Tomahawk. We also donate to the Wounded Warriors and any veteran that would need it.”
The tournament draws hundreds each year. Keck said the number of participants this year was somewhat fewer than last year, when about 400 registered.
“I think a lot of that has to do with the ice conditions, the weather. We have ... approximately 311 fishermen out here today,” Keck said.
Many prizes were made available by area sponsors. Door prizes are given out and items are raffled off. And, of course, the most successful anglers are awarded prizes.
“We have five fish categories – perch, crappie, bluegill, walleye and northern – and we give away prizes up to three places on each category,” Keck said.
Walleyes eluded anglers during the tournament, leaving three prizes unclaimed. Those prizes were given away as additional door prizes. participants were having some luck on fish in the other categories, though.
“We’ve been registering a lot of fish,” Keck said. “It’s been a pretty decent day for a lot of fishermen. Some fishermen haven’t gotten any fish at all.”
Participant Elmer Wimmer said his group was not faring real well in the fish-catching department, but added that they were enjoying the tournament nonetheless.
“First time fishing in the tournament here for the vets,” Wimmer said. “And it’s a great tournament. Our gang will be back next year with seven strong.”
Wimmer himself had seen a little action.
“The only one that caught fish was I – I caught seven perch. Nothing big enough to make the board. But we did have a good time.”
Wimmer was out right away in the morning and had experienced everything the day had to offer, from its warm start to its forceful winds and plummeting temps. He said the weather wasn’t an issue.
“I dress for it, so I never really got cold,” Wimmer said. “When we got here at first, it was even raining this morning. It keeps everybody on their toes.”
Many volunteers helped with the planning, preparation and running of the tournament, then, after a long day on the ice, the cleanup. Everything from putting-up and taking-down their tent to manning the grill.
Chili, brats, hot dogs and hamburgers were available at the AMVETS tent. Veteran Jeff Kennedy helps prepare the food at the annual event happily.
“We do the cooking – we do it every year. Because it’s for Wounded Warriors and military support,” Kennedy said.
Top prize in the northern pike division, a 6- by 12-foot Frabill six-man hub shelter valued at $350, was won by Aydan Maass, who took a 29-inch northern.
Chuck Oleinik, at the top in both the crappie and bluegill categories, took home an All-Pro one-person ice shelter and a Frabill Recon sled, each valued at about $150, for those efforts.
An All-Pro one-person ice shelter was awarded to William Mutter for taking first in the perch division.
In addition to his first-place finish in two of the panfish divisions, Oleinik took the second spot in the northern division. A Marcum LX-i hand-held sonar unit, valued at $140, was the prize for his 28-inch fish.
Zack Arnott, Jason David and Dale Elliot took second place in the crappie, perch and bluegill categories, respectively. Each was awarded a $50 gift certificate from The Bait Shoppe in Rhinelander.
Tom Busch hauled in a 28-inch northern, good enough for third place, and took home a bucket of fishing gear valued at $75.
Third place crappie, perch and bluegill winners, Eli Heimerl, Craig Hansen and Jeff Pagel, respectively, each earned a bucket of fishing gear valued at $50.
Happy spectators stood in an increasingly-deep puddle of water, forced through a drilled hole in the ice by the weight of the crowd, as fish prizes were awarded and drawings took place.
In addition to the prizes available to anglers placing in the top three in each category, 160 other prizes went out to lucky winners.
1. Aydan Maass, 29 inches.
2. Chuck Oleinik, 28 inches.
3. Tom Busch, 28 inches.
1. Chuck Oleinik, 11-1⁄2 inches.
2. Zack Arnott, 11 inches.
3. Eli Heimerl, 11 inches.
1. William Mutter, 10-1⁄2 inches.
2. Jason David, 10-1⁄2 inches.
3. Craig Hansen, 10 inches.
1. Chuck Oleinik, 8-1⁄2 inches.
2. Dale Elliot, 7-1⁄2 inches.
3. Jeff Pagel, 7-1⁄2 inches.
AMVETS (American Veterans) assists veterans and their families and sponsors programs that serve the country and its communities. It was founded by veterans shortly after World War II.
Currently, membership in AMVETS is open to anyone serving, or who has honorably served, in the U.S. Armed Forces from World War II to the present, including those in the National Guard and Reserves. There are more than 1,400 AMVETS posts nationwide.
Craig Turk may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.