Pike takes $10,000 at second Ice Castle Classic [Video]
Watson, Minn. — The Second Annual Ice Castle Classic on Lac qui Parle Lake couldn’t have been much more different this year than the inaugural first year of the ice fishing tournament last year.
For starters, the weather, with the temperatures in the 30s and partly cloudy, partly blue skies, was just about perfect. Last year, the thermometer barely got over 8 degrees (which makes a difference when there’s a four-hour set-up period preceding the start).
But the fish were a different story this year in a big way. Last year, only five fish were weighed in – the winning entry a 16-pound smallmouth buffalo, a rough fish – meaning that most of the 50 prizes, including three Ice Castle wheel houses, had to be drawn for at the conclusion of the tournament.
This year, there were more than 100 fish entered in the contest in the first hour alone, with cheers erupting frequently from the tournament field that was double the size of last year. About 1.2 square miles of ice had been Swiss-cheesed with more than 7,000 holes the night before by local volunteer fire departments, according to Chad Hepler, of Ice Castle.
In total, there were 122 fish weighed in, and the weigh-in slowed down once many realized that it was going to take at least a 1-pound fish to finish in the top 50. There were 2,261 tickets sold for the tournament, but it’s unclear how many attended since anglers could fish two holes but needed a ticket per hole. Of the top 50 fish, 35 were northern pike, but also in the money were channel catfish, crappies (the largest weighed 1.72 pounds), and sheepshead. Walleyes, bullheads, yellow perch, and white bass were also caught but fell short. The last fish to score a prize was a 1.03-pound sheepshead.
“The lake redeemed itself,” Hepler said. “After we only (had) five fish last year, a lot of people anticipated we’d go into a drawing again,”
But, within the first minute, anglers were running toward the weigh-in station (ties are broken by the first fish to be weighed in), and Lucas Christians, of Montevideo, was the first to get to the weigh in with a northern pike that weighed 1.68 pounds. That left him in 25th place and the winner of a Jiffy ice auger after all was said and done.
“I had dropped my jig right after the start, gave it a few quick jigs, and a few seconds later, I had a northern through the hole,” Christians said.
But the biggest fish was caught by Eric Tolzmann, of St. Paul, who won $10,000 with the 4.12-pound northern pike he caught in the final hour of the tournament.
“I’ve never won anything before,” Tolzmann said.
Tolzmann was fishing with his son, Jerry, grandson Dalton Tolzmann, and his grandson’s girlfriend, Laura Rakow. As soon as he hooked into the fish, knowing the leader was under four pounds, Tolzmann, 69, had a good feeling about the pike, which he said he battled for under 10 minutes.
“I thought, ‘This could be it,’ ” Tolzmann said.
Tolzmann said the fish was the only one he caught all day. He landed it on 15-pound test and a 31⁄2-inch sucker minnow on a bare hook with a split shot sinker about 18 inches off the bottom in about 10 feet of water.
Tolzmann wasn’t using electronics because he didn’t think they were allowed in the tournament.
“This one I’ll remember more than any of them,” Tolzmann said, recalling that the biggest northern he’s ever caught was about 24 pounds. “And I love fishing pike and bluegills.”
Despite being beat out by Tolzmann, second-place winner Jonathan Rodriguez, of Benson, said he felt like he got the best prize. His 3.85-pound channel catfish won him the biggest and most valuable Ice Castle wheel house of the three that could be won, a 16-footer valued at about $18,000.
The catfish was the only thing he caught all day, and when it bit, he let the fish chew on his jig, which was tipped with a crappie minnow. The fish first appeared on his electronics and Rodriguez assumed it was a pike.
“I had a feeling on the drive out here today that there was going to be a lot of fish caught,” Rodriguez said, as he and friends checked out the shiny grey wheel house, almost in disbelief that it was his. “I own a homemade (fish house) and I take it out to fish all of the time. This is going to be incredible to use.”
By a shade, Rodriguez beat out Ghent’s Zach Burns, who caught a 3.65-pound catfish for third place and a 14-foot Ice Castle wheel house that excited Burns’ father, Willard, as much as anybody.
The elder Burns was fishing with his one son (his other son couldn’t make the trip), but said some years ago he had won a boat that both of his sons have used quite a bit over the years.
“So now it’s my turn to use this,” he said. “That’ll be my retirement shack.”