An ice weekend for fishing

Colby Classic is a ‘hole’ lot of fun

SARANAC LAKE — Scattered across Lake Colby were hundreds of ice holes about 16 inches deep. They looked like large anthills full of slush and cold water. A few still had minnows used as bait floating to the top of them. Above, the sky was clear and sunny aside from wispy cirrus clouds hanging high in the atmosphere.

“I guarantee everybody out here is having a good time,” Jamie Lashomb said.

Saturday and Sunday marked the 36th annual Saranac Lake Fish & Game Club Colby Classic Ice Fishing Derby. Club Secretary and Derby Director Matt Glaude said about 330 people participated this past weekend.

“It’s a family tradition mostly,” Glaude said. “Their grandfathers, and their fathers and now their kids are coming in. I think the family-friendly environment is what brings people in. It’s not an event that’s big on the whole competition thing.”

The anglers were after perch, salmon and trout. Pike was also included, but those were found in surrounding areas such as Lake Clear and the St. Regis Chain Lakes because they don’t live in Lake Colby. Also in the lake were 10 fish tagged by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Each tagged fish was sponsored by a local group or individual and was worth $100. Club Treasurer Theresa Trudell said the tagged fish are still worth about $25 apiece if they are found after the event.

Though it can seem like luck for whoever gets the biggest fish, longtime Fish & Game club member Bob Brown said bait is the key.

“I know some people who will use little pieces of hot dogs as their bait,” he said. “You know, WD-40 (lubricant)? People take that and spray it on their bait because WD-40 has fish oil in it.”

Brown said he met a fisherman Sunday who likes to drill two holes to increase his chances of catching a fish. He’ll drill one hole and drop a decoy lure — a fake, large minnow — in it. A few feet away, he’ll drill another hole and fill it with smaller bait. Brown wasn’t sure if it would work, but he likes hearing new strategies.

“You hear something, you go try it,” he said. “If it doesn’t work two or three times, you forget it.”

There are two methods for ice fishing — jigging and tip-ups.

Jigging is more active and similar to regular fishing. You put your lure into an ice hole then move it up and down with a small pole. Tip-ups are more of a set-it-and-forget-it approach. A device sits on top of the ice and hangs a lure into the water. When the line snags something, the tip-up releases a flag to indicate you’ve got a bite.

The tip-up seemed to be the preferred method on Sunday. It allows people to hang out in their shanties, eat lunch or go for a ride on a snowmobile without constantly having to bait a fish by hand.

Inside of one of the many shanty tents, Nick Pelletieri and his kids, Walter, Marilyn and Maggie, took a break from monitoring their fish. The four sat close together on a group of folding chairs and cooked hot dogs on a Mr. Heater. The space heater’s metal bars left black burns on the champagne pink wiener skins.

The family came from Malone, and Nick said they try to make it every year.

“It gets us outside in the winter, for sure,” he said. “It’s something fun to do. You never know what you’re going to catch, and we like to eat fish.”

Walter and Maggie had already caught a perch each by noon that day.

Less than 100 yards away were Ed Mason and Lashomb, listening to the Rolling Stones on a speaker. This was their first year fishing in the Colby Classic. They drove more than an hour away from Potsdam and spent the night out on the ice in their tent. The inside was warm, melting the ice and leaving a puddle of water.

Mason rushed over to one of his tip-ups where he had snagged something. He enthusiastically pulled more than a foot of fishing line out of the cold, dark water to reveal a fish that could fit comfortably in his palm. The dark green stripes and Mohawk-like dorsal fin were dead giveaways that it was a perch.

“It’s adrenaline. There is a rush,” Mason said. “There are about 16 or 18 inches of ice, so pulling something like that through a hole is pretty cool.”

The Winners

SARANAC LAKE — The Saranac Lake Fish & Game Club hosted the 36th annual Colby Classic Ice Fishing Derby this past weekend. On Sunday afternoon, the scales closed, and those with the heaviest fish were awarded $100 each.

Adult bracket

Salmon/Trout — Craig Reyell, 2.37 pounds

Perch — Henry Denis, 1.04 pounds

Pike — Matthew Tanzini, 13.23 pounds

Youth bracket

Salmon/Trout — Grant Coryea, 0.92 pounds

Perch — Cedar Rivers, 0.72

Pike — Brenden Ryan, 9.99 pounds


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