Annual ice-fishing derby raises funds for veterans, children – Chicago Tribune
Ryan Jacobsen and his friend Mike Rodgers started an ice fishing derby as a way to have some fun in winter on Bangs Lake in Wauconda. Now, eight years later, the derby attracts more than 500 adults and children and raises more than $10,000 to benefit veterans and others who need help.
“I’m retired from the military. It’s my way of giving back,” Jacobsen said.
“Everybody’s got a soft spot for veterans as they should. We don’t give enough – as a society. It’s our little way of doing (something).”
The catch-and-release ice-fishing derby runs 7 a.m.-noon Jan. 28. If ice conditions aren’t good, the event will run Feb. 18. Funds raised this year will go to Veterans Release and Relief and Munchkin Mission, which helps needy military children, he said. Both are Lake County-based nonprofits, he said.
Participants can register online or in person beginning at 5 a.m. the day of the event. They can fish as long or as short as they want during the five-hour derby and can win prizes for the largest fish caught among five types that the village of Wauconda stocks – largemouth bass, northern pike, bluegill, yellow perch and crappie.
“One year, a guy pulled out a 37-inch-long northern pike,” Jacobsen said. He took a top prize that year.
Participants come dressed in warm layers, drill a hole in the ice, sit on a bucket and cast a line. When they catch a fish, they raise a flag. The judges come to them, measure the fish’s length and determine the species. The fish gets released.
At noon, the fishermen gather in a large, heated tent to learn who pulled out the biggest fish that day. There are various categories, including those designed specifically for children.
“The biggest thrill for people out there is the veteran portion of it,” Jacobsen said. “We’ve had some wounded veterans who have joined us. The people are coming out there to support the cause. The fishing is a side story.”
Plus, he added, the event introduces children to ice-fishing. “It also shows them, ‘Hey this is how you treat veterans. These are guys who fought for our country. This is how we pay respect to them.’ Hopefully we’re planting that seed within them early.”
It takes months for Jacbosen and other volunteers to plan the event, secure prizes and donations, choose the date and finalize details with the village.
Each year, they’ve been able to run the event on the scheduled date because the ice has been thick enough. “It has to be about eight or nine inches thick – anything less than that and it’s not safe,” he said.
“At the derby, we help people out as much as we can. If they don’t have augurs, somebody helps build a hole for them,” he said. “Typically, they come out with the basic stuff – augur to drill a hole, a fishing pole, some type of bait and maybe a bucket to sit on. That’s the bare minimum.”
Jacobsen said it can get crowded out on the lake during the derby – but other times on weekends in winter, it’s quiet and peaceful while he’s fishing.
“You can sit out on a bucket and shoot the breeze with people and swap stories. It’s fun. You can walk around and talk to people who are fishing in winter.”
Jacobsen said one of his best times fishing in winter was in Bangs Lake about six years ago. “I caught a 36-inch northern pike. It took me almost an hour to bring it in. I got a bunch of pictures with it and released it back. It deserved that.”
Sheryl DeVore is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.
Ice Fishing Derby
When: 7 a.m.-noon, Jan. 28; Poor ice condition date: Feb. 18
Where: Lake View Villa Park, Bangs Lake, Bonner and Monroe Roads
Extras: Parking at 803 Edgewater Parkway, Wauconda
Information: 224-634-0029; lvvaicefishingderby.com