by Peter Jakey–
Hundreds of ice fishing enthusiasts young and old took to the south end of Grand Lake to participate in the sixth annual Reel Fun Ice Fishing Tournament.
The tournament brings anglers out from all over the region, and by the end of the three-hour event, a .83 pound perch caught by an Alpena man claimed the biggest prize. Robert Lafleur won the John Deere Gator. It was the first time he had entered.
The sunshine offered a little relief from the cold temperatures and strong winds that blew across the frozen lake surface. Nobody had an advantage in this department because the rules of this tournament do not allow the use of shelters and ice shanties.
There was a record 750 tickets sold for the tournament, which raises money for the future River Center in Alpena.
It has been held near the Department of Natural Resources’ boat launch in a designated area. Anglers purchase a $25 ticket, which entitles them to fish from pre-drilled holes.
It was a shotgun start, and moments after noon, anglers were lining up with fish to weigh.
Lafleur was set up along the back boundary and got the prize-winning fish in only 10 minutes. “He just bit, and I caught him,” Lafleur simply said. His bait was a minnow. It may have been a small fish, but nobody was even close to Lafleur in the final standings. Ties are broken by the times the fish are weighed. So, as soon as a fish is in a bucket, the anglers are running to get in line.
Lafleur said he is ready to ride his new toy with his grandson Andrew Lafleur-Smith, also of Alpena.
“Everybody was here to get their prizes, which was great, so were are not taking them home,” said Tonya Spens, after announcing all the prize-winners. “All the response has been great.” She said it was the best they have had in six years.
River Center will be an environmental learning facility in Duck Park, which is across from Alpena Regional Hospital in Alpena.
“Colleges and high schools and other places could use it as a wet lab for water studies,” said Spens.
Grants will be sought, but matching funds need to be raised and this relatively new event was put together for just that purpose.
“Part of getting grants is that you show you have community support and that you are trying to raise money on your own,” said Spens.
Among the many fishing related prizes were power augers, gift certificates, a chain saw, “Mr. heater,” and a digital sonar.
Plans are already underway for number seven.