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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Hooked on Ice Fishing


When it’s this cold outside, most Grinnellians may wonder, “Who could possibly be crazy enough to voluntarily sit outside for hours in the name of fostering community?’ The answer: the ice fishermen and fisherwomen who have registered to participate in the 16th annual Diamond Lake Ice Fishing Derby on Saturday, Jan. 25. The derby, which is set to take place from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Montezuma, is co-hosted by the Poweshiek County Conservation Board and the Izaak Walton League.

The Diamond Lake Ice Fishing Derby was originally inspired by the opening of Diamond Lake 16 years ago, along with the popularity of ice fishing in the state.

“Ice fishing has always been popular in Iowa, and all winter long there’s been a derby every weekend [throughout Iowa],” said event organizer Steve Meek.

For the most part, the derby is a chance for groups of friends to huddle around in an ice shelter and chat. In ice fishing, the frozen lake acts as a buffer, thwarting the passage of sound and shadows. Therefore, fishermen can socialize without worrying about scaring the fish away, which is atypical for most kinds of fishing.

“Over the course of the long winter, people just want to get out and do something,” Meek said. “It’s a group activity, and it’s a great way to meet and make friends.”

On average, the turnout for the derby has hovered around 60 to 70 people, but numbers are strictly dependent on the weather. If the ice is too thin or the lake too windy, the event may have fewer than 50 people or may even have to be cancelled. This Saturday, the weather will be a balmy 30 degrees and the ice will be sufficiently thick, due to the recent polar vortex. However, the windy conditions could still be a turnoff for many fishermen.

“When it’s windy and some people don’t have any shelter, they’re not going to be comfortable, so they won’t show up,” Meek fishing graphic

Contestants will be vying to catch the biggest bass, crappie and bluegill. The winners in the respective adult and youth categories will receive a small cash prize, which is donated by the Conservation Board. While the reward is included for the sake of healthy competition, the derby is much more of a community service event.

“If we made 50 dollars we’d be really lucky,” Meek said.

Most importantly, though, hosting the derby is a way to get in touch with a proud tradition of ice fishing in the Midwest. The derby welcomes fishermen old and new; mentors are always on hand to introduce new ice-fishermen to the sport, and they hope to pass on their passion to all who are interested in throwing in a line.

Registration will take place at the venue on the day of the event. While a five dollar registration fee is required for participating adults, sign-up is free for youth participants, ages 16 or under. For more information, contact the Poweshiek County Conservation Board at

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