Winter lets up for fun kids ice fishing tourney

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette A young fishing enthusiast holds a catch in her mittens Saturday after the weigh-in at the annual VFW kids fishing tournament in Chassell.

CHASSELL — The next generation of ice fishers were out reeling them in Saturday at the kids ice fishing tournament.

“It’s fun hearing the ones that wake up first thing in the morning, and they’re just so excited they can’t wait to get out on the ice,” said volunteer Sarah Sohlden.

The Chassell VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) hosted its 14th annual ice fishing tournament on the Portage Lake. Kids fished for free from 7 a.m. to weigh in at 1 p.m. while many parents continued to fish until 7 p.m.

“There’s some families that the kids have grown up doing this pretty much every year and then there’s new ones that come in every year,” said another of the many volunteers, Julie Dewar.

She keeps coming back to keep the event going and to see the kids having a great time.

“I love helping out. It’s fun to see the kids so excited,” she said.

The weather for this year’s event was the best in recent memory, with sunny skies and puffy clouds, which fishers appreciated.

“It was perfect,” said fisherman Steve Pelli, who participated with his three kids. “We missed last year due to the weather. It was really bad.”

The kids — Molly, Ethan and Jesse — intend to continue ice fishing themselves. This has been a tradition since they were around 5 years old, Pelli explained.

The youngest participant Scot Dewar has seen was 4 years old.

“It seems like they enjoy it. It’s a reason to go for some people,” Dewar said.

Some attendees even plan vacations around the tournament Dewar explained.

“I love to fish, I do it however I can, whenever I can, and some of these people they probably only get out once or twice and they plan for this and it’s great, a good reason to go,” he said.

The tournament wouldn’t be possible without a plethora of volunteers and support of local businesses.

“I can’t mention every sponsor, but I don’t think there’s any business in the county that I can think of that has turned us down… Somebody’s always done something. It’s phenomenal…and a lot of them come out and fish themselves,” Dewar said.

Volunteers want to keep the tournament going and support the fun even working around scheduling conflicts to make it happen, he explained.