The question was not what the temperature was Saturday morning at Chapman Dam, there wasn't any. The thermometer in my back yard read zero at about the time anglers started fishing for the annual ice-fishing contest staged by the Warren County Council of Sportsmen's Clubs during the Warren County Winterfest. It was a lot colder at Chapman Dam State Park.
And yet 140 anglers entered the contest. That takes a lot of drive and determination, and likely the lure of really nice prizes. If you were not there you missed one of the best ice-fishing contests ever seen around these parts.
There were 24 anglers entered in the age 10 years and under category for Saturday. This group managed to bring 18 fish in to the measuring table manned by the shivering County Council members.
First Place in the youngest age bracket on Saturday went to Lydia Larson, a 7 year-old from Russell, for her 14.250-inch trout. Madison Stahli, age 7, of Mt. Jewett, took second place with a 14.000-inch trout. Warren's James Swanson, age 8, took third place with a 13.500-inch fish.
The 11 to 15 years-old bracket had 20 anglers entered. They brought a dozen fish to the measuring table.
First Place in the middle age bracket was Jared Padlock, age 11, of Smethport. His winning trout measured 13.750 inches. Josh Hoffman, a 12 year-old from Warren, was second for his 13.250-inch trout. Third place went to Andrew Tibbitt, age 11, of Old Warren Road, for his 13.000-inch trout.
More than half of the entrants Saturday were in the hotly contested age 16 years and older category. Those 56 ice-fishers brought in 25 fish, not nearly as good proportionately as the younger groups.
Adam Gerber, of Mt. Jewett, took first place for a 14.125-inch trout. John Gerber, St. Marys, took second place with his 14.000-inch trout. Alan Merkle, of Clarendon, also brought in a 14.000-inch trout but finished third on the basis of not bringing it to the measuring table until later that the second place fish.
The main drawing prize, an auger, was won by James Swanson, the 48 years-old version, of Warren.
Sunday was even colder, and the number of entrants, as usual for the second day, was down. Just 24 braved the frigid air.
Lydia Larson made it a sweep of first place in the 10 years of age and younger bracket with a 15.000-inch trout. That fish was the largest entered in the ice-fishing contest this year. James Swanson climbed from third place to second place for his 13.875-inch trout. Nicholas Knowles, of Clarendon, age 10, finished third.
The 11 to 15 years of age bracket had nine entries. Nine trout were measured.
Kyle Trout, age 12, of Warren, won the middle bracket with a 14.000-inch fish. Adam Barker, age 11, Warren, took second place for his 13.875-inch trout. Justin Conoly, who lives on Straw Avenue, was third with a 13.500-inch trout.
The 16 ears of age and older category had 22 anglers entered for Sunday. They had 14 trout measured.
Keith Bashline, from Knox, took first place with a 13.500-inch trout. Sam Cummings, took second place with another 13.500-inch trout. Russell Knight was third with a 13.250-inch trout.
The grand draw prize on Sunday, a fish finder, went to 14 year-old Draven Kuzminski.
"All of the prizes given away were donated by Gander Mountain," said County Council treasurer Chuck Travis. "Everybody who was signed up to fish, whether or not they caught a fish, got a ticket for that drawing (both Saturday and Sunday)."
The average length of all of the fish that were brought to the measuring table was 12.749 inches.
The average length for the nine place-taking trout was 13.7 inches. That was a half-inch shorter than the nine winning trout the previous year. In the 2009 ice-fishing contest the nine winning trout averaged 15.8 inches, more than 2 inches longer than this year.
Travis summarized the main point of the ice-fishing contest.
"Everybody seemed to be happy and had a good time."