Stagecoach Reservoir freezes in time for annual ice fishing tournament | CraigDailyPress.com

Stagecoach Reservoir freezes in time for annual ice fishing tournament

— Stagecoach Reservoir froze over just in time to host the 4th annual Steamboat Great Outdoors Ice Fishing Tournament on Sunday.

The reservoir still had lots of exposed water as recently as Christmas but was nearly covered with at least thin layers of ice or slushy ice by the kickoff of the tournament Sunday morning, said Kent Baucke, Steamboat Great Outdoors owner and an organizer for the tournament, which is hosted in partnership with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

"We weren't sure we were going to be able to do it," said Baucke, whose company leads guided ice fishing excursions each winter. "It's not dangerous, but you just need to know what you're doing."

The ice was safe for foot traffic, just not snowmobiles or cars to drive on, he said.

An ice report at the tournament headquarters warned that conditions in the middle of the lake were "extremely varied (with) some small pockets of open water."

Had the lake not been as frozen as it is now in time for the competition, Baucke said fishermen would have been huddled into coves at the lake that were frozen.

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The tournament attracted 152 participants in its fourth year, significantly more than the 80 that participated last year.

The top prize went to Kory Jermulowske, who reeled in trout of 20 1/4 inches and 17 1/2 inches, which combined to be the longest two-fish length of the tournament.

He won $1,526 out of more than $4,000 collected in entrance fees. The rest was divvied out among the remaining top five finishers, and 25 percent of the total collected in fees was donated to the Oak Creek Fire Corps, a program that allows community members to volunteer with local fire and emergency medical departments in non-emergency capacities. The group will receive $1,090.

Among those on the ice Sunday were Caitlyn Suelter and Jackson McCue, who traveled from Fort Collins to compete in the tournament for the first time, arriving two hours before the competition began to secure a good spot on the ice.

The duo was about to give up after failing to catch a trout before noon, but then their lucked turned.

"It's been a slow morning so far, but we just caught one," said McCue, fishing from a small circular hole a few feet away from Suelter's.

A few hundred yards away, Lane and Ryan Spencer were fishing in the tournament for the fourth time, joined by newcomer Heather Cook.

Only one fish had been caught by any of the three participants during the first three hours of the tournament, and the Spencers claimed it was Cook who was bringing the bad luck.

"This year, it's been a lot slower than the other years," Ryan Spencer said. "We usually see a lot more action."

The competition wrapped up at about 3 p.m. Sunday with the announcement of the winners by Baucke.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

Steamboat Great Outdoors Ice Fishing Tournament winners:

1. Kory Jermulowske, $1526

2. Ben Rock, $872

3. Dexter Galley, $436

4. Mark Montgomery, $305

5. Justin Saleeby, $130

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