Citizen Telegram Editor
There will be shantys and there will be ice fishing, but it won’t exactly be a scene out of the 1993 hit movie, “Grumpy Old Men.” Still, the 17th Annual Mountain Air Mechanical Ice Fishing Tournament is expected to attract about 450 people at this year’s tournament Jan. 17 and 18 at Rifle Gap Reservoir.
The popular tournament brings in people from around the state to come out and vy for a chance to win cash prizes for their fish.
“We had 462 fishermen last year, including adults and children, and we are hoping for an even larger turn out this year,” said Gina Reece-Long, special events coordinator for the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce. “This is an opportune time for Rifle and surrounding areas to promote their business, not only to local residents, but also to the over 200 fishermen coming from all over Colorado and other states.”
The tournament was founded by Lynn Ensley, who started it in conjunction the the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce.
“At the time, I had been running the non-profit Colorado Sportsman’s Wildlife Fund and we had been doing an ice fishing tournament at Vega Reservoir, but it was not very successful,” Ensley said. “Sharon Church (former executive director) of the Rifle Chamber called and thought we should collaborate on something in Rifle. We knew how to do it and they had the cash.”
The first tournament attracted about 220 people.
“We had to iron out all the details with the parks and the Bureau of Reclamation,” Ensley said. “But then it all ran smoothly.”
The ice that year was good and the tournament offered a $10,000 grand prize for the longest fish. That prize has now risen to $20,000, but no one has yet to win it.
“The person with the longest fish gets to draw from 100 envelopes,” Ensley said. “One of those envelopes has the prize, but no one has ever drawn it yet.”
Maybe this year will be the lucky year.
Nevertheless, the fishing tournament is a fun, family-friendly way to spend the day. The adults gather around their Hibachis to talk and eat, while the kids build snowmen and go sledding.
There are three kinds of fish caught in the tournament — Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout and Perch. Cash prizes are $500 for first place; $300 for second; $150 for third; $100 for fourth and $50 for fifth.
As of Jan. 6, the ice was looking good. There are 5-7 inches, with the thickest part on the west end of the reservoir.
“Unless we get a freakish warm spell, we should have very thick ice for the tournament,” said Brian Palcer from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The tournament will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday.
All ages are welcome – children 17 and younger are free
Costs are $35 for adults (if registered BEFORE January 14) and $50 for adults
(if registering between January 15 and January 16). There is a limit of 400 adults. There is no limit on the number of children.
For more information, contact the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce at 970-625-2085, ext. #2 or ext. #4.
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