Ice fishing derby cancelled for good

Anglers take part in the Winchester Ice Fishing Tournament in January 2017. { }Officials announced Friday it's cancelled for good due to safety concerns. (KLEW TV)


Winchester Lake State Park ranger Frank Cirimele told KLEW News Friday morning they are doing away with the popular Ice Fishing Derby. The decision was made to Friday morning. Cirimele said they simply do not like the condition of the ice right now.

“By this time of year, we should have 6 to 8 inches out there, ” he explained by phone. “On the north side, I’m measuring 2 (inches) and over here on the south side there’s a little more than 3.” He added there hasn’t been anyone on the ice this year. “Usually by Thanksgiving we have people out there,” he said.

Cirimele said although the Ice Fishing Derby has grown over years, they cannot risk public safety due to the thin ice. “If you’re not prepared and if you don’t have ice picks with you, 9 times out of 10 you are not going to get out of it,” he said. Cirimele has been on ice rescue missions and he has also been in the ice.

“When you go in and you try to get out, the ice is just too slippery. There’s no way you’re going to pull yourself out of that hole.” Then, it’s just a matter of minutes before hypothermia sets in. Cancelling the event for good is the best option.

Cirimele said many anglers do not go on the ice with life vests or a survival suit. However, officials said the park will still hold two derbys: one in early Spring and another Labor Day Weekend. The best ice Winchester Lake had was in 2013.

He said they haven’t seen ice that thick since. In 2015, two men died after falling through the ice. They were rescued but later died from hypothermia.

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