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On thin ice?
by Mollee Francisco
Jan 26, 2012 | 1166 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last January, Firemen’s Lake was piled high with snow as the annual fishing contest approached.

Now, there’s little snow to worry about clearing away so that anglers can get to the ice. This year, the worry is about having enough ice, period.

The warm winter has not been kind to many ice fishing contests, but members of the Chaska Fire Department are hoping luck will be on their side on Saturday for their annual fundraiser.

“We’re sweating it a little bit,” said contest organizer Jeff Lenzen. As of Tuesday morning, Lenzen said there was a 95 percent chance Saturday’s event would be on the lake.

Twelve inches is the magic number for the fire department when it comes to ice fishing. That’s the depth of ice they can be very confident about. Early last week, there was just 8 inches of ice, but cold temperatures helped beef that up to at least 9 inches by late in the week. Members of the fire department were scheduled to go check the ice again mid-week and remain hopeful to find 10 to 12 inches of good ice.

For now, Lenzen is operating as if the 55th annual contest will be on the lake. In the event that the ice is too thin, organizers will move things up to the fire station on Engler Boulevard.

“Either way, we get pretty great support,” said Lenzen.

The fishing contest is the fire department’s only fundraiser and can generate upward of $15,000 for things like training and new equipment.

Depending on the weather forecast, members of the fire department will drill between 1,500 and 3,000 holes for Saturday’s con-test. Warmer weather tends to draw sizeable crowds to the lake. Last year, mild temperatures drew 2,000 people to Firemen’s Park. Saturday’s outlook calls for partly cloudy skies with a breeze and a high of 23 degrees.

“It’s the social event of the year,” said Chaska Mayor Mark Windschitl at Monday night’s Chaska City Council meeting. “It really is a family-oriented event.”

Prizes will be awarded to the Top 50 fish reeled in during the two-hour contest. For many anglers, those fish are scarcely bigger than the bait, but once in awhile some decent-sized fish are hauled out of Firemen’s Lake.

“I’ve seen two Northerns, 8 and 6 pounds,” said Lenzen.

Prizes for anglers range from augers and camp chairs to rod/reel combos and depth finders. There are also non-fishing prizes that are given away via raffle tickets. In the past, those prizes have included everything from gift cards to guns.

Lenzen said ticket sales and prize donations this year are on par with previous years.

“We’ve had a lot of the same contributors,” he said. “They’ve been pretty faithful.”

What: 55th Annual Chaska Fire Department Fishing Contest

When: 1-3 p.m., Saturday, January 28

Where: Firemen’s Park, Chaska

Raffle tickets: $2, available before and during the contest. Prizes awarded to top 50 fish and to raffle winners

Food and drink: Available for purchase on site

Alternate site (in the event of thin ice): Chaska Fire Department, 285 Engler Blvd.

More info: www.chaskafire.org
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