A 25-year tradition is set to continue this year, giving anglers the chance to ring in the New Year vying for the largest fish in Lake Hattie.
The Laramie Plains Lions Club Lake Hattie Ice Fishing Derby is scheduled for the first weekend of 2018. Derby hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Jan. 6 and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Jan. 7 at the lake, which sits about 20 miles west of Laramie near the base of Sheep Mountain.
The largest fish of the derby wins $1,500, followed by $1,000, $350, $200 and $100. The smallest fish wins $25. Size is determined by measuring the length and girth, with weight used as a tie-breaker.
For the second year, anglers also have the chance to win instant cash by snagging a tagged fish, raising the stakes even more.
“If that fish is caught, it’s an additional $2,000,” said organizer Lew Lyon.
In the youth division, the largest fish wins $150 and a trophy, followed by $100, $50 and $25, with the smallest fish also worth $25.
Tickets are $35 for adults and $5 for youth accompanied by a participating angler.
Tickets are available at West Laramie Fly Store, 1657 Snowy Range Road. A fishing license for 2018 is required.
The derby is the main fundraiser of the year for Laramie Plains Lions Club, which uses proceeds to support a variety of different programs.
“This helps us support our local projects and our state projects,” Lyon said.
The club donates money to the Laramie Downtown Clinic and the Albany County Fair, with those proceeds used to buy prizes for youth winners. The club also gives money to a local group that helps people afford eye exams and glasses.
On a statewide level, the club supports a camp near Casper and the Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank in Aurora, Colorado, which facilitates eye tissue transplants.
“They collect and distribute corneas,” he said.
As of mid-December, Lake Hattie was beginning to form ice, but not enough yet to support the weight of an angler. Lyon said the lake usually begins to freeze up in earnest toward the end of the month.
“Everybody needs to talk to the ice makers,” he joked.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department advises anglers to be very careful when venturing onto ice. It should be at least four inches thick if clear or twice that if cloudy or white.
Clear ice is stronger than cloudy or white ice, which has thawed and refrozen and isn’t always stable. Ice can also be white from air bubbles or frozen snow, which makes it much weaker.
Anglers should check the thickness of the ice every 100-150 feet and avoid fissures or significant cracks.
Fluctuating water levels and wind can create dangerous ice conditions, and anglers should scout their lake for overflow, wet areas or open water. Anglers can also call a regional Game and Fish office for information about conditions.
Game and Fish advises against driving motorized vehicles onto lakes or ice fishing on rivers or moving water, even if it has frozen over.
Anglers should never fish alone and should always wear a personal floatation device and carry an ice pick. They should pack a change of clothes and hot liquids in case of an accident.
Lake Hattie is stocked annually by Game and Fish, and anglers will find yellow perch, rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, brown trout and kokanee salmon.
The lake is included in a special ice fishing provision, which allows anglers to fish with up to six lines, as long as they are attended.
“We’re looking for a great turnout this year and wishing all the anglers great luck in catching the big one,” Lyon said.