by Cori Hilsgen
For area fishing enthusiasts, it’s time to get your jiggle sticks ready for the annual St. Joseph Rod and Gun Club fishing contest.
The 25th annual ice-fishing contest will be from noon-2:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17 on Kraemer Lake.
The event includes more than $3,000 in prizes. Pan-fish and game-fish payouts include $200 for first place, $150 for second place and $100 for third place. Other fish qualify for 20 $20 cash drawings.
The first 200 children, age 15 and under, with a valid ticket will receive free ice-fishing gear.
Five grand-prize drawings include a free overnight fish-house rental for four people on Upper Red Lake, a CLAM Kenai Pro Thermal fish house, a CLAM Big Foot XL fish house and an HT Polar Fire XT Power Ice Auger.
Refreshments will be available for purchase and there will be a a warming house at the event.
“It’s always a lot of fun and a lot of work,” said Ken Hiemenz, the club’s treasurer. “We get a lot of support from the community and it’s also a good fundraiser for us.”
Last year’s event was canceled because of poor ice conditions, but the 2016 event drew a crowd of about 600 participants.
Fish caught at the event will be weighed and released back into the lake.
Hiemenz, a longtime St. Joseph resident, has been a member of the club for many years and served many of those years as president and other positions on the board of directors. He has also been the firearm-safety instructor for many of those years.
The group was formed after 58 citizens met to form a sportsman’s club in 1954. Three citizens, Cyril Schneider, Frederick J. Reber and Elmer Reber executed articles of incorporation Aug. 12, 1954.
With the support of its members, the Rod and Gun Club has been able to maintain the lake accesses at Kraemer and Watab (Long) Lake and, since 1991, has stocked both lakes with walleyes. Since 1997, the organization helped provide free bird houses in March and since 1998, has sponsored the Boys/Girls Fishing Clinic in June. Prior to 1972, it sponsored firearms-safety training that continues today. Since 1984, the group has sponsored up to four children (ages 12 to 15 years old) to the six-day Long Lake Conservation Camp, supports Girls Scouts Camp and supports the Dark House Association with its Big Brothers/Big Sisters Winter Fishing Contest. Since 1993, the club has held its own ice-fishing contest in February and more.
Discounted tickets for the event can be purchased in advance from the Rod and Gun Club, SuperAmerica, St. Joseph Stoplight Bait and Tackle, the America Legion of St. Joseph and the St. Joseph Liquor Shoppe or pay full price the day of the event on the lake.
If the event is canceled because of weather or ice conditions, it will not be rescheduled. Participants should listen to KASM or WWJO radio stations the morning of the event for more information. Tickets will be refunded upon request.
Proceeds from the event help the club protect area resources.
For more information about the St. Joseph Rod and Gun Club, visit the website www.stjoerodandgun.org. Club applications can also be picked up at Kraemer Lake or Watab Lake (by Pleasant Acres).