BIG LAKE, Alaska (KTUU) - Saturday morning around 100 competitive ice fisherman are expected to brave bitter temperatures for the start of the Still Cold Open.
The tournament is a two-person team ice fishing tournament held on Big Lake every other Saturday through March 8.
"The first year started we had 13 teams and we've grown to 51 teams. It's growing and getting bigger and bigger every year," tournament founder Jim McCormick said. "It makes the winter go by so fast because you're so excited waiting for that next fishing day and in you get involved with the tournament, you'll understand the excitement."
The tournament is catch and release. Teams are given a measuring trough and must take a photo of their catch according to the tournament's specifications.
Results are determined by the cumulative length of the team's six biggest fish. For the first five weeks, the first-place team earns 100 points, the second-place team 98 points, and so on.
Only a number of the top teams make the cut for the championship day, and point values double.
"A lot of the tournaments you have to bring the fish in and it's done on weight. And we are trying hard to save our fish in this lake. This lake has got really, really big arctic char and it's got really nice rainbows in it, so promote catch and release very strongly," McCormick said.
The location on Big Lake also means that competitors don't need snow machines or four-wheelers to move across the lake. As of Thursday the ice was 18 inches thick and roads were plowed. With minimal snow, it's possible to drive to virtually any spot to fish on the lake.
In addition to bragging rights and prizes for top finishers, the tournament supports to veteran groups. McCormick says most of the entry fees go to support The Fallen Outdoors, which helps connect veterans to hunting and fishing opportunities. It also supports the American Legion Post 29.
The tournament's entry is $100. Teams can register before the event begins at 7:30 a.m. Saturday at Burkeshore Marina in Big Lake.
More information is available on the tournament's Facebook page.
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