Catch Of The Day

MAYFIELD – Snowmobiles, icy beards, laughing faces and tons of fishing gear could be seen on Saturday at the Great Sacandaga Lake.

Saturday’s sixth annual Walleye Challenge Ice Fishing Derby brought in about 3,000 people, with 1,750 competitors. The eight-hour fishing tournament was the largest of its kind, and according to event co-organizer Lou Stutzke, this year the most fish ever were entered for competition.

“This is a great event,” Stutzke said. “We started this [six years] ago and the amount of people in the competition has grown every year.”

Competitors fished on the ice all across the lake from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and reported to weigh-in stations at Lanzi’s on the Lake on Route 30 in Mayfield and the Broadalbin Boat Lanuch on Lakeview Road in Broadalbin.

Hourly weigh-ins took place and each hour there were six top finishers named, totaling 48 winning competitors. Cash awards for top finishers ranged from $50 for sixth-place to $599 for first-place.

Kirk Vedder of Ballston Spa won the first-place award for the sixth hour weigh-in. His walleye weighed 2.46 pounds.

“I’ve been doing this fishing tournament for five years now but this was the first time I’ve won,” Vedder said. “Being out there on the lake for eight hours in the snow was fun. It was windy and cold but it was a great time.”

Kyle Bundy of Broadalbin caught the biggest fish of the day, weighing in at 4.65 pounds.

Stutzke’s wife Nancy said the tournament is a great way to get out and see old friends.

“This was a good day,” Nancy said. “Everyone’s smiling, everyone’s outside, everyone’s off their couches enjoying the snow.”

Lisa Servello of Mayfield agreed.

“This is one of the best events to bring the people of Fulton County together,” Servello said.

In all the prizes over the course of the day totaled $70,000, with $1,649 paid out every hour to the winners, plus $9,000 in miscellaneous raffle prizes and drawings for a side-by-side, a four-wheeler and a snowmobile.

Steve Stofelano Jr. of Wells said this was his fourth time competing in the tournament. Although he didn’t have any bites, he said he still had a great time.

“This tournament is great for the area’s ecomony,” Stofelano said. “It’s such a good event that it brought in 11 people from different states. One of Fulton County’s biggest attractions is the lake and the winter sports that happen on it. This really benefits local businesses because of the large crowd it attracts.”

Beaver Ross, event co-organizer, said he thinks the competitors have a great time whether they win something or not.

“Look at everyone,” Ross said, pointing at the crowds of people. “They love it. The weather’s awesome; they love the snow. A lot of them come in on their snowmobiles. I love it. Everything’s been great today.”

Tony Vendetti of Glenville said he fished for eight hours straight and didn’t get one bite, but he loved every minute of it.

“I had a great time and I didn’t even catch anything,” Vendetti said. “I was out on the ice with my son eating sandwiches, drinking hot chocolate and meeting new people. This is my third year coming to this and I think the organizers of the event always do a great job.”