| Times Herald Record
Hayden Carnell only has two flashlights and is on hold while fishing an 8.2-pound pikeperch from White Lake on Sunday morning.
The 24-year-old Monticello man and his friend were in shock. Only 15 minutes had passed after the 36th annual King of the Ice fishing tournament began at 6 a.m. It was her first participation. Ultimately, Carnell won the King of the Ice title.
"Everyone's just settled in," said Carnell. "I was the first fisherman to gain weight … We expected that we would only go to the fundraiser. We had no real plans to catch anything."
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The friends decided on Saturday that they would show up at the White Lake Fire Department at 5 a.m. to enter the competition hosted by the Sullivan County Conservation Club. They usually take part in other fishing tournaments but have been canceled due to COVID-19.
"I think we'll be back," said Carnell. "It's very exciting, especially the first time. We're excited."
Jay Mendels, club officer and contest member, said the club is fortunate to have ice fishing as a socially distant activity. Many families visit every year.
"Everyone else tends to be pretty divided between White Lake and Kauneonga Lake," Mendels said. "It's 280 acres and more than four miles of shoreline so there's plenty of leeway for our participants."
While there are youth and species-specific prizes, the crown, cape, trophy and title go to the person who catches the largest fish overall. The fish are rated by a combination of length and weight, with each ounce and inch equaling one point.
Registration, weighing and awards are carried out at the fire department. Up to $ 2,000 in cash and prizes were available, with the largest fish earning a $ 500 entrant.
With the funds, the club can run various programs, award scholarships, promote outdoor activities, and teach children about environmental protection.
Despite the name of the competition, anyone can win the monarchy. In 2018, Rae Mootz was named Queen of Ice with a 26-inch pickerel weighing 4.72 pounds. Mootz became the first woman to win the contest after the current board's memory.
"Instead of a crown, we also have a tiara," said Mendels. "It was nice to have a queen of ice. It really shows that we have more women in the sport these days."
Delana Weyanadt was living proof on Sunday morning when the 7-year-old focused on her fishing rod despite accidentally dipping her left foot in the water.
"You can sit and relax," Weyandt said of her first experience. "And you can put the fishing rod in the ice."
Ryan Santistevan is the breaking news reporter for the Poughkeepsie Journal, Journal News, and Times Herald-Record. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org; 845-437-4809 or follow her on Twitter, @NewsByRyan_.