A brisk 17-degree Saturday morning couldn't stop a group of 65 youth ice fishing participants from casting their poles into Lake Mitchell.
In its eighth year, the Elks Youth Fishing Derby united a large group of youth anglers and saw rookie 3-year-old Adelynn Everson walk away with the award for the most fish caught during the five-hour tournament on Saturday. Everson's five fish were enough to solidify her the top spot, earning herself a $25 gas station gift card for the top prize.
After Everson accepted her prize, she found her father Andy in the crowd and exchanged smiles, following it up with a big hug that had the entire room at the Sportsman's Club applauding.
Despite the frigid wind chill sweeping across an icy Lake Mitchell throughout much of the day, Jayden Davis kept at it, as he caught his first fish around noon.
"I just love being able to sit down and ice fish in the middle of winter," Davis said. "I've been having so much fun out here."
The group of young anglers followed the fishing hot spots, which led many of them to relocate further west into the cove near Sportsman's Beach area. In total, 47 fish were reeled in during the derby.
Alongside Davis was his step-father Justin Maack, who assisted a group of youth fishers wherever he could. From using an auger to create ice holes to tying fish hooks, Maack was proud to help experience a special winter tradition on the lake.
"It helps them get the idea that they can fish in the winter, not just the summer," Maack said. "It's great being able to help these kids learn how to ice fish, and they are loving it out here today."
There were plenty of bluegills and crappies biting the lines throughout the day, and Allison Rasmussen reeled in a 9 1/4-inch bluegill, claiming the title of biggest fish caught for the day.
When Elks members finished grilling burgers, brats and pork tenderloins, it signaled the end of the fishing derby, as the group began making their way off the ice. Thanks to a healthy number of volunteers from the Elks and community members, there were several four-wheelers providing children with rides back to shore.
Elks member Donald Davis is proud to see the excitement around an outdoor sport that he recognizes as a South Dakota tradition.
"Ice fishing has been a big part of having fun in the winter time, and I love seeing how much fun these kids have every year," said Davis, in between flipping burgers and brats. "I'm so proud to be a part of this, and we had a great time and turnout this year, as always."
Other ice fishing derby award winners include:
First girl to catch a fish: Zoey Zomer, 6-years-old; First boy to catch a fish: Leo Van Zee, 2-years-old; Most fish caught: Adelynn Everson (five fish), 3-years-old; Biggest fish: Allison Rasmussen, caught a 9 1/4 inches crappie; Smallest fish caught: Adelynn Everson, Chase Snedeker and Hunter McGee, all caught a six-inch bluegill.