Warm temps delay Hard Water Classic ice-fishing tournament
Plans for this weekend's Hard Water Classic ice-fishing competition have melted away with the unseasonably warm winter temperatures.
With no ice on the 62-acre Silver Lake at Blackwell Forest Preserve near Warrenville, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has rescheduled the annual event for Feb. 8.
The tourney, now in its eighth year, allows anglers of all ages to compete for a variety of prizes. It traditionally draws a good number of hearty souls -- including a record 322 in 2017.
But before anyone can find a spot atop the lake, it has to be frozen to a depth of at least 4 inches. And that's just not going to happen by this weekend.
Bob McNeel, assistant manager of site operations, said he isn't worried about the delay or next month's turnout.
"A good percentage of competitors are the die-hard type," he said. "It's usually a unique group, and I've seen a lot of families."
Anyone is welcome, but you have to play by the rules. That means a $20 online registration fee -- or $25 the day of -- and a signed waiver. All proceeds go toward programming equipment and recreational programs for the forest preserve district.
Additionally, competitors have to check in at 11 and wear a wristband throughout the tournament. It is a live-release competition, so participants must bring their fish to a check-in station immediately after they're caught.
Once on the ice, competitors cannot have more than two poles or tip-ups in the water at a time and may only have two hooks or lures on each line. Anglers should bring their own equipment. You can get creative, but no spear fishing is allowed.
Ultimately, the goal is to catch the biggest fish and the prize is an ice auger or ice shelter.
But species also matters. First through third prizes are given for the largest bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass and northern pike -- usually in the form of a Cabela's gift card, McNeel said.
Each fish is measured down to the 0.125 inch. McNeel said the largest he's seen in competition was a 37.5-inch northern pike.
Other contestants are eligible to win fishing-related drawing prizes. The awards ceremony begins once judges are finished tallying winners.
If you want to last the entire 3½ hours, though, it's best to bundle up.
"The biggest thing is dressing appropriately," McNeel said. "I've seen people make some mistakes with that."
And don't count on a warming sip of certain types of beverages -- alcohol is prohibited.