Heitkamp Pond, Wahpeton, will host a free, public event for young anglers and their families Saturday, Feb. 20.
The 2021 Neil Heitkamp Youth Ice Fishing Derby will be held from 1-3 p.m. Saturday. Approximately 260 youth participated in the 2020 event, which included volunteering from members of the Red River Area Sportsmen’s Club.
“It’s the chance the get outside when the weather’s halfway decent and have something to do in winter,” said Gary Page, owner and president of Heitkamp Construction. “We get the chance to get kids out of the house and off of their electronics.”
The Heitkamp Derby is available to all youth up to age 18. Adults are asked to accompany young children.
“Kudos to the volunteers and to the parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles who brought the kids out here,” volunteer Cindie Van Tassel said in 2020. “It’s really great. We love to see them out here fishing and having a great time.”
Over the years, youth participants have included newcomers to boys and girls who know their way around a pond. Among 2020’s anglers were brothers Josiah and Levi Wood, Nashua, Minnesota, who demonstrated Josiah’s tip-up. It allowed the 10-year-old to fish with two hooks simultaneously.
“We’ve gotten a lot of the Boy Scouts from Fargo and West Fargo,” Page said. “Most of the places where we work, we hand out flyers. It includes Gwinner, Hankinson and Fargo.”
This year’s derby will include precautions against the COVID-19 pandemic. All volunteers, participants and guardians must follow North Dakota and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) social distancing guidelines.
“Face masks must be worn when entering or exiting the derby area,” a flyer states. “(They) must be worn at sign in locations, prize locations, the weigh in area and the food table. Disposable face masks will be available. Everyone must practice social distancing if not in a portable fish house or within your family’s fishing area.”
Anyone who enters the derby site is agreeing to release sponsors, volunteers and supporters and their families of any liability of becoming exposed to and/or infected by COVID-19.
“Everyone’s asked to conduct themselves in a manner so as to be safe around all individuals attending this event,” the flyer continues.
Guests of all ages are asked to dress warmly. Small children should have extra clothes in case they get wet. In case of inclement weather, the derby will be held Saturday, Feb. 27. Event sponsors are not responsible for accidents.
This year’s sponsors included Heitkamp Construction, the Red River Area Sportsmen’s Club and many generous local businesses. As is tradition, there will be door prizes for all participants and trophies will be awarded for choice perch, sunfish, crappie and walleye catches. Guests can enjoy the complimentary hot dogs and hot chocolate.
“Holes will be pre-drilled and bait will be furnished. If possible, please bring your own gear. There will be equipment available for those without it. Restrooms and warming houses will be provided,” the flyer continues.
Heitkamp Pond is located at 18205 75th St. SE, Wahpeton, just northeast of Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative. Derby registration begins at 12 p.m. at the pond. Parking is restricted to certain areas and participants are encouraged to bring sleds for transporting gear.
“We just hope that kids get out, not spend all their time indoors and get to enjoy and appreciate the outdoors,” Page said.
Look to Daily News for coverage of the 2021 Neil Heitkamp Youth Ice Fishing Derby.