North Dakota’s largest youth ice fishing derby is returning to the Twin Towns Area.
The 2019 Neil Heitkamp Youth Ice Fishing Derby will run from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16 at Heitkamp Pond. The derby is free and open to participating youth ages 18 and under, their families and the public.
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.
“People come back because they’re interested in the outdoors,” said Gary Page, owner and president of Heitkamp Construction. “We have our youth and the area businesses and individuals who donate.”
The Heitkamp derby is unique in that everything is set up for participants. All fishing holes are pre-drilled, all bait is provided and a lunch of hotdogs and hot chocolate will be served.
“We will have two rounds of prizes, door prizes and trophies. The trophies will be given out for the best catches of perch, sunfish, crappies and walleyes,” Page continued.
Heitkamp Construction and the Red River Area Sportsmen’s Club are two of the numerous sponsors behind each year’s Heitkamp Derby.
“Ice fishing is a great way to enjoy outdoor winter recreation in this area,” said Wahpeton Parks and Recreation Director Wayne Beyer. “It has been a part of our culture for a long time.”
A total of 268 youth participated in the 2018 derby, up from 238 youth in 2017. Attendance fluctuates, but organizers are optimistic about providing no shortage of fun.
“It’s great to see the little kids. They’re excited about catching their first fish,” Page continued.
Crappies are among the most common fish caught at the derby.
“We look at this as an opportunity to continue what Neil started,” Page said in 2018. “We want to give back to our community and our kids.”
In case of inclement weather, the derby will be held Saturday, Feb. 23.
“The only thing that would cause a reschedule are the winds,” Page explained. “Especially chilly winds, which makes everyone miserable. In terms of temperature, if it’s cold, we’ll keep going.”
Saturday, Feb. 16 is currently forecast to be a cloudy day. The temperature is expected to reach a high of 9 degrees Fahrenheit and a low of -1 degrees Fahrenheit. More weather information is available on page A10.
Participants are asked to bring their own ice fishing gear, if possible. There will be equipment on hand to borrow if needed. Adults are also asked to accompany young children.
Guests of all ages are advised to dress warmly. Small children should have extra clothes in case they get wet.
Look to Daily News Media for coverage of this year’s Neil Heitkamp Youth Ice Fishing Derby.