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Few fish, but Ice Castle Classic still a fun day

Submitted photo About 4,000 holes were drilled into the ice on Lac qui Parle Lake for the annual Ice Castle Classic ice fishing contest on Saturday. Approximately 2,000 tickets were sold for the event.

WATSON — Despite the freezing temperatures and less than cooperative fish, approximately 2,000 ice anglers dropped a line into the nearly 4,000 holes drilled into Lac qui Parle Lake for the annual Ice Castle Classic ice fishing contest.

"It is such a well-organized deal," said Chuck Ellingson, owner of Watson Hunting Camp and board member for the contest.

Temperatures started out very cold, with subzero temperatures in the early morning.

"Saturday morning I got nervous, it was 11 below zero," Ellingson said. But the temperatures rose throughout the day, and with minimal wind it turned out to be a nice day.

Area fire departments, along with the Montevideo and Morris Legion Riders were event volunteers, assisting in drilling holes along with other jobs.

"Volunteers did a fabulous job," Chad Hepler of Ice Castle said. "Without them we couldn't make it happen."

While only 13 fish were caught in total, there were plenty of prizes awarded. The top prize of $10,000 went to Brian Beyer of Granite Falls, for catching the largest fish of the day, a northern pike.

"You can plan all you want, but you can't make the fish bite," said Hepler.

Other prizes included an Ice Castle fish house, cash, ice fishing rods, augers and even a Las Vegas trip. A list of winners will be posted on the event's website.

The Lac qui Parle Lake Association also got in on the fun, holding a raffle for numerous prizes, including the top prize of an Ice Castle fish house.

"I did win the ice castle," Ellingson said, adding it made for a very enjoyable day on the frozen lake.