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Hook & Antlers outdoor column: U.S. fourth in World Ice Fishing Championship

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Eleven teams worldwide competed in the 2013 World Ice Fishing Championship last week at Big Eau Pleine Reservoir near Wausau, Wis., and Russia won the team gold medal. Unlike some fishing competitions where anglers win thousands of dollars, winnings in the World Ice Fishing Championship consist of a trophy, pride in one’s team and country, and knowledge that you rank as the world’s top ice anglers.

The United States team placed fourth behind Finland and Lithuania, which won the silver and bronze medals, respectively. The order of finish for the other qualifying countries was Ukraine, Sweden, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Poland, Estonia, and Japan.

Championship Rules

International ice fishing competitions have stringent rules, and anglers are not allowed to use any electronics or power augers. The Wisconsin event allowed for five days of pre-fishing with two days of competition where anglers fished for three hours (9 a.m. to noon) each day.

Participants fished different zones during the competition, and each zone (400 feet by 200 feet) was marked with ropes and cones. Each nation had five anglers who were randomly assigned to a specific sector, and no teammates were allowed in the same sector. Coaches were allowed to walk the neutral zones between sectors and direct their anglers during the completion, but a coach was not permitted inside a sector.

Teams were judged on their order of finish in each fishing zone and by the total weight of fish brought to the scales. Game fish were not allowed so targeted species included panfish, such as bluegills and yellow perch, and rough fish that included shiners and carp. All fish caught during the championship were donated to a local bird sanctuary to feed the fish-eating birds.

U.S. Championship History

In 2009, the United States fielded a national ice fishing team for the first time in 10 years, and that team participated in the sixth Ice Fishing World Championship in Poland. The following year, the U.S. team won the gold medal when the event was at Boom Lake near Rhinelander, Wis. Kazakhstan hosted the 2012 championship, when the Americans placed 11th.

Like the homecourt in basketball, home ice is considered a major advantage in ice fishing competitions, and the U.S. was considered the favorite going into the this year’s championship.

Team trials to select the 2014 Team USA Ice Fishing will be at Rhinelander Wis., on March 8-10. That team will represent the country in next February’s championship in Belarus. For more information or register to compete, visit www.usaiceteam.com

Individual Honors

Toni Stenberg of Finland won the individual gold medal for 2013, while Sergei Bolyakhin of Russia earned the silver. Chad Schaub of Michigan was the top U.S. finisher, taking the bronze based on winning his section on the second day of the event, and having the heaviest weight on the day.

Other American team members and their place among the 60 competing anglers were: Mike Boedeker of Michigan (18th), Myron Gilbert of Michigan (27th), Bill Whiteside of Wisconsin (30th), Michael Thompson of Minnesota (52nd), and Jeff Kelm of Wisconsin (58th). Gilbert has been on Team USA for the past four years, and he won the individual gold medal in the 2009 championship.

Good Will

The United States Freshwater Fishing Federation is the governing body of international angling for the United States. The organization’s praiseworthy mission is to promote the sport of fishing among American anglers, and to foster the best possible relationship between American anglers and international angling friends and competitors.

Angling Quote

Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States, once said. “A good fisherman can secure many regenerative hours in winter, polishing up the rods and reels.”

OUTDOORS CALENDAR

Thursday: Squirrel season closes in Northern Zone.

Thursday: Pheasant season closes in Northern Zone.

Thursday: Ruffed Grouse season closes in Northern Zone.

Saturday: Cranberry Lake VF&R Last Chance Ice Fishing Derby (848-2937).

March 2-3: Saranac Lake F&G Club’s 29th annual Colby Classic (518-201-4009).

March 9: Parishville Sportsmen’s Club 28th annual Rabbit Hunt (265-2922).

March 22-24: Great Outdoor Family Expo at Watertown Fairgrounds YMCA.

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