WHITE LAKE, NY — “We have beautiful conditions, plenty of ice, an incredible sunny day and lots of kids, what more could we ask for?” Those words, spoken by Sullivan County …
WHITE LAKE, NY — “We have beautiful conditions, plenty of ice, an incredible sunny day and lots of kids, what more could we ask for?” Those words, spoken by Sullivan County Conservation Club (SCCC) secretary Jay Mendels last Sunday were echoed across the lake throughout the day. More than 300 registered participants took to the ice with augers, tents, camp stoves, coolers and fishin’ poles in an attempt to try their luck at taking home a prize, with one lucky entrant destined to be crowned the 2019 King or Queen of the Ice. Now in its 34th year, the annual ice fishing contest in the
Town of Bethel draws hundreds of aficionados from near and far.
“Proceeds from the day’s activities help us continue our ongoing youth and adult education and conservation programs,” Mendels explained to the crowd. “Club members stock fish, plant trees, teach hunter safety classes and send kids to DEC conservation camp each year. And provide scholarships, too... To us [the SCCC members] that’s what it’s all about.” The club joined forces a few years ago with the White Lake Fire Company in Bethel, some of whose members were on hand to cook burgers and serve up chili, as others stoked the bonfire and sold raffle tickets. “We appreciate our relationship with the fire company,” club president John Van Etten said. “This is our biggest fundraiser of the year and helps the firefighters raise some much-needed funds as well. “It’s a team effort” Mendels added. “We gratefully use their shore access, and together we attract hundreds of families, adults and kids to the sport of ice fishing.”
“And we have a great time doing it,” club chairman Mark Van Etten enthused.
“We’ve been coming out here from West Milford, NJ for 30 years,” said Gordon Seaman of himself and fishing buddy, Don. “And it’s the most beautiful day we’ve ever had. Kevin, over there drilling, is from Great Neck.” While Middletown’s 10-year-old Ryan, and brother Noah, 7, vied to take home a prize in the youth division, across the ice 12-year-old Eli was plucking a decent-sized pickerel from the icy waters below.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this” Monticello’s Laura Smith said when asked what brought her to the King of the Ice. “I’ve never been out on a frozen lake before,” she explained. “But everyone assured me that it was perfectly safe, and I’m having a great time.” At 10 inches thick, the ice was strong enough to hold a truck, and there were more than a few ATV drivers zooming across the frozen surface, hauling supplies, delivering fishermen and women to the weigh station and having a good time, traversing the 280-acre lake with a 4.3-mile shoreline and a maximum depth of 85 feet. At the end of the day, 15 trophies were handed out in five categories, and everyone entered in the youth division went home with additional prizes. Liberty’s Rob Ward took home the gold and was named 2019 King of the Ice for his catch of the day— a 26-inch pickerel, weighing in at just under five pounds. “Wow, that’s a lot of cameras,” Ward was heard to say as flashbulbs popped and the crowd roared in approval. “Dude,” yelled a voice from the crowd. “You’re the king!”
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