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Organizers hope to hit 1,000 anglers for this year’s Northern Pike Challenge

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WADDINGTON - Organizers are hoping they will hit the 1,000 angler threshold when the St. Lawrence River Walleye Association hosts its eighth annual Northern Pike Challenge on Saturday.

“We had900 adults last year, and we’d like to hit 1,000 this year. We also had another 75 entrants in the 15 and under class last year,” according to Michael J. Gagner, president of the St. Lawrence River Walleye Association.

“We like to say this is the premier north country winter event. The tournament has grown every single year. The fishing is good. It attracts a lot of people to this area. One of our objectives is to bring people in to see the fisheries we have here and to see what our communities have to offer. One of our earliest registrations this year was from Virginia. It is late enough in February that the sun is high and it is a family-oriented event, so it is a good day for everybody to be out on the ice,” Mr. Gagner said.

He noted the Wounded Warriors Project will once again be involved with the tournament.

“We are happy to have a large contingent of Wounded Warriors joining us. We’re looking forward to them coming. They have been part of the tournament for the past three years,” Mr. Gagner said. “It’s safe to say that all the weigh stations will be marked this year by a Wounded Warrior flag.”

A significant effort has been made in recent years to provide fishing opportunities for members of the military who suffered injuries and illnesses as a result of their service in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The major sponsors for this year’s tournament are long-time supporters Budweiser and Subway, joined this year by TwinLeaf Convenience Stores.

The Northern Pike Challenge runs from 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. Feb. 22. The fishing boundaries are Fobare’s Pond from the train trestle to Route 37 including Coles Creek Marina and Bay, Wilson Hill and Brandy Brook in Waddington.

Sign-up locations are Massena American Legion, Green Machine Bait & Tackle (Waddington), Northwood’s Outfitters (Potsdam), Chapman’s Bait & Tackle (Black Lake) and Uppstrom’s Bait & Tackle (Waddington).

Pre-registration is $30 through Feb. 15 and then climbs to $35 until Feb. 20. He said no sign-ups are accepted on Feb. 21, but last-minute entrants can sign up the morning of the event at the Louisville fire station. There is a mandatory sign-in for all anglers between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. on the day of the event.

The tournament hands out $1,000 in prize money every hour in the adult division with $500 for the largest fish each hour, $300 for the second largest fish and $200 for the third largest pike. The biggest catch of the day earns an additional $100 and a free mount provided by Three Rivers Taxidermy. Terry Russell had the largest catch in 2013 when he reeled in a 13.11-pound pike.

There is also $100 for the largest walleye caught during the day as well as monetary awards in the wacky hat contest in the adult and youth divisions. There will also be a five $1,000 door prizes this year as well as additional door prizes donated by local businesses.

“We gave out random door prizes valued at approximately $2,500 last year,” Mr. Gagner pointed out.

“This is the walleye association’s largest fundraiser of the year. Every single cent the anglers leave goes right back into the St. Lawrence River to benefit future generations,” he noted.

There is also a 100 percent payback in the youth division, with door prizes for each contestant provided by the Maday and Deannie Sunday family.

Mr. Gagner said the Northern Pike Challenge is yet another example of the economic opportunities provided by the fisheries in the region.

“It was nice to see the people of all different ages that came out for the Bassmaster this summer. It was awesome. We also get good crowds at our event. People come down and buy 50-50 tickets, visit the concession stands, spend time with their families and observe the fishing and weigh-ins. It brings people out,” he said.

He said there may even be a few people who register for the tournament simply to be eligible for the door prizes.

For more information or to get a printable registration form, go online to www.stlawrenceriverwalleyeassociation.com or call 315-384 -3450.

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