By Bill Toscano
Tyler Morey was on the ice on South Bay shortly after 5 a.m. Saturday, and he started fishing at 6 a.m.
By 6:30 a.m., the Granville resident had caught the fish which would win the Great Southbay Fishing Derby, although he wouldn’t know that for sure until he’d spent the rest of the day on the ice in the cold and wind.
“First flag, first fish,” said Morey, whose 10.6-pound Northern Pike was the first fish registered and stayed atop the leader board all day, giving him bragging rights for the year and a $500 prize.
“It was another six-and-a-half hours before I caught another fish,” said Morey, who works at Parker’s Dairy and has, in the past, landed Northern Pike as big as 18 pounds. He said he tries to get out on the ice at least three days a week and knows South Bay well enough that he picked a specific spot to set his tip-ups for Saturday’s competition.
“I’ve caught 11 pike over the last two years,” Morey said, waving his arm toward the western end of the bay. “That’s why I picked that spot.”
Not a lot of pike
Morey competed in the inaugural Southbay tournament last year but did not do as well. “I just caught catfish last year,” he said. “I did get a 15-pound cat, but no pike.”
Martin Rocque of Whitehall caught a big bass, and a group of friends from Queensbury kept busy eating fresh crappie they had caught.
But the big Northern Pike – tournament organizer Hank Neddo had hoped for a 20-pounder to win – well, they got away.
“We had a lot of little fish today, but not the bigger ones,” said Jimmy Martel of Whitehall. “It’s really surprising there was a 10-pound fish in first place.”
Several fishermen blamed Friday’s snowfall and the low-pressure front that moved in for the slow fishing. The tournament had been postponed for two weeks, because snow had made the ice very slushy. The high temperatures in the middle of the month helped solve that, and the freeze that followed left the ice in crystal condition, until Friday’s snowstorm dumped a fresh foot.
But that did not deter the 52 registered anglers and all the others who came with them. In all, there were 20 fish caught during the tournament’s 10-hour window.
Tim Phillips of Fort Edward finished second with an 8.94-pounder and won $300. Brian Washburn of Whitehall was third with a 35 ½-inch fish that weighed 8.06 pounds.
Nine-year-old Jacob Moore of Whitehall, whose father’s shanty served as tournament headquarters, caught a 7.16-pounder and finished fourth, followed by two other Whitehall residents, Casey Marviglio (6.74 pounds) and Dave Gebo (6.04).
Leon Wilbur plowed a road out onto the lake for the competitors. “Leon does that a lot, but this morning he knew there was going to be a lot of snow out there, so he made sure the guys could get out on the bay,” Neddo said.
Although he had hoped for bigger fish and more competitors, Neddo said he was pleased. “It was a really good day, and we will be bigger and better for next year.”
Several competitors point out that the local tournament has a very high payout — $500 to win – because Neddo and co-organizer Vickie Leege return all entry fees to the fishermen.
Neddo said he was really appreciative of the community support that allowed him to offer raffle prizes to all competitors.
Donors and winners of the raffle prizes were:
Norm’s Bait & Tackle, Brian Washburn; Howie’s Bar & Grikll, Joe Terry; Purtorti’s Market, Jason Clark; Will Rozell Excavating, Ben Hofer; Champlain Beef, Morey and Neil Molinaro; Big G’s, Marvin Frazier; Tyler Real Estate, Jeff Boutin, and Galaxy Janitorial, Nicholas Hughes.
The Whitehall Elks Lodge No. 1491 gave $10 prizes to the four under-12 competitors, Moore, his sister Jessica, Hunter Tyminski and Mya DeLong.