Maple Grove resident heads to World Ice Fishing Championships
Area resident Duff Peddycoart will be trying his hand at ice fishing this weekend at the 11th World Ice Fishing Championships in the Minsk Region of the country of Belarus.
The World Ice Fishing Championships take place Feb. 18 to 24, with 14 different countries participating.
This is not your typical ice fishing either. Peddycoart and his team will be trying to catch 3 to 6 inch perch or European Roach (similar to a shiner minnow) in large numbers during the competition. Fish are caught on palm reels that have quarter- to two-pound test line with jigs that are incredibly tiny. The jigs have hooks attached. Peddycoart said he placed 20 jigs on a dime with room for more.
Peddycoart lives on the border of Maple Grove and Dayton near Sundance. He qualified as a member of the USA Ice Team during the finals process in Rhinelander, Wis. last winter. Team USA members consist of anglers from across the ice belt. Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and North Dakota are all represented on this year’s team.
To qualify for the team, each competitor had to make it through three USA finals days of multiple heats of fishing that tested their ability to catch fish fast, and tested their endurance. Team USA’s head coach Brian Gaber indicated that each of the guys that made the team are athletes, saying “Hand drilling through 30 inches of ice, running to hot fishing zones, and catching fish at the world class rate of 50-60 fish per hour is athletic. You can line up next to our oldest team members and they will burn a hole in the ice before you can start your power auger. This isn’t Grumpy Old Men style fishing. It’s more like the X-games of fishing.”
The team of 10 U.S. ice fishermen arrived in Belarus in enough time to conduct two unofficial training days to get a feel for the fishery and the fish species available. There will then be three consecutive days of official training that limit the time allowed on the competition water to three hours per day.
Peddycoart said that during this time there would be a fish-off of sorts where the top six U.S. fisherman would make the team that competes with one alternate.
The two competition days will consist of a three hour heat each day. Competitors from each country will compete head to head in designated grids, trying to catch the most weight of fish in the three hours. Grid totals determine individual placement, and a team tally of placement will determine the team score.
This will be the fourth European competition for the U.S. team, with results of ninth (Poland in 2009), eighth (Ukraine in 2011), and 11th (Kazakhstan in 2012) in past years. On home ice, the USA Team has placed fourth (Wausau, Wis. in 2013) and first (Rhinelander, Wis. in 2010).
“This kind of ice fishing is huge overseas,” Peddycoart said. “There are about 36,000 people that have tried out in Poland to make their team.”
Only 4-inch hand augers are used, which require both hands and no electronics are allowed. There is also a sort of choreographed dance that goes along with this type of ice fishing.
Peddycoart said, “With the palm reels, you set the hook when you have a strike. Then you grab and pull the line three times out of the water and then take the palm reel and toss it across the ice. Then you take your fish off and put it into your pouch. Then you put the line back into the water, pulling the palm reel back across the ice towards you. This is done up to 50 to 60 times an hour.”
He added most of these fisherman will fish on their knees, because they want to be close to the water due to the elements. The fishing line needs to be straight to tell when a fish is striking the line because the fish are so small. The bait used are miniscule blood worms and maggots.
“It’s totally different than what everybody is used to going out and ice fishing for walleyes, sunfish, perch,” he said. “I can’t believe that some of these other countries actually keep the fish because they are so small.”
This type of unique ice fishing is their past time. “I think it’s a matter of bringing people together from different nations,” he said. “We all have a passion for fishing in common. It really is super nice to see that we do have something in common amongst other countries.”
The World Ice Fishing Championship has rules and regulations about where people can fish. Even the bait is checked to make sure it isn’t plastic.
“This is a different sport,” he said. “It’s more challenging, more fun to me. It’s a wonderful time.”
He added everybody can do it. People do not need a boat, just walk on the water.
Peddycoart has an ice house on Rice Lake in Maple Grove and also does “traditional” ice fishing and tournaments in that style of fishing.
For more information about the competition and the USA Ice Team, visit www.usaiceteam.com. To follow the competition results, follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/USA-Ice-Team/318429564835351?ref=hl.