Having an ice time

HENDRICKS – The day was clear, the fish houses were snug against the wind blowing across frozen Lake Hendricks, and everyone seemed to be in a good mood. Around noon on Saturday, it seemed the only thing missing from Hendricks’ annual fishing derby was the fish. But then again, it was still early in the contest.

“I’m finally getting a little action on my line,” said Chase Ovall, who was keeping an eye on his bobber from inside a pop-up fishing shelter. Chase, from Watertown, S.D., and Dylan Ovall of White, S.D., were taking part in the derby along with their grandfather Paul Ovall. The two boys shared the shelter while Paul Ovall sat bundled up on a folding chair on the ice.

“It’s not too bad,” Paul Ovall said of the weather conditions.

The annual Hendricks Ice Fishing Derby was Saturday. Organizers estimated about 400 anglers had gathered on the lake to take part.

“It’s a good turnout for a cold day like this,” said Joe Beech, a member of the Hendricks Lake Association.

The ice fishing derby is a tradition that goes back more than 30 years in Hendricks, organizers said. The event is a fundraiser that helps make maintenance and preservation projects at the lake possible, said lake association president Ben Gates. However, it’s also meant to be plain fun.

“It’s nice for people to be able to get out today,” said Dennis Johnson. “People say they get cabin fever.”

“Getting out” might have been a relative term for the anglers who sat inside heated fish houses to watch their lines. But derby participants said it was still an opportunity to get together with family in the Hendricks area.

“It’s a good hometown event,” said Carmen Tubbs. She and other members of her family had traveled back to Hendricks from as far away as Fargo, N.D. and Chaska to take part in the fishing derby.

The shelters set up on the ice Saturday ran the gamut from plain trailers to something a little more unique. Larry Robins of Lake Benton was fishing inside a custom-built shelter painted with a giant pair of sunglasses on one end.

“It’s a work in progress. It’s going to be a California Raisin,” Robins said. He said he originally planned for the fish house to look like Darth Vader’s helmet, but when the exterior paint turned out more purple than black, he switched designs.

While some of the anglers in Hendricks this weekend had ties to the town, many others said they were just looking for some fun. Mike and Katie Uecker of Minneota said they thought the fishing derby seemed like a good idea for something to do as a family. While Mike and Katie made lunch and kept an eye on the fishing lines, their daughter Gracie, age 3, dug in the snow nearby.

“It’s a way to get out of the house,” Mike Uecker said of the event.