The Saratoga Ice Fishing Derby, Started By CJ Box, Canceled Because All Fish Will Be Killed This Fall

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Written by Elaine Vick, Cowboy State Daily

The Saratoga Ice Fishing Derby, a tradition for nearly 40 years, has been canceled for 2023 due to the presence of non-native perch in Saratoga Lake.

The event, which at one time made national headlines for naming international celebrities as the “king” or “queen” of the event, was canceled in what would have been its fortieth year due to the presence of yellow perch, a non-domestic species that can wreak havoc in the aquatic ecosystem.

The event is set to return in 2024.

The fish kills are planned sometime in the fall, which means there will be no fish available even in time for next year’s derby, according to the State Game and Fish Administration.

We found out last summer [yellow] Perch in the lake during routine college sampling,” Alan Osterland, chief of the Wyoming Department of Fisheries and Fisheries, told the Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “We run that as a trout fishery, so having too high a place in the system can be problematic for many reasons. .”

The department will treat the lake with rotenone, an insecticide, this fall. Osterland said the plan is to resupply the lake with trout next summer.

Derby hunting was started in the 1980s by CJ Box, who has since become a household name for his series of novels Joe Pickett and Cassie Dewell.

“The Chamber of Commerce didn’t have any money, so … CJ started out in the hunting derby,” former legislator and fourth-generation Wyomingette Tennis Wilford told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

Box did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Monday.

Wilford said that in the early days of the derby, organizers would do silly things like award prizes for the best “bad luck” story or send official invitations to famous people, such as Prince Charles and Princess Diana or US General Norman Schwarzkopf, to act as “king” or “queen”. Derby.

While none of the invited celebrities attended this derby, Wilford believes that if he had, the Saratoga community would have had a great time.

Osterland said the department is still investigating who was involved in supplying the lake with illegal yellowfish, but he believes it was someone who enjoyed perch fishing and wanted to do it locally.

However, “Stocking” can be a strong word, as Osterland said a person could bring up no more than two yellow chicks and mate the fish quickly and at a young age.

He said that if Wyoming Game and Fish Department employees believed the yellow perch would be a viable species in the lake, the fish would already be there.

“We have to do all this work to try to protect aquatic resources all the way through this system, all because of someone’s selfish act of trying to create the fisheries they want and not thinking about the ramifications,” Osterland said.

This isn’t the first time the department has had to process Saratoga Lake for illegally stored fish, but Osterland said it’s been many years since the latter occurred.

As soon as the perch was discovered in the lake, Osterland said management immediately began contacting local stakeholders about what the fish meant for the next 18 months in the lake.

The Director of the Saratoga/Platy Chamber of Commerce, Amanda Knutwell, did not respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Monday.

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