High Adventure Air Charter, Guides and Outfitters located just outside of Sterling, Alaska wasn’t known for winter time ice fishing; until this year. On Saturday, January 23, 2021 they invited the public to a free and hopefully annual Ice Fishing Derby.
The event took place at their home base; a beautiful property on Longmere Lake. Longmere Lake is just over 3sq miles and stocked by Alaska Department of Fish and Game with dolly varden, coho salmon and rainbow trout.
What High Adventure Air Charters is known for is first class bear viewing by floatplane, fly-out fishing trips, glacier and volcano tours and guided hunting for moose, brown and black bear. The team of owners, guides, pilots and office staff have been putting together packages and serving guests on the Kenai Peninsula since 1984.
Alice, my three year old is the epitome of an Alaskan child. It can be negative temperatures with snow blowing sideways and she wants to be playing outside. As a family we love spending our free time exploring Alaska. Having the opportunity to take Alice ice fishing for her first time came at a perfect time, January is usually an uneventful time in Alaska. We are still in the midst of COVID-19 shut downs and travel mandates so the opportunity to attend an event, yet adhere to recommendations by health professionals was exciting for us and the other 226 people who participated
The Derby started at 10am and ran until 4pm when prizes for adults and youth who caught the largest fish were awarded. Alice and I arrived at 11am and spent the first 10 min layering up in snow suits, hats, gloves and extra socks. I was happy to see the weather report held true for the day, it was 33 degrees with light winds and light snow, meaning we were going to be okay without an ice fishing shelter. Next we loaded our pulk sled with fishing rods, lures and snacks – snacks being very important to all events Alice attends. It was a short walk from our car to High Adventure Air’s home base and Longmere Lake.
We stopped by the registration table manned by the most welcoming Alaskans; they were as excited to be hosting this event as we were to attend. Entry was free, so after signing in, a guide led us to a spot close by and used the auger to drill us a fresh hole. Alice and I sat up our chairs, tied on lures and started fishing. It’s been at least 20yrs since I spent time on the ice, the day before heading out I had stopped at Ulmer’s Drug and Hardware in Homer and picked up a few spoons in bright colors that would keep Alice’s attention and hopefully catch the attention of the fish below.
The trip from Homer to Sterling was just under two hours and we started getting hungry when we smelled hand battered corn dogs and Wisconsin cheese curds being fried up by Wisconsin Cheese Store LLC, a vendor popular at the summer’s long Soldonta Wednesday Market. While we waited for our food we enjoyed warming up by the ginormous fire and Alice waved around the sparklers High Adventure passed out to all the kiddos.
After two hours on the ice and with no bites, Alice’s “jigging” got a little wilder than I was comfortable with and I knew it was time to pack up after a great adventure. This time Alice packed into the sled with our gear and I pulled it all back to the car. Our only catch may have been a corn dog but we will definitely be returning for next year’s derby thanks to High Adventure Air’s owner Mark Bell, staff, crew and volunteers.
1st place youth – Kian with a 17 5/8” Rainbow Trout
1st place adult – Monte with a 16 ¾” Rainbow Trout