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Winter fishing festival returns

Tenth annual event planned for Feb. 15

— There will be no more excuses for not landing a fish at the 10th annual Northwest Ice Fishing Festival, coming Feb. 15 on Sidley and Molson lakes.

“We are going full steam ahead,” spokeswoman Robin Stice said of the meeting that drew a dozen people. “There are fish there.”

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife planted 5,000 fish this fall, Stice said.

A decision was made to have the event on Presidents Day weekend during a Thursday meeting with festival organizers and Oroville Chamber of Commerce members.

The Oroville chamber will be seeking help in paying the electricity tab of around $500 to keep aerators on each lake going this winter, allowing fish to survive the winter.

“We want people to be happy and have a good time,” said Stice, who acknowledged the landowners for allowing the aerators to be operated from their private property to benefit the public.

The aerator on Sidley Lake, which has been there more than three decades, is on the John and Nita Myrick property and maintained by Pat Stice.

Bob Hildebrand and the Oroville Sportsman Club maintain the aerator on Molson Lake, which is on the Sharon Cox property.

Both lakes will be listed on a permit application for the festival.

Other reasons for not netting a fish at the festival include bad luck, a shrimp hatch filling rainbows’ bellies just before the contest and anglers being too busy with the many events to keep bait in the water.

Bad luck seems the best excuse the past couple years.

One angler last year had a fish on, hauled it up and was reaching for it when the fish did a Fosbury flop off the hook and back down the angler’s hole in the ice.

“It was amazing,” Stice said of the near-catch. “It was not very big. Some people said they had bites, but could not get a fish on.”

The last good year of fishing was 2009, when adults caught 45 fish and children caught 10 fish.

That year Deb Tobiassen of Bellingham won a 10-foot Lowe Jon Boat donated by Kinross Gold and the chamber after hauling out a 4-pound rainbow.

Tobiassen won in 2010 with two fish weighing 3 pounds, 3.4 ounces. That was the last year a fish was caught.

Frustrated anglers have tried a variety of jigs and baits. They used radar only to see fish float past inviting hooks.

One reason for fat rainbows to ignore a hook is a winter shrimp hatch, on which the fish gorge. That was the reason no rainbows hit the scale in 2011.

When no fish were caught the past couple years, there were rumors the event was done.

“I can’t be responsible for rumors,” Stice said.

Organizers, who started the festival in 2004 when it was the only one of its kind in the state, interviewed anglers from the past few years. They “loved the festival” and planned to return, especially since prizes were awarded even if fish were not caught, Stice said.

“You have one chance to win through your fishing and another chance to win in the drawing,” Stice said. “It’s a win-win situation.”

Each year, the festival draws from 90 to 120 entries, including adults and children. There normally are 300 to 400 spectators watching the fishing and partaking in various activities such as a sled dog demonstration and around 20 vendors.

“We are in the brainstorming phase right now for next year,” Stice said. “A lot of people have many good ideas.”

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