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For the first time in what seemed like far too long for avid ice fishers, the Royal Fire Department was able to host their next ice fishing tournament at Grove Lake. After a year off from the tournament, people came from all across Nebraska to enjoy the day.
An impressive 59 teams showed up for a beautiful day on the lake Sunday to support the fire department. The event is held each year as a fund raiser for the fire department. Currently, the department is saving for a new pumper to replace their 1976 Ford Pumper which, while still adequate, is getting a bit outdated according to Royal Fire Chief Gary Ober.
The event started out as a family event 34 years ago as a fun event for the department. Over the years, the event has grown into a popular one for the town of Royal.
"Our first tournament, if I recall, we had 17 teams," Ober said. "It grew to 27 and then from then on it has just gradually went up. We've had up to 72 teams."
After holding a calcutta to kick off the event on Saturday evening, the fishermen hit the lake at 9 a.m. Sunday morning and caught as many fish as they could until 2 p.m. Cash awards and trophies were given to winning teams, and trophies were also awarded to the oldest fisherman, youngest male fisherman and the youngest female fisherman.
Wade Williby of Grand Island and Dave Hansen of Bradshaw took home first place with a total weight of 12.8 pounds. Cambrie Drees of Norfolk was given the award for the youngest female fisherman at seven years old. Carson Sayers of Orchard took the award for youngest male fisherman at age five. Max Hieter of Royal led the way as the oldest fisherman in the tournament.
Justin Brandt of O'Neill came away with the biggest individual catch of the day, pulling in a 3.46 pound bass. Neil Zimmerer of Verdigre caught the largest crappie of the day at .84 pounds. The largest bluegill was caught by Pat Gallagher of Inman, also at .84 pounds. The largest perch belonged to Josh Gronenthal of Humphrey, weighing .64 pounds. Between the 59 teams, 232.45 pounds of fish were caught on the day.
Ober was excited to be able to host the event this year, as it has been a couple years since the ice was deemed safe enough to run the tournament.
"Last year we didn't have it because of bad ice," he said. "We don't do the tournament unless there is a good, hard six or eight inches of ice. If its iffy, we don't do it."
The event proved to be a fun day for fisherman of all ages and many of the competitors are already looking forward to next year.
Results from the 34th Annual Royal Ice Fishing Tournament
1st place Wade Williby, Grand Island 12.80 pounds
Dave Hansen, Bradshaw
2nd place Jeff Macke, Brunswick 12.05 pounds
Rick Brandt, Norfolk
3rd place Derek Thiele, Clearwater 10.72 pounds
Eric Allemang, Clearwater
4th place Brock Belik, Orchard 10.62 pounds
Justin Brandt, O'Neill
5th place Neil Williby, Royal 9.85 pounds
Dalton Williby, Royal
6th place Tyson Cole, Page 9.70 pounds
Pat Gallagher, Inman
7th place Max Hieter, Royal 9.57 pounds
Corey Curtis, Royal
8th place Chance Eckmann, North Bend 8.86 pounds
Tyler Going, Ames
YOUNGEST FEMALE FISHERMAN: CAMBRIE DREES AGE 7, Norfolk
OLDEST FISHERMAN: MAX HIETER AGE 73, Royal
YOUNGEST MALE FISHERMAN: CARSON SAYERS AGE 5, Orchard
LARGEST BLUEGILL: PAT GALLAGHER .84, Inman
LARGEST PERCH: JOSH GRONENTHAL .64, Humphrey
LARGEST BASS: JUSTIN BRANDT 3.46, O'Neill
LARGEST CRAPPIE: NEIL ZIMMERER .84, Verdigre
TOTAL POUNDS CAUGHT: 232.45 pounds