Whitefish Lake was bustling with activity as it was, once again, the place to be for the 20th year of the Annual Billy Beal Classic Ice Fishing Derby, with more than 500 people on the ice Saturday afternoon (March 18).
Many events kept the day filled with excitement as friends gathered together to enjoy the nice weather, delicious food, and door prizes while ice fishing on the lake.
“It was a good day, we were quite happy with it,” said Billy Beal organizing committee chair Alex Haluschak.
A grand total of 26 pike were caught throughout the day, more than double the catch of last year.
The $10,000 grand prize winner, Pat Bergson, reeled in a Northern Pike weighing in at 13 lbs 14 oz.
With many prizes to be won, such as an upright air compressor, portable pressure washer, Broil King barbecue, 32” Samsung TV, or a snowmobile jacket, to name a few, the fishers had the opportunity to take home much more than just fish.
Among these, the Chinese Auction, 50/50 draw, 20th anniversary $100 draws, and the prize categories, consisting of – oldest fisherman, youngest fisherman, hidden time, and hidden weight – had the crowd leaving the event in high spirits. The prize for heaviest perch was available, but none were caught.
The weather proved to be complimentary to the day’s events as the sun made appearances, the wind was minimal for the majority of the afternoon, the ice was thick, and the temperature was mild.
“The weather was nice, other than the wind picked up in the last hour,” said Haluschak. “And, the roads were good getting there.”
The day was put together by the joint efforts of the Swan River, Bowsman, and Minitonas Lions Club members.
“Between the three clubs, we had about 50 members help out,” said Haluschak, adding that others apart from the Lions clubs also came to volunteer, whether because they’ve received medical assistance in the past, or because they want to see the event succeed.
“It really shows that people appreciate what you’re doing for them.
“We even had fellows from Ukraine and Venezuela that were helping us out, and may have never seen (lake) ice before,” Haluschak added.
With all of the profits going to the Swan Valley Lions’ Medical Assistance Fund, the event has helped 278 residents of the Swan Valley to date, taking in an total of $226,230.16 since the fund started.
Fish or no fish, the Billy Beal saw many smiling faces throughout the day.
Taking home some of the other prizes were:
Frank Rosteski – 82 years old
Bella Hicks – one year, four months
Benny Hrappstead - closest to 3 p.m.
Mitchell Lafreniere - closest to 1 lb 10 oz