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Ice fishing tournament set for Feb. 12

The four lakes of Pagosa Lakes are all open for ice fishing and Lake Forest, Village Lake, Lake Pagosa and Hatcher Lake present excellent opportunity for anglers. Conditions are right and trophy-sized fish are being pulled through the ice.

When ice fishermen are out on the lakes, I’m also out there with them — on my skate skis. I make a point to admire their catch and they share fish stories with me. I spoke to Bob, an avid fisherman, about the appeal of fishing in general and ice fishing in particular.

One analogy he drew for ice fishing was the childhood game of “fishing’’ — the surprise that was hooked to the end of the line from behind a cardboard blind. Ice fishing is full of delightful surprises. Drop a line through a hole in the ice and voila, up comes a squirming surprise.

Since perch have a tendency to group during the winter, ice fishing for perch that are already hungrier from leaner food supply yields greater results. It’s definitely more fun to be catching.

The most important aspect of ice fishing, or any ice activity, is safety. Never go out on a frozen lake that has less than six inches of solid, clear ice. Drill a test hole close to shore and a couple more as you go farther out to be sure. Ensure that the ice is solid and not soft or “slushy.”

The lakes in Pagosa Lakes are all fitted with aeration systems that are designed to provide oxygenation to the water and ensure winter survivability of the fish in the lakes. Stay away from these aerator openings. In fact, never go within 75 feet of one of these openings.

Also, keep an eye out for children and pets on the lakes. Dogs especially are attracted to the waterfowl that swim in the open water (aerated) areas of the lakes and will have a difficult time getting back out if they fall into the water.

The Pagosa Lakes Winter Ice Fishing Tournament scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 12 should be a beautiful time to be out on the lake. Sponsored by the Eagle Mountain Mercantile, the tournament will be held 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at Village Lake.

Tickets to the tournament are $10 in advance — kids 16 and under fish for free. A PLPOA issued lake use permit is not required for this event and it is open to the public. Tournament rules are available at time of ticket purchase or day of the tournament. There are different categories and contestants can only win or place in one category, with one cash prize limit per contestant. Tournament officials will be checking individuals throughout the day and weigh stations will be positioned at strategic locations. All ticket revenue will be used for cash prizes.

Tournament tickets are available at Eagle Mountain Mercantile, the PLPOA Recreation Center and the PLPOA Administration Office. The cost of tickets goes up to $15 on tournament day. In the event of inclement weather, the tournament date could be changed. Updated information and any other changes will be posted at www.plpoa.com.

Year of the Rabbit

Today, Chinese all over the world will celebrate Chinese New Year with a family dinner, fireworks and gifts of money in red envelopes. If you want to be culturally suave, greet your Chinese friends with “Kung Hay Fatt Choy” — four short words that relay a message of prosperity, health and peace.

So, today marks the dawn of the Year of the Rabbit. The next time you are eating at a Chinese restaurant, study your placemat before you spill Kung Pao Chicken on it.