Pinedale Boat Club Big Fish Derby 2017 - Fish Stories
Ice Fishing Derby held on Fremont Lake March 4 & 5, 2017
by Terry Allen
March 7, 2017
If you were here last year you know that some Fish Stories are true. Nevin Griber of Jackson was the overall Big Fish winner last year with his 23 pound and 43 inch Lake Trout. You can see the historic black and white photo in the place of honor at JM Horns Lakeside Lodge where this event is held every winter on Saturday and Sunday.
Nevin and his Dad, John, and Mother, Becca, were back again this year. When I arrived at the lake Saturday I was lucky enough to get a shot of the fish Nevin had just brought in from about 4 miles to the north. It was a 14.6 pound and 37.5 inch Lake Trout. John had spent the last 36 hours on planes from Nome, Alaska to Anchorage, to Seattle, to Salt Lake and finally Jackson to get here in time for the derby.
"I actually had to work real hard at talking him into keeping the fish," said John. "He said the fish was older than he was and he wanted to release it. I had to remind him several times that he was entered in a contest. He finally relented and kept it. I have to say I'm more proud of his sportsmanship attitude than anything else," said John.
The Gribers invited me to join them for dinner and Chef Jeremy Horn and his partner Tara Bing took care of us real good. Jeremy cooked up Johnís eating size trout using his Grandfatherís recipe and the fish made a grand entry into the dining room to a hearty round of applause from the other guests. The trout was full of various herbs, vegetables, cilantro and garlic cloves and baked. Tara made sure we had the most delicious warm herb bread, drinks, wine, Caesar salad and fantastic home fries. Becca remarked on the dressing several times, saying she had never had such a delicious Caesar.
Of course we talked fish as we ate. "I've only caught two fish on this lake," said Nevin "and they've both been big fish. What are the odds?" Becca recalled how she would put 3-year old Nevin in a car seat and John would strap the seat to their fishing boat. "He always had such a determined look on his face as he fished," said Becca.
Rolando, one of the derby organizers came over to our table and said that a lot of folks were saying "we've got to beat that kid from Jackson tomorrow." Rolando has fished this lake for a lot of years and he says the people that come to this tournament have a lot of respect for the lake, the people, the fish and the tradition. John said he felt like a member of a special tribe that comes to this lake. As we got up to leave the table, Nevin quietly came over and shook my hand politely. He did it on his own, no one told him to. For being 14 years old he sure has nice manners and a sophisticated fishing ethic.
That was Saturday and we'll get to Sunday and check in with the Gribers again, but let's talk to some of the other tribe members that make this event a family tradition.
James Burnside and his son Cody were each holding onto an end of a 23-inch trout trying to stretch it to make the 24 inch minimum to have it recorded on the board, but finally gave up. "We knew we were in an iffy spot on the ice when we watched a lady catch four fish but could only get two of them thru the ice," said James. "She had a little bitty ice auger and two of the fish finally got loose and swam away before she could squeeze them thru the hole."
Jason Essington came riding out on his fat tire bike and since I see him out in the snow all the time I figured he had to be getting in good shape. "Nope," he said. "I smoke too much to get in shape."
Ann and Laura Noble were sitting on the boat ramp and Ann remembered the time in 1953 that her folks had been way up the lake fishing with Monte Whight and with their snow plane and it got stuck. They started walking in the deep crusty and slushy stuff and it was slow going. At around 2 in the morning Monte Whight's wife, who had been waiting at home drove to town and filed a missing persons report and the forest service sent another snow plane out to look for them. They got found in the middle of the lake still headed in the right direction but gratefully accepted the ride and they all packed into the forest service snow plane like sardines, but it was a powerful plane and they made it.
Ernie Kawa was out for a 4-mile hike like he does every day. Last month he put in 100 miles on the snow.
Colin and Jolene are keeping their lucky fish spot a secret. "I watched it before it bit," said Jolene. "It sort of floated by pretending not to see the bait but then it just bit it."
Grace has several years of fish derby volunteering under her belt and remembers her first time fishing. "We got attacked by a nest of red ants," she said. "We had to strip all the way down to nothin' because they were gettin' us. That's how I ended up in a papoose back pack on my Mom. I didn't have any clothes and I refused to be put on the ground. So Mom just handed me a fishing pole and I fished from there. I caught a 13 inch Rainbow just like that. We ate it, but I don't like eating eyeballs by mistake so Mom cut it's head off and rolled it in flour and Cajun seasoning. I'm not fishing today, I'm a volunteer fish weigher."
I ran into a whole family that seemed to be vegetarians...good thing because I never saw them catch a fish even though Levi drilled plenty of holes, but they were pretty good snowboard snowpile jumpers and they jumped some so I could take their pictures. One of the group said he'd just driven 1400 miles from Fredricksberg, Texas to fish but hadn't seen one yet.
Luke LaVoie came in with a nice Lake Trout. Luke grew up on the lake. I think his folks built our brew pub a long time ago. "I wish I could turn him back," said Luke, "but I'll eat him." It was getting late and I asked him if he was done for the day. "No, I'm going back out," he said. "I've still got a lot of schnapps left."
A very serious Nayali Chavez seemed to be everywhere. If she wasn't weighing fish, she was out on the lake checking on fisherman. Friday night she had been in charge of selling hats and buttons and beer coozies at the VFW where folks signed up for the event. "I help weight the fish," said Nayali. "If it's flopping around I help hold it down. At the end of the derby I'll help pull the raffle tickets. My favorite part is watching people bring in their fish."
Early Sunday morning my phone rang. It was John Griber, said I better get up to the lake in a hurry. Nevin had just brought in another big fish, and "oh yeah, bring a big bunch of newspapers so we can wrap the fish. He's going to mount this one," he said.
I'm not going to make you wait folks.
Nevin is once again The Overall Big Fish Winner of the derby.
30.8 pounds and it took Nevin about 30 minutes to bring him in. "Two days in a row I watched him pull them in," said David Fry. "I watched him pull them both in," said Mitch Wolfe. "I've got video. They were fishing right next to us."
"Last year we were all alone in Sylvan Bay. We had the whole spot to ourselves," said Nevin. "This year everyone was fishing there with us." "When I first hooked this one I knew it was something special. I didn't know it was this big though. I'm going to mount him, but next year I'm not going to keep any big ones, that's for sure."
Ironically, Nevin's iceshanty.com handle is "Minnow."
btw, the Gribers have already reserved a cabin at Lakeside Lodge for next year. If you'd like to be here to "beat the kid" you better reserve now.
I'll put up a nice historic looking black and white photo of Nevin and his fish in the lodge like I did last year.
Thanks to everyone for being so agreeable with photos and interviews. Thank you Dawn at Pinedale Online for being my regular sponsor. I love telling our community stories.
A huge thank you to Jeremy and Tara, the new owners of JM Horns at Lakeside Lodge for sponsoring this story.
Let me know if I need to change anything, folks.
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