With the added growth of the derby has also came the added sponsorship to it as well. This year the participants were greeted at weigh in by an impressive stack of prizes donated to the cause by Cal-Ranch and Ace Hardware (both located in Cedar City), the St. George Sportsman's Warehouse, Shed Inc. in Panguitch, and donations as well by Steve Barker, Brian Burbridge, firefighting leaders from the US Forest Service, and Bill Roach, the Color-Country Interagency Dispatch Manager. A big thanks goes out to these businesses and individuals, as all of the prizes were again donated, allowing 100 percent of the entry fees and raffle ticket donations to go directly back to the WFF.
What a great day for fishing! The event was kicked off at 8:30 by event organizer Brian Burbridge welcoming all participants and volunteers to the event. After a warm welcome, Heather Talley from the Utah DWR presented information on fish identification and the regulations regarding the slot limit on Panguitch Lake (all cutthroat and tiger trout between 15-22" must be immediately released). With this, the large group dispersed and the fishing began.
With an hour to go, I finally hooked into what I knew was the best fish I had caught all day, right off of the bottom in 12 feet of water. Pulling the fish out I was confident that I finally had that 22" fish I could keep. Pulling the tape out that hope quickly sank to despair as the tape showed just over 20". Squeezing the tail, doing everything we could to stretch him out we could not get better than 21 inches! Not quite enough so we turned him back. Just a couple more 18 inchers is all we would get for the day, it was time to weigh in empty handed.
I was asked to help with the weigh in, so I set up a station on the tail gate to get started, anxious to see Dodds' and Gunn's fish that would win it. Then Scott Stucki of Delta, Utah stepped up with the first fish, a football of a rainbow trout that was no doubt over 18 inches long. I placed the fish on the tape and he hit 20" on the mark. This would be tough to beat. As fish after fish came in, we had a pretty tight race for second and third places, with a bunch of fish in the 16-18" range, but none came close to Scott's 20 inch rainbow! Scott was able to hold that spot on the top, choosing as his prize a YETI cooler, followed by Dave Dodds with his 18 3/4" rainbow, and Kyle Gunn with his 18 1/2" rainbow. Dave took home a Camp Chef outdoor oven, and Kyle took a Humminbird fish finder.
The awarding of the prizes was capped off by a long list of raffle prizes; some lucky participants walking away with some great consolation prizes including; turkey call and decoy, dutch ovens, ice fishing rods, spinning rod, apparel, and much more. The WFF also contributed hats, stickers, and more in support of the event. All totaled, the event brought in just over $2,000 that will go directly into the Wildland Firefighter Foundation fund, for families of fallen wildland firefighters! This is what it was all about, a great group of people united for a great cause. On behalf of organizers Brian Burbridge, Steve Barker, myself, and as well as all of the fire management staff of the Dixie National Forest, Color Country District BLM, National Park Service, and Utah Division of Fire Forestry and State Lands, a big thank you to all of those that participated in the derby, and thanks as well to those who could not make it but still donated to the cause. Of course, a big thanks to Bill Roach who not only donated prizes, but also donated his time as our cook again this year. Next year you owe it to yourself to come up and get yourself a bowl of Bill's amazing homemade chili! I look forward to next year, keep it on your radar as it looks to be bigger and better once again!
Each year dozens of wildland firefighter's lives are taken by various causes as brave men and women fight fires in extreme conditions across our nation, fighting to protect our communities and natural resources. This loss has devastating effects on the families they leave behind. The WFF was formed in hopes of providing support to families who have lost loved ones on the fireline. Each year the WFF is able to contribute funds to those families in an effort to provide support in their time of need. Please check out the Wildland Firefighter Foundation to learn more about their mission, and to also see what you can do to help out those families in need.
If you are interested in fishing Panguitch Lake, check out this post on what the lake has to offer: http://www.suhuntandfish.com/2012/05/panguitch-lake-gill-net-survey.html
As for ice fishing conditions and a report of what was working for us, click on the "fishing reports" tab at the top of the page for information on this lake, and others in the Southern Utah area.
Photography courtesy of Steve Barker