Jan 27, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff WriterShe was not going to win, but at least one little girl out on the lake was ecstatic about her catch in the Wild West Winter Carnival Ice Fishing Derby.
She has good reason to be proud. The fish was so big, 6-year-old Emma Smith had to ask her dad, Nathan Smith, to help her land it.
The Riverton girl saw the flag pop up on her tip-up Friday night on the ice at Boysen Reservoir. Taking action, she pulled the line, hand over hand
"I was like 'uhmm,'" Emma recounted while mimicking hauling on a line.
Her hands were getting cold, though. The hole had iced over, and the monster was matching her strength.
Time for Dad.
Nathan lent Emma his gloves, cleared the hole, and grabbed the line with her.
The fish that emerged from the cold depths turned out to be a 5-pound, 8-ounce walleye, according to Nathan. Measuring 24 inches from tip to tail, the creature was nearly half as long as Emma is tall as she held it wriggling in her arms.
Her family weighed in the fish for competition, but unfortunately for the young sportswoman she was not going to win. Les Snyder already weighed in a 9-pound walleye at the Lip Ripper bait shop Saturday morning, the heaviest such fish by noon Saturday.
The competition gives cash awards for the heaviest three fish caught before noon Sunday in five species: walleye, ling, catfish, trout and perch. The smallest specimen of each type would earn a $50 gift certificate to Rocky Mountain Discount Sports.
Competitors could still enter, while 87 had registered at B & K Shoreline Stop, a bar and bait shop near the reservoir by midday Saturday. More had signed in at Rocky Mountain Discount Sports in Riverton, as well as at Lip Rippers.
Halfway through the competition, the first place fish for ling was 5.13 pounds, 9.07 pounds for catfish, 6.02 pounds for trout and 1.12 pounds for perch.
Fortunately for Emma, her dad was serious about fishing. Nathan Smith found a spot over the summer for his fourth year at the derby, identifying a rocky drop-off near North Muddy.
He came back to scout it a week before the competition and caught a 23-inch perch.
Whether it was his hard work, luck or a bit of both, fishing was going well for the Smith family Saturday.
Besides Emma's walleye, they had caught six other fish and weighed one in four of the species categories. They only lacked a catfish.
Others were having less luck.
Matt and Shannon Geis drove from Casper to park their trailer Friday night on Fremont Bay. They drilled holes in the ice and set up their lines Saturday morning.
Fish were not biting for them early in the day, but Matt was hopeful he would catch a big walleye.
"I gotta beat the record," he said. "I guess that's what keeps a guy moving."
Geis has fished in the WWWC derby for 20 years, and four years ago he pulled in a 10.96-pound walleye, he said.
Walleye can suck minnows right off of hooks, Geis said, so he threads a needle all the way through the small fish to bait his lines.
Others had told the Geises the fishing was better on the north end of the reservoir, but they were content where they were.
"The access is good, and it's close to the bar over there," Matt Geis said, referring to B & K. "They cook a good pizza."
Jared Hamp of Alpine and Chris Schaefer of Afton were not satisfied with their catch as of Saturday morning, either.
They had brought in an 18-inch ling and a 14-inch rainbow trout, but they did not bother to weigh them in, thinking the fish were too small to win.
Still, they were smiling and laughing as they packed up their tent and heaters to try a new spot.
Schaefer said they had been there one night and would fish through the end Sunday, hoping for better luck.
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