Fishing derby draws a crowd

SLEEPY EYE – Several hundred fish houses dotted the east end of Sleepy Eye Lake on Sunday as the 31st Annual Sleepy Eye Sportsmen’s Club Fishing Derby took place.

Eight hundred registered contestants caught more than 80 game fish and more than 140 pan fish amid an 18-degree air temperature, little or no wind on top of about 18 inches of ice, according to fishing derby officials.

For the Ibberson family of New Ulm and Sleepy Eye, taking part in one of southern Minnesota’s largest fishing contests in Sleepy Eye maintained a family tradition.

“I think I’ve been out here fishing in the derby for about the past 20 years,” said Joe Ibberson. “It’s not bad out. This is a great local lake to fish with your kids. It’s got a lot of fish and it’s in better condition than it was decades ago.”

Early in the afternoon, Joe’s son Kaleb hooked a 3-pound Northern that nearly placed in the top four catches in the game fish category. Kaleb later hooked a panfish.

Cody Ibberson of Sleepy Eye recalled sitting in a fish house in the north side of the lake during the derby sometime in the 1990s when a strong north wind came up and blew he and his fish house across the lake.

When they aren’t on Sleepy Eye Lake fishing, the Ibbersons may be fishing Lake Hanska, Clear Lake or the horseshoe chain of lakes southwest of St. Cloud, a fishing destination they regularly visit in late August.

“My dad Jimmy began family fishing trips to the horseshoe chain of lakes in 1953,” Joe Ibberson said. “There are lots of walleyes up there.”

Sunday’s large derby turnout pleased Sleepy Eye Sportsmen’s Club members.

“Everything went great. It was a nice day,” said Joe Windschitl.

Brian Engholm won the panfish division with a 4-pound, 8-ounce northern. Other place winners were Nate Zins with a 4-pound, 1-ounce bass; Shea Evers,3-pound, 5-ounce northern; and Natalie Sellner with a3-pound, 2 1/2-ounce northern.

Top panfish catches were Dave Aristy, .54-pound crappie; Kada Aude, .48-pound sunfish; Jerod Hall, .43-pound crappie; and Carter Fromm, .38 pound sunfish.

The New Ulm Sportfishermen host a fishing contest Sunday, Feb. 10 at Clear Lake, southwest of New Ulm.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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