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3.10 pound northern pike wins Jaycees Ice-fishing Extravaganza

Stephen Lyogky (left) and his father Ivan Lyogky (right) from Hartville, Ohio, talk with radio host Brian Moon of B93.3. The Lyogkys took first and third place respectively with a 3.10 pound northern pike and 2.89 pound northern pike Saturday at the Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza on Gull Lake. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch -- Gallery and Video

Whether it's Hole-in-the-day Bay, Hartfield, Ohio, or across the ocean in Ukraine—ice fishing is ice fishing and ice fishing is fun, just ask the Lyogkys.

Stephen Lyogky won this year's iteration of the Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza, catching a 3.10-pound northern pike in the northwestern point of the 2-mile fishing site on Hole-in-the-day Bay. Apparently it was a good location—the same spot his father, Ivan Lyogky, snagged a 2.89-pound northern pike, which was good for third place in the largest charitable ice fishing contest in the world.

Neither son nor father were trying to catch northern pike—they were gunning for walleye around a sharp drop-off point in the lake, jigging lightly along the bottom to coax the fickle fish to take the bait. Instead, they got northern pike on the line and big ones at that.

It was difficult to tell what species of fish or how large it was until the moment he yanked it from the hole, Stephen Lyogky added. As a seasoned angler who's attended the ice-fishing Extravaganza for years, he knew he had a good contender, but experience also taught him to curb his expectations.

"I had a little thought like 'Cool, I caught something big," but in the back of my mind there's always a chance someone in the last 15 minutes (of competition) will bring in something higher or above your weight," Stephen Lyogky said. "I've been here three years before and it's always happened where in the last few minutes someone comes in with a bigger fish."

That wasn't the case, at least not this year. Stephen Lyogky's day on the ice netted him a new truck from Mills Fleet Farm Automotive. Choosing between a Ford and a GMC, he opted for the latter—a decision met with both cheers and jeers from the crowd of automotive rivals.

Ivan Lyogky noted while two of the family happened to register winning fish at the contest, the event represents a gathering for the family and has been for years. Ice fishing has been a family staple for generations. Ivan's father shared the pastime with his son when they lived in Ukraine.

"When I was raised in Ukraine, my father took me as little boy and we ice fished every day," Ivan Lyogky said, adding his experiences as a child were basic—just a wooden rod and a hole, not the elaborate setups many anglers are accustomed to today. "That's how I fell in love with that."

When Ivan immigrated to the United States and eventually settled in Hartville, Ohio, (where both Stephen and Ivan traveled from this year), he took the love of ice fishing with him and passed it on to his son.

Hugh Clarke, a Lincoln, Neb., native, won the "catch of the day" with a 2.47-pound walleye and was awarded an Ice Castle fish house—the prize for a competition that requires an extra tag to participate, he noted, which is why his catch won over a larger walleye belonging to an untagged owner.

Clarke caught his walleye on the western side of the fishing site, using a spoon with a minnow head at a depth of about 64 feet.

"Yeah, I knew that the minute that I had him that I had a nice fish," Clarke said. "It was obvious to me that it wasn't a perch, it was a top gunner. I'm very happy. I knew from previous years that I'd be on the leaderboard, I never expected to be top five or top 10. Patience and time, it paid off to win something."

The top eight catches on the leaderboard:

• A 3.10-pound northern pike, caught by Stephen Lyogky of Hartville, Ohio.

• A 3-pound walleye, caught by Bryan Envik, of Moorhead.

• A 2.89-pound northern pike, caught by Ivan Lyogky, of Hartville, Ohio.

• A 2.51-pound northern pike, caught by Leroy Kolstad, of Eleva, Wis.

• A 2.47-pound walleye, caught by Hugh Clarke, of Lincoln, Neb.

• A 1.61-pound tullibee, caught by Brad Anderson, of Owatonna.

• A 1.55-pound tullibee, caught by Carrie Stenseth, of Fargo, N.D.

• A 1.49-pound walleye, caught by Cody Pryzbilla, of Royalton.