Ice Fishing Derby brings crowds to Coventry Lake

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Coventry - posted Mon., Jan. 27, 2014
Tolland resident Ethan Wilson shows off a 10-inch yellow perch he caught at an ice fishing derby on Coventry Lake on Jan. 25. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Tolland resident Ethan Wilson shows off a 10-inch yellow perch he caught at an ice fishing derby on Coventry Lake on Jan. 25. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Asked recently on WILI’s Wayne Norman show how long the DEEP-sponsored ice fishing derby has been held in Coventry, Lebanon resident Dianne Grenier realized, “We don’t remember.” She later confirmed that the derby has been held at Patriot’s Park on Coventry Lake since 1991.

The DEEP holds fishing classes throughout the state, taught by CARE (Connecticut Aquatic Resources Education) instructors. There are more than 600 trained and certified instructors state-wide. Courses focus on many different topics, including bait, equipment, techniques, fish preparation, safety and sportsmanship. While classes are held statewide and throughout the year, the Coventry event is the only ice fishing derby sponsored by the DEEP in the state of Connecticut. Consequently, it generally draws large numbers of fisherman from all over the state, and this year was no exception.

While Mother Nature has forced cancellations in the past, this year’s early January thaw and subsequent cold snap provided the perfect conditions for the derby. “The ice was measured at 5.5 inches thick,” said Grenier.  But it’s more than just the thickness of the ice that matters. “It’s the quality of the ice, as well,” said Grenier. Ice mixed with layers of snow leads to less stability. But this year’s cover was good and solid, and temperatures were expected to be in the 20s warming into the 30s, making for a cold, but not uncomfortable day of fishing.

The event drew more than 200 adults and children, with prizes handed out to participants under the age of 16. The DEEP provided equipment for those who needed it, and free bait. By 9:30 a.m., J.P. and Joseph, two young men from Guilford, were already headed into the Coventry Senior Center to get warm. The boys said they do a lot of summer fishing, but this was their first time at the ice derby. Asked what had brought them there, “We just like fishing,” said J.P.

The Hansen family from Coventry arrived mid-morning; mom, dad and four kids all traipsed across the slippery ice, bundled against the cold. The group said they’d never been ice fishing before. “We saw an ad in the paper and we decided to give it a try,” said the mom. The family was greeted by a CARE instructor, who took them over to a selection of hand and powered augers and helped them get started.

East Lyme resident Keith Hall, fishing with his 13-year-old son, Brandon, said that he was attending the derby for the first time after hearing about it from a co-worker. Brandon had received new fishing equipment for Christmas, “And this was the perfect time to try it,” said Keith.

Among the fish caught at the Jan. 25 Coventry Ice Fishing Derby were chain pickerels measuring 20.5 and 18 inches; walleyes measuring 11.5 inches and 13 inches (released); largemouth bass measuring 13 inches and 15 inches (released); and several yellow perch.

For more information about DEEP-sponsored fishing classes and other events, go to

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