Hook, line, and sinker
Forty-two years have seen a local fisheree evolve, but at its core, it remains the same
By Marv Kohlbeck
There’s an old saying that goes somewhat like, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
That thought crossed my mind this weekend after our Pittsville Lions completed our 42nd successful ice fisheree on Lake Dexter, located five miles south of Pittsville. The fisheree originated as a fire department fundraiser and was first held in the springtime, and contestants could only fish from the shoreline of the lake. The event involved quite a few personnel, and when the department felt that it was taxing its membership, the Lions Club was offered the chance to adopt the fundraiser.
In 1974 the Pittsville Lions brought about some initial changes. Their first was to hold the fisheree not in the spring but on the first Sunday of February on Lake Dexter. That date has held firm for 42 years. Also in that first year, temporary food and refreshment stands involved a few tables and serving counters. Ticket sellers stood out in the open to face that day’s weather conditions. Additionally, a mobile food stand truck was purchased. That idea was scrapped the second year as customers could only be served out of one window.
Since those early years the Wood County Parks and Forestry committee has seen fit to build a shelter house, which has been a place to accomplish all sales, warm up, measure prize catches of fish, and listen to recorded music or pick up door prizes. The positive changes were accepted by all.
In order to seek fairness and honesty, the first year a large circle was taped off, and all contestants had to fish within the designated area. It only took the experience of that first year to realize that by concentrating the contestants to a small area, the weight would force water up through the drilled holes. People were standing in varied depths of water. Now fishing is allowed anywhere on the lake.
One year the Neillsville Lions Club loaned us a large army tent, which a number of us decided we would sleep in overnight so we could be ready to sell food and tickets to the early birds. That experiment fell flat as the portable space heater ran out of fuel, and we all chilled out in our sleeping bags that were spread over a few bales of scattered hay.
Selecting prize catches also saw changes over the years. Initially, cash awards were made to the heaviest fish in each category. One contestant figured it would be easy to beat the system by placing a few lead weights down the throat of his winning catch. A working Lion discovered the subterfuge when he took home the catches so he could clean them up and feed them to his cats. Now prizes are awarded based on length.
Over the 42 years, two fisherees were postponed a week due to harsh weather conditions, but the end result was we sold more raffle tickets and made more money.
Feb. 7, 2016, was one of the most suitable days that people could get outside if they were suffering from cabin fever. The crowd on the lake was excellent, and the support of workers from the Lions Club and volunteers was superb. Areawide businesses were supportive, as were raffle ticket purchases that contributed to the funds raised.
Each year Lions members budget financial help to go to a wide variety of individual and organizational needs.
Yes, we have made many changes to make it an enjoyable day for many people, but most of all it is a winning situation for the individuals, organizations, and programs that benefit from budgeted funds. The generated net proceeds of 42 years of fisherees would surely add up to more than $100,000.