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Jason Durham at the 2012 Community Fishing Derby (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Column: Dock Talk: Good bets for Park Rapids fishing contest

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Fish Hook Lake and the 15th annual Park Rapids American Legion Community Fishing Contest organizers are prepared for the mob of anglers predicted to competitively fish on Saturday, Feb. 2.

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But one question remains: Are the anglers ready?

You see, taking part in the event consists of two particular pieces.

Preparation comes first. Of course you'll need a ticket, which must be purchased in advance and will not be available on the ice. Additionally, you'll need cold-weather clothing, rods, tackle and bait required to spend a few hours on the ice and hopefully tempt a lunker to bite.

Second, you'll need a good fishing spot. Yet a "good" hole might depend upon what you intend to catch.

The area dotted with holes on Fish Hook lake, perfectly positioned in a grid of lanes varies in depth from merely a couple feet of water to about 35 feet of water.

Using our angling wits, one might have a good chance at determining what fish could be found in which holes (that is, if you know the depth--for starters).

For instance, it's common to find perch and rock bass in some of the shallowest water, so long as there are weeds around. Unfortunately that doesn't mean perch and rock bass won't inhabit some of the mid-depths too. Though you might find perch in the deepest water, catching a rock bass from the deepest depths is unlikely. You might ask why perch and rock bass would be so special and one would reply that they each have been known to win some amazing prizes at the Community Fishing Contest.

Walleye, one of the most popular gamefish in the Park Rapids area throughout the year, are typically somewhat scarce at the registration booth. Those fish are generally caught on minnows in depths from 12 feet and beyond.

Northern pike, which are aggressive and have good potential for size, can be found throughout the angling area. Though northern pike typically inhabit weedy areas, which are abundant on Fish Hook Lake from shallow to about 16 feet, a wandering northern in the deeper realms isn't uncommon either. Hopefully you can catch a northern pike that's big, but not too big, to secure the 10th largest fish overall and win the Ice Castle Fish House. In the past, certain sized fish have won both a category prize and the 10th largest prize, which would make any angler very happy.

Crappies, largemouth bass and sunfish are a common target for many anglers at the event, since they usually inhabit the same regions--mid-range depths of about 6-18 feet. Vegetation is a key element for the bass, crappies and bluegills. Yet anglers might not realize that a nice-sized smallmouth bass, which do inhabit Fish Hook Lake, are not legal to enter.

You see, smallmouth bass are catch and release only from the first weekend of September until the opening of bass season on Memorial Day weekend. All smallmouth bass must be immediately released.

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