Ice Fishing Bonanza

It was a joyful romp at Saturday’s annual Lake San Cristobal Ice Fishing Derby with snowmobiles cutting lazy circles on the lake surface and a variety of children and dogs romping over the lake’s frozen surface.
The southern end of the lake near its outlet was a favorite for ice fishermen who repeatedly caught smaller-size Rainbows and a variety of large Mackinaw or Lake Trout using a combination of alluring tube jigs and sucker meat.
With fishing pole bent at an alarming angle, 2016 fish derby champion Mervin Ormiston, Jr., Gunnison, and his mother, Nita Ormiston were on their knees intently staring down into a hole cut through the ice. Ormiston explained that he had drilled the ice access hole only five minutes before the line went taut and the pole bent. After a 15-minute struggle during which the unseen fish tired, Ormiston finally reeled in his catch at 2 p.m., a 26-3/4” Lake Trout weighting 5-1/2-lb. which was judged the largest catch of the day.


Volunteers for the derby’s sponsor, Hinsdale County
Search & Rescue, use two measuring boards, one 24” long and the other, larger board 36” to accurately judge each catch during the day. With Ormiston’s catch out of the water, volunteers excitedly brought in the larger measuring board.
Catching large Lake Trout is not unusual for Ormiston who also caught the derby’s largest trout — a 29”-long, 6-lb. trout — in 2016.
Ormiston and his family — parents Mervin, Sr., and Nita, sister, Christine Esquibel, nephew, Samuel, and fishing buddies Scott Denham, Wes Beard and Keith Templeton — were among 60 or more anglers taking part in Saturday’s ice fishing derby, including good representation from both Gunnison and Lake City.
Runner-up fishermen catching the second, third and fourth largest fish were also all from Gunnison.
Mary Kay Fry was in second place with her 18-1/4” trout, followed in third place by a 17-1/4” Mackinaw caught by Rich Wajdakowski just after 1 p.m., and a 17” trout caught by Nicole Schultheis, also from Gunnison, was judged a fourth place winner.
Several 17”-long trout were caught by derby fishermen on Saturday, others including Lake City angler JoAllen Blowers and Mick Velasco, Gunnison.
In brief chats with a number of derby’s successful fishermen, SILVER WORLD learned that tube jigs were the favored bait, some of the anglers adding to the enticement with chunks of succulent sucker meat.
Although ice fishing huts and anglers comfortably seated on stools were scattered throughout the south end of the lake, the greatest concentration — including the lucky Ormiston family — were concented north of the willows at the lake inlet.
Among these was Gunnison angler Jim Schoemaker who was enjoying his first San Cristobal Ice Fishing Derby. Schoemaker was pleased with his 14-1/2” fish which he caught at approximate 7’ depth using a black doll fly and mule worm.
Other fishing groups enjoying the bright blue sky and sun on Saturday were repeat derby winners Joe and Nicole Schultheis who were avidly fishing with their young sons, Munch and Dawson. Nearby were Bobbi Vickers McDonald, Malinda McDonald, and JoAllen Blowers. Blowers caught his 17” trout bright and early on Saturday — at 8:30 a.m. — with the observation that a number of the fish caught on Saturday had been feeding on fingerling suckers.
Snug in their cozy ice fishing house, the retired Hurd brothers, George and Robert, with Robert’s grandson, Lane Mangum, each kept a close eye on their fishing hole as they enjoyed a cavalcade of friends who stopped to visit and inquire on their fishing luck.
Three generations of the already mentioned Ormiston family were in close proximity to another group of enthused Gunnison fishermen, Steve and Mary Kay Fry, and their daughter and son-in-law, Lana and Chris Athey, and grandchildren, Hagen, Loa, and Eve. When not fishing, the Athey children and family dog were gleeful as their mother ferried them about on a snowmobile-pulled sled.
In the midst of their sledding romp — and mirroring sentiments of the fishing Ormistons and others — the Athey children were gleeful, exclaiming “this is a blast!… can we go any faster?”