Scofield State Park • Anglers know it is cold when the length of the fish they catch is greater than the air temperature.
Payson residents Alan VanKirk and Wayne Rorick were among about 200 people who participated on Saturday in the seventh annual Scofield Ice Fishing Tournament. The tourney marked the first leg of the Utah State Parks Trifishalon.
"We started setting up the gear before dawn, and the thermometer said 14 that's 14 below zero," Rorick said while sporting mini icicles in his lengthy moustache.
For the record, the coldest temperature during the tournament was 41 below zero during the first year of the event. It is a wonder anybody returned to stretch the life of the tournament to seven years.
The men, like many of the anglers gathered on the ice covering Scofield Reservoir, were catching fish, but none felt good about their chances of winning the tournament.
"We gave them our $15 entry fee, but I'm not sure that qualifies us as being in the tournament," VanKirk said with a laugh while reeling in a 12-inch cutthroat trout. "We seem to have found the little ones."
While catching larger fish was a goal, catching rainbow trout was a necessity. Utah State Parks officials only allow anglers to turn in rainbow trout for the tournament. The cutthroat and tiger trout (a hybrid mix between a brook and a brown trout) were not eligible because those two sport fish are under special regulations at the reservoir.
That caused some confusion.
"We had a woman come flying up on a snowmobile about 8:30 a.m. yelling she had won the grand prize," said Jonathan Hunt, a ranger with Utah State Parks. "I had to tell her it was a cutthroat, and it didn't count."
The excited angler wouldn't have finished in the top five even if her fish had a been a rainbow trout. Greg Young, of West Valley City, won the 2012 Scofield Ice Fishing tournament with a 16 3/4-inch rainbow. The other fish ranged down to 14 3/8 inches for fifth place. Those numbers are comparable to last year's results.
While this was the seventh year for the Scofield ice fishing tournament, Saturday marked a new event on two other dates at two other state parks. The other two legs of the Trifishalon will be held Jan. 19 at Rockport State Park and Feb. 9 at Starvation State Park.
The winner at Scofield was presented with a $300 gift certificate to Sportsman's Warehouse. Other gift certificates were handed out in various amounts to places down to fifth.
Hunt said 53 people signed up to fish in all three tournaments. The angler emerging from the Starvation tournament with the longest combined length of fish caught at all three tournaments will win an $800 gift certificate to Sportsman's Warehouse.
Hunt said the goal of the Trifishalon was to encourage anglers to experience new state parks and their ice fisheries.
"Scofield is typically the first major reservoir to freeze, and it is a tournament everybody can count on," he said. "It's a fun way to promote fishing in the winter at Utah State Parks."
The Nilson clan (Chris, Brian, Lloyd and Hunter) of Spanish Fork, crowded an ice fishing tent to stay warm while pursuing their dreams of big fish. They make frequent trips to fish at Scofield and said the tournament was just another excuse to make the trip.
"We usually fish somewhere else, but there are mostly cutthroat and tiger trout there," said Brian Nilson. "We are fishing here because there are usually more rainbows."
But by 11 a.m. they had only landed cutthroat trout, including an 18-incher by Lloyd.
The three Monroe kids Taylor, 10, Madison 7, and Skyler 6 were not officially entered in the tournament, but they were having fun with their dad, Albert, nonetheless.
"We get to catch a lot of fish and see the different kinds of fish," Taylor said while her dad tried to keep the tent she was standing in from blowing away. "We haven't caught any yet, but we are going to move by my uncle. He has caught nine."
Back with Rorick, the discussion turned to a species other than trout that he felt should be included in the tournament. Utah chubs, a fish considered less than desirable for anglers, compete with the trout and can take over the reservoir. Rorick suggested a new category be added for the most pounds of chubs turned in at the end of the day.
"It could be another category. They aren't a good fish for the reservoir," Rorick said. "They could give out a prize for the greatest number of chubs caught."
Of course, the suggestion came as he was looking at a big zero on the rainbow trout meter.
Winners of the 7th annual Scofield Ice Fishing Tournament
1 • Gregory Young, West Valley City, 16 3/4 inches
2 • Bill Brown, South Jordan, 15 3/8 inches
3 • Dusty Mecham, Levan, 15 1/8 inches
4 • Su Jones, Huntington, and Carson Morley, Kaysville, 14 3/8 inches
5 • Josh Enz, Ogden,14 3/8 inches