Big day on ice for anglers at Rifle Gap

Kerrin Hazelbush, her fingernails painted blue and orange in anticipation of the Denver Broncos’ run to the Super Bowl, holds the 18-inch rainbow trout she caught Jan. 19 during the 16th annual Mountain Air Mechanical Ice Fishing Tournament at Rifle Gap Reservoir.

Nearly 470 anglers of all ages packed the ice Jan. 18-19 at Rifle Gap Reservoir for the 16th annual Mountain Air Mechanical Ice Fishing Tournament.

With 12 or more inches of solid ice and a bluebird-sunny day to enjoy, many anglers caught fish, and several anglers took home prize money for the biggest fish in three species.

Jeb Limbaugh scored twice by a catching 22-inch brown trout on 
Jan. 18, which easily was the longest brown trout and also the biggest fish of the tournament.

Limbaugh won $500 for catching the longest brown and then got the chance to select an envelope possibly holding the $20,000 grand prize.

He didn’t get the big money, but he still has a great story to tell.

Other big-fish winners included Joe Kobald, yellow perch, 13.5 inches; and Joey Willey, rainbow trout, 19 inches.

There were 170 youth anglers (17 years and under) on the ice over the two-day tournament, and the two top anglers in the division received noncash prizes, while the rest won angling equipment, said Frank Ladd, CEO of the Rifle Chamber of Commerce, one of the sponsors for the tournament.

Other sponsors included the title sponsor, Mountain Air Mechanical of Rifle, along with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Mule Deer Foundation.

The two top youth anglers were Kerrin Hazelbush with an 18-inch brown trout, which would been third place in the adult division, and Caleb Maynard with a 17-inch rainbow trout.

The tournament awarded money or prizes to the top five fish in each category, and because of the two-day format, any ties were decided by the time the fish were caught.

That is why the 17.75-inch rainbow trout caught on Saturday by Rondi Donelson took second in the adult division, good for $300, while a fish of the same length caught on Sunday by Chad Johnson was third and won $150.

But no one was complaining. The days were great, the fish were biting, and you could even make money for doing something no one considers work.


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