West Salem’s Ice Days fishing derby, the Neshonoc Lake District’s biggest fundraiser, is back after a two-year hiatus.

The festivities are set to kick off at 10 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 27, at Lewis Park in West Salem.

“We’re excited,” spokesperson Steve Plenge said. “I think the community missed it the last two years.”

Lake District Chair Jim Leicht said he’s optimistic about this year’s winter festivities.

“With the cold weather we’re having, we are hopeful the derby will be a success, he said.

The annual fundraiser fell through for the second time last year after uncharacteristically warm weather caused unsafe ice conditions.

The event is a big deal for the Neshonoc Lake District, typically pulling in more than $4,000 a year from raffle sales and donations.

The money goes to help protect and improve the lake. In the past, funds have been used to fund fish cribs, shore restoration and lakeside park improvements.

Leicht said the funds could also be used to off-set the cost of a dredge project to reduce phosphorus levels in the lake.

Plenge said this year’s frigid temperatures have furnished the lake with enough ice to safely hold the event, but experience has taught him that can change quickly.

Unlike previous derbies, the event will be held at Lewis Park and the hospitality tent has been moved off the ice and onto Lewis Point.

“There should be plenty of parking,” Plenge said, adding that participants will be allowed to park on the ice depending on lake conditions.

The cost of the event is $10 per person or $20 for a family. Cash prizes will be awarded to the angler who reels in the biggest bluegill, crappie or northern. First place winners will walk away with $300, while second and third place winners will claim $200 and $100 prizes respectively.

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Winona Daily News Crime & Government Reporter

Tobias Mann covers crime and local government for the Winona Daily News. He can be reached at tobias.mann@winonadailynews.com or at 507-271-3271.

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