By Rob Potter
SULLIVAN COUNTY April 4, 2008 Although trout season began this week throughout New York State, one Sullivan County resident can easily recall some great memories from the ice fishing season just a few months ago.
Back in December, Kevin Riley, a resident of Glen Spey, and fishing buddy Richard Stachurski, who lives in Middletown, traveled to Alexandria, Minn. for an ice fishing competition.
Specifically, the event was the 2007 Trap Attack North American Ice Fishing Championship (NAIFC) Tournament.
A total of 75 two-person teams from 11 states Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Wisconsin competed in the Trap Attack NAIFC national championship event Dec. 15-16 on Lake Henry/Agnes in Alexandria, Minn.
After two days of intense competition, Riley and Stachurski were crowned the national champions. They caught the limit of 16 fish, their best eight crappies and their best eight sunfish, each day and those 16 fish weighed in at a total of 10.63 lbs.
For their first-place finish, they earned a $10,000 check and gold championship rings.
Riley and Stachurski edged out another New York team, Steve Eichler and Mike Chase, for the title by just .30 lb.
Another team from here in The Empire State, John Balstella and Richard Renard, finished 10th by catching the limit of 32 fish with a total weight of 9.7 lbs.
“It felt really good to have three teams from New York in the top 10,” Riley said in a recent interview.
“It felt great to win the championship, the rings and prize money,” Riley added. “But it’s fun just to ice fish at these competitions.”
And those events are conducted under strict rules and guidelines.
“They go through all of your gear and inspect everything,” Riley said.
After inspection, the teams are allowed to go out onto the ice. Riley said that each angler is allowed only one jig rod and each team is restricted to a 30 foot by 30 foot area of the ice in which to drill holes and catch fish.
Fishing was allowed from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. After Saturday’s weigh-in, the Riley/Stachurski team was in ninth place with a total catch of 5.11 lbs.
On Sunday morning, Riley caught a .63 lb. sunfish.
“I was excited because we needed to catch some bigger fish like that to move up in the standings,” Riley said.
Riley, who works for Frontier Communications in Middletown, and Stachurski, who works in the electrical department at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, were invited to the NAIFC championship tournament after placing fifth in a February 2007 qualifying event at Silver Lake, which is approximately 50 miles south of Rochester.
The 2007 NAIFC tournament was the third time Riley has competed in ice fishing’s top competition.
In the 2005 event at Lake Mary in Alexandria, Minn., he and Stachurski placed 21st out of the 75 teams. Then in 2006, Riley teamed up with his brother, Charlie Baker, for the tourney at Lake Carlos, Wisc. The brothers placed 38th in the event.
One might presume that their big win back in December automatically qualified Riley and Stachurski for the 2008 NAIFC national championship event.
“No, I wish it were that simple,” Riley said.
He explained that, like all of the other teams hoping to compete at this year’s NAIFC event, he and Stachurski had to fish well enough at a qualifying event in order to earn a spot in the national competition.
The Riley/Stachurski team placed 11th in a January qualifying event, so they have a spot in the 2008 NAIFC competition, which is scheduled to be held in December.
While he is undoubtedly looking forward to ice fishing again later this year, for now Riley’s focus is on fishing during warmer weather and much closer to home. He is a New York State licensed guide and operates the Reel’em In Guide Service, which features Delaware River Driftboat Trips.