Northern Pike Challenge inviting soldiers to wet a line Saturday in Louisville
Friday, February 24, 2012 - 11:38 am

LOUISVILLE -- Among the hardy anglers out on the ice at the Northern Pike Challenge this Saturday will be more than 40 fishermen from Fort Drum, guests of St. Lawrence County’s FISHCAP program.

“We’re eager to welcome our neighbors from Drum and introduce them to our annual ice fishing derby,” said Mike Gagner, president of the St. Lawrence River Walleye Association (SLRWA) which presents the tournament each year. “We’ll be honored to have them with us.”

FISHCAP, the local initiative that promotes the St. Lawrence River Valley as “the fishing capital of the world,” hosted a Wounded Warriors fishing tournament last June in Ogdensburg. At a recent meeting, the FISHCAP advisory board voted unanimously to cover registration fees and other costs for Fort Drum soldiers who want to try their hand at angling in St. Lawrence County during the winter.

“Our soldiers give all they have, every day, day after day, to protect and defend this country,” said St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director and a FISHCAP initiator Pat McKeown.

“The least FISHCAP can do is give them one good day of ice fishing in St. Lawrence County, the world’s fishing capital.”

More than 40 Army fishermen are expected to attend, with as many as 10 from the Wounded Warrior unit at Drum.

Also expected are spouses and children, and more than 15 FISHCAP volunteers. Advisory board member Bob Giordano of Chase Mills and FISHCAP coordinator Don Meissner have been coordinating with Drum, and with the organizations and individuals here who want to help out.

“Once again, the local response has been fantastic,” Giordano said. “We couldn’t do this without the enthusiastic support of so many in our county who want our soldiers to visit and have a great time.”

Donations have come in the form of everything from bait and buckets to tents and four-wheelers to help transport soldiers to their Fobares Pond fishing site. Food will also be provided to the guests from Drum.

Donors and supporters for the soldiers’ fishing day include Howie’s in Ogdensburg, Ogdensburg VFW Post 2936, Ralph Miller of Nature’s Trophies, Massena Walmart Supercenter, American Legion Post 514 in Winthrop, and VFW Post 1194 in Potsdam. Dan Andruss of the SLRWA has donated 100 tip-ups, and the “Taj Mahal of ice shacks” for the soldiers, according to Gagner.

Meissner even got friends at ProLine Fishing in Elk River, Minnesota to donate 50 rods and reels for the soldiers and families. “Don said they needed some quality gear for the soldiers,” said Michael Ressen of ProLine, “and we were happy to step up.”

As for Meissner, he is “thrilled that our area sportsmen have the opportunity to share this great event with those soldiers who have risked their lives, so we can enjoy ours.”

The 2012 Northern Pike Challenge takes place on the St. Lawrence River, Feb. 25 from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mandatory check-in is at the Louisville Fire Station.

In addition to thousands of dollars in prizes given out throughout the day, the grand door prize is a 2012 Polaris 500 4x4 Sportsman.

Entry fees for adults are $35 per person; youth entries are $5.

For more information, complete rules, and entry forms, go to www.stlawrenceriverwalleyeassociation.com or call 384-3450.