Fifth Recycled Fish Hardwater Open Season


Recycled Fish volunteers are pulling their Ice Armor suits out of storage. The Recycled Fish "On Ice" Tour rolls - or rather glides - across the ice belt for its fifth winter, beginning with the Dakota Angler Ice Institute and the St. Paul Ice Fishing & Winter Sports Expo. Today, the excitement is all about online registration beginning for the Hardwater Open Tournaments in Iowa.

Hardwater Open Tournaments support stewardship through exciting ice fishing competitions. Funds raised at the tournaments benefit Recycled Fish, but what makes the events special is the camaraderie and fun.

"Anglers are fishing for a piece of "hardwater" - a trophy that looks like it was carved right out of the lake - so bragging rights are on the line," says Program Director Ben Leal. "And of course, there's cash and prizes on the line too. But what everybody says keeps them coming back is the sense of community and fun."

The good times start on Saturday, when most anglers are pre-fishing at either Lake Okoboji (January 7 & 8) or Big Creek (January 28 & 29). Recycled Fish serves a free hot lunch right on the ice to warm anglers up and give them a chance to share lies about what they're finding under the ice.

Saturday night, an "Ice Bash" party serves as a rules meeting, but every angler leaves with a goodie bag and door prizes from Scheels, Berkley, Fenwick, Clam Outdoors, Ice Team, Strikemaster, Grabber Warmers, Vexilar and other partners.

Sunday the competition begins, and this year there's good reason to sign up early. "In the past, we've had a shotgun start. It's exciting, but there can be some close calls as anglers on foot and anglers on snowmobiles and 4-wheelers blast off at the same time," says Leal. "Nothing would ruin a good time like someone getting hurt, so this year we'll have a release point, and anglers will line up in the order of registration."

The Okoboji Hardwater Open is an individual competition on Little Emerson Bay of West Lake Okoboji near Milford, IA. Okoboji is famous for clear water and sight fishing for giant, wary bluegill. The event is limited to just 60 anglers, with payouts for those bringing in the biggest ten 'gills.

The Big Creek Hardwater Open is a two-person team competition on Big Creek Reservoir near Polk City, IA. Registration is limited to 100 teams fighting to catch the five largest bluegill and five largest crappie.

The Okoboji and Big Creek Hardwater Open events are open tournaments; open to any angler that would like to compete, and not connected to any series or points race. Registration is $65 with an additional $5 "Big Fish" pot which also qualifies the winner for the Berkley / Fenwick Big Fish Award. The angler or team that wins the "Big Fish" award takes home 100% of the cash as well as great prizes from Berkley and Fenwick!

For more information, to register, or for a full schedule of Recycled Fish "On Ice" events, visit

Recycled Fish is the 501c3 non-profit organization of anglers living a lifestyle of stewardship both on and off the water, because our lifestyle runs downstream. We Are Stewards.

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