Inaugural Stone Lake Bowl a success

CASSOPOLIS — For some southwest Michigan residents, there is no better time than sitting on the ice with a fishing pole in hand, protected from the wind by their portable shanties. However, some enjoy ice fishing even more when it can win them $500 or a free pizza.

The Cassopolis Main Street organization recently hosted its inaugural Stone Lake Fishing Bowl. The event took place from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 10 at Stone Lake in Cassopolis. The contest consisted of four different prizes and more than 60 people participated. $500 was given to the contestant who caught the longest perch, bluegill and crappie. A large pizza from sponsor Marcello’s Pizzeria, nicknamed the Stone Lake Monster, was given to the contestant who caught the largest overall fish.

“I thought it went very well for it being our first time and given the conditions,” said Ben Anderson, the president of Cassopolis Main Street. “There was at least a foot of snow on the ice and guys had to walk through that to get their shanties out there. For us, we thought it might be a problem with ice breaking, possibly people falling through the ice just because there’s so much weight sitting on it.”

The winners included Mark Kwiatkowski, who won the Stone Lake Monster pizza by catching a catchfish; Brad Bundy, with the longest perch; Brian Hensey with the longest bluegill and Danny Franz with the longest crappie.

Franz is the only winner who was not aided by sonar technology, which allows fisherman to see where the fish are below the ice.

“I’ve always considered [using sonar] cheating, but one of the winners did not use one,” Anderson said. “I thought that was amazing. He’s just got the knowledge of that lake and knew right where to fish and what to fish with. He pulled out the biggest crappie right away and we were all like. ‘there’s Danny Franz, going to work’ because he knows this lake better than anybody else.”

Since Dec. 15, Franz, who has been retired for nearly 20 years, has gone ice fishing almost every day, and he often goes on Stone Lake. He ice fishes so much that he says his wife gets irritated with him because he changes the subjects of their conversations to ice fishing.

He does not expect ice fishing to be viable at Stone Lake for much longer, if at all, given the recent rainfall and warmer temperatures. In fact, if the current weather had come earlier, the contest likely would not have happened. Last year, Anderson and Cassopolis Main Street planed to host the Stone Lake Fish Bowl, but they never saw ice thick enough for them to feel comfortable doing so.

“We want 6 inches of ice under our fishermen, just to be safe,” Anderson said. “A lot of the fishermen will go out with less ice than that. People were out there two to three weeks prior to us having this tournament with less ice.”

One contestant did fall through. However, he was quickly pulled out and taken off the lake to warm up. This did cause the tournament to be called slightly earlier than expected, but the contestant was not upset.

“With this year being our first time ever doing it, there was a bit of a learning curve,” Anderson said. “With all that said, it was an excellent turnout and people had a really good time. We had fun and had a lot of help with it. We’re looking forward to doing it again next year and doing it even better.

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