December 2, 2021

Frozen fishin’ fun

Almost-annual Crappie Derby Feb. 17

Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Crappie Derby organizer Chuck Sweet, right, records the thickness of the ice on Whitney Point Reservoir on Wednesday with his fishing buddy Tom Decker in Whitney Point.

WHITNEY POINT — An almost yearly weather-dependent event is once again scheduled for February for the first time in four years — the New York State Crappie Derby.

The derby, which has been canceled the past few years, is scheduled for Feb. 17 at Whitney Point Reservoir. “That’s later than normal,” said Chuck Sweet, derby coordinator.

The reason for the later date — the weekend coincides with free fishing day in the state, so people won’t need a fishing license, he said.

The event will be business as usual with not a lot changing from past years, Sweet said. However, this year’s event will be geared more toward kids with the free fishing day. Also Dick’s Sporting Goods will be at the event with demonstrations.

Registration at the event is scheduled for 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sweet measured the ice at around a foot thick Wednesday. “Normally 12 inches is enough,” he said.

Crappie Derby ahead

What: Almost Annual Crappie Derby
When: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 17
Where: Whitney Point Reservoir
Details: For a full schedule, visit

The DEC reports that 8 to 12 inches of ice can safely support a car or small size pickup truck. Depending on the temperature, ice thickness could grow another two to 10 inches within seven days if temperatures linger between 10 and 30 degrees, according to the Ashton Ice Growth Prediction Method. The forecast through the end of this week calls for temperatures between 5 and 30 degrees, with one day spiking as high as 40.

Crappie Derby organizer Chuck Sweet records a 12-inch thickness Wednesday of the ice on reservoir

For the past three years the derby has been canceled. “We’re looking forward to having one (this year),” Sweet said.

Weather is a big variable in how many people attend, Sweet said. On Saturday as the ice thickness was measured it was close to 50 degrees, Sweet said. If the day mimics Saturday, Sweet said he could expect up to 4,000 people.

If it’s closer to 0 degrees with the wind blowing, it could turn out like the 1977 derby when only around 300 people went.

About 3,500 people attended in 2014, the last year the event was held. The temperature reached a high of 24 degree with little wind and 15-inch-thick ice on the lake.

The derby was founded in late 1973 by the Whitney Point Sportsmens Association. A few phone calls were made, a $150 purse was collected and 197 people in early 1974 gathered on the ice, according to the event’s website.

By 1978, the purse expanded to $1,000 and more than 1,000 participants registered. In 2014, the purse topped $15,000.