Bryan “Beef” Sathre is a local fishing guide and with Fathead Guide Service and Promotions and also a teacher in the Cass Lake school district. He’s a passionate angler who is especially passionate about getting kids on the water and on the ice to enjoy the outdoors. “I love promoting the sport of fishing! It’s great to see the kids get off the couch and away from the video games to learn more about the outdoors,” he said.
A total of 1,192 kids did just that on Sunday, March 4 on the southeast side of Lake Bemidji just off the shore from the new hockey arena. The kids all participated in the 21st annual Paul Bunyan Perch Derby hosted by the Minnesota Darkhouse and Angling Association’s Paul Bunyan Chapter of which Sathre is the vice president.
Add in parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts and there were well over 4,000 people on the ice participating in the event during a beautiful early March afternoon.
“This is my sixth year being involved with the event and we try to make it bigger and better every time around,” Sathre said. In his first year as a volunteer, Sathre said there were around 700 kids involved. The all time record is 1,300 and this year was just shy of that.
The event began 21 years ago as a small group of individuals looking to get kids on the ice and the event has only grown from there. “We always try to get more than 1,000 kids out there but it depends on the weather as well.” Last year, while a snowstorm dumped four inches on the area, they still managed to have more than 800 kids show up.
Supporters of the event included StrikeMaster ice augers, Marcum electronics and a whole host of local businesses. “We gave away 125 bikes that were sponsored by local businesses showing how committed the community is to making this event a success,” Sathre said.
Tons of prizes were given away at the event as a way both to attract more kids to the event but also to provide them with some of the tools they need to have more success on the ice. Almost 400 prizes were given away throughout the event.
Bluewater Outdoors provided all the bait for the event free of charge and also provided many of the raffle prizes along with Taber’s Bait and Gander Mountain. All kids under the age of 15 were also provided with a free meal on the ice courtesy of the Paul Bunyan Chapter.
The kids fished for two hours and at least 50 perch were registered, the largest one being an 11.6-ounce perch caught by Hunter of Bemidji. While plenty of chunky jumbo perch roam the depths of Lake Bemidji, Sathre put the StrikeMaster augers to good use in only five to seven feet of water.
Why so shallow? “It’s a numbers game. The big jumbos are out deeper right now but there are a mess of very hungry perch in the shallows and we want these kids to catch fish rather than sit there and wait too long,” he said.
Sathre said six-inch StrikeMaster augers were used to prevent little feet from stepping in a hole and making for a wet experience. “Safety is very important with kids on the ice and that is true when you just have a few kids out there much less well over a thousand.”
High School students from nearby communities of Blackduck and Cass Lake helped out, some of them even fished the event when they were younger and now are helping carry on the tradition.
“We are looking for volunteers to help out with next year’s event so if anybody is interested we’d love to hear from you,” Sathre said. The chapter’s website is on Facebook, as is Fathead Guide Service which includes updates on the event. Prospective sponsors and volunteers can also Sathre directly at 218-766-0095.
“I can’t say how much fun it is to get all those kids on the ice,” Sathre said. “Even though it’s a lot of work, the support of the community and all those smiling faces today makes it well worthwhile.”