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Frozen lake puts fishing derby on ice

About 95 percent of Morgan Lake was still covered with ice and snow on Monday making it impossible to stage the annual opening day fishing derby. The La Grande Optimist Club, which has put on the derby for more than 30 years, will attempt to reschedule the event on a Saturday in May. The club’s tentative target date is May 17. The Observer/DICK MASONOld Man Winter’s extended stay in Northeast Oregon is putting a popular Union County tradition in peril this spring.

The Morgan Lake Fishing Derby, originally scheduled for Saturday, has been postponed because of ice — enough ice to fill thousands of freezers.

About 95 percent of the lake is still covered with ice. Snow also surrounds the lake, making it difficult to reach its shore.

Morgan Lake is better suited now for a hockey game than a fishing derby, said Ted Blaylock of the La Grande Optimist Club.

The La Grande Optimist Club, which has put on the Morgan Lake Fishing Derby for more than 30 years, will attempt to reschedule the event on a Saturday in May. The club’s tentative target date is May 17, Blaylock said.

He said it may be difficult to reschedule the derby in May because of many other weekend activities during the month. Should the derby not be conducted next month it will not be held this year, Blaylock said. The derby will conducted again in 2009.

The La Grande Optimist Club annually puts on the Morgan Lake Fishing Derby with help from Bi-Mart, which donates prizes. The derby is for youths up to age 16.

The Morgan Lake Fishing Derby traditionally is conducted the first day most lakes and reservoirs open for trout fishing in Oregon. Blaylock said that in the 26 years he has helped put on the derby there has never been ice on Morgan Lake opening day.

“We’ve had inclement weather but the water has always been open,’’ said Blaylock, director of the derby.

Morgan Lake will be open for fishing Saturday but anglers are urged by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife not to angle there since it would involve ice fishing. The ice on the lake is dangerously thin, said Bruce Eddy of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“It is not a good idea to ice fish in the spring, period. Ice fishing is a winter activity,’’ Eddy said.

People who ice fish anywhere in the spring will encounter ice that is fractured and thinning, Eddy added.

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