The only difference between the overcast sky and the horizon line Sunday morning were slightly different shades of white and muted shadows of the undulating hills south of Cody. Everything was …
The only difference between the overcast sky and the horizon line Sunday morning were slightly different shades of white and muted shadows of the undulating hills south of Cody. Everything was covered with heaps of powdery snow, dry and squeaky in the brutal cold. The only things not white were two thin ribbons of black representing the road to Meeteetse. Yet, anglers still came to Lower Sunshine Reservoir in record numbers — 121 teams strong.
The annual Meeteetse Ice Fishing Derby in the foothills of the Absaroka Mountain Range has been plagued with extreme weather in recent years. Some years it’s been too warm for ice to form, but for the past two events, the ice has been nearly 2-feet thick and cold enough to send most outdoors enthusiasts indoors to a warm quilt and hot cocoa. Not the two teams from Fremont Motor Powell.
Isolated from the temporary ice hut towns that were tossed up for the weekend, Ed Shramek, Jim Stephan and Wyatt Farwell — all mechanics in Fremont’s service department — wanted to get away from other anglers. They were especially intent on getting away from their boss, Fremont Motor Powell service department manager Dan Ebright.
It wasn’t until just before the final horn blew on Sunday that Shramek got a decent bite. He could tell the fish was hefty as it fought. He wasn’t thinking the fish would move the team up the podium and into the money. All Shramek was hoping for while fighting the fish were bragging rights at work and beating the boss.
The 26.5-inch trout did both: The mechanics’ second-day stringer of three nice fish buried Ebright’s hopes of a good start to the work week and pushed the mechanics’ team to second place.
“I’m pretty grumpy today,” Ebright said Monday morning.
His team, including brothers Gary and Andy Childress, is usually near the top of the leader board. They finished eighth in 2020 and took second place four times in recent years. Getting bites wasn’t the problem, unlike many teams on the ice Sunday. The problem, Ebright said, was getting the big fish on shore.
“They kept breaking off before we could get them out,” he complained.
When it was clear the team of mechanics had beat the boss at the weigh-in, they broke into cheers. “That’s all we wanted,” Shramek said.
Thanks to his last-minute catch, they only missed winning the tournament — in which there was more than $9,000 in payouts — by 2 inches. It’s unclear if all the friendly jabs taken at the boss will pay off for the mechanics.
“I’m happy for them. But they’re going to get the worst jobs that come in the door,” Ebright said with a laugh.
The Meeteetse tournament has grown in the past few years — enough so that it is getting to its limit, said tournament director Kristin Yoder.
“We’re going to cap it at 125 teams next year,” she said. “Any more than that, you’re gonna have too many people fishing and too much going on.”
The tournament takes many volunteers to put on. Yoder even pitched in with the food, making her famous wild game goulash. Anglers came from all over the state, but some traveled more than a thousand miles to participate. One angler came in for the fun from Xenia, Ohio — 1,576 miles away.
Cody resident Scott Hartman didn’t have to go far for the tournament, but he was the only angler on the ice brought in by wheelchair. He broke his ankle while goose hunting in the Willwood area Christmas Eve, resulting in plates on both sides and 13 screws.
Team member Ron Hess suggested the injury was an excuse to avoid all the hard work.
“I got a heater in my Ranger and he sits in there in the heat,” Hess said, “while I do all the work getting the hut up and warm enough so we can slide him in there.”
|Place||Team #||Captain||Total Inches|
Biggest Fish: Bob Vigil
Biggest Sucker: Joseph Fauver
Small Fry (1st): Jaxon Dewey
Small Fry (2nd): Maci Dewey
Small Fry (3rd): Eli Jensen
1st Day Length: Christopher Lopez
2nd Day Length: Ed Schrader