Ice Fishing Tournament benefits Valley Veterans ReCreation

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Photos by Diane Drekmann Amy Brady was second with a 1-pound pike in the Ice Fishing Tournament on Jan. 13. She received an auger for her next ice fishing adventure. Dozens of brightly colored tents dotted Mountain Home Reservoir outside of Fort Garland on Jan. 13 for the Ice Fishing Tournament. In the trout category of the Ice Fishing Tournament on Jan. 13 at Mountain Home Reservoir, Jerome Salazar, pictured, and Ken Marquez both caught 2.5-pound fish. A coin flip decided first place went to Salazar.

FORT GARLAND — Dozens of brightly colored tents dotted Mountain Home Reservoir outside of Fort Garland on Jan. 13. Despite the frigid weather, 170 people — some all the way from Albuquerque, N.M. — participated in the annual Ice Fishing Tournament.

Families, people young and old, even Senator Cleave Simpson came and supported Veterans through this fundraiser for Valley Veterans ReCreation.

Board members Craig Rauwolf said the non-profit is "focused on Veterans for their mental health to recreate." There was a donation jar for the family of Jonathan Lucero, a Veteran who reportedly took his own life a few months ago.

Outdoor recreation has beneficial effects for everyone, particularly Veterans, according to organizers.

D.J. Salazar is the founder and executive director of Valley Veterans Recreation. The other board members are Jason Medina, also a Costilla County firefighter, Duane Mosher, and Diego Martinez.

Valley Veterans ReCreation partnered with American Legion Post No. 142 in San Luis on the event. The post had raffle tickets for prizes like a Mr. Buddy indoor heater, Onyx mapping system which shows back country trails, hunting areas, and backroads, and fishing equipment like pole holders, knife set, and some binoculars. Donations came from Big R in Alamosa, Onyx and GruntStyle.

After fishing on Mountain Home Reservoir for over 4 hours the winners were announced. First and second prizes were given to the people who had the heaviest pike and trout.

Sixteen-year-old Zac Jacques took first prize for his 1.8-pound pike. He left before a picture could be taken. Amy Brady was second with a 1-pound pike. She received an auger for her next ice fishing adventure.

There was a tie for first in the trout category between Jerome Salazar and Ken Marquez. Both caught a 2.5-pound, 18-inch trout. Through a coin toss, Salazar was awarded first place and an auger. Marquez received a Genz pack fishing system for second place.

"The fundraiser raised over $8,000 through sponsors and donations," organizers said. Valley Veterans Recreation plans on having more events this year.