WILSON - When Pete Marotta unlocks the doors of his Feather and Fur Bait Shop at 7 a.m. each day, he usually has some hardy souls already waiting to get into his shop, eager to get what they need to start a day of ice fishing.
This gave the Wilson resident the idea to co-sponsor the first Wilson Harbor Ice Fishing Derby on Saturday, with all proceeds turned back into cash prizes.
"I see all of these people going to contests elsewhere, but we don't have anything like this here in Niagara County," he said. "You'll see 30 to 50 warming huts out on the ice in the Wilson Marina on most mornings. They tell me the ice is close to seven to 10 inches thick. It's nice ice."
The contest will encompass all of Wilson Harbor, "wherever the ice is safe," Marotta said.
Participants will fish from sunrise to noon. Weigh-ins will take place from noon to 2 p.m. at the Wilson Conservation Club, 2934 Wilson-Cambria Road, where the awards ceremony will follow.
And what will fishermen be reeling in from the frosty depths of Lake Ontario at this time of year?
"There will be trout, Northern pike, perch and pan-fish, like blue gills," Marotta said.
Marotta first operated his shop from 1995 to 2000, when he took another job. He returned to reopen his shop at 3627 Wilson-Cambria Road nearly two years ago.
"I'm busier now than I am in the summer," he said last week.
He said he hopes to be able to make this an annual community event.
Registration is required for the derby. Marotta's shop is open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. Participants are encouraged to register there before Saturday, but Marotta said he will open his shop at 5:30 a.m. on derby day to accommodate stragglers; he will accept registrations until 7.
Participants also may visit www.outdoorsniagara.com, the co-sponsor. The cost is $10 per adult, and it's free for those under 12, unless they want to be considered for the cash prizes, as well. All children will receive a door prize.
"It's 100 percent payback for prizes, and there has been a ton of donations for door prizes," Marotta said. "Every paid entry has a chance to win a door prize."
For more information, contact the shop at 425-3018.