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USA Ice Fishing Team Takes Silver At World Championship in Mongolia

The USA Ice Fishing Team has traditionally fared well in international competitions that took place on home waters, but hasn’t experienced nearly as much success when having to board a plane and cross an ocean to get to the venue. That changed recently at the 20th World Ice Fishing Championship, which took place at Ugii Lake in the Arkhangai Province of Mongolia.

The five-member American team captured the silver medal, finishing behind only Lithuania, which turned in a dominant performance in the two-day event to earn the gold. The bronze went to the Ukraine, which has long been the sport’s powerhouse nation.

“We have a long history of doing well in world competition here, but we’ve never been above the middle of the pack overseas, where they have different species and use some different tactics, and thus we never really got respected,” said Myron Gilbert, who served as captain (coach) of the U.S. team for the event. “A lot of those times we were inexperienced, but this just shows that when you give us a few swings at the ball, the American guys will start figuring it out.

“The Good Lord was watching over us,” added Gilbert, who fished for the gold medal-winning U.S. squad in the 2010 World Championship. “The (anglers) and the spotters all did their jobs, nobody got sick and a lot of things fell in line for us.”

Lithuania prevailed with 27 “penalties” (or points, which are the sum of a team’s individual finishes within the field). The U.S. had 42 1/2, followed by the Ukraine with 45 1/2. Other nations that competed were the host Mongolians, along with Estonia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Finland, Sweden and Norway.

Baiting and chumming of the water were part of the program. Sonar devices could be used during practice sessions, but not on competition days.

The Americans were in 7th place after the first day, but penalty totals behind the Lithuanians were tight and Gilbert said they were still confident that they could win a medal. They had the top showing in the field on the second day with 13 penalties – one fewer than Lithuania.

“We’re always better on Day 2 and I really don’t know what the reason for that is,” Gilbert said. “That’s the day when we really come to do battle.”

Keith Kniffen paced the U.S squad with a fifth-place finish in the overall individual standings, which included 54 anglers. He was followed by Chad Schaub (6th), Nate Winters (13th), Kevin Kowalski (28th) and Nicholas Schertz (32nd).

Lithuania swept the individual medals, with Arunas Koska taking gold, Arturas Skvirba silver and Leonas Mindaugas bronze.

Temperatures in Arkhangai Province had reached 60 degrees below zero in the period leading up to the event, but were relatively mild during the competition. Overnight temperatures ranged from zero to 15 degrees during the U.S. team’s stay, with daytime highs slightly above the freezing level (mid 30s).

Ugii Lake was covered by about 4 1/2 feet of ice, with the majority of the fish suspended at depths in the 40-foot range. Roach, a shiner minnow-type species that’s common to much of Asia and western Europe, was the predominant quarry, followed by perch and some small northern pike.

“The roach are big there – a lot of them were running half a pound,” Gilbert said. “Once you got on them, you could catch them just as fast as you could go.

“The perch get up to three pounds, but you don’t catch many that size; they’re usually a pound to a pound and a half.”

Hole-drilling was restricted to hand-turned augurs. Gilbert said the 50-plus inches of ice could sometimes be penetrated as quickly as 45 seconds, but subsequent holes would require double that amount of time.

“I had to get on our guys about that; I saw a Finnish woman drill a hole faster than any of them could,” Gilbert joked.

The U.S. will be the home team for the 2025 World Championship, which will be conducted on a yet-to-be-determined lake north of Grand Rapids, Mich. The decision on the specific venue will be based on conditions as the event approaches.

“We have several options up there and we’ll keep it fluid until we really know what’s going on,” Gilbert said.

Please visit the USAngling website for more information about fishing for the USA Ice Fishing Team and other related events. Look for updates on the website to follow along with the USA Ice Fishing Team and the live weigh in on Saturday and Sunday.

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