WHITINGHAM -- The storied Harriman Reservoir Ice Fishing Derby near Wilmington seemed to hit a dry spell several years ago, so members of the Whitingham Fireman's Association came up with an idea: a separate derby to pick up any slack for the area's sportsmen.

The fireman's association has now scheduled its fifth annual fishing derby to start at the first possible moment this weekend and the event, void of any age or gender categories, is set to get under way at Lake Sadawga at 12:01 a.m. Saturday and last until 4 p.m. Whitingham Fire Chief Stanley Janovsky Jr. said it has grown in popularity and serves as a great alternative to the chicken barbecues the association used to hold as fundraisers.

"We just thought we'd try to start a smaller one on a smaller scale," he said, adding that he hopes the Harriman Reservoir Ice Fishing Derby picks up steam again. "It's been very successful. We got a lot of local donations, which covers the prize money and expenses of actually running it."

Janovsky said donations come mostly from local businesses, though individual citizens help out as well. He said the event welcomes an average of 350 participants from as far away as New York state, Connecticut and northern Vermont and New Hampshire.

Prizes are given out for the heaviest fish in two categories -- perch and pickerel. First-place finishers will receive $500, those in second place will get $300 and third-place competitors earn $100, while the two people in fourth will win $50 each. An entry fee costs $10, though children 5 and under are free, and tickets can be purchased at the Whitingham Town Clerk's Office in Jacksonville, the Whitingham Store and C&S Beverage in Wilmington. Bait is also available at the latter two locations.

"You're pretty much guaranteed to catch something. It's good fishing out there on Lake Sadawga," Janovsky, who is also the Whitingham road commissioner, told the Reformer. He said it is also a good event for children and families.

He said the Whitingham Fireman's Association recently used money generated from previous fishing derbies to purchase a rescue snowmobile, a trailer and about $13,000 in gear. He said the event is not financed by any tax money.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.