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GRAND LAKE, Colo. (KDVR) — The temperature was 1 degree at dawn, but the quiet town of Grand Lake was bustling. When the fog lifted, there were nearly enough competitors on the lake to triple the town’s population of 412.

“We’re right around 800 people on the ice today. And we drilled 1,200 holes this morning”, said fishing guide Nathan Zelinsky, owner of Tightline Outdoors. “We started drilling at 3 a.m.”

Ice Addiction is Nathan Zelinsky’s baby. The final stop on his annual four-part ice fishing series paid out $26,000 in cash and prizes. Including $7,500 for the heaviest fish.

“I would spend it to go to Disneyland”, said 10-year-old Clayton Strode when asked how he would spend the grand prize money.

But catching the money fish isn’t that easy.

“We kinda force you to fish a certain area”, added Zelinsky. “It’s up to your skills to get it done.”

There were anglers of all shapes and sizes, ages and abilities. They all think they have a shot at the money fish.

“Yes, they do. The biggest fish carp, sucker or whatever (the) biggest fish wins,” said George Garcia.

Garcia bagged the top prize at Boyd Lake two years ago. On this day, a 25.5-inch lake trout took the early lead. It weighed in just under 6.5 pounds.

Could this be the money fish?

“I hope so,” said Erick Delumeau, who caught the large lake trout.

Delumeau watched nervously for the next three hours as fisherman after fisherman brought their catches to the weigh station. But the wait was worth it, as Delumeau’s lake trout took the top prize.

“Oh, it’s a great feeling,” Delumeau said with a smile. “My (two) boys, I told them (that) I’m going to share (the prize money) with them. They’re going to have a college savings fund.”

That 529 college savings plan is a fish story for the ages.