Rich Rossignol had already been fishing for a couple of hours Saturday morning when his son joined him on the hard water of Long Lake.
Yes, Rossignol was fishing. He was not, however, catching.
It didn’t take long for the Rossignol family luck to change. Unfortunately for Rich, it wasn’t his flags that began flying on the first day of the 4th annual Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby.
Instead, 10-year-old Nick Rossignol was the busy angler, landing a pair of landlocked salmon in his first half-hour of fishing, including one that would be the largest his party would catch all day.
After icing that hefty 3½-pounder, Nick Rossignol couldn’t resist tossing a verbal jab at his early rising dad.
“That’s my secret,” he said with a grin. “Sleep until 8.”
By 8 a.m. Saturday, most anglers were already hard at work (if, that is, you think eating breakfast while tending traps on a beautiful, crisp Maine morning is work).
According to derby chairman Paul Bernier, a total of 451 anglers registered for the two-day tourney that is run by the Black Bear Rod & Gun Club and benefits the Edgar J. Paradis Cancer Fund.
Not far from Nick Rossignol’s string of flags, the Madawaska husband-and-wife team of Dan and Jenn Pelletier focused on jigging up a derby-winner.
In fact, Jenn Pelletier may have hooked a prize-worthy fish … but she never got to see it.
Her jigging rod bent severely and her reel screamed as the fish began to run. After a short fight, however, her line broke.
Jenn Pelletier absorbed some good-natured ribbing after that battle, but not long afterward, Dan Pelletier learned that he shouldn’t have been among the jokers.
He lost another sizeable fish the same way: Brief fight … broken line … and laughs, all around.
Dan Pelletier took the mishap in stride; a nice salmon would be great, but he was having fun (and plenty of action) focusing on much smaller fish.
Among the others in the fishing party, Bob Cashman of Van Buren waited more or less patiently for salmon that never showed up, and Dave Pelletier may have led the derby in small salmon released.
But Dan Pelletier was the resident smelt expert, and was far busier than his pals who spent all their time waiting for flags to fly.
By the end of the day he had caught plenty of smelts to use as bait, with enough for a nice feed left over.
After the weigh-in station at the Long Lake Sporting Club closed Sunday night, anglers learned that a young fisherman had earned two of the derby’s top prizes.
Logan Cyr, a 9-year-old from St. David, hauled in a 6-pound, 3.2-ounce salmon that not only earned him the $100 youth prize, but also the $1,000 overall crown. Jonathan Pelletier of Bucksport earned second place and $500 in the salmon category with a fish that weighed 5 pounds, 13.8 ounces, while Raymond Hebert of St. Agatha took home $250 with a 5-pound, 9.4-ounce salmon.
In the togue class, Spencer Maynard of Caribou was first (6 pounds, 2.8 ounces), Steve Bosse of Fort Kent was second (6 pounds, 2 ounces) and Rod Jandreau of Mapleton was third (5 pounds, 10 ounces).
Nathan Theriault of Eagle Lake had quite a weekend. He caught a brook trout that weighed 2 pounds, 10.6 ounces to win that category, and also won the cusk competition with a 7-pound, 4.4-ounce fish. He also caught 230 perchto win the derby’s “booby prize.”
Madison Doody of Caribou took second in the brook trout division (1 pound, 11.4 ounces) and also won the youth brookie award. Glenn Raymond was third (1 pound, 10.4 ounces).
Mariah Corriveau of St. Agatha won the youth $200 savings bond, Miranda Jandreau of Mapleton caught a 5-pound, 0.2-ounce togue to win the youth division.
Although I spent an enjoyable day on Long Lake, the trip north was a bit frustrating. The original plan, you see, was to spend two enjoyable days on Long Lake.
An uncooperative Ford Explorer fouled up that plan, and I spent much of Sunday trying to get my formerly reliable vehicle to start.
Have I mentioned that there’s a reason I write for a living rather than fix things? Well, there is. Aside from kicking tires and staring vacantly at the odd assortment of wires under my hood, my mechanical skills are nonexistent.
As Sunday progressed, I relearned a valuable lesson: If you’re going to break down somewhere on a Sunday, you ought to do so in the St. John Valley.
Auto parts stores were closed. Garages were closed. And in the end, none of that mattered.
Darlene Dumond, a local business owner, began calling in favors, and quickly arranged for a mechanic to make a house call.
After Steve Theriault of Andy’s Auto Sales and Service determined that I needed spark plugs,Dumond contacted Lou Roy, proprietor of the local NAPA shop, Roy’s Auto Parts, who opened the store on a day off just so I could purchase the plugs.Then Theriault and Mark Gagnon of Gagnon’s Auto Body joined forces to replace my faulty plugs, outside, on a 15-degree day.
Mainers tend to be helpful folks, but I’ve never been around more helpful Mainers than the ones I always meet in northern Aroostook County.
Thanks to all who took the time to help me out.