Hunt for muskies on tap in the Valley

Posted Aug. 06, 2010, at 7:46 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:26 p.m.

You don’t have to look very far to find a festival in Maine at this time of year. Blueberries are celebrated. Lobsters are lauded. Music and films abound.

Up north, they’re not immune to this summer trend, and next weekend’s festivities promise something for everyone.

The seventh annual Fort Kent International Muskie Derby will run from Friday through Sunday, and will be held in conjunction with the town’s popular ploye festival.

Water has been low across the state this summer, and if that remains the case in the St. John Valley, anglers will likely target the large, toothy muskies in deep, cool portions of the St. John and Allagash. Fish can be caught in all tributaries of the St. John, and many fishermen also take advantage of the great fishing at nearby Glazier Lake, Beau Lake and Baker Lake.

“We do have low water, but that has never changed whether they catch big muskies or not. In fact, when we have low water, I can remember larger muskies coming in,” said Darlene Kelly Dumond, one of the derby’s organizers.

And while much of the action will take place on the water away from town, a variety of events will keep nonanglers busy in Fort Kent. A parade, two street dances and fireworks are among the attractions.

Many of those activities will be held within a stone’s throw of derby headquarters, which you can find under the tent outside Bee-Jay’s Tavern.

The prize pool for this year’s derby could reach $35,000.

The entry fee is $35 for anglers age 16 and older, and $15 for those 15 and younger. New for this year: a bass division.

If past results are any indication, this year’s winning fish will likely be longer than 40 inches and weigh more than 20 pounds.

Onezime Dufour’s state record muskie — caught near St. David in May — was 48 inches long and weighed 33 pounds.

The derby has grown a bit since it was first held in 2004, thanks in large part to the role that its hosts play each year.

Dumond said preregistrations typically don’t pick up until the week before the derby, and that trend has continued.

“It’s running about the same as last year. We don’t get that many preregistration, but come Wednesday of next week, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, we’ll get hit with them,” Dumond said.

As some might say, you’re a stranger in the St. John Valley only once, and after attending one muskie derby, attendees quickly learn that they have made a lot of new friends.

In July, Dumond said the derby has also transitioned from an event in which anglers focused their attention solely on the St. John in Fort Kent or Glazier Lake into one that stretches through the St. John Valley.

“We’re seeing a huge impact through the whole Valley,” she said. “Now it’s not just Fort Kent. Now [we’re seeing] some of the biggest fish being caught in the Allagash River, and in the St. John River from Van Buren up.”

Zip lines open

If you’re looking for a bit of high-speed fun, you may want to consider heading to Sugarloaf this weekend.

The resort is celebrating the grand opening of its zip line course, and public relations manager Ethan Austin says four of the six lines will be operational this weekend.

Tours leave at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. today and Sunday, and reservations are suggested. Just call 800-THE-LOAF.

According to the Sugarloaf website, zip line tours cost $39, and the lines vary from 160 to 240 feet long. All riders must be at least 3 feet tall and must weigh between 60 and 275 pounds.

There are also some clothing restrictions — open-toed shoes, sandals and bare feet aren’t allowed — and participants may want to check out the particulars at www.sugarloaf.com before packing for the trip.

Early next week I plan to try out the zip lines myself, and will let you know how it all turns out in a future story or column.

Since I’m a bit leery of heights, the experience promises to be interesting. Or amusing. Or frightening. We’ll see.

Register for doe permits

Hunters who haven’t registered to receive an any-deer permit — commonly called a “doe permit” in these parts — may want get moving: The deadline is rapidly approaching.

Those who wanted to apply on a paper application are out of luck, but those who plan to apply on the Internet have until 11:59 p.m. Aug. 16 to do so.

There’s no fee involved and hunters can choose from among the 13 zones where any-deer permits will be awarded.

This year 48,825 permits will be handed out, allowing the lucky hunters a choice when they go into the woods this fall. Those with any-deer permits can, if they choose, shoot deer of either sex. Those who don’t get permits will end up targeting bucks this year.

Registration for the lottery takes just a few minutes and can be done at www.mefishwildlife.com.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will hold a drawing for any-deer permits on Sept. 10.

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