-SABATTUS, Maine – When Brenda Richardson of Bridgton left her home at 4 a.m. Saturday to go ice fishing, the temperature was minus-15.
An outdoorswoman, Richardson said she didn’t want to miss the second annual Fish For a Cure Derby on Sabattus Lake. The ice-fishing derby raises money for the American Cancer Society to fight breast cancer.
“I’ve been looking forward to coming here,” Richardson said, standing on the frozen lake surrounded by hundreds of other ice-fishing enthusiasts. Snowmobiles buzzed around, towing sleds with gear. Far from shore, several pickups were parked near ice-fishing shacks. Near the shore, rock ‘n’ roll music blared from the registration trailer.
Richardson came to the derby with her son, Dylan Richardson, 15. They didn’t have the best of luck.
“I didn’t catch anything,” she said. “On the way here, my car broke down. I spent two hours fixing that. We got here and my four-wheeler wouldn’t start.” That meant they couldn’t get to the spot on the lake they wanted.
“Location’s everything,” she said.
They settled for fishing over frozen shallow water, “not deep enough for these fish,” Richardson said. “But we had a great time.”
Out on the lake, Ron Desmond of Arundel was operating a power drill, breaking ice on one of his fishing holes. He was trying to catch a big fish and win the derby, he said. “I got one fish, 20 inches,” not big enough, he said. Part of the fun of ice fishing, he and others said, is getting outside in the winter.
An estimated 850 people turned out Saturday from all over Maine and New England, derby organizer Jay Davis of Bowdoinham said.
“People want to come out and help support a good cause. That’s a huge part of it,” Davis said. “What else is there to do in the middle of January in Maine?”
An hour before the derby closed, the leading pike weighed just over 17 pounds, topping last year’s winner of 14.4 pounds.
The first annual Fish For a Cure last year raised $8,000 to fight cancer. Davis was hoping to raise that much again. The morning’s frigid temperatures likely kept some away.
“It was negative 11 at one point this morning,” he said. Still, the weather was good for ice fishing.
“It’s not raining. It’s not snowing,” he said.
As the derby closed, a crowd gathered, admiring the winning pikes hanging from a rack.
Truck owners were advised to get their trucks off the lake. Hundreds of people would come together to watch the winners claim the glory and prize money, and the ice only holds so much weight, organizers cautioned over a loud speaker.
The fisherman with the largest pike was Joshua Addington of Castle Hill near Presque Isle. Asked his secret to landing the winning fish, Addington said, “I have no idea. It’s 99 percent luck.”
As Davis announced the top fish, Addington’s name and the weight of his pike was called out. Davis gave Addington the prize money. Addington handed some of it back.
“He won $3,000. He just donated $500 to Fish For a Cure!” Davis announced. The crowd cheered.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.