Two weeks ago — while he’d rather have been finishing up preparations for the 6th annual Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby — Paul Bernier wound up putting out a sizeable logistical fire.
“I was playing damage control,” the derby chairman said on Tuesday. “I had one of my [registration] outlets in Ashland call me and tell me they pulled the registrations.”
Bernier said the store employee explained that someone had come into the store and claimed the derby was being cancelled.
“That was a couple of days after they cancelled the dog sled races in Eagle Lake,” Bernier said. “I’m assuming that they just assumed that the derby was going to get blown away [too].”
Bernier frantically called radio stations and newspapers to get out his message: The derby, which will be held on Saturday and Sunday, will go on.
And though Bernier is confident that potential anglers have received the message, he admits that many people seem to be waiting longer to register than they have in past years.
“This is probably the slowest the registrations have been coming, but I know it’s just because of the weather,” he said. “These [registration] outlets are going to get nailed at the end of the week.”
Past experience indicates that Bernier is right: A year ago a record 566 anglers took part in the derby and vied for a total of $8,000 in prize money. This year the prize pool has been increased to $10,000, with a top prize of $1,500 going to the lucky anglers who land the largest landlocked salmon and lake trout.
The derby is hosted by the town of St. Agatha and the Black Bear Rod & Gun Club, and proceeds benefit the Edgar J. Paradis Cancer Fund.
Bernier said if derby organizers match last year’s $4,000 donation to the cancer fund, they’ll reach the $20,000 mark over the derby’s six-year run.
The derby waters: Long, Cross, St. Froid, Square, Eagle, Glazier and Beau lakes.
Each of those lakes has something different to offer, according to Bernier.
“They all have their special qualities,” Bernier said. “There are some [potential] winning fish in every lake, that’s for sure.”
Bernier said entrants on different lakes will likely target the species that thrive there.
“Long, of course, is known for salmon. We know the [winning] salmon is coming out of Long. But you take Cross and Square, you could easily get a winning brook trout out of there, [and] you could get monster cusk out of there … Eagle Lake has some big brook trout, salmon run small, but then you’ve got the big togue.”
St. Froid also has some big togue, and anglers on Beau and Glazier will focus on muskellunge.
After late December rain plagued the area, recent weather has led to good ice cover on most lakes.
Long Lake had open water in spots just before the Jan. 1 season opener, but that has changed as the weather cooled.
“Long is good,” Bernier said, explaining that the water near the Long Lake Sporting Club in Sinclair has only been frozen for two weeks, but is already six to eight inches thick.
“So it’s solid for snow machines and things like that. I’m certainly not going to suggest that people can get on there with vehicles, but I think the lake is in good shape,” Bernier said.
Interested anglers may register at 27 sites in Aroostook County or do so on-line at www.stagatha.com/events.asp.
After 11 a.m. Saturday, all registration must be done at the Long Lake Sporting Club.
Registration fees: $15 for a single day or $25 for the weekend for those age 14 and older; $5 per day for those younger than 14.
Moosehead derby on tap
There are other options this weekend for competitive ice anglers. One derby worth consideration: The Moosehead Lake Ice Fishing Derby with Ricky Craven.
The former NASCAR driver will be on the lake visiting participants and a top prize of $1,500 will be handed out to the angler who catches the largest togue.
The derby runs Friday through Sunday. Tickets are $25 per individual or $40 per family and are available at a variety of Moosehead-area businesses, as well as at the Moosehead Lake Region Chamber of Commerce’s visitor’s center.
Participants who have taken part in the derby in past years should pay particular attention to new bag limits in effect.
A maximum of five togue between 14 and 18 inches can be taken. One of an angler’s five fish can be longer than 18 inches. Every legal fish registered entitles the angler to a chance for a prize in a random drawing.
For more information contact the Moosehead Lake Region Chamber of Commerce at 695-2702 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.