Maine’s ice anglers will have a pair of top-notch options next weekend, as two of the state’s most popular fishing derbies will be held.
The 7th annual Moosehead Lake Togue Derby will be staged on the state’s largest lake Jan. 24-26, while farther to the north anglers will spread over seven different lakes while competing in the 9th annual Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby.
According to Maine Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist Tim Obrey, the Moosehead Lake derby was begun in 2008 in order to address a growing problem in the lake.
“[The derby] was a strategy to control the burgeoning togue population,” Obrey wrote in his most recent regional fishing report. “In 2008, small togue were so plentiful that there was not enough food in the lake to support the fishery. The derby has brought thousands of anglers to the lake over the past six years and now the togue population is in check.”
Proceeds from the derby are donated to nonprofit organizations. The primary beneficiary is the fisheries internship/enhancement program, which is sponsored by the Natural Resource Education Center at Moosehead.
The NREC will sponsor a screening of the Maine ice-fishing movie “Hardwater” at 6 p.m. Jan. 25 in the Greenville High School Auditorium.
Derby tickets cost $25 for an individual and $40 for a family. The largest togue caught will earn the angler $1,500. Second place is worth $500, while third earns $250.
In addition, a grand prize will be awarded to a registered angler. That angler need not register a fish to win.
Up in the St. John Valley, organizers are preparing for what they’re calling “Maine’s largest cash-purse derby,” according to Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby chairman Paul Bernier.
Bernier said conditions have changed after a week of warm weather, but he’s optimistic that derby participants will again have a great weekend of fishing.
“There’s some good ice, there’s some bad ice, but overall it’s in good shape,” said Bernier, who pointed out that 10 days ago, most area lakes were covered in a foot and a half of snow. Now, that snow cover has melted, leaving glare ice in many spots.
As you might expect, Long Lake in Madawaska and St. Agatha draws a lot of traffic during the derby that bears its name. But anglers are also able to fish Cross, Square, Eagle, St. Froid, Beau and Glazier lakes.
Glazier and Beau lakes are of particular concern to Bernier, as they haven’t frozen solid yet.
The cash prize for this year’s derby is $12,500, and Bernier hopes that prize will be increased to $15,000 for next year’s 10th edition.
The event has been popular since its inception, and has grown each year, Bernier said. Last year 637 people registered, either to participate or to support the derby’s beneficiary, the Edgar J. Paradis Cancer Fund. Derby proceeds totaling more than $30,000 have been added to the fund over the event’s first eight years.
Registration fees: 14-and-over one-day ticket: $15; 14-and-over weekend ticket: $25; 13-and-under one-day: $5; 13-and-under weekend: $10.
An ice-fishing package worth $3,000 will also be up for grabs.
Cash prizes for the biggest landlocked salmon and lake trout are set at $1,500 apiece. The largest brook trout is worth $1,000. Winning cusk and muskie will earn those anglers $750 each.