PHIPPSBURG, Maine — Lexie Nickerson of Phippsburg set her first trap down through the ice on Winnegance Pond before 6 a.m. Sunday, and by noon, had pulled up 14 bass, crappie, pickerel and yellow perch.
“Just good luck,” she said, looking across the snow to see if another orange flag had popped up. Before 4 p.m., she would head to the Phippsburg Sportsman’s Club to weigh her fish and see if she would collect a prize in the 15th annual Dickie LeMont Take A Kid Fishing Ice Derby.
Twelve-year-old Emma Warner, of Small Point in Phippsburg, rode snowmobiles and warmed up by the “hobo fire” between checking lines with her stepfather, Ben Burden. She arrived around 10 a.m. with family and friends — and Mossberg, the family’s yellow Lab — but Burden had been on the ice since 5.
They gather on the pond most weekend days — “Whenever there’s enough ice,” Warner said. “You can catch bass, perch, pickerel … Last year I caught an 8-pounder in Sabattus.”
Then Warner spotted a flag and raced to a nearby hole. She knelt and jerked the line quickly, before Burden muttered, “Ah, you lost him.”
Walking away unfazed, Warner explained, “You have to wait a sec, jerk it and then pull … but not too much tension.”
All across Phippsburg, children scurried across iced-over ponds Sunday, joining in a years-old fishing derby only recently renamed for the popular fisherman who died in April 2010 at the age of 43 off the shores of the tiny peninsula town.
“Dickie was a big part of this,” Dana McLean said back at the Phippsburg Sportsman’s Club, not long before children would arrive with their biggest fish in tow. “This was his big project every year. He was a busy, busy guy and he had a lot going on, but when it came time [for the derby], he was all over it.”
The club, perched on a hill on Route 209 through the center of town, has been around since 1955, but was reorganized in 1998 — when the derby was restarted, according to McLean, who serves as president.
The fishing derby is one of its largest fundraisers, with proceeds used to send area children to the University of Maine’s conservation camp at Bryant Pond.
“We’re youth-oriented,” McLean said. Every child entered on Sunday would leave with a prize or a “goodie bag.”
Further down Route 209, on Center Pond, three-year-old Addie Burden lay in the sun across three camp chairs, exhausted from a morning catching a tiny yellow perch.
Amy Burden of Phippsburg and her children fish in the derby every year. It’s a social event, and they usually know everyone on the ice.
Two of Burden’s children, Kadence, 9, and Braylon, 7, have won lifetime fishing licenses through various sportsman’s club events.
On Sunday afternoon, Braylon reached into a special metal bucket and carefully pulled out a slew of fish he had caught since morning. Although fewer in number, Kadence snagged a large pickerel.
“She would’ve had three, but I tried to set the hook for her and it popped right out,” Braylon said.
Class/Winners, Weight (pounds), Pond
Dave Chubuck, 6.82, Winnegance
Joe Spear, 6.10, Winnegance
Wayne Robbins, 6.03, Winnegance
Sara Rice, 3.24, Winnegance
David Jacobs, 2.49, Winnegance
Sara Rice, 3.09, Winnegance
Dottie Moore, 2.31, Pleasant
Gene York, 0.79, Winnegance
Steve Bodge, 0.63, Pleasant
Pat Wolfe, 0.43, Winnegance
Steve Bodge, 0.69, Pleasant
Dakota Jacobs, 0.63, Winnegance
David Jacobs, 0.55, Winnegance
Pat Wolfe, 1.58, Winnegance
Alexandria Temple, 1.55, Winnegance
Nikki Grant, 1.38, Winnegance
Krystal Bachelder, 0.07 (no pond listed)
Brady Wallace, 6.56, Winnegance
Alex Wallace, 5.62, Center
Hunter Hawkes, 5.47, Winnegance
Libbi Wallace, 3.54, Winnegance
Tyler Horning, 3.54, Wolf
Amanda Gagne, 3.15, Winnegance
Sam Merrill, 3.10, Sewell
Hailie Johnson, 2.84, Sewell
Cole Marquis, 1.27, Center
Jason Rowan, 0.84, Winnegance
Nathan Nickerson, 0.72, Winnegance
Kaylee Bodge, 0.63, Pleasant
Katie Shaw, 0.86, (no pond listed)
Kaylee Bodge, 0.74 (no pond listed)
Edward Delano, 0.72 (no pond listed)
Zachary Thompson, 1.49 (no pond listed)
Lexie Nickerson, 1.23 (no pond listed)
Brandon Read, 1.14 (no pond listed)