In the coming weeks, once-quiet lakes around the state will begin to bustle again, as local clubs and civic organizations stage annual ice fishing derbies that can draw hundreds of anglers onto the hardwater.
Augers will buzz, flags will fly, and friendships will be renewed, often over a pan of deer steak or a bowl of steaming chili.
On a sunny winter day (especially when the temperature’s more moderate and the wind isn’t too severe), participating in a local derby can be a great time for young and old alike. And if you’ve got a favorite derby, we hope you’ll drop us a line to let us know about it so that we can spread the word among BDN readers.
Ditto to those who organize fishing derbies: Send a short press release or the derby poster, and we’ll make sure it ends up in our calendar of outdoor events. And who knows? We might even swing by to enjoy the day with you and your anglers.
Likewise, if you spend a successful day on the ice, whether at a derby or on your own, we’d love to share your photos and tales with our readers. Many of them don’t get out nearly as much as they’d like to, but would love to live vicariously through the adventures of others. Either way, you can reach me at email@example.com.
So, as we hunker down to avoid (or dig out from) our latest blizzard, let’s get to planning with a few derbies that we already know a little bit about.
Up in The County, anglers will flock Jan. 27-28 to the Fish River Chain of Lakes for the immensely popular Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby. This event boasts cash prizes of $17,000, and participants will spread out on Long, Cross, St. Froid, Square, Eagle, Glazier, Beau and Portage lakes, along with Carr Pond and the St. John River.
That wide variety means some monstrous fish will be caught on some of the state’s premier fishing waters. A hefty lake trout will likely be hauled out of Eagle Lake. That’s a given. So, too is the fact a football-shaped landlocked salmon will be winched out of Long Lake. And I’ll bet a muskellunge weighing in the double digits will come out of Glazier Lake.
A portion of the proceeds goes to the Edgar J. Paradis Cancer Fund, and one lucky angler will win a Sport Shack ice shack. Go to http://www.stagatha.com/derby.html for details.
On the same weekend, other anglers will target Moosehead Lake in Greenville for the 11th annual Moosehead Lake Togue Derby with Ricky Craven. Those competitors will be given an extra day, however, as fishing begins Friday, Jan. 26, and wraps up on Sunday, Jan. 28.
The lucky winners will win cash prizes, with $1,500 for biggest togue, $500 for second place, and $250 for third. But you don’t have to catch a fish to be a winner: The shore prizes are just as impressive.
The grand prize is a vacation trip for two to Las Vegas, Orlando or on a Caribbean Cruise (or, if you choose, $1,500 in cash). The second place shore prize is a Savage Axis .270 rifle with scope (or $300 in cash), and third prize is a Tristar Upland Hunter over/under 12 gauge shotgun (or $300).
For anglers who want to spice up their days on the ice by entering a good-natured competition, Wes Ashe has a great opportunity. You don’t have to plan to fish on any specific day, nor on any specific lake or pond.
Any time you head onto the ice — anyplace fishing is legal in Maine — you can essentially take a fishing derby with you.
Ashe calls the event the 8th annual Maine Ice Fishin’ Derby, and here’s how it works: You send in a $10 entry fee, and then feel free to fish any Maine water from now until March 31. When you catch a fish, take a photo of it next to your derby entry card (and a ruler to show how long it is), and email it to Ashe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The person who catches the biggest fish of each species by the end of March has his or her entry tossed into a hat, and some of the species winners will take home some cash and great prizes. The rest of the money goes into an account to help the children of Alec Cyr, a friend of Ashe’s who died in 2011.
So get out there! Have fun!
But remember to be safe, too.
John Holyoke can be reached at email@example.com or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke