HARTLAND, Maine — There are many ways to win in the Hartland Fire Department’s annual ice fishing derby.
To begin with, spending a day or two tending traps on Great Moose Lake in Hartland or Big Indian Pond in St. Albans, especially if the weather’s right, is a winning proposition in itself. Cash and prizes could only make it better and on Feb. 20 and 21, those two scenarios will be at hand.
There will be cash prizes of $5, $15 and $30 for the three biggest brown trout, brook trout, salmon, bass, pickerel and white perch. The first-place prize of $30 is six times the entry fee of $5.
Unlucky fishermen who don’t catch a lunker still have a chance at winning any of more than 30 door prizes donated by local merchants, ranging from ice fishing traps to $350 cash to a “jet sled,” which is designed to be pulled behind a snowmobile.
Participants who strike out on both of those prize pools might be lucky enough to pull one of 20 tagged brook trout out of the water, any one of which is worth $200. Ten such fish will be put in each pond, said Hartland Fire Chief Don Neal.
“We thought we’d try something new this year,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of prizes people can win.”
Even yellow perch, considered pests by many fishermen, can be prize-winning for three children under 10. The three boys or girls who catch the most yellow perch can win up to three brand-new ice fishing traps.
Proceeds from the derby, which has been going on for years, will benefit the Hartland Fire Department’s fundraising efforts for a new emergency response vehicle such as a GMC Yukon. Neal said a vehicle such as that could be taken where a full firetruck isn’t necessary, saving on overhead costs and reducing the risk that a tanker could have freeze damage.
“We go to quite a few accidents,” said Neal. “Instead of leaving a firetruck running out in the cold, if we got a truck like that with lights on it, it’d be more economic.”
The derby usually sells at least a few hundred tickets. Organizers are hopeful that the weather won’t be too miserably cold. Even if it is, the Hartland women’s auxiliary is planning a hot spaghetti dinner 4-7 p.m. at the fire department. Anyone is welcome at the dinner — whether they’re fishing in the derby or not — for just $5.
Tickets are available at several stores in Hartland and St. Albans, and the Palmyra Trading Post. For information, call Neal at 938-4696. If he is unavailable, try Tim at 938-2088 or Paul at 416-9179.