After a long day of fishing on Friday, Karen Quinn of Scarborough decided to do a little jigging before her fishing party switched from targeting lake trout to mining for cusk. That decision paid off, as Quinn hooked a huge togue, fought it for 10 minutes, and brought it to the surface.
That fish — a 12.72-pounder that measured 33 1/2 inches — turned out to be the biggest caught during the 12th annual Moosehead Lake Togue Derby with Ricky Craven. Quinn took home $1,500 for her efforts.
The derby is organized by the Natural Resources Education Center at Moosehead and raises funds for the group’s programming.
Quinn said she was not expecting to catch a tourney-winning fish.
“I have never caught anything remotely that big in my life,” she said. “I was just along for a ride with the boys this weekend and landed the trophy.”
Quinn said when her boyfriend, Randy Rafuse, began switching their gear over to target cusk on Friday evening, she stayed in the ice shack and kept jigging.
“I was suddenly faced with reeling in the biggest fish of my life solo, and I was terrified I’d lose it,” she said. “I had my head out of the shack window yelling for help while trying to hold on to it. The boys finally took me seriously and came in to help me pull it out. In all it took about 10 minutes to reel it in, the longest ten minutes of my life!”
Quinn and Rafuse were staying at Wilson’s on Mooshead Lake, as was the angler who had caught the early tournament leader. Quinn did not get into Greenville to weigh her fish until Saturday but did get a chance to talk to the other angler.
“I broke the bad news that I would be taking his place,” she said. “He and his friends were all very nice and super excited to see my prize catch. [But] it was a very long 24 hours after I registered it at 4 p.m. on Saturday to wait to see if anyone did better.”
According to an NREC press release, about 700 anglers bought tickets for the derby. Included in that total were participants from Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Florida and Quebec.
Ben Hilton of Norridgewock took second place and won $500 with an 11.82-pound togue, while Mike Sills of Anson caught the third-place fish, an 11.78-pounder worth $250.
The top door prize — a choice of a vacation or a check for $1,500 — went to Matt Morin of Skowhegan. Joshua Kane of Easton won a Winchester XPR rifle, and Robert Roy of Durham gets the choice of a Henry shogun or $300. Summer Darling of Oxford fished with her family, and she won a lifetime fishing license in a drawing.
According to organizers, this was only the second time in 12 years that all three award-winning fish weighed more than 10 pounds.
And there was another piece of history in the making, as Quinn pointed out.
“I am absolutely thrilled I won and even more excited to be the first female derby winner,” she wrote.