FORT KENT, Maine — Most annual outdoor summer events in northern Maine have been canceled this summer due to COVID-19, but the virus has not deterred hundreds of anglers from taking part in the Fort Kent International Muskie Derby this weekend.
Nearly 250 registered for the 2020 derby, down from 330 last year. Though the number is down, local businesses have noticed a positive impact this week, according to event organizer Dennis Cyr.
“Two business owners have already stopped me and told me how much the derby affects their earnings, especially this year,” Cyr said. “It provides a summertime economic boost, which was the original intent of the derby when it started.”
Tournament waters include St. John River west of Grand Falls, all of its tributaries and the lakes on those tributaries.
Spectators have intermittently dropped by the derby headquarters in the parking lot of Up North Outdoors on Main Street to check out the leaderboard and view the entered fish.
Some fencing has been set up at the headquarters to encourage social distancing. Cyr said that those who drop by should wear masks if they can. Janice Bernier is selling her homemade face masks at the headquarters for $5 each, with the proceeds to benefit Catholic Charities of Maine Food Pantry.
As of Saturday afternoon, Sean Cabaniss topped the leaderboard with a 46-inch muskie weighing in at 22.31 pounds.
It seems fishing skill or luck depending on the viewpoint runs in the family as his parents, Chuck and Debbie Cabaniss have each registered a derby win over the years.
Last year’s derby champion, Caleb Slocum, is in second place as of Saturday afternoon with a 41-inch fish, a bit smaller than last year’s 45 and ¾ inch winning catch.
Tyler Taggett is leading the youth division as of Saturday afternoon with a 38 and ⅝ inch muskie weighing 15.71 pounds.
The scales will be open until 5 p.m. Sunday, followed by an outdoor awards ceremony at Riverside Park in Fort Kent at 6 p.m. Guests at the awards ceremony are asked to wear face masks and maintain social distancing.
For leaderboard updates, check out the Fort Kent International Muskie Derby Facebook page.