FORT KENT, Maine — A Presque Isle man caught five of the winning fish, including first place for the tournament, in the 2021 Fort Kent International Muskie Derby.
Scott Haggerty took first place in the annual tournament with a 46 ⅜-inch muskie weighing in at 25 pounds, 6 ounces. He also caught the fourth, eighth, ninth and 13th place largest muskies for a total of $3,600 in prize money.
“I got lucky; that’s what it comes down to,” Haggerty said. The winning muskie took only 3 or 4 minutes to reel in, he said.
The Muskie Derby was established 21 years ago to draw tourists to the greater Fort Kent area. The St. John River and all of its tributaries are open each year to derby fishing, and even the pandemic did not shut down the event last year. Numbers of participants have been down slightly in the 20th and 21st derbies mainly because the U.S. border is closed to nonessential travel, although the Canadian border just reopened to Americans on Aug. 9.
This year’s tournament drew 275 registrants, slightly more than last year, although the derby typically draws approximately 300 anglers, Muskie Derby President Dennis Cyr said.
Haggerty, a boiler room operator at McCain Foods in Easton, fished the tournament along with his son, Zack Haggerty, who also took home some prize money with a 14th place muskie. Haggerty said he casted every waking moment of the tournament.
“I can’t feel my right arm,” he said.
Without giving away the precise location of their lucky fishing hole, the father and son anglers said they fished from separate boats near each other in the Grand Isle area of the St. John River.
Committed to their sport, the men even slept on their boats throughout the weekend.
Jacob Theriault of Madawaska took first place in the bass category of the tournament with a 20 ⅝ inch fish weighing 4 pounds, 13 ounces. Theriault also placed third in the bass category with a 19 ⅛-inch bass that weighed 3 pounds, 13 ounces.
Two young brothers from East Montpelier, Vermont, swept the children’s muskie category.
Quinn O’Brien, 9, snagged a hefty 19-pound, 6-ounce muskie that measured 40 ¼ inches long. The young angler also took third place with a 38 ⅜-inch fish weighing in at 14 pounds, 5 ounces.
Quinn’s winning fish just barely bested that of his 14-year-old brother, Tucker O’Brien, who reeled in a 39 ⅛-inch, 16-pound, 6-ounce muskie for second place.
Tucker O’Brien took first place in the youth division last year.
The boys fished the St. John with their father David O’Brien and grandfather Terrence O’Brien.
“I love how it’s a mystery; if you always caught a fish it would be called ‘catching,’ not ‘fishing’,” Quinn O’Brien said.
Cyr thanked the anglers for taking good care of their catches by keeping them on ice prior to bringing them to the weigh station.
“The fish that came in this year were all nice and healthy,” Cyr said. He said he has a list of community members who take unwanted fish home to eat them.
“No fish ever goes to waste during the Muskie Derby,” Cyr said.