Thick ice, winter weather that wasn’t overly severe, and a good supply of fish paid off for anglers last weekend, as nearly 2,000 participants entered two of the state’s most popular fishing derbies.
Thousands of dollars in cash and prizes were also awarded to lucky anglers in those two events — the 10th annual Moosehead Lake Togue Derby with Ricky Craven, and the 12th annual Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby.
Up in the St. John Valley, derby chairman Paul Bernier reported that the Long Lake derby, which also allows fishing on eight other lakes or ponds, along with the St. John River, experienced another banner year.
“We had 1,043 [entrants] this year, 150 more than last year. It was unbelievable,” Bernier said of the record attendance. “I don’t have an answer [for the event’s continued growth]. I really thought when we got to 800 about three years ago, we were going to plateau there. And this number this year? I never, never, never imagined.”
A portion of proceeds from the derby to the Edgar J. Paradis Cancer Fund.
The popularity and variety of lakes that are available plays a role in the derby’s success, and Bernier said a drawing for an ice cabin also boosted participation this year.
While Long Lake — one of the state’s most productive landlocked salmon lakes — has always taken lead billing, the steady increase in lakes and ponds where anglers are allowed to fish during the derby has spread the crowd out, and helped to welcome new entrants.
“I don’t fish [Carr Pond, for example], and I don’t know Carr Pond,” Bernier said. “But there are people out there who know Carr Pond [and like being able to fish their home water] … all these lakes have their annual anglers who know [the water], and these people aren’t going to stray from their lakes [during the derby] if they know them.”
In one significant surprise, for the first time in derby history the winning landlocked salmon — worth $1,500 — didn’t come out of Long Lake. Instead, Eagle Lake proved to be the most productive during this year’s event.
“Eagle had the top fish in the salmon, togue, brook trout and cusk categories,” said Bernier, who explained that in a typical year, all of the prize-winning salmon come out of Long Lake. “I think we had a second-place salmon one year out of Square [Lake]. And when this year’s winner came in [to weigh his fish], I never imagined it was an Eagle Lake fish.”
Greg Cousins caught the largest salmon (6 pounds, 14 ounces), Harold McKenna landed the biggest lake trout (also called a togue) (15 pounds, 4.4 ounces) and Paul Gagnon topped the brook trout category (2 pound, 10.6 ounce). Harold Cyr’s 20 pound, 0.8 ounce muskie and John LeBeouf’s 10 pound, 0.8 ounce cusk also emerged as winners.
Bernier said the weather cooperated, and anglers seemed to appreciate it.
“The weather was awesome. There was a little breeze, but low- to mid-20s [for daytime high temperatures]. You can’t ask for more,” Bernier said. “And it didn’t go far below zero in the mornings.”
Over on Moosehead Lake, derby director Tim Obrey reported a record of 724 tickets were sold, entitling holders to participate in the derby, or to simply sit inside and try their hand at winning numerous “shore prizes.”
“Weather and ice conditions always play a deciding role in ticket sales,” Obrey explained.
Good ice and snow conditions and moderately cold weather overshadowed the sometimes blustery conditions and resulted in a record turnout.
Taking top spot in the derby, along with a $1,500 prize, was Spencer Thompson of Harrington, who caught a 7.16-pound togue. Nicholas Ramsdell of Hartland caught a 5.63-pounder to take second while Brian Ellis of Winslow took third with a 4.53-pound laker.
Another prize up for grabs: A lifetime youth fishing license, which was to be handed out after a random drawing from the 185 youths that were entered. But after the drawing, things got a bit complicated, Obrey reported.
Nick Lemelin won the drawing, but organizers learned that his grandparents had already purchased a lifetime fishing license for him. They’d also already bought a lifetime hunting license.
Instead of a license, Nick took home a check for $250.
Abe Hatch of Damariscotta won the grand prize, which offered him a choice of prizes or money. He opted to take the $1,500 check.
Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby results
Salmon: 1. Greg Cousins, 6 pounds, 14.0 ounces ($1,500), 2. Austin White, 5 pounds, 5.2 ounces ($1,000), 3. Ben Sukel, 5 pounds, 0.6 ounces ($500); Togue: 1. Harold McKenna, 15 pounds, 4.4 ounces, ($1,500), 2. Jerrett Shaffer, 14 pounds, 4.8 ounces ($1,000), 3. Billy Theriault, 8 pounds, 13.8 ounces ($500); Brook trout: 1. Paul Gagnon, 2 pounds, 10.6 ounces ($1,000), 2. Real Pelletier, 2 pounds, 9.6 ounces ($750), 3. Ken Mayo, 2 pounds, 5.2 ounces (500); Muskie: 1. Harold Cyr, 20 pounds, 0.8 ounces, ($800), 2. James Jandreau, 18 pounds, 6.7 ounces ($500), 3. Emil Huck IV, 17 pounds, 1.8 ounces ($300); Cusk) 1. John LeBeouf, 10 pounds, 0.8 ounces ($800), 2. Thomas Ginn, 9 pounds, 5.4 ounces ($500), 3. Wesley Page, 8 pounds, 14.8 ounces ($300); Most perch: 1. Travis Collins, 553 ($500), 2. Josh Saunders, 210 ($300), 3. Pamela Plourde, 125 ($100); Largest perch: 1. Sabrina Pelletier, 1 pound, 5.6 ounces ($250), 2. Keenen McDougal, 1 pound, 5.4 ounces ($100); Youth salmon: Sam Dufresne, 4 pounds, 10.2 ounces ($300), 2. Nathan Thibodeau, 4 pounds, 2.2 ounces ($200), 3. Ethan Malmborg, 3 pounds, 10.4 ounces ($100); Youth brook trout: 1. Kadent McDougal, 1 pound, 8.8 ounces ($300), 2. Logan Tapley, 1 pound, 6.8 ounces ($200), 3. Hunter Guerrette, 1 pound, 4.4 ounces ($100); Youth togue: 1. Ryan L’Italien Jr., 4 pounds, 1.8 ounces ($300), 2. Eli Jandreau, 3 pounds, 3.8 ounces ($200), 3. Hunter Dunnells, 3 pounds, 3 ounces ($100).