Emma Kelly shows off the landlocked salmon she caught to win the youth category at the 13th Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby over the weekend. Kelly's fish, a true Long Lake "football," weighed 4 pounds, 15.8 ounces. Donald Raymond Credit: Donald Raymond

When event chairman Paul Bernier and his committee were getting ready for this year’s 13th annual Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby, they weren’t sure what Mother Nature would provide, nor what kind of fishing the anglers would experience.

But they figured a lot of fishing families would show up, as they always do.

As it turns out, a record crowd not only experienced great weather, some fantastic fish were caught.

And up in the St. John Valley, where one lake in particular is known for producing football-shaped landlocked salmon, that’s saying something.

Bernier said the derby reminded him of years past, when salmon fishing was at its best.

“The biggest thing was that the salmon on Long Lake, the healthy salmon [were back],” Bernier said. “You remember years back, the footballs? They were all like that. The winning salmon was 6 pounds, 2 ounces, but it was just 5s after 5s after 5s coming in, and they were all footballs.”

Danny McLaughlin caught that top salmon, winning $1,500 for his efforts. Other top fish included Keith Labrie’s brook trout that weighed 3 pounds, 5.2 ounces, and Bob Weyneth’s lake trout, which tipped the scales at 11 pounds, 15.4 ounces.

Anglers spread out over a number of waters to target whatever species they chose. Those water bodies: Long, Cross, St. Froid, Square, Eagle, Glazier, Beau and Portage lakes, Carr Pond, and the St. John River.

The biggest salmon and brook trout came from Long Lake, while the top togue came out of Eagle Lake. Beau Lake produced the largest muskie and the heaviest cusk came from Square Lake.

With a cash prize pool of $17,000, including top individual purses of $1,500 for the largest landlocked salmon and togue, it’s no wonder that a record 1,103 people bought entry tickets to the derby. Add in door prizes worth thousands more, and you’ve got the makings of a northern Maine party.

And the weather didn’t hurt, either.

“It was beautiful,” Bernier said. “Saturday probably got up to the low 20s. It was breezy Saturday, but it was very comfortable. And I woke up Sunday morning at 5 o’clock and it was 39 degrees. Crazy-stupid. It was very nice.”

A portion of the proceeds from the derby go to the Edgar J. Paradis Cancer Fund. That’s been the case since the derby began in 2006. And according to Bernier, before this year’s derby more than $58,000 had been presented to the fund over the previous 12 years.

Two large door prizes were also handed out. Shawn Trojano took home an “ultimate ice fishing package” worth $3,100 while Jim Daigle won a Sport Shack ice shack worth $4,000.

Daigle had an eventful weekend, Bernier said.

On Friday night, organizers kicked off derby weekend with a celebration at the Lakeview Restaurant in St. Agatha, and many door prizes were given out to derby entrants that were present.

“One of our door prizes was a Yeti cooler, and [Daigle] won it,” Bernier said. “He said, ‘You know what? That’s going to be awesome for the cabin that I’m going to win Saturday.’ Guess what? He won the Sport Shack.”

13th Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby results

Landlocked salmon, age 14 and older: 1. Danny McLaughlin, 6 pounds, 2.0 ounces, 25¾ inches, $1,500, 2. Riley Hutchinson, 5 pounds, 15.8 ounces, 23¾ inches, $1,000, 3. Makayla Drew, 5 pounds, 9.2 ounces, 25¾ inches, $500; age 13 and younger: 1. Emma Kelly, 4 pounds, 15.8 ounces, 21 inches, $400, 2. Sophia Toussaint, 4 pounds, 15.2 ounces, 23¾ inches, $200, 3. Ava Toussaint, 4 pounds, 13 ounces, 23 inches, $100;

Brook trout, age 14 and older: 1. Keith Labrie, 3 pounds, 5.2 ounces, 20¾ inches, $1,000, 2. Eric Harriman, 3 pounds, 0.6 ounces, 19 inches, $750, 3. Claude Hebert, 3 pounds, 0 ounces, 19¾ inches, $500; age 13 and younger: 1. Dillon Drew, 2 pounds, 3.4 ounces, $400, 16¼ inches, 2. Devin Saucier, 1 pound, 14.2 ounces, 17½ inches, $200, 3. Peyton Cyr, 1 pound, 12.2 ounces, 17 ¼ inches, $100;

Togue, age 14 and older: 1. Bob Weyneth, 11 pounds, 15.4 ounces, 31½ inches, $1,500, 2. Jeannot Damboise, 8 pounds, 4.4 ounces, 30½ inches, $1,000, 3. Olivia Martin, 7 pounds, 14.8 ounces, 28 inches, $500; age 13 and younger: 1. Drew Belanger, 6 pounds, 10.4 ounces, 26¾ inches, $400, 2. Erik Therien, 3 pounds, 14.2 ounces, 21½ inches, $200, 3. Evan Goyette, 3 pounds, 12.8 ounces, 23 inches, $100;

Muskie, age 14 and older: 1. Coleson Theriault, 20 pounds, 4 ounces, 42½ inches, $1,000, 2. Harold Cyr, 17.6 pounds, 38¼ inches, $750, 3. Camden Huck, 14 pounds, 5 ounces, 37 inches, $500; cusk, any age: 1. Wayne Raymond, 10 pounds, 10.4 ounces, 35 inches, $800, 2. Justin Dionne, 7 pounds, 15 ounces, 30½ inches, $500,, 3. Eric Bourgoin, 6 pounds, 4.2 ounces, 26¾ inches, $300; most perch, any age: 1. Jason Wordwell, 340, $500, 2. Andrew Pelletier, 171, $300, 3. Samantha LaBreck, 123, $100; largest perch, any age: 1. Theodore Lague, 1 pound, 4 ounces, $250, 2. Charles Desjardins, 1 pound, 3 ounces, $150;

Ultimate fishing package winner ($3,100 value): Shawn Trojano

Sport shack ice shack winner ($4,000 value): Jim Daigle

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...