Tyler Knowles, 9, of Brewer tries to get a better look at his bait while ice fishing at Levasseur Pond in Brewer on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. Knowles was participating in the Penobscot County Conservation Association's family ice fishing day. Credit: John Holyoke

The weather outside is getting a bit more frightful — heck, here in Bangor we just completed the coldest November on record — but it still may be a challenge to find safe ice on local lakes and ponds.

Or perhaps you know of a secret fishing spot that always ices up long before any other water around.

Either way, if you’re an avid angler, you may want to hear more about the Maine Ice Fishin’ Derby and Benefit that Wes Ashe of Brewer has organized for the past eight years.

Ashe’s brainchild is an odd amalgamation: Though officially called an ice fishing derby, it takes place whether there’s any actual ice or not. Ashe doesn’t care where you fish. He doesn’t care what you fish for.

All he cares about is having a bit of fun and raising some money to help out the son of a high school friend.

That friend, Alec Cyr, died after battling cancer in 2011, and left a wife and infant son. A month after Alec’s death, Ashe — then a graduate student at the University of Maine — began organizing the derby and donating half of the money to an education fund for Chase.

“The rules are simple,” Ashe wrote in an email to potential derby participants. “Fish any legal water statewide December through March. Fish through the ice or in open water. Target any fish species (white or yellow perch, salmon, fallfish, brook trout, large or smallmouth bass, crappie, pike, smelt, togue etc.). Email or message your catch photos alongside a tape measure and derby card. The longest fish entry for each species enters the end of season lottery for a chance to win cash and/or other awesome prizes.”

The angler who catches the largest fish of a given species — the lunker — has their name put in a drawing with all other “lunker” winners at the end of the derby. One lucky angler is drawn to take home the cash grand prize. The top prize a year ago: $265, which was half the money raised by entry fees.

And as Ashe points out every year: The more who participate, the better time everyone will have.

“Don’t procrastinate any longer. Trust me. You won’t be disappointed,” Ashe wrote in the email. “Plus, it’s cold and dark … so it’ll be healthy to get outside and freeze your [butt] off.”

To enter, send $10 to Wes Ashe, 54 Clover Lane in Brewer, 04412. You can also reach him via email at icefishderby@gmail.com

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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...