Martina Drugovich didn’t expect to land a state record fish on Tuesday, her first-ever day as an ice angler. Armed with a new fishing license and brand new ice fishing traps, she was just hoping to have some fun on Mount Desert Island’s Long Pond and maybe catch a fish she and her fiance, Scott Harrington, could eat.
And that’s exactly what she did. Almost.
Until, that is, she learned that her table fare might be a record-breaker, and might look better on a wall than on a plate.
Drugovich just moved to Maine a month and a half ago, joining Harrington, who is in the Coast Guard and has been stationed here for four years. And on her first day of ice fishing as a licensed angler, she didn’t exactly vault out of bed to get onto the lake.
“I don’t think we went out until noon. We had a lazy morning,” Drugovich said. “Then, as soon as we got out there, it started raining, of course. So we just stayed in the tent and waited for our [flags] to go up.”
In the meantime, they jigged for fish in the tent, hoping to land one of the many fish that were showing up on their fish finder. None were willing to bite.
Then, finally, a flag went up, on one of Drugovich’s new traps.
“He was like, ‘Hey, you’ve got a flag up,’” Drugovich said. “And I was like, ‘Eh. I want to catch one of these fish [that I’m seeing on the fish finder] because I didn’t think anything was going to be on that other trap.”
She thought of sending Harrington out to tend the trap, but had a change of heart.
“I decided I’d better go check on it, because it was my first day using my new traps, and with my new license,” she said. “I thought I might as well see what happens. And I got it.”
“It” was a state record yellow perch that weighed 2.12 pounds and was 16 inches long. But neither Drugovich nor Harrington viewed it as anything more than a meal. Their dog, Moose, also thought the perch looked pretty tasty.
“We pulled it up and I was like, ‘That’s a giant perch. That will be good eating,’” Drugovich said.
She knew, however, that some Maine anglers turn up their noses at yellow perch, calling them “trash fish” and rarely eating them.
“We’re from Ohio, so we eat the yellow perch. They’re good to us. I know people in Maine might disagree, but I like ‘em,” she said.
Harrington said he wasn’t initially impressed by the size of the perch.
“Neither of us had a clue,” he said. “We’re both from Ohio and we’re used to seeing bigger perch come out of Lake Erie. I sent [photos] to a couple of buddies and they said, ‘You should get it weighed. It looks like it could be close to a state record.’”
It was better than close. It topped the existing record by nearly a quarter of a pound.
According to The Maine Sportsman magazine, which maintains the list of state record fish, Drugovich’s perch tops a 1.88-pounder caught by Daniel Baty of Round Pond in 2017. Baty’s perch came from Damariscotta Lake.
All of which naturally leads to a question: If you set a state record on your first day of ice fishing, how can you possibly top that?
Drugovich doesn’t really know. But she’s optimistic, nonetheless.
“I told the game warden [who showed up to certify the catch as official] I can only go up from here,” she said.