Timmy Daley holds the 18-pound, 9.6-ounce lake trout he caught to win that category at the Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby in February 2021. Daley's fish was 36 inches long. Credit: Courtesy of Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby

ST. AGATHA, Maine — Maine’s largest annual ice fishing derby will return Jan. 29-30 for a 17th year, but with some updates including a new app to allow anglers to keep track of who’s ahead.

The popular Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby saw a record 1,805 anglers and donated  $18,000 to a local cancer charity last year. It draws anglers from as far away as Vermont, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania due to the size and variety of the fish the tournament offers, as well as the potential for snowmobiling in Aroostook County, derby chairperson Paul Bernier said.

“You’re not only fishing for one breed; there are six different fish categories so there are a lot of options,” Bernier said. “It’s really in the dead of winter when people want to do something and a lot of these people come up with snowmobiles, fish for the weekend and snowmobile the rest of the week if they come up for a week.”

Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby event chairman Paul Bernier weighs a cusk at Long Lake Sporting Club which angler Wayne Raymond caught. Raymond’s 9 pound 15 ounce fish was good enough for second place. (Jessica Potila | St. John Valley Times)

The tournament will see some updates this year. The derby headquarters, along with the primary weigh station, will be at Lakeview Restaurant in St. Agatha, which moved from Long Lake Sporting Club in neighboring Sinclair after that restaurant shuttered its doors this fall.

An additional weigh station has been added at B and C Pit Stop in Eagle Lake.

“That’s going to help out the anglers from that end so they don’t have to go all the way around to register in St. Agatha,” Bernier said. A muskies-only weigh station will remain at Joe’s Country Store in St. Francis.

A new mobile phone app with all derby-related information will also make things easier for anglers to keep track of the competition. The app is still in the works, but will provide anglers on the ice information about which fish are on the leaderboard.

The derby purse is increased to $21,000. There will also be $45,000 in cash and material prizes available including a 2022 Ski-Doo, ice shack and ice fishing package.

“Economically it’s a major, major boost to the area,” Bernier said. “The whole St. John Valley, and really all of northern Maine benefits from this, whether it’s hotels or rentals or restaurants or bait shops.”

Proceeds from the derby benefit the Edgar J Paradis Cancer Fund, which provides financial assistance to family members and loved ones who accompany St. John Valley cancer patients who must travel outside the area to receive treatment. The derby has contributed more than $100,000 since its inception.

Despite the tournament’s name, Long Lake is only one of 10 northern Maine waterways from which anglers can catch their fish.

Derby waters are Long Lake, St. Froid Lake, Eagle Lake, Beau Lake, Carr Pond, Cross Lake, Square Lake, Glazier Lake, Portage Lake and the St. John River. Fish include togue, salmon, muskie, brook trout, cusk and perch.

Registration is available at 28 retail outlets throughout Aroostook County, and will be offered on the new app once it is launched.

For information, visit the Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby Facebook page.