David Sheldrick of Whitehall, New York won the 2022 Fort Kent International Muskie Derby with this 43 ½ inch fish. Credit: Courtesy of Luenn Walker

FORT KENT, Maine — Most anglers will say there is no such thing as a bad day of fishing, but it was an especially good one for the Sheldrick family of Whitehall, New York, at the Fort Kent International Muskie Derby Sunday.

David Sheldrick III took first place in the tournament with a 43 ½-inch, 20.03-pound muskie he hauled out of the St. John River on the third and final day of the tournament. Until then, a 43 ¼-inch, 24.93-pound fish caught Friday by Peter Daigle of Madawaska remained atop the leaderboard. Daigle’s fish held strong to take second place.

The Muskie Derby was established 22 years ago to draw tourists to the greater Fort Kent area, bringing their dollars to a remote area of Maine where the economy could use them. The St. John River and all of its tributaries are open each year to derby fishing.

David Sheldrick of Whitehall, New York won the 2022 Fort Kent International Muskie Derby with this 43 ½ inch fish. Credit: Courtesy of Luenn Walker

Sheldrick, 39, said he and his girlfriend, Luenn Walker, agreed that while the fishing was slow most of the weekend, it didn’t matter, because they were enjoying views of the river and photographing bald eagles and a fox.

“I would have never imagined us catching the winning fish,” he said.

Sheldrick fished with a party of eight relatives and close friends who traveled from New York. The derby winner said he and his father, David Sheldrick Jr., used to hunt deer in northern Maine and during those trips Sheldrick would often hear about the muskie derby.

One year he convinced his father to travel to Maine with him for the fishing tournament, and they have been coming back ever since.

In fact, Sheldrick and Walker enjoy coming to northern Maine so much they even bought a camp in Ashland.

The Sheldrick family’s luck didn’t stop with netting the winning fish. At the derby awards ceremony Sunday evening, Grace Sheldrick, mother of David Sheldrick III and wife of David Sheldrick Jr., had her name drawn for a chance to win $25,000.

Although she didn’t win the grand prize, Grace Sheldrick walked away with a fishing package worth $500.

A 15-year-old Vermont youngster proved his fishing skills are still going strong after winning the youth muskie competition for the second time in three years. Tucker O’Brien said he only caught three fish all weekend, but apparently he reeled in the one that mattered, a 40 ⅝-inch muskie that weighed 17.12 pounds.

O’Brien fished with his 9-year-old brother Quinn and their father, David O’Brien, as well as with a family friend. Quinn O’Brien won the youth competition last year, while Tucker took second place. David O’Brien placed 10th this year in the adult muskie category.

Curtis Kelley won the bass competition with a 20 ¾-inch fish that weighed in at 4.62 pounds.

With 250 registrants, the derby saw about 25 fewer anglers than last year.

“That number is good considering the situation we had this year,” Muskie Derby President Dennis Cyr said, referring to the inability for people to register for the tournament online due to a loss of computer software in a February fire.