ST. AGATHA, Maine — Northern Maine ice and the popularity of the state’s largest ice fishing competition are holding strong this weekend when nearly 1,500 anglers registered for the Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby.
Concerns over temperatures that seemed to want to melt ice as fast as it could set saw the cancellation of several ice fishing derbies in more southerly parts of the state in recent weeks.
Winter came through just in time in Aroostook though as temperatures dropped to below freezing and a 15 inches of snow fell over the region in the days leading up to the St. Agatha-based tournament.
The two-day fishing event started on a strong note Friday evening when organizers, fisherpeople and fans of good fun turned out big at the derby kickoff party at Lakeview Restaurant, site of the derby headquarters, organizer Paul Bernier said.
“The opening ceremony was a blackout; the place was packed,” Bernier said. “I mean it was unbelievable.”
Movement on the leaderboard was a bit mellower on Saturday, Bernier said.
“From what we’ve seen, it’s been pretty slow, but we have some nice salmon and know of an almost 13-pound Togue on Eagle Lake,” he said. “We’ve got four- and five-pound salmon on Long Lake.”
One youngster even lit up the brook trout leaderboard for the 13 and under category. Jace Pelletier brought in a 1-pound, 10-ounce fish measuring at 16 ¾ inches.
Pulling in winning fish is not required to have a good time with an auger and jig stick though, simply being out on the lake in the right conditions is enough.
Weather also cooperated on Saturday, making for a good time fishing regardless of the haul.
“It’s good,” Bernier said. “There’s slush on the lake so you have to be set up to go out there, but its not wicked cold so it’s comfortable.”
Last-minute jiggers can still get in on the competition.
Registrations are being accepted all weekend at Lakeview Restaurant.
Despite the tournament’s name, Long Lake is only one of 10 northern Maine waterways from which anglers can catch their fish. Other derby waters are St. Froid Lake, Eagle Lake, Beau Lake, Carr Pond, Cross Lake, Square Lake, Glazier Lake, Portage Lake and the St. John River.
Anglers can fish for togue, salmon, muskie, brook trout, cusk and perch.
Proceeds from the derby will 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 $120,000 to since its inception.