ST. AGATHA, Maine — An 11-year-old Eagle Lake boy who is no stranger to the Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby winner’s circle picked up his sixth trophy this weekend.
Drew Belanger of Eagle Lake hauled in a first-place togue in the 13-and-under youth category of the annual fishing competition and fundraiser. The 26-inch fish weighed 6 pounds, 3.5 ounces, besting the nearest competition by about 2 pounds.
The youngster caught two togue and one salmon Sunday while fishing out on Eagle Lake with his father, Fort Kent police officer Mark Belanger.
The duo did not pull any flags on Saturday, which saw slow movement on the derby leaderboard for all categories.
“Drew’s persistence paid off on Sunday, though. He went out early battling the frigid temperature and managed to pull in his winning fish,” his mother Stacy Belanger said.“On the lake he was jumping around screaming, ‘It’s a big one, dad.’”
In 2021, Drew Belanger swept the togue category of his division, taking home all three cash prizes.
The Belangers were among more than 1,600 anglers who registered for the Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby this year.
Derby chair Paul Bernier said since its inception 18 years ago the derby has encouraged young anglers to participate by providing incentives such as cash prizes.
“When you get the children, you get the parents; you get the whole family out there. That’s what we promote, a family atmosphere,” Bernier said. “We’ve got a lot of people in their early 20s and mid-20s who started fishing in the derby when they were 5 or 6 years old back when the derby started.”
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.
Other first place winners in the youth division were Aiden Pelletier with a 5 pound, 9.6 ounce salmon registering 24 and 1/4 inches and Mikayl Michaud who caught a 2 pound, 3 ounce brook trout that measured 18 inches.
The cusk category was open to all ages. Winners were, first place, Mike Thibodeau, 9 pounds, 13.4 ounces, 30 1/4 inches; second place, Mike Thibodeau, 9 pounds, 7.9 ounces, 29 3/4 inches; and third place, Spencer Neilander, 9 pounds, 6.4 ounces, 32 inches.
The following are winners in the 14 and older category.
Salmon: first place, Tim Morgan, 5 pounds, 8.3 ounces, 26 inches; second place, Eric Smith, 5 pounds, 4.9 ounces, 27 1/2 inches; and third place, Steve Rouse, 5 pounds, 3.1 ounces, 24 1/4 inches.
Togue: first place, John Keller, 14 pounds, 6.6 ounces, 34 1/2 inches; second place, Allan Pottle, 14 pounds, 3.4 ounces, 34 3/4 inches; and third place, Nicholas Pelletier, 12 pounds, 15 ounces, 33 1/2 inches.
Brook trout: first place, Dan Levesque, 2 pounds, 11.6 ounces, 22 inches; second place, Shane Chamberland, 2 pounds, 6.8 ounces, 18 1/2 inches; and third place, Matthew Derosier, 2 pounds, 1.8 ounces, 17 3/4 inches.
Muskie: first place, Andrew Cyr, 19 pounds, 12 ounces, 40 inches; second place, Colby Brown, 14 pounds, 4 ounces, 37 1/2 inches; and third place, Andrew Cyr, 13 pounds, 4 ounces, 36 inches.
Most perch: first place, Ben Robinson, 510; second place, Mathew Foulke, 142; and third place, Ben Carlon 116.
Largest perch: first place, Fred Libby, 1 pound, 4.1 ounces, 14 1/4 inches; second place, Tyler Jones, 1 pound, 2.5 ounces, 14 inches; and third place, Mathew Foulke, 1 pound, 1 ounce, 14 inches.
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 for treatment. The derby has contributed more than $120,000 to since its inception.
“That directly supports people from the Valley; it’s beneficial to them. We know a lot of people who have benefitted from these funds, whether directly or indirectly through their family,” Bernier said.