Mark Gaetani of Old Town shows off the 14.3-pound, 37-inch lake trout he and his friends caught on March 4 during the Gateway Title of Maine Ice Fishing Derby on Cold Stream Pond in Enfield. Credit: Courtesy of Mark Gaetani

Mark Gaetani’s family has a camp on Cold Stream Pond in Enfield, and last summer he discovered a promising fishing spot.

Plus, some electronic intel this winter indicating the presence of a large fish in the area provided the 17-year-old from Old Town plenty of motivation.

Three times, Gaetani targeted the area while ice fishing for lake trout, which also are known as togue, but the fish did not seem responsive to his efforts.

“I couldn’t get him to bite the last three times, so I knew that with two days worth of trying in the same spot, I think we had a chance of catching that one,” Gaetani said.

The arrival of the Gateway Title of Maine Ice Fishing Derby last weekend provided the perfect opportunity to give it another try. On March 3, Gaetani went to the pond and got things in order.

Gaetani shoveled off an area and pre-drilled four holes inside his ice shack so he would be ready for Saturday’s outing with friend Hunter Cyr of Hampden.

“I left wood pallets over the holes so they wouldn’t freeze over overnight,” Gaetani said. “So when I got up there early in the morning, I could just put down the traps and go straight to jigging.”

The morning bite produced several fish, including a 5-pound cusk using a tip-up. Landing that one required some wrangling, since the fish had wrapped the line around a sunken tree branch.

Hunter Cyr of Hampden helped pull in this 14.3-pound lake trout on March 4 during the Gateway Title of Maine Ice Fishing Derby on Cold Stream Pond. Credit: Courtesy of Mark Gaetani

“I ended up pulling up the tree and reaching down and taking the tree off the fish and then pulling it up the hole,” Gaetani said. “That’s what I thought was going to win [the derby].”

As it turns out, it wouldn’t even come close.

Gaetani and Cyr deployed a handful of different jig baits, changing rods and lures after a period of unsuccessful jigging. They were using an electronic fish finder to monitor activity below.

Eventually, with a fish enticed by Gaetani’s jig, he instructed Cyr to let his own lure sit there. The tactic worked and the fish struck.

Cyr played the fish for a few minutes, but was working with an unfamiliar setup and remained cautious trying to bring it in. Meanwhile, something wasn’t quite right.

“It wrapped itself up around the line, we think, because it kind of felt like it wasn’t really hooked in the right place,” Gaetani said.

They later confirmed that the fish was hooked in the mouth, but that the tail exhibited a cut mark from where the line appeared to have been rubbing against it.

“It felt like you were trying to pick up a cinder block,”  said Gaetani, who was able to free the tail before handing the rod back to Cyr, who continued trying to work the fish to the surface.

They were using a backup jigging rod, one Gaetani had bought from a friend a few weeks prior.

Sensing that they needed a more aggressive approach, Gaetani gave it another try and eventually raised the togue.

Corbin Fogg had the honor of hoisting this 14.3-pound lake trout through the ice after friends Mark Gaetani and Hunter Cyr took turns reeling it in on March 4 at Cold Stream Pond in Enfield. Credit: Courtesy of Mark Gaetani

“I will admit I horsed it a little bit too much, but I got it to come up,” he said.

That’s when another buddy, Corbin Fogg — whom they had called during the excitement of the moment — arrived to snatch the fish out of the hole and onto the ice.

It was about a 10-minute fight, and they had to put the chairs and the cooler outside the shack to ensure ample room to get the fish iced.

The teens knew they had a big fish on their hands. They just didn’t realize how big. Gaetani, who had dredged up a 9-pound lake trout last summer at Cold Stream Pond, was guessing it might be 10 or 11 pounds.

“It was celebratory in the moment and then, when we got to the scale, that’s when the real ‘holy cow’ came in,” Gaetani said.

The togue weighed 14.3 pounds and measured 37 inches. It wound up winning first place in the derby. The runner-up togue, caught by Lance Bernier, was 5.7 pounds and 27 inches.

Fogg’s timely appearance proved to be an even greater help after Gaetani’s snowmobile ran out of gas on his way off the ice. Fogg returned to provide a tow.

Gaetani is hoping to get the fish mounted to help preserve the memories of the special day on the ice.

The ice fishing season still isn’t over, but Gaetani is making plans for how to improve his success rate and his comfort next winter. His goal is to catch an even bigger togue at Cold Stream Pond and he’s convinced there could be a 25-pounder in there.

“I’m building a hard shack next year so I can sit out there and do my homework and fish,” said the senior at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...