Only the Hardiest Anglers Turn Out for Sebago Lake Ice Fishing Derby
February 15, 2015 -
Standish — Ice fishermen in southern Maine will have to make do with a one-day Sebago Lake Region Ice Fishing Derby.
Deb McPhail, president of the Sebago Lake Rotary Club, which runs the annual event, said Sunday’s wrap-up of the derby was canceled on the advice of Registered Maine Guides, who worried that holding the competition with a blizzard forecast might be unsafe.
Participation Saturday was significantly down from the derby’s heyday in the early 2000s, when 6,000 anglers would often show up. Nearly 500 signed up for this year’s derby.
“It’s because of the weather conditions, between the cold and now with the blizzard coming,” McPhail said.
The number of people taking part in the derby’s polar dip was also down from several hundred in past years to 100 on Saturday.
The derby, which has raised $1 million for local charities over the years, was originally devised to cull togue – or lake trout – which were once stocked in Sebago Lake, after they threatened to overwhelm the lake’s prized landlocked salmon.
The record togue pulled from Sebago Lake was a 31-pound, 8-ounce fish caught in 1958 by Hollis Grindle of Ellsworth. That was the fish to beat in order to win what would have been a $100,000 prize in the togue derby, but the record was safe Saturday. After 15 years of derbies, there are few of those big fish left, although last year’s winner pulled in a 22.42- pound fish. But more commonly togue reach 2 to 4 pounds.
The derby has been expanded to include contests for largest pike, perch or pickerel on any Cumberland County waters legally open to ice fishing. First- place winners in each category take home a $500 gift card to the Kittery Trading Post, second place a $200 gift card and third a $100 gift card. Other prizes, such as sporting equipment, are also handed out.
On Saturday the Standish weigh station offered some relief from the bitter cold as anglers dropped off their fish.
“Bring Moby in here,” quipped Karl Hartwell, weigh station organizer, as he directed the competitors.
Gabriel Roberge, 6, who was fishing with his father, Nathan Roberge of Sanford, toted a togue to the weighing board.
Gabriel said he had been ice fishing since he was 2 or 3 years old. He had to get up at 2:30 a.m. Saturday to head out to Sebago Lake, where his father set up an ice fishing shack complete with several heaters.
Gabriel said he doesn’t have any special fishing tricks. His favorite method is just to sit and watch.
“And I took a nap,” said Gabriel.
Fishermen try to rush their big fish to the weigh station, because after being caught, fish begin to lose weight quickly.
Sam Hopkins of Dover, New Hampshire, and his brother, Tim Hopkins of Scarborough were in a rush for another reason. After the weigh-in, they planned to take Sam’s 4.07-pound togue back to their shack and cook it.
“We’ll cut him up and eat him for lunch, fried in a little olive oil and garlic salt with some onions and peppers,” said Tim Hopkins.
McPhail said the winners Saturday were Brady Ouelette for togue, Joe Carlin for pickerel, Ryan Donnelly for perch, and Ben Carlin for Pike. She didn’t have information on the hometowns of the winners.
McPhail said the awards dinner will be held on Saturday, Feb. 21, at 6 p.m. at the veterans center in Windham.
Beth Quimby, Portland Press Herald, February 2015
Lakes: Sebago Lake
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