Anglers haul in the togue at Moosehead derby

Ice anglers flocked to Moosehead Lake over the weekend for the fifth edition of a neat cooperative effort with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife that has had a measurable impact on fisheries in the state’s largest lake.

The Moosehead Lake Togue Derby with Ricky Craven back in 2008 after fisheries biologists tried to cope with a lake trout population that was out of control.

Now, it might seem that having too many fish in a lake would be a good problem to have. And that might be the case if all you wanted to do all day was catch shrimpy fish, one after the other.

Fish need food, of course. And that burgeoning population of togue was working its way through Moosehead’s smlet population pretty rapidly. As a result, both landlocked salmon and togue (each of which eat a lot of smelts) were not faring too well. They were small. They were skinny. There were just too many hogs lined up at the increasingly empty trough.

Then biologists pushed for more liberal bag limits on small togue. And in order to encourage anglers to cull those fish from the population, the Moosehead Lake Togue Derby was created.

Last weekend, more than 70 prizes, including $2,500 in cash, was awarded to anglers who took part in the fifth edition of the popular tourney. DIF&W fisheries biologist Tim Obrey checked in with a report and a photo, and said the derby was a smashing success.

“This year we saw some very nice togue at the weigh-in station and we heard more than a few fish stories,” Obrey wrote. “Now, sometimes when I hear a fishing story, I think to myself, ‘Wow, that is an unbelievable story … no, I really mean it is not believable.'” But these stories ring true and add a little color to the weekend derby.”

After reading Obrey’s stories, I agree. And here they are:

“First prize goes to John Bohl of Sandy Bay. John told us he had about 50 feet of fishing line on his old ice trap and he was fishing about 20-30 feet of water. He was using a normal ice fishing rig with a smelt and an eight-pound test leader. He was walking near the trap and could hear ‘something,'” Obrey wrote. “He soon realized the noise was the zinging of the spool on his old trap. The flag was derelict of duty and remained securely buckled down. But the trap was soon bouncing in the hole.

“After a battle, John got the head of the fish up in the hole. Realizing he had a big fish on a thin line, he reached down in the hole and put his hand into the mouth of the 15.1-pound behemoth and yanked it from the water,” Obrey wrote. “In addition for having a check for $1,500 and plenty of pictures, John also has the dental records of the winning fish firmly etched into his tattered fingers and a great story.”

The tales get better.

10-year-old Doug Kane II of Monson with his second-place togue. (Photo courtesy of Tim Obrey)

“Second place goes to Doug Kane II of Monson with a nice fish weighing just under 10 pounds. Doug is 10 years old and has had a busy year. He shot two turkeys this year, a bear and a nice 4-point buck and now has a great fish to mount,” Obrey wrote.

If that name sounds familiar, it should: The young angler’s father is DIF&W wildlife biologist Doug Kane.

“Doug caught the second-place $500 fish on his sister’s pink Polar tip-up with pink fishing line while she was busy selling Girl Scout cookies,” Obrey reported. “He also won a nice jig stick in the fish pool which he reportedly was going to give to his sister as a peace offering. Doug is sharp, just like his hooks.”

And even the third-place finisher left with a tale to tell … if his fishing buddy will let him tell it.

“Ernie Case of Milo went home with a third-place check for $250 but it may have been a quiet ride,” Obrey wrote. “You see, Ernie was fishing with a friend and his friend was in third place all Saturday and midway through Sunday with an 8.59-pound togue.

“But sometime on Sunday, Ernie landed an 8.64-pound togue … from the same hole his friend hand landed his fish the day before. Hopefully, Ernie bought dinner on the trip home,”  Obrey wrote.


John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.