Ice anglers: It’s derby time!

Last night, as I walked my dog and froze my ears off, I almost, nearly, kinda ate my words. You know, that time, a couple weeks back, when I told you how tough Mainers are, and how ashamed we ought to be when we celebrate a January thaw?

Those words.

Now, it’s 200 below zero (at least that’s what the John-a-mometer says … at some point, I think my internal temperature gauge simply quit and headed to Jamaica). Lakes are freezing over. Us (supposedly tough) Mainers are happy. Happy!


OK, I’ll admit that there’s a not-so-fine line between “good Maine winter weather” and “Crap! It’s too cold!” I’ll also admit that we’re well on the wrong side of that line right now.

Ice fishing season is upon us. Play safe! (BDN file photo by Gabor Degre)

On the bright side, lakes around the state are, as the old-timers say, “making ice.” And when the lakes are making ice, that means the ice fishing derbies will follow. Saturday and Sunday, in fact, essentially make up the “opening weekend” of sanctioned derbies in the state. According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s list of derbies and tournaments, only a statewide derby that began on Jan. 1 and lasts throughout the season predates those that will kick off this weekend.

With that said, ice conditions still vary dramatically from lake to lake. Don’t assume the ice is safe. Check as you go. Don’t become a tragic statistic.

Whether you’re an avid ice angler or just want to introduce your kids to ice fishing with a fun, busy day on the ice, you’ve got plenty of options in the weeks ahead. Among the offerings:

  •  Jan. 25-27, 6th annual Moosehead Lake Togue Ice Fishing Derby.
  • Jan. 26-27, 8th annual Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby, on Long, Cross, St. Froid, Square, Eagle, Glazier and Beau lakes.
  • Jan. 26, House in the Woods derby, on Great Pond in Hancock County.
  • Jan. 26, Men’s Auxiliary of VFW Post 3108 derby, on all legal waters in Waldo County.
  • Jan. 27, Waterville Elks Lodge 905 derby, statewide.
  • Feb. 2, Tremont Elementary School derby, all legal waters on Mount Desert Island.
  • Feb. 2, Washington County Community College derby, Boyden Lake in Perry.
  • Feb. 2-3, Pushaw Lake Snowmobile Club derby, Pushaw Lake.
  • Feb. 2-3, West Gardiner Rod & Gun Club derby, all legal waters, statewide.
  • Feb. 2-3, Great Moose Lake Association derby, on Great Moose Lake, Big and Little Indian ponds, Morrill Pond.
  • Feb. 3, Town of Oakland Recreation Department derby, on Messalonskee Lake, Salmon Pond, McGrath Pond, North Pond, Great Pond, East Pond and Long Pond.
  • Feb. 9-10, G&M Variety derby, all legal waters in Hancock County.
  • Feb. 16, MAINEiacs Charities ice fishing derby, on all legal bodies of water in Hancock County.
If you’re organizing a derby and want to let others know, send it along to us at


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.