Big ice fishing derbies on tap for this weekend, perfect conditions expected

When organizers decide to stage ice fishing derbies, they’re taking a leap of faith. Their hopes: The ice will be thick enough to be safe … people will show interest in showing up or supporting their cause … and the weather won’t be nasty enough to scare folks away.

Rich Rossignol of Madawaska shows off the 7-pound, 14.2-ounce landlocked salmon that topped the field in the Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby Jan. 26-27, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Paul Bernier)

Rich Rossignol of Madawaska shows off the 7-pound, 14.2-ounce landlocked salmon that topped the field in the Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby Jan. 26-27, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Paul Bernier)

When two of the region’s largest derbies kick off this weekend, it looks as though participants will have little to worry about (except, of course, for figuring out how to catch a fish big enough to win them a prize).

Representatives involved with both events — the 8th annual Moosehead Lake Togue Derby with Ricky Craven and the Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby — say they expect no ice or weather-related problems.

Up on Moosehead Lake, conditions have changed a bit after a brief thaw, and Tim Obrey, regional fisheries biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said he’s been fielding plenty of calls from curious anglers.

“We’ve had quite a few inquiries about ice and travel conditions for the upcoming Moosehead Lake togue derby, so I just wanted to send out a quick note,” Obrey said in an email. “The snowmobile trails have been marked and folks are crossing [the lake] from Rockwood to Kineo, and people were out and about fishing this past weekend.”

Despite the traffic on that part of the lake, Moosehead is a big piece of water and conditions can vary from spot to spot.

“Anglers should always exercise caution in the usual bad spots like the mouth of the Moose River and the deep water areas,” Obrey wrote. “Always check the ice thickness if you’re not sure.”

In addition, recent rain has eliminated much of the snow cover on Moosehead, Obrey said.

“The rain on Sunday really ‘deflated’ our snow,” Obrey wrote, likely making light of the ongoing pro football controversy. “It is mostly glare ice on the lake, so be prepared with ice creepers.”

Obrey said the weather for the weekend calls for temperatures in the 20s, which would be ideal. Best of all, there’s not supposed to be much wind.

“Last year (and it seems like every year) we had strong, biting winds from the north,” Obrey explained. “Not this year. So things are shaping up well.”

The Moosehead derby runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Up at Long Lake in Aroostook County’s St. John Valley, anglers will have the option of fishing on seven lakes — Long, Cross, St. Froid, Square, Eagle, Glazier and Beau — during a derby that will be staged on Saturday and Sunday.

Derby chairman Paul Bernier is eager for this year’s event, which is a fund-raiser for the Edgar J. Paradis Cancer Fund.

“Everything is perfect,” Bernier said in an email. “[There is] hardly any snow on the lakes.”

In the heart of snowmobile country, the Fish River Chain of Lakes is often visited by sledders who can ride trails from one spot to another.

And while we’ve got nothing but brown grass showing in Bangor after the recent thaw, Bernier said that’s not the case up north.

“The [snowmobile] trails are very hard, but they have snow and [people] can travel to access the lakes,” Bernier said.

Still, Bernier said he expects ATVs and other motor vehicles will be the most popular forms of on-ice transportation this weekend.

And the weather?

“Snow showers and 32 Saturday, partly sunny and mid-20s Sunday,” Bernier reported. “If this holds it will be our best weekend ever, weather-wise.”


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.