ROXBURY — Another ice-fishing derby came and went at Roxbury Pond on Saturday, but the money fish — worth $2,000 — continued its tradition of eluding anglers.
Hosted by the Mexico Lions Club, the Larry Mercier Memorial 33rd annual derby drew 445 registered anglers. But “there was a lot more than that here,” co-organizer Roland Patneaude said.
Because the Sebago Lake Ice Fishing Derby and other derbies were canceled due to dangerous ice conditions, Patneaude and state fisheries officials believed there would be a record turnout at the Roxbury event.
There was plenty of ice and the usual brisk winds under overcast skies and temperatures in the low 30s.
“I was surprised that we had a lot of people from out of state call and ask if it was still a go,” Patneaude said. “But hey, it was good.”
The 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. event is the Mexico Lions Club's major fundraiser to provide eyeglasses for local people who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford proper eye care. All proceeds are distributed to Mexico, Roxbury and Rumford residents.
A 14-inch trout gave Todd Piper bragging rights for the largest trout and $150. Randy Knapp caught the largest perch, which was 13¾ inches long and fetched him $100.
Eric Knapp won $200 for the largest bass at 20 inches; Warren Palmer's 19-inch bass took second place and $150, and Lucas Hart of Greenwood took third place and $100 with an 18-inch bass.
For the largest pickerel at 26 inches, Carey Staires won $200. He was followed by Denny Theriault in second place at 22½ inches, which fetched $150, and Robert Blais, who won $100 for a 22¼-inch pickerel.
With 9 minutes to go in the derby, Timmy Blanchard of Bryant Pond and Donald Gourde of Rumford came in with a pickerel and bass they thought had a shot.
But Blanchard's 21-inch pickerel was 5 inches shy of Staire's and not long enough to bump Theriault and Blais off the leader board. The same happened with Gourde's 15-inch bass. Still, both men were happy.
“The fishin' was awfully good; really good,” Blanchard said.
“Five past 7, I had my first fish," he said. "I caught the 21-inch pickerel at about 10:30. Other than that, it was a good day out on the pond, and whether we win or not, we still had fun.”
Hart agreed with Blanchard about the fishing. His bass weighed 3 pounds, 1 ounce and nearly became the fish that got away when he was pulling it in.
“It slipped away at the last second, but I got him,” he said.
Travis Child of the Rumford-Mexico area nearly bumped Piper out of the lead, bringing in a 13½-inch brook trout with a shorter-than-usual tail at 2:20 p.m. If the brookie had had a regular tail, he believes it would have won.
“I started at 7 o'clock and there was good action,” he said.
But Noah Rose and Tim O'Connor, both of Bethel, said they didn't have much action where they fished, getting one hit-and-run flag that O'Connor thinks was a perch.
They arrived at 6:15 a.m.
“When we got here, I thought it was too early, but the lake was all lit up from headlights,” O'Connor said. “Cars, trucks and four-wheelers were everywhere. People were even out here at 1:30 at night getting set up.”
O'Connor, who earlier won for the biggest trout and biggest cusk at the Bryant Pond ice fishing derby, said he and Rose had 10 traps out.
“We got that one flag early this morning, but that was it,” Rose said, reeling in line on a trap. “No $2,000 brookie today; maybe next year.”