ROXBURY — For the 32nd consecutive year, no one caught a specially tagged brook trout worth $2,000 at the Larry Mercier Memorial Ice Fishing Derby at Roxbury Pond on Saturday.
However, so many trout, bass, perch and pickerel were caught by the more than 300 registered participants that organizers stopped counting once the leader board got established for the largest fish, Roland Patneaude said.
“People were bringing in the same sizes,” he said.
Several were brookies measuring 14 to 15 inches long and pickerels ranging from 14¾ inches to 21¾ inches.
“We had a pretty steady flow of 15s and 16-inch bass,” Patneaude said. “They were also bringing in a lot of perch.”
The derby 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.
Winners of the pickerel and brook trout contests placed early in the eight-hour derby and weren't beaten by the 3 p.m. deadline. Bass and perch, however, went right to the wire.
Travis Laughton had the longest pickerel at 21¾ inches, winning $200 cash. He was followed in second place by Nate Calden with a 211/4-inch fish for $150 cash, and in third, Mike Ouellette with a 21-inch pickerel for $100 cash.
Mike Kersey Jr. of Weld won $150 cash for the largest brookie, which was 15½ inches.
At 2:20 p.m., Sal Mazza of Rumford rode his snowmobile off the pond and up near the measuring box, which was on the tailgate of a pickup at the Roxbury Pond boat launch.
“What's the biggest bass?” Mazza asked.
“Seventeen inches,” co-organizer Jim Theriault said.
“I've got one that's 17¼,” Mazza said.
“Put it up here and let's see,” Theriault said.
Mazza did so and learned the bass he caught in 12 feet of water actually measured 17 1/8 inch. Still, it was enough to bump the leader, Evan Esaucy, into second place.
“I lost one that was about 19 inches long right in the hole,” Mazza said. “I caught him twice. The first time he broke my line and the second time the hook came out of his mouth.”
Steve Ladd of Byron and his family came in with a handful of perch, but none came near the leaders Jeff Perry and Kendrick Thibodeau, who were tied with 14½-inch fish.
“We were busy chasing flags all day,” Ladd said. “We were catching all perch.”
At about 2:30 p.m., Mark Ouellette of Roxbury caught Mazza's attention when he put a still-wriggling large bass up to the ruler.
“Sixteen and three-quarters inches,” Patneaude said, much to Mazza's relief.
“So far, it's winning,” Mazza said, smiling. “I've got an eighth of an inch over the other one.
Ouellette's fish bumped Esaucy's into third place for $100 cash, while his took second and $150 cash.
Mazza would eventually win $200 cash for the largest bass.
At about 2:40 p.m., Randy Knapp of Auburn arrived from the pond, believing he had a winning brook trout. He tied Kersey's fish at 15½ inches, but Kersey's weighed more for the win.
At about 2:58 p.m., Anthony Boucher broke the long-standing tie for the largest perch with his 143/4-inch fish, netting $100 cash.
Although Saturday's turnout didn't top last year's more than 500 entrants, Patneaude said many more people came than those who registered.
“Early this morning, it looked like the Auburn turnpike out here with snowmobiles and four-wheelers going across the pond,” he said.