NORWAY — Anglers, both young and old, male and female, hit Pennesseewassee Lake on Saturday, each hoping to catch the biggest fish on the first of the annual two-day Norway-Paris Fish and Game Association fishing derby.
“It’s usually not this easy; we were kind of excited,” said Association President Sylvia Bosse of the first fish to be weighed at the Little Red School House on Route 118 — the official weighing station — Saturday morning. The smallmouth bass weighing three pounds, 14 ounces and measuring 18 inches long was caught by Louis Senecal III of Norway in Pennesseewassee Lake.
Except for the foot of snow and slush on the frozen lake, the weather presented no challenges to the anglers this year as sun and warm temperatures kept many on the ice at Pennesseewassee Lake — also known as Norway Lake — for hours.
Fishing shacks — or just comfortable seats — good food and the camaraderie of fellow anglers and their fish tales made the long hours of waiting for the flag to tip — indicating a fish on a hook — a day of family fun.
While the ice was estimated to be as deep as two feet on the lake, the foot of snow and slush cover over the ice caused by recent rain and warm temperatures, kept many from driving vehicles onto the lake.
“We had one 80-year-old man who wanted to drive his car onto the lake, but we advised him not to,” Bosse said.
With a warm, sunny day, spirits were high on the lake as a dozen or so groups of families and friends staked out their sites, set up their equipment and drilled holes with their ice augers into the water starting early Saturday morning.
“I haven’t had a bite yet,” said Eric Westleigh of Paris, who was with his family and their dog, one-year-old Remington Hunter. Westleigh said he was trying to to get as close to the bottom — about 15 feet deep at his site — for a better chance to catch a variety of fish.
Louis Senecal II of Norway said the lake is stocked each year with 2,400 rainbow trout and hundreds of salmon and brook trout. Brown trout is indigenous to the lake. Pennesseewasee Lake is one of the best-stocked lakes in the state, he said.
“Sometimes you can catch five or six fish and then two weeks go by, and you get nothing,” he said of the fishing conditions in the winter. His large fishing shack, complete with a snowman near the entrance and a large American flag on the side, has been expanded over the years to accommodate a growing family and even includes a women’s restroom, he said.
While many were out on the lake, others were in the Little Red School House enjoying treats and sharing fish tales as they waited for the next fish to arrive for weighing.
Bosse said the fish and game association started about five decades ago.
“It grew out of a group of families who wanted to do things together in the 1960s,” she said.
Although the club waned, it was revived in the early 1970s and, forty years later, the club boasts dozens of members of all ages from the local Norway-Paris area, Bethel, Lewiston, Poland, Raymond and beyond.
The proceeds from the annual fishing derby are used to send several children to the University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond each summer.
The derby continues Sunday from sunrise to sunset.
Derby participants can fish in any lake or pond Saturday and Sunday, but they need to go to the Little Red School House on Route 118 in Norway to have the fish weighed during that time.
A $50 prize for the largest bass, togue, pike, salmon, pickerel, brown trout, brook trout or splake will be announced Sunday afternoon.
In the Junior category, which was created in 1994 to lure young anglers ages 12 and younger to the derby, a trophy will be awarded for the largest fish. Prizes will be given out to every fisherman in the category.
There was also $1 raffle for a number of prizes, including a fishing rod donated by L.L.Bean, two Oxford 250 tickets, campground tickets, traps and much more.