WILTON — The third annual Wilton Fish & Game ice fishing derby will begin at 6 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 16, on Wilson Lake. It runs to 4 p.m.
Last year, when derby organizer Alan Hart arrived about 5 a.m., the lake “looked like a city out on the ice as people got ready and started drilling holes,” he said.
Although the weather was bad last year — it snowed and the wind howled across the lake — that didn’t stop about 200 people from trying their luck to see who could catch the largest fish, he said.
“It’s spread out all over the lake,” he said. “It’s hard to realize how many people are there.”
The derby is held on a state family free fishing day. No license is required.
Prizes are awarded for the largest fish in five categories for youth and four for adults. Youths fish for togue, trout, salmon, pickerel and bass, he said. Adults do not fish for bass.
A free Family Fishing Clinic is offered from 9 a.m to 3 p.m. at the boat launch. Emily MacCabe from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Hooked on Fishing program will teach how to fish. Fish and Game members will help throughout the day. No experience is necessary and equipment is provided.
Next year, the association members plan to take on the clinic themselves, Hart said. They’ll teach the art of “jigging,” dropping a line and lure into a drilled hole in the ice and moving the arm up and down to attract the fish, he said.
The Fish Friendly Ice Shack will be presented to the club at 10 a.m. at the boat launch by state Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton. He won it in a raffle and has donated it to the association. It will be used to help children stay warm while learning to ice fish.
“We all know how important it is to get kids connected to nature and an essential part of that is finding ways for them to have fun outside in winter,” Saviello said.
In addition to the ice shack that Saviello is donating, the club also received a $500 donation from derby sponsor Ross Clair, owner of Wood-Mizer of Northern New England in Chesterville. The donation was used to buy a portable ice shack and other equipment to also help children get started fishing.
The Wilton Fish & Game Youth Shooting League will open its food booth near the boat launch, providing hot chocolate, coffee, water, chili, hot dogs, American chop suey, grilled cheese sandwiches and desserts for a minimal price.
The youth compete in shooting contests with other clubs around the state, Hart said.
The fishing derby is one of the largest fundraisers for the association. Members are working on projects around their clubhouse on Route 2. A well has been added and the club is putting in a kitchen and bathroom, he said.
Area businesses have made donations to help provide prizes for youth and adult fishermen.
The cost to enter the fishing derby is $5 for youth and adults. Prior to Sunday, they are available at Shelley’s Hometown Market in East Wilton. On Sunday, they are available at the boat launch on Wilson Lake starting at 6 a.m.