ROXBURY — Five-year-old Aiden Gordon’s eyes widened Wednesday afternoon when Roland Patneaude lifted the cover of a large cooler on the ice at Roxbury Pond.

Inside was a 16-inch brook trout that Patneaude and Gordon’s grandfather, Michael Worthley, picked up earlier at the Palermo Rearing Station hatchery in Palermo.

“Oh, bigger than I thought,” Gordon of Roxbury said. “That one’s big! Papa, can you pick that thing up?”

Worthley and Patneaude, members of the Mexico Lions Club, got the fish for the club’s Larry Mercier Memorial 33rd Annual Ice Fishing Derby at the pond Saturday, Feb. 18.

The angler who catches the specially tagged grand-prize brookie during the derby from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. will net $2,000. Not to mention bragging rights, because it has never been done legally during the derby.

But this year could be the year, because Patneaude is expecting a heavy turnout since the Sebago Ice Fishing Derby on the same day was canceled due to poor ice conditions.

“We’re going to get bombarded,” he said. “We had 500 tickets made up, and I don’t think that’s going to be enough.”

Using an ice auger mounted to the back of his Polaris Ranger Crew four-wheel, side-by-side, all-terrain vehicle, Worthley drilled through 16 inches of ice in no time.

Then he opened the drain valve on the cooler while Patneaude scooped some water out, replugged the cooler and water from the pond was added to better acclimate the brookie.

“This could be the perfect derby, it really could,” Patneaude said.

Temperatures are expected to be in the 40s, Worthley said.

The 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.

The entry fee is $10, with payouts of $200, $150 and $100 for the top three catches each of pickerel and bass. The largest trout nets $150, and the largest perch fetches $100.

All prizes will be awarded at 3 p.m. on the day of the derby.

Hamburgers, hot dogs, soda, coffee and hot chocolate will be sold at the Lions Club Lunch Wagon.

The derby is timed to coincide with the first pair of Maine’s annual Free Fishing Days, which this year are Feb. 18 and 19. On these days, any person (except those whose license has been suspended or revoked) may fish without a license. All other laws and regulations apply on these days, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

The rain date for the derby is Sunday, Feb. 19.

For more information, contact Patneaude at 357-8175 or Jim Theriault at 357-1040.

[email protected]

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