ROXBURY — After placing a nearly 20-inch tagged brook trout into Roxbury Pond through the ice last February, Roland Patneaude hoped someone would catch it during the Larry Mercier Ice Fishing Derby.

It was worth $2,000. But for the 35th year in a row, no one caught the beautiful fish during the derby.

However, for the first time in the history of the Mexico Lions Club’s fundraising derby, someone caught the prize fish the following Saturday, Patneaude, club president, said on Wednesday afternoon in Mexico at his Roland’s Automotive garage. It wasn’t worth $2,000 then, though.

“It was caught by Travis Lofton of Mexico, his buddy told me,” Patneaude said. “But Lofton came here himself and said it tasted terrific. Before, we’ve had people catch (the tagged trout) in the spring of the year, but this was the first one we know of that’s been pulled up through the ice, so they’re getting closer.”

Like for last year’s brook trout, Patneaude said he would drive to a hatchery in Gray to buy another tagged lunker for the 36th annual derby, which will be held from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14. The rain date is Sunday, Feb. 15.

The event, which always attracts many families, is timed to coincide with Maine’s free fishing days during the winter. These are Feb. 14 and 15. On these days, anyone, except those whose license has been suspended or revoked, can fish without a license. All other laws and regulations apply on these days.

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The Mexico Police Explorers will run the Lions Club Lunch Wagon, selling breakfast foods, grilled cheese, hamburgers, hot dogs, soda, coffee and hot chocolate.

The derby entry fee is $10 and it places people in the running for all of the prizes awarded after the derby ends, including a Jiffy Model 30 ice auger. Last year’s $450 ice auger was won by Bob Riley, the owner of towing company and garage MT Pockets of Dixfield.

“We’re famous for the ice auger prize,” Patneaude said. The club and the Mexico Trading Post share the cost of the auger.

“You don’t have to be present for the door prizes if you buy a ticket,” he said. This year, tickets can be purchased at the trading post, Roland’s Automotive, and Dyer’s Electronics, all along Route 2 in Mexico; Mills Market in Andover, and Ellis Pond Variety in Roxbury.

“We’ve got people calling in from the Richmond area, Augusta, Harrison and Brownfield wanting to know how far they’ve got to go to get a ticket,” Patneaude said.

Last year, more than 400 people registered for the derby, but only 318 anglers vied for $3,150 in cash prizes for the largest bass, trout, pickerel and perch.

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Besides the $2,000 grand prize for the tagged trout, the largest trout caught is worth $150. The largest perch nets $100. The other cash prizes are for pickerel and bass. First place for either wins $200 apiece, $150 for second place and $100 for third place.

Patneaude said the derby is a fundraiser for the club’s eyecare program.

“We’re trying to raise money for an eye screening machine,” he said. “It’s a portable machine we want to take to the schools to do eye screening for the kids to check if they need glasses or for eye diseases.”

He was quick to credit area businesses for helping to make the derby worthwhile every year.

“What makes it a success is all the help we get from local businesses — all the mom and pop places that support it,” even businesses as far away as Bethel, Patneaude said.

“Businesses in Bethel are responding real good,” he said.

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Additionally, if he could have one wish granted for the derby, it would be warm temperatures. Typically, it’s quite windy and very cold during the derby, like last year.

“I’m hoping for 50 degrees,” Patneaude said. “We had that one year.”

For more information, contact Patneaude at 357-8175 or Jim Theriault at 545-0416.

[email protected]


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