WILTON — Warm weather, no wind and biting fish made the 3rd annual Michael J. Rowe Memorial Ice Fishing Derby on Wilson Lake one of the best in recent years, according to event organizers. 

Sponsored by the Wilton Fish and Game Association, 69 youth and 187 adults registered to take part in the event. Participants came from 32 Maine towns, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Florida.

“The fishing has been slow all year,” Rusty Brann of Wilton said. “They’re biting good today.”

The competition, at times, was fierce.

Youth fisherman Charlie Brann of Wilton weighed in a 3.571-pound, 22-inch togue just before 1 p.m.

Moments later, youth fisherman Elijah Walker of East Dixfield brought in a bigger togue, weighing in at 4.034 pounds and 22.25 inches.

Neither fish, however, was as large as a togue caught earlier by Zachery Plante, who also caught the largest fish of the day in the youth division.  

WFGA Derby committee member Richard Cousins said not as many fish had been caught but there were more good fish.

“This is the best weather we’ve ever had,” he said. “The deep snow may have kept some people away. Kids are sliding on the snowbanks, having fun outdoors. Until this week, you could walk anywhere on the lake.”

Committee member Sharon Borthwick said a Wall of Guns Raffle, 50/50 tickets, and donations for coffee and hot chocolate donated by the Wilton Dunkin’ Donuts would go toward the Michael J. Rowe Scholarship Fund.

At 1 p.m., three snowshoe races were held. 

WFGA President Phil Maurais manned a French fry cooker which can cook 10 pounds of fries in seven minutes. The burner motor unit was made by Wayne Adams of Mid State Welding.

“I practiced a lot through the last two snowstorms to make sure it worked right,” Maurais said.

About half of the 200 pounds of potatoes donated by Steve’s Market were sold by a little after 1 p.m.

“We finally accomplished a good day with no wind and the snow is deep,” Committee Chairman Alan Hart said. “Everyone seems to be taking it in stride.”

Several kids were learning how to fish, Hart said. Saturday was free ice-fishing day and WFGA provided equipment and volunteers to assist those with little or no experience.

Much activity could be seen on the lake near the boat launch area, where the official weigh-in trailer was parked. There was as much, if not more, at the other end of the lake, where an area had been cleared on the ice. Twenty pickups were parked there with another two dozen vehicles parked along Pond Road.

Just prior to the 4 p.m. close of the derby, there was a bit of excitement as there were two changes in the biggest pickerel in the youth category within minutes of each other. Trenton Hewett’s 2.976-pound, 22.5-inch fish displaced the one caught earlier by Dylan Hinkley, whose fish weighed 2.777 pounds and was 23.5 inches long.

Avari Hewett then beat out her cousin with a 3.064-pound, 23.25-inch pickerel.

Before the fish awards were presented, more than 50 door prizes were awarded. Keith Bouchard was announced as the winner of the 50/50 raffle and received $130.

Zachary Plante of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, had the biggest fish of the day. His 4.629-pound, 24-inch togue also placed first as the heaviest fish in the youth division.

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Wilson Lake in Wilton was dotted with ice shacks, tents and people during the 3rd annual Michael J. Rowe Memorial Ice Fishing Derby on Saturday.

Zachary Plante of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, is shown with the prizes he won for catching the biggest overall fish and the largest togue in the 3rd annual Michael J. Rowe Memorial Ice Fishing Derby at Wilson Lake in Wilton Saturday.

Sam Thibault is shown with the sled she won for catching the largest salmon during the 3rd annual Michael J. Rowe Memorial Ice Fishing Derby at Wilson Lake on Saturday.

Avari Hewett stands beside the prize-winning pickerel she caught late Saturday afternoon at the 3rd annual Michael J. Rowe Memorial Ice Fishing Derby on Wilson Lake on Saturday.

Winners of the snowshoe races at the 3rd annual Michael J. Rowe Memorial Ice Fishing Derby on Wilson Lake on Saturday are, back row, from left, Evan Hamblin, Sharon Borthwick, Deanna Hamblin and Brenda LeBlanc; front row, from left, are Faith Maurais, Corey Peer and Mary Hamblin.

Fishermen relax on Wilson Lake during the 3rd annual Michael J. Rowe Memorial Ice Fishing Derby on Wilson Lake on Saturday. The derby was sponsored by Wilton Fish and Game Association.

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