ST. JOHN VALLEY - Organizers of the Long Lake Ice-Fishing Derby closed the scales at 5:30 p.m. and tallied the results of the seventh annual event to determine who would share the $10,000 purse.
Organizer Paul Bernier reported a record number of registrations this year, topping 600 for the first time ever in the history of the derby.
"We didn't even have 200 at the start of the week," said Bernier. "With the storm Friday, I woke up Saturday morning praying for 500 registrations."
The final number of registrations was 601 participants.
"That right there is a testament to the cause of our derby and to your love of ice-fishing," he told the shoulder to shoulder, standing room only crowd at the awards ceremony Sunday evening at the Long Lake Sporting Club.
Bernier reported that the organization had their best year ever financially, netting at least $7,000 for this year's event and grossed over $25,000. He said that organizers would meet to decide if they might increase the purse for next year's derby, but he said it would at least remain at the $10,000 that is has been. Proceeds from the derby that are not reserved for the following year's event are donated to the Edgar J. Paradis Cancer Fund.
"The past four years, we've given $4,000 to the Edgar J. Paradis Cancer Fund," said Bernier. "This year, we're giving $5,000."
Bernier credited the sponsors of the derby, including 25 new sponsors this year, for donating over $10,000 to the event. He said that another $12,000 was made from registration fees and the remainder of the gross was from sales of Long Lake Ice-Fishing Derby merchandise.
Beurmond Banville of St. Agatha said that Bernier needed credit for his dedication to the derby over the years.
"He is the heart and soul of this organization," said Banville.
Jason Castonguay of Wallagrass took home the top prize of $1,500 and a trophy in the salmon category for the adult division of the derby. He weighed in his 6 pound, 9 ounce salmon as daylight was fading on Sunday. Jim Bouchard of Caribou took second place, $750, in the category with a 6 pound, 1.4 ounce salmon. Tom Rouse of Amity earned the third place prize of $300 with a 5 pound, 1 ounce catch.
Steve Bossie of Fort Kent also won a top place prize of $1500 and a trophy for his 11 pound, 12.4 ounce togue. Zack Pinkham followed close behind Bossie earning a $750 second place prize in the togue category for his 11 pound, 6.4 ounce fish. Third place in the adult division togue category went to Nathan Gagnon of East Waterboro for his 9 pound, 1.4 ounce catch.
In the adult division for brook trout, Theodore Lague of Sabattus, brought in the largest fish earning him the largest prize in the category of $1,000 and a trophy for his 2 pound, 9 ounce trout. Pete Daigle of Madawaska won $500 for his 2 pound and 5 ounce fish, and Nathan Baron of Madawaska took third place in the category, $300, with a 2 pound, 1.8 ounce brook trout.
The only Muskie in the derby was entered by Krista Albert of St. Francis, earning her the first place prize in the category for her 9 pound, 15.3 ounce Muskie.
Steve Raymond of Hermon ruled the largest cusk category, taking both first and second place for a total prize of $600. Raymond entered the largest fish of the entire derby with a 12 pound and 2.8 ounce cusk. His second place catch was 9 pounds and 5.6 ounces. Kelly Cote of Hermon placed third in the cusk category with an 8 pound, 9.2 ounce fish.
Every year, derby organizers give a "booby prize" to the registrant who catches the most perch. This year's booby prize went to Justin Ouellette of Caribou for his 254 perch. Bernier joked that Ouellette was going to the hospital the next morning to be treated for "perch elbow."
In the youth category, Anthony Daigle of Madawaska was the big winner, placing in two categories. Daigle took the largest prizes in the youth category, winning first place for his 5 pound, 11.6 ounce salmon and earning a trophy along with $100 cash and a $200 savings bond donated by Evergreen Trading in Madawaska. He also won second place, $75 and a trophy, in the youth brook trout category for a 1 pound, 1.8 ounce fish.
Billy Blanchette of Madawaska caught a 4 pound, 8.2 ounce salmon, earning him second place in the category, $75 and a trophy. Zachary Chasse of Fort Kent rounded out the category with his 4 pound, 1.4 ounce salmon, winning a trophy and $50.
Nathan Pelletier of Eagle Lake landed an 8 pound, 2.6 ounce togue, earning him first place in the category, $100 and a trophy. Jake Hebert's 6 pound, 13.8 ounce fish won the St. David native second place, $75 and a trophy. Brody Albert of Fort Kent was a close third with his 6 pound, 10.4 ounce togue. Albert won $50 and a trophy.
Finally, in the youth division brook trout category, Austin Delisle of Wallagrass won $100 and a trophy for his first place fish, a 1 pound, 5.6 ounce trout. Isiah Sypien of Eagle Lake won the third place prize of $40 and a trophy in the category for his 1 pound, 1.2 ounce trout.
Bernier has high hopes for next year's derby, which he says the group of 15 to 20 volunteers will begin planning in September as soon as he has the approved permit in hand.
"We're doing our best to make this thing better every year," said Bernier.
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