Record number of anglers join in Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby
SINCLAIR, Maine — A record 1,805 anglers registered for the 16th annual Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby which took place across 10 northern Maine waterways Jan. 30-31.
An Eagle Lake 9-year-old performed especially well in the tournament, which raises funds for the Edgar J. Paradis Cancer Fund, according to event organizer Paul Bernier.
Drew Belanger, a Fort Kent Elementary School fourth-grader, took the top three spots in the youth togue category at the event. Belanger’s winning fish were: 4 pounds, 5.6 ounces, 23.25 inches; 4 pounds, 3.4 ounces, 22.5 inches; and 3 pounds, 10.2 ounces, 21.5 inches.
Belanger fished Eagle Lake with his father, Mark Belanger, and uncle Jamie Voisine.
“What I like about fishing is I get to do fun things with my family and you go out and you pull a big fish out of the lake. It’s great to see a big fish come out of the lake,” Drew Belanger said.
The youngster, who said he plans to become a game warden when he grows up, is not new to the derby leaderboard, having placed second in the tournament in the togue category last year and winning first in 2018 when he was just 6 years old.
Drew said he used smelt to bait the fish, and is looking forward to eating his winning catches once his mom, Stacy Belanger, fries them up.
“It’s pretty exciting because you’re gonna eat it and you’re gonna cook it and it’s gonna be very good,” he said.
The fish were not the only things biting during the St. John Valley tournament as temperatures dipped below zero at times over the weekend.
“It was very cold in the morning,” Drew Belanger said. “We’d go down there and it would be blowing in my face and be very cold. It was very worth it because I got a bunch of fish and I did a lot of things. I rode my uncle’s sled and I rode my sled. I hit 10 jumps and even two while we were there.”
Mark Belanger, a logger who works in the northern Maine woods, said he takes every opportunity possible to engage his son’s love for ice fishing and to provide him with outdoor experiences.
“He looks forward to the derby every year,” Mark Belanger said. “It’s not always about catching the fish. I hope and pray one day he grows up and says ‘I enjoyed this so much because me and my dad and uncle spent time together.’ If it is not about family, what is it about?”
Mark Belanger said he also plans to bring the newest member of the Belanger family, 6-month-old son Blake, along on the derby fishing trips in a few years.
“In today’s day and age of technology and electronics you hope and pray a lot of people would want to expose kids to the outdoors,” Mark Belanger said. “Maybe they’ll grow up and teach their kids someday to see a lot more than just sitting behind an iPad at home and see what there is outside the house.”
Bernier said the 16th inception of the derby was a success for outdoor enthusiasts as well as for the Edgar J. Pelletier Cancer Fund, which provides financial assistance to help family members and loved ones accompany St. John Valley cancer patients who must travel outside the area to receive treatment.
The adult placements in the togue category were: first, Timmy Daley, 18 pounds, 9.6 ounces, 36 inches; second, Harold Cyr, 10 pounds, 4 ounces, 30 inches; and third, Ken Mayo, 7 pounds, 10.2 ounces, 28.5 inches.
Adult placements in the salmon category were: first, Dillan Levesque, 6 pounds, 5.4 ounces, 24 inches; second, Jeffrey Rouse, 6 pounds, 5 ounces, 25.75 inches; and third, Justin Preston, 5 pounds, 14.4 ounces, 27.5 inches.
Adult placements in the brook trout category were: first, Pete Daigle, 3 pounds, 6.2 ounces, 20 inches; second, Bert Pelletier, 3 pounds, 0.4 ounces, 19.25 inches; and third, Chad Albert, 2 pounds, 10.4 ounces, 19 inches.
Adult placements in the muskie category were: first, Andrew Cyr, 17 pounds, 9 ounces, 41.25 inches; second, Judd Taggett, 17 pounds, 4 ounces, 42.25 inches; and third, Bruce Bernier, 15 pounds, 3 ounces, 39 inches.
Adult placements in the cusk category were: first, Mike Thibodeau, 12 pounds, 2.4 ounces, 34 inches; second, Wayne Raymond, 9 pounds, 15 ounces, 33 inches; and third, Mike Thibodeau, 9 pounds, 8.6 ounces, 31 inches.
Adult winners for “most perch caught” were: first, Caleb Caron with 404 fish; second, Lucas Wardwell with 210 fish; and third, Isaac King with 171 fish.
Adult winners for largest perch were: first, Shane Lagasse, 1 pound, 4.6 ounces, 13.5 inches; second, Brandon Black, 1 pound, 4.4 ounces, 14 inches; and third, Evan Trajano, 1 pound, 3.8 ounces, 13.5 inches.
Youth category winners for brook trout were: first place, Quintin Pelletier, 1 pound, 8.4 ounces, 15.75 inches; second, Abigail Thibeault, 1 pound, 5 ounces, 16 inches; and third, Parker Boisvert, 1 pound, 4.4 ounces, 15.25 inches.
Youth placements in the salmon category were: first, Christopher Babin, 5 pounds, 12.8 ounces, 25 inches; second, Eli Jandreau, 3 pounds, 11.4 ounces, 21.5 inches; and third, Malcolm Gilliand, 3 pounds, 10.6 ounces, 23.25 inches.
St. John Valley Live was slated to broadcast the Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby awards ceremony Monday at 7 p.m. The virtual event can be viewed on the St. John Valley Live Facebook page, on the Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby Facebook page and at http://www.stjohnvalley.live/.