DERBYâ€“ Brutal weather conditions didnâ€™t stop nearly a thousand people from taking part in the eighth annual Northeast Fishing Derby. The event ran Thursday through Sunday afternoon. A banquet atÂ Wrightâ€™s Enterprises was held Saturday.Â
More than 900 entrants, including 160 youngsters, dropped a line in any of the 30-plus lakes and ponds in the Northeast Kingdom. This yearâ€™s tournament was up about 60 entries compared to past years, something Ron Wright, promoter and organizer, credits to advertising and word of mouth by past competitors.
Each body of water had different ice conditions. With the exception of Willoughby Lake, the ice was fairly safe, Wright said. As for Willoughby, â€śYou have to know the lake. This year itâ€™s a thinner lake; you have to be careful.â€ť
Prizes included over $8,000 in cash, a four-wheeler, a Ski-Doo, ice shacks and augers. This yearâ€™s tournament had 49 sponsors.Â
Wright holds the tournament to promote the area and draw people to the region.Â â€śIt brings a lot of people in,â€ť he said. This yearâ€™s entries came from all over New England and Canada.Â
Wright said he would have been fishing himself if he wasn't running the tournament.
The tournament was something families can do together, Wright said.
â€śThatâ€™s what we did it for,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s like a family day for them.â€ť
Many of the competitors donâ€™t eat fish and some are not regular fishermen, said Wright. Some attended just to see the excitement.
Jonathan Badger of Irasburg participated with his daughters Kaylyn and Charlize. This was Badgerâ€™s first year ice fishing after a six-year hiatus. â€śItâ€™s a lot of fun,â€ť Badger said. The attraction is â€śTrying to catch the big one.â€ť
Rick LeBlanc of Calais, who has been taking part in the tournament for several years and fishes every weekend, said he just likes to catch fish.
Fourteen-year-old Jacob Roy of Sutton participated with his brothers, 11-year-old Josiah and nine-year-old Joshua, and father Chris. Jacob Roy enjoys eating the fish they catch as well as Saturdayâ€™s banquet.Â â€śItâ€™s fun to catch fish,â€ť added Joshua Roy.
Josiah Roy enjoys watching the fish come out of the hole.
The Roy family agreed the tournament is a good time for family bonding.
â€śJust being on the ice, camping, drinking a few beers and being with family and friends,â€ť is what Joe Cross of Enosburg likes about ice fishing. â€śThe tournament is fun because you have a chance to maybe win a prize and show off a little bit, but youâ€™re doing what you love to do.â€ť
Nate Chesney of Coventry went fishing with several family members. â€śItâ€™s fun being on ice with people,â€ť said Chesney.Â
Ben Paxman, 10, of Westfield, fished with his father, Kevin Paxman. He said he enjoyed waiting for a fish to nibble on his line and spending time with family. Persistence paid off for Paxman who won first in the youth category. He caught an 11.8-pound northern pike.