DERBY– Brutal weather conditions didn’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 at Wright’s Enterprises was held Saturday.
More than 900 entrants, including 160 youngsters, dropped a line in any of the 30-plus lakes and ponds in the Northeast Kingdom. This year’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, “You have to know the lake. This year it’s a thinner lake; you have to be careful.”
Prizes included over $8,000 in cash, a four-wheeler, a Ski-Doo, ice shacks and augers. This year’s tournament had 49 sponsors.
Wright holds the tournament to promote the area and draw people to the region. “It brings a lot of people in,” he said. This year’s entries came from all over New England and Canada.
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.
“That’s what we did it for,” he said. “It’s like a family day for them.”
Many of the competitors don’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 Badger’s first year ice fishing after a six-year hiatus. “It’s a lot of fun,” Badger said. The attraction is “Trying to catch the big one.”
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 Saturday’s banquet. “It’s fun to catch fish,” 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.
“Just being on the ice, camping, drinking a few beers and being with family and friends,” is what Joe Cross of Enosburg likes about ice fishing. “The tournament is fun because you have a chance to maybe win a prize and show off a little bit, but you’re doing what you love to do.”
Nate Chesney of Coventry went fishing with several family members. “It’s fun being on ice with people,” said Chesney.
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.