The Maine Chevrolet Statewide Derby has been canceled because of a general lack of ice across the state, event director Tom Noonan said Tuesday.

The $20,000 in prizes and a Chevrolet truck will be raffled off on March 9.

The board of directors of the derby decided five days before the state’s biggest ice fishing contest that there was not sufficient ice statewide to hold the event in a manner equitable to all contestants.

The first part of the derby was held on Feb. 20 on Sebago Lake but was canceled after seven people and a number of vehicles went through the ice.

“There are areas that have very good ice,” said Noonan, the Sebago derby’s founder and director. “That made us reluctant to cancel the whole thing.

“But we felt it wasn’t fair to the fishermen in York County, who had no intention of driving three to four hours to fish.”

On Tuesday, only seven of 25 fish weighing stations across Maine reported having 2 feet or more of ice on the lakes in their regions. Elsewhere in the state, there was open water and little ice along the shorelines of lakes and ponds, Noonan said.

It is only the second time in the 10-year history of the Sebago derby, which now includes the statewide portion, that the event has been canceled.

The Maine Chevrolet Derby this year offered more than $65,000 in prizes, which is part of what draws several thousand each year to enter the Sebago Lake derby and then the companion statewide contest, Noonan said.

The event also raises money for state and local charities. Last year the two derbies raised more than $100,000 for Camp Sunshine, the Maine Children’s Cancer Fund and other charities.

It is one of the largest ice fishing events in the country, and growing. Noonan said he aims to make it bigger than the nation’s largest in Brainerd, Minn., where 16,000 people ice fish in a single event.

“Last year, we had 6,000 fishing. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 15,000 to 20,000 just in the statewide (derby),” Noonan said. “That takes a while to get up those kinds of numbers Brainerd has been held for 30 years.”

The statewide derby was created after the Sebago Lake derby was canceled in 2002, but is only in its fourth year.

“We created it as a safety valve in case that happened again. But everybody across the state said, ‘Heck, along with the Sebago Derby, we want you to run the statewide anyway.’ So we started running both of them,” Noonan said.

Those interested in contributing to the charities the derbies support can still purchase $20 tickets for the raffles.

For more information, go to www.icefishingderby.com.

 

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: [email protected]