January 19

Winter fishing derbies aren’t on thin ice

Maine anglers, fear no meltdown.

By Deirdre Fleming dfleming@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

NAPLES — The 45-degree January day that left slick ice across Long Lake last Sunday discouraged ice fishermen from joining the likes of Robert Brumell and Fred Gallant Jr., given the surface was a landscape of deep puddles and messy slosh.

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Fred Gallant, Sr., of Saco missteps and splashes into one of many puddles on Long Lake in Naples as he walks out for some ice fishing last week.

Photos by Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

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The shacks are in place and the anglers patiently waiting for something to take their bait as they fish Long Lake on a picture-perfect mid-January day.

Additional Photos Below

“There’s usually an ice shack shanty village here. You see the same people every year. Everyone gets to know each other,” Brumell said with a nod to the lake’s middle.

The January thaw last week brought out fishermen in small numbers; but as ice fishing season swings into full gear with cold weather and derbies ahead, it could amount to one of the best in years, officials say. The thick ice that formed earlier in winter, compliments of the Arctic blast the region got, is the reason.

This time next weekend two of the bigger ice fishing derbies in southern Maine will take place – one at Crystal Lake in Gray and another in Limington at Pequawket Lake – with more to follow, including the biggest one in the state at Sebago and Kezar lakes on Feb. 15 and 16.

The fact last week felt like spring won’t affect the ice that formed, biologists say. And the fact that this week’s weather looks like it will head back near single digits at night makes ice fishermen happy.

“I’m psyched. As long as we have some cold nights, I’m optimistic we’ll be fishing for a long time. If we get back down under zero at night, we might see the big bay freeze up (on Sebago),” said the Sebago Derby director, Toby Pennels.

“We lost a little, but as long as we have ice on Jordan Bay, I think we’ll be OK.”

The Sebago Lake Rotary Ice Fishing Derby has been canceled three of the past four years due to poor ice and warm weather. But just when the Sebago Lake Rotary Club came up with a contingency plan, this winter looks to be one of thick ice and bustling shacks.

This winter the club changed the derby rules to include Kezar Lake in Lovell as one of the two togue waters that will now be used in the big-money derby. If Sebago has unsafe ice, there is a smaller togue lake ready to be fished.

“Kezar Lake is full of togue,” Pennels said. “I’m pretty optimistic it’s going to be a good season. Other than the past five to six days, it’s the thickest ice we’ve seen on Jan. 1. In my opinion that’s the earliest we’ve seen Jordan Bay lock up in years.”

Southern Maine regional fisheries biologist Francis Brautigam agreed.

“It’s the first time I can recall that we’ve had that much ice,” Brautigam said. “The smaller ponds in the region set up well in advance of Jan. 1. Right now we have a little fog, but once we get through this and have some cooler temps, we’ll be in pretty good shape.”

Last weekend fishermen were few in numbers around Sebago. But Brautigam said that will change if the Sebago derby is held on southern Maine’s biggest lake next month.

“The odds are in their favor, but a lot of years there is not great ice at Sebago Station or at Raymond Beach (on Sebago Lake). Now at least they have a second body of water to hold the derby on. And in the future, they will have a certain level of consistency,” Brautigam said.

Smaller derbies on smaller lakes and ponds have that consistency. And last week officials for those derbies said the ice fishing season should be strong given the thick ice that already has coated a number of water bodies.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Two fishermen use an ice auger to drill through up to 6 inches of ice on Long Lake, where plenty of trout could be for the taking.

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Cellphone to his ear, Windham’s Robert Brumell might be telling his buddies that conditions on Long Lake are safe and the fishing’s good.


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