Tickets for the Crystal Lake Ice Fishing Derby will sell out before the competition starts on Saturday, organizers say. But anyone will find the big fish worth seeing, whether they’re competing or not.

As it did last year, the second annual fundraiser to help youths and military personnel will have the popular ice fishing pond in Gray well stocked. Through an unusual bit of luck, the organizers got some unusually big rainbow trout.

A hatchery owned by Poland Spring is ending part of its production, so the rainbow trout brood stock – breeding fish – are being given to the derby, said Meghann Bagetis, a derby organizer.

The older fish won’t exceed 6 pounds, as mandated by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, but they will be as long as 30 inches, Bagetis said.

Francis Brautigam, regional biologist with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said: “It’s a big fish to be stocking. There aren’t any derbies that are able to obtain fish of that size.”

The Dead River Fish Hatchery in Pierce Pond Township has been owned by Poland Spring since 2004, but it hasn’t been profitable enough to keep open. Poland Spring’s outreach manager, Heather McBean, said the 10 to 15 brood stock rainbow trout are noteworthy.

“There is a notable size difference,” she said.

Brautigam, who provided the stocking permit, said other fishermen may benefit from the stocked fish after the derby.

“Some of those fish won’t be caught, and there will be opportunity for fishermen to see one of those big fish even after the derby,” he said.

But none will set any records, he said.

“The permit said none could be in excess of 6 pounds so that folks wouldn’t be catching any stocked fish that were state records. We don’t think it’s appropriate for a stocked fish to become the state record,” Brautigam said.

The state rainbow trout record is 8.42 pounds.

The Crystal Lake Ice Fishing Derby sold out last year and is expected to again. Tickets for the adult derby are capped at 2,500, and tickets for the youth derby are capped at 1,000.

Bagetis said not all 3,500 fishermen are expected to show up this year because many tickets were sold to servicemen and women who are overseas.


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