For the past several years, the Sebago Lake ice fishing derby that takes place in three weeks has been gunning for biggest U.S. derby honors, having drawn together several thousand ice anglers in one weekend, and adding a statewide derby in March.

Maine’s newer and smaller Crystal Lake Derby, held last weekend in Gray, has no such aspirations.

But this instant success of an ice fishing derby is going to gain renown.

In its second year, there were an estimated 6,000 people on the ice for a derby in which only 3,500 could fish.

And the volunteers who organized the derby say it raised $55,000 that all will go to charities.

Moreover, the event left behind some big fish in the lake.

“I am expecting the fishing for brook trout will be pretty good there,” said regional fisheries biologist Francis Brautigam. “Certainly all those fish that were stocked were not caught and are out there swimming around.”

Crystal Lake Derby director and founder Todd Bagetis said the money from the derby will go to military care packages, youth programs and to help the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife with trout management.

Bagetis said that about half of the money raised came from 50-50 raffles, T-shirt sales and outright donations to the causes, and the remainder was raised by the derby entry fees, which totaled about $25,000.

“What exceeded my expectations was I thought it would just be the ticket holders, but there were twice as many people without tickets,” Bagetis said.

“They just wanted to show their support, and so they came and bought 50-50 raffles or T-shirts. There was a massive turnout.”

About $20,000 will go to military care packages, $20,000 will go to programs in the Gray and New Gloucester schools and the rest to the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife work, Bagetis said.

Despite the unexpected turnout and funds raised, Bagetis said the derby organizers won’t try to grow the event next year.

This year the derby was capped at 3,500 anglers, and sold out for adults with 2,500 any-age tickets, and nearly sold out for the youth derby with 950 of 1,000 tickets sold, Bagetis said.

The goals are to make ice fishing trendy, bring families together and help children and those in the military.

That’s all that matters, Bagetis said, not setting records.

“I want to take the high road on everything. The thing we want to focus on is we want every penny coming in going to the charities,” said Bagetis, who serves in the U.S. Coast Guard.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]