Just the Ticket For Cabin Fever

John Clark sharing bits from the wayback machine and my experience helping GMLA (Great Moose Lake Association) last weekend. Last week at our monthly Hartland Couples Club meeting, I overheard two members discussing the limited number of GMLA members available to work the weigh-in for the annual fishing derby, so I offered to help out.m and dad

Mikeala (a student at MCI) and her dad helped out with prizes and the drawings

I have many memories of going ice fishing, the first when our neighbor, Henry Hills, took me out on Sennebec Lake. I was seven or eight and I couldn’t tell you what we caught, but I had fun. After returning from college at Arizona State, I got back into fishing, both open water and ice in a big way. My friend Jon Marks and my neighbor Sam Morrison often ice fished twice a week, hitting Lake St. George in Liberty, Maranacook Lake in Winthrop, Parker Pond in Mount Vernon, Sennebec, Sheepscot Lake in Palermo, Wyman Lake in Moscow and Embden Pond, as well as several smaller pickerel holes. Some days we’d sit for hours and catch nothing, other times, we could barely keep up when the flags went up.

all ages

Some of the derby participants waiting to hear whether they won.

When I operated the patient education program at the state hospital, I often took some of the boys on the adolescent unit ice fishing. I remember one late February trip to Embden when the ice was over two feet thick. We were using a hand auger and it was so difficult to drill below a certain depth that the kids lost their footing and the auger spun them in circles. I ended up drilling through more than 40 feet of ice that day.

We made up games like pickerel bowling. After we caught one and it froze solid, we’d stand 75 or so feet apart and see if we could skim the frozen fish across the ice and through the other person’s legs. On Sennebec one winter, we had as many as seven eagles swoop down to grab fish we’d caught. They made a regular circuit from Megundicook to Chickawaukee outside Rockland, then on to Alford in Hope and Seven Tree in Union before hitting Sennebec. It was quite an impressive sight.


One of the many bass entered in the derby

Perhaps the highlight of my ice fishing career came when we were fishing on Sheepscot. It was the same day as the derby sponsored by the local fish and game association, so we’d bought tickets. Sam hooked something really big and after ten minutes or so, hauled out a nine pound togue. It took first prize in that category and I bet it was weeks before he stopped grinning.


The weigh station and two of the bigger door prizes

Jon moved to Florida and Sam died. Those events, coupled with an increasing discomfort in really cold weather, led to my finding warmer winter activities.

It was great fun to watch the participants in this year’s derby bring in their fish. We held the weigh-in on Saturday and Sunday from four to six at the Irving Tanning Community Center. Several things stood out. First, while skill can be a factor, luck is a bigger one and it’s an activity anyone in the family can enjoy. That was clearly demonstrated by the number of youngsters who won prizes. In fact, two brothers, both younger than ten, swept the cusk category as well as placing second in the most yellow perch caught contest.ticket

Lots of fun to be had for a couple bucks.

The folks involved in getting prizes and selling tickets do one heck of a job. In fact, so many tickets were sold, that they had to sell what remained from last year’s ticket supply (this years tickets were blue, last year’s orange, so there wasn’t any confusion.) In addition to three cash prizes in each category, there were more than 30 door prizes. The money raised goes toward buying brook trout to stock Great Moose Lake—800 last year and another 800 this year. Three years ago, the funds went to buy a huge number of smelts to enhance the food supply for all game fish.

Here are the biggest fish in each category: White perch 1 pound, 11 ounces, crappie 2 pounds 2 ounces, small mouth bass 3 pounds six ounces, large mouth bass 7 pounds 2 ounces, brook trout, 1 pound 10 ounces, brown trout 1 pound 7 ounces, cusk 1 pound 4 ounces and pickerel 2 pounds 11 ounces.

I was impressed by the enthusiasm and good fellowship among those waiting to see who won. It was clear that many knew each other and plenty of ribbing went back and forth. If you’re looking for something new to combat ‘cabin fever’ this is a great way to do so. Fishing derbies are held almost every weekend from mid-January through early March all over Maine.

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4 Responses to Just the Ticket For Cabin Fever

  1. Gram says:


    • John Clark says:

      Sure was and there were moments when the record keeping was fast, furious and nearly derailed by the side conversations.

  2. kaitlynkathy says:

    My grandfather took me ice fishing when I was six or so on the farm pond near his house and my father took pictures, but all I really remember about that day is that my dog, Skippy, fell into the hole in the ice and had to be rescued!

  3. bethc2015 says:

    Nice memories.

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