Gov. Chris Sununu joins emcee Pat Kelly during the awards ceremony. (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
February 15, 2017MEREDITH — Snow couldn't keep away thousands of anglers from state lakes, making for a successful year for the Great Meredith Rotary Fishing Derby.
Over the weekend, bobhouses and anglers went back on the ice for the derby's 38th year and Meredith Bay was especially busy.
"Overall, it was a very good weekend," said derby chair Tim Bergquist. "We'll have a lot of money to give back to the community."
Bergquist said ticket sales were ahead of last year's numbers, but a little behind the sales for 2015.
"We were right where we were hoping to be," Bergquist said.
People still came out despite the snowstorm. Bergquist said people had to make plan ahead if they were going to come out in the heavy snow.
"Just have a back-up plan," Bergquist said. "If you can't go home, stay here."
The weekend was marked with tragedy: accidents occurred on Winnipesaukee in Alton and Moultonborough that claimed the lives of three people.
"It's very sad to see something like that happen," said angler Ed Pascale of Meredith.
Bergquist, Pascale, and other derby participants emphasized the importance of safety on the ice.
"You've got to do your homework; check the ice," said Martin Hughes of New Hampton.
Hughes said he watched a snowmobile go through the ice over the weekend.
Bergquist said the state has information on checking the ice on their website.
The top winners were drawn from the seven biggest fish caught over the weekend. The top prize of $15,000 went to Tim Guinard of Alfred, Maine.
Guinard has been fishing at the derby for around 20 years with a group of friends. One friend of his won the grand prize of a boat in 1997 and still has that boat today.
Guinard caught the 4.33-pound, 22-inch rainbow trout of the weekend in Alton.
This is the second year he has come up with his son too.
"We do it more for a guy's weekend," Guinard said. "We love this derby."
Guinard said he has done some derbies in Maine as well, but the Meredith one is, "By far the best one we do."
The second place winner of $5,000 was Martin Hughes of New Hampton.
Hughes owns Waunakee Collision in Alexandria and has been doing the derby for over 20 years. He caught the biggest white perch of the weekend at 2.72 pounds and 15.75 inches.
"The past five years I've been telling all my buddies I'm targeting nothing but white perch," Hughes said.
Over the course of the derby his group caught over 100 fish including white and yellow perch and lake trout.
Hughes said he loves the derby and is happy that they have been giving out cash prizes.
"People want to do things with their money," Hughes said.
Ryan Ashley of Gilmanton won the third place prize of $3,000, catching the biggest cusk of the weekend at 6.47 pounds and 28 inches.
In the midst of planning for the storm, Gov. Chris Sununu found time to drop by the derby.
Sununu said the state has been monitoring this storm for the past three days. After visiting the derby he came right back to Concord to oversee operations and give a press conference on the progress of the storm.
Sununu said even in the tough weather conditions, they still saw over 5,000 people come to the state's lakes to take part in the derby.
"This is what we do even in tough weather conditions in New Hampshire," Sununu said.
He said he appreciated seeing this much interest.
"It's just a terrific event, it's just the cherry on top of winter," Sununu said.
Members of the Interact Club, a student organization at Inter-Lakes High School partnering with Rotary, sold tickets for raffle with a bobhouse as a grand prize. They also sold maple syrup and derby merchandise. All 1,000 tickets for the bobhouse sold.
Interact vice president Eli Marietta said this is their biggest event and proceeds greatly benefit the charities they support. This year the beneficiaries were Got Lunch and Shelter Box.
"It's a great event, this infectious atmosphere of catching fish," Marietta said. "It's great to see a group of people coming together for one event."