Among the top winners in the 2021 Alexandria Volunteer Firefighters Association Ice Fishing Derby were (left to right) David Rice (third place overall, first place rainbow trout)), Joe Britton (second overall, first place lake trout), Tim Casey (first place cusk and grand prize winner) and his son Aidan Casey (fifth in the Youth Division). (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
March 03, 2021ALEXANDRIA – Hundreds of people enjoyed the great outdoors last weekend as they took part in the Alexandria Volunteer Firefighters Association's 30th annual Ice Fishing Derby on Newfound Lake.
Throughout Saturday and Sunday, lucky anglers made their way to the derby headquarters at Wellington State Park, hoping their latest catch was big enough to make it onto the leader board. Categories in the derby were for the largest (by weight) rainbow trout, lake trout, pickerel, perch and cusk with cash prizes awarded to the top three in each. There was also a Youth Division with trophies presented for the top five biggest fish of any species.
Before the awards presentation late Sunday afternoon, Jim Shokal of the Alexandria Volunteer Fire Department announced that there were 642 tickets sold for this year's derby, making it easily the largest in recent memory.
"I think that's more than we've ever done, and it'll help the fire department out a lot, so thank you," he told the crowd.
Proceeds from the annual event provide AVFA with funds for items such as small equipment, safety gear and other items not included in the town's budget.
It was a very close competition in the Youth Division this year. Winners were Aidan Casey in fifth place with a 2.24-lb. cusk, Justin Adams was fourth with a 2.34-lb. lake trout and Hailey LaCharite placed third with her 2.75-lb. lake trout. Alexis Pratte received the second place trophy for the 2.94-lb. laker she pulled in, while a young man named Seth from New Boston (no last name available) took the top prize with his 2.97-pound lake trout. Unfortunately, Seth was not at the headquarters for the trophy presentations, but derby organizers planned to contact him and make arrangements to give him his trophy.
Eight-year-old Alexis Pratte eagerly awaited the awards however and shed tears of joy when she received her second place trophy. She said she has been fishing ever since she was big enough to hold a rod and reel. Last weekend's derby was only the second she has entered, the first being the Meredith derby the week before, and she was thrilled to come away a winner.
"I like this one because there's a kids division, so we have a chance to make it on the board," Alexis said.
Tracy Simula, whose family provides the trophies each year in their dad Richard's memory, was all smiles as he watched her reaction.
"This is why we do it every year- to see how happy the kids are to win. It gets me a little emotional too," Simula said.
While Tim Casey of Pittsfield pulled in the biggest cusk to take the top $150 prize in that category, he was pleased to learn he also had the overall biggest catch of the weekend, netting him an additional $1,000.
Casey spent the weekend fishing with his 14-year-old son Aidan, who won a trophy in the youth division, and his dad, also named Tim. He said this was only the second time he has participated in the AVFA derby and the first time he ever caught the biggest fish in any category, never mind one that gave him the top prize.
"I knew it was a good fish when I was pulling it in and thought it could be close," Casey said.
The debate on the way home though was going to be whether they would enjoy a big fish dinner or have the winning 7.76-pound cusk mounted instead.
"My son says we should just eat his and mount this one. We'll see," said Casey.
The other top two winners were Joe Britton with a 7.44-pound lake trout who took home a total of $650 in prize money ($150 for the category and $500 for second place overall), and David Rice of Hill who received $250 for third place overall plus $150 for his 5.85-pound winning rainbow trout.
Others also took home $150, $100 or $50 in prize money for their first, second and third place catches for each of the five species of fish.
In addition to the trophies and cash awards, there were also raffles for numerous prizes donated by local businesses, with all proceeds benefitting the firefighters' association funds.
For the third year in a row the Bristol Fire Company, which supports their fire department for similar needs or projects they undertake, held a special raffle as well. With more than 500 entries this year, three lucky ticket holders took home either a pop-up bob house, an ice auger, or an ice fishing bundle that held an assortment of equipment. Tyler Ford of BFC said their organization hopes to put some of the money toward the development of a fire museum below the Bristol Historical Society Museum, located in the former fire station on South Main Street in downtown Bristol.