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Fishermen brave the cold for annual Rotary Derby

Rotary Volunteer Gary Schmidt puts a fish on the board. Erin Plummer. (click for larger version)

Tom Belcourt of Goffstown turns in a fish to volunteer Peter Brothers at Derby Headquarters. Erin Plummer. (click for larger version)
February 03, 2010
MEREDITH — Freezing temperatures kept some anglers away, but many more gathered on the ice vying for prize fish in the annual Great Meredith Rotary Fishing Derby.

Anglers came from across the country to area lakes for this weekend's 31st annual derby.

The ice was thick and bobhouses dotted the lakes as participants of all ages gathered for a chance to catch the prizewinning fish or spend time with friends and family fishing.

Dave Waniski of Gilmanton Iron Works caught the grand prize winning fish of the Derby, a 3.05-pound, 19-inch tagged rainbow trout registered on Saturday around 3 p.m.

Waniski took home an 18-foot Pioneer Sport fiberglass fishing boat with an outboard motor, tackle box, and casting chair kit all worth $25,500.

The second-place winner was Charles Robbins of Meredith with a 2.2-pound, 17.5-inch tagged rainbow trout. Robbins won a Honda Rancher Fourtrax ATV with a trailer worth $6,500.

Rick Ordway of Hampton took third place, winning an Old Town sporting kayak with motor package valued at $1,100 with a 2.09-pound tagged rainbow trout.

The 10 heaviest tagged rainbow trout after the third place fish each won $150.

The 10 heaviest untagged rainbow trout won $60 to $150 in order of weight.

Prizes of $60 to $100 went to the five heaviest lake trout, yellow perch, white perk, and cusk.

Drawings of $1,000 were done for fish on the board. Ticketholders were also eligible for drawings throughout the weekend.

A total of $61,300 was given out in prize money.

The fish may have snagged prizes, but fewer people were vying for them this year due to the weather.

Derby Chair Rob Wichland said 5,000 tickets were sold this year, a drop from the nearly 5,400 tickets sold last year.

Ticket presales were strong overall, though the amount of tickets sold during the weekend dropped off.

"I think the really bitter cold weather on Friday and Saturday kind of slowed our weekend ticket sales," Wichland said.

Friday's weather saw temperatures barely into the double digits with high winds making it dangerous to be outside for long. The wind tamed for Saturday and Sunday, though temperatures got into the low 20s.

Despite the cold, anglers came out to area lakes in force. Wichland said while sales were down, the derby was still active.

The derby is the biggest fundraiser for the Meredith Rotary Club. All proceeds raised go toward local efforts including various charities and scholarships.

The derby was managed through an all-volunteer effort from Rotary members. Volunteers staffed Derby headquarters and did tasks from weighing and measuring fish to selling tickets and merchandise among many other duties.

"It's a really great effort by everyone in our club," Wichland said. "The whole club gets involved, it's a lot of hard work but very gratifying."

Participants started gathering on the ice during the week. Lake Winnipesaukee, Lake Winnisquam. Squam Lake, Mascoma Lake, Ossipee Lake, and Lake Wentworth were all stocked with tagged rainbow trout with the most being put into Winnipesaukee. Bobhouses visibly dotted the ice along Meredith and Center Harbor Bays among many other areas.

The festivities began on Friday night with an ice fishing panel discussion with Don Miller, of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, and Travis Williams and Adrien Lavoie, licensed New Hampshire fishing guides, who discussed ice fishing tips, techniques and equipment.

Officers from New Hampshire Fish and Game were on hand during the weekend. Several local restaurants and businesses set up their own bobhouses to serve food and hot drinks to people on the ice.

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