Anglers of all ages pulling in fish at Long Lake fishing derby

SINCLAIR, Maine — At just 6 years old Drew Belanger of Eagle Lake topped the leaderboard Sunday morning for the largest togue caught by a youth in the 13th Annual Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby.

Belanger reeled in the 6 pound, 10.4 ounce fish, which measured in at just under 27 inches, from Eagle Lake on Saturday.

“He was up bright and early and spent the whole day out on the lake fishing,” Belanger’s mother, Stacy Belanger, said.

The young angler fished with his father, Mark Belanger, uncle Jamie Voisine and grandfather, Elmer Belanger, who traveled from Connecticut to participate in the derby with his family.

Drew Belanger enjoyed the experience so much that by 5 a.m. Sunday he was up and eager to take part in Day 2 of the tournament, his mother said.

Other leaders in the 13 and under category as of 11:15 a.m. Sunday were Emma Kelly, who reeled in a 5 pound, 15.8 ounce salmon; and Peyton Cyr, with a 1 pound, 12.2 ounce brook trout.

By 11:15 a.m. Sunday, the adult leaderboard had not changed since Saturday evening.

Bob Weyeneth of Fort Kent remained on top of the togue category, with an 11 pound, 15.2 ounce fish he pulled out of Long Lake.

Harold Cyr topped the muskie leaderboard with a fish weighing in at 17.6 pounds. Keith Labrie was in the lead for biggest brook trout at 3 pounds, 5.2 ounces. Danny McLaughlin’s 6 pound, 2 ounce salmon was leading the way in that category.

Although it boasts a $17,000 purse, the Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby is not just about catching the biggest fish, according to derby committee member Reno Voisine.

Voisine, 59, of Frenchville custom built a heated ice fishing cabin, which he planted on the ice about 50 yards from the derby base at the Long Lake Sporting Club.

The cabin boasts a 12-volt system with solar panels that charge the battery to power lights and electric outlets.

“We even have a ceiling fan and can cook in here,” Voisine said. “I wanted something different; I wanted for people to be comfortable.”

Perhaps the best feature of Voisine’s cabin is that anyone can fish there.

“Whoever shows up here is welcome, because it’s fun and that’s what it’s about,” Voisine said.  “The more people, the more fun.”

Two youngsters were fishing in Voisine’s cabin Saturday morning, and they were proudly displaying a handful of smelt they managed to angle.

“To see one of these little guys catch one is the best thing in the world,” Voisine said.

Landen Hebert, 6, of Fort Kent said he enjoys ice fishing in the comfort of Voisine’s heated cabin.

“It just keeps us warm so we don’t have to go out, and come back in and go out and come back in,” he said.

The derby also gives biologists with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife an opportunity to assess  the fish populating Long Lake. The biologists work every weekend, all season long, but the derby provides them with a larger range of caught fish to examine, according to biologist Frank Frost of the department’s Ashland office.

On Saturday Frost was out on the Long Lake ice where he measured a landlocked salmon caught by 9-year-old Bradley Soucy.

Although at 2 and ¼ pounds, Soucy’s fish was not quite big enough to qualify for the derby leaderboard, the 9-year-old said he still has plans for his fresh-caught salmon.

“My nana will fry it,” he said.

At least 1,091 anglers registered for the 13th annual derby, although that number may still grow, according to derby officials. The total has already beat last year’s derby record of 1,043 registrants.

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