Ice fishing derby raises money for PolioPlus, local charities
Ice fishers, their family, and visitors crowd around derby headquarters during the Rotary Club of Meredith's Great Ice Fishing Derby. Bottom: Leader boards are set up to keep track of daily winners. Photos courtesy of Ted Fodero
Thousands of people from all over New England converged on Meredith, New Hampshire, USA, 7-8 February to take part in the Rotary Club of Meredith's Great Ice Fishing Derby.
Nestled in huts dotting the frozen surfaces of Lake Winnipesaukee and smaller lakes throughout New Hampshire, participants cut holes in the ice, dropped their lines into the chilly waters, and tried their luck at snagging one of the thousands of rainbow trout that had been tagged and dropped into the lakes over the years. Roughly $62,000 in prizes was at stake, awarded to those who caught the heaviest fish and who won the raffles held throughout the weekend.
The event, which is the Meredith club's chief annual fundraiser, has brought in more than $1.6 million over its 30-year existence. About 5,500 tickets were sold to this year’s derby, raising roughly $68,000 for scholarships, local projects and charities, and The Rotary Foundation. The club has contributed more than $59,000 from the derby to various Foundation programs, including PolioPlus.
"It takes on a whole life of its own when the weather is nice,” says Ted Fodero, club president. “We have some families where three whole generations will come out to take part. We have a 101-year-old man who comes every year and now pulls the raffle prizes.”
Before each competition, the club, in consultation with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, drops 1,000 tagged rainbow trout into Lake Winnipesaukee and another 200 tagged trout into each of five smaller lakes and ponds throughout the state.
This year’s top prize, an 18-foot fiberglass boat valued at $25,000, was won by Regis Mazerolle for hauling in the heaviest tagged rainbow trout, a 1.8 pounder measuring just over 16 inches in length. There was also a second and third prize for the second- and third-heaviest tagged trout.
Prizes were also awarded each day for the 10 heaviest untagged rainbow trout and the five heaviest cusk, pickerel, white perch, yellow perch, and lake trout. Raffle prizes were awarded throughout the weekend.
A marine biologist from the fish and game department helped judge the catch and ensure that only fish caught during the derby were counted. Leader boards kept onlookers up to date on weight totals, and several local radio stations broadcast hourly updates. The Meredith club partnered with a local designer to create a long, multipanel display board with pictures of each type of fish and ecological information.
A Saturday clinic taught children how to ice fish.
Fodero said the derby has pulled in people from across the United States. A local film crew is even working on a documentary about the event.
The Meredith club, chartered in 1928, has about 65 members. Fodero said the club collaborated with three other clubs in District 7870 (parts of New Hampshire and Vermont) this summer on a separate fundraiser that netted $16,000 for Rotary's US$200 Million challenge.