MEREDITH — If any proof is needed that The Great Rotary Fishing Derby is about more than just success at landing a fish through the ice, the example of Jim Dyer of Meredith and Mike Jakubens of Manchester offers convincing evidence that it is really about something more.
The two long-time friends have been taking part in the derby for over 30 years and maintain steadfastly that they have yet to land a single fish during the derby, although one year they did almost pulled a landlocked salmon, (which would have been illegal) through the ice.
But that lack of success hasn't dimmed their enthusiasm for the derby. They were out on the ice with their girlfriends, Cheryl Plumeau of Manchester and Angie Libbey of Meredith, Friday morning, standing next to their shelter (where the temperature inside was close to 100 degrees) and lighting a fire in their barbecue grille while sipping Pabst Blue Ribbon beers.
They said they had started their morning with mimosas (champagne and orange juice) along with their breakfast and were looking forward to a fun weekend of socializing with their fellow ice fishermen while enjoying meals of steaks, sausages, chicken and burgers.
''We've even got a bathroom potty in the second tent and have Internet out here thanks to the Wi-Fi from the hotels. We have everything we need,'' said Jakubens, who sells lumber for Boise Cascade to independent lumber dealers throughout the state and, along with Plumeau, who works in customer service for TCI, a Manchester firm which sells coated teflon products, spend as much time as they can fishing in Lake Winnipesaukee year round.
''I keep a boat at Awka Soleil (now Meredith Bay) and another in Alton,'' says Jakubens, who says that he and Plumeau like fishing for salmon in the spring and lake trout and rainbow trout the rest of the year.
Dyer, who used to live in Milford and lives on Tucker Mountain Road in Meredith and works at Webster Valve in Franklin says he moved to Meredith last year and has been fishing in Lake Winnipesaukee ever since he can remember.
''I moved up here so I could be closer to my boat,'' says Dyer, who also fishes year round in Winnipesaukee. Libbey, who grew up in Portland, Maine, says she hadn't fished for years until she started going with Dyer a few years ago and is just now getting into ice fishing and finding that she likes it although she hopes to enjoy more success than Dyer and Jakubens have had.
''Jim got me back into fishing and it's a great experience out here,'' says Libbey, who works in the health field taking care of the elderly.
Also out on the ice Friday morning and celebrating their 10th year with ''The Lodge'' at the derby were Peter Muse of Meredith and ''Captain Bob'' Myshrall of Center Harbor. Muse, who owns the the stylish hunting lodge style bob house, was working on a cleaning a fitting for the gas fireplace, which was keeping the structure toasty warm.
Muse said that the Pabst Blue Ribbon 30-packs with 16 ounce cans seemed to be the default choice of most ice fishermen in Meredith Bay, although The Lodge did have a 24-pack of Labatt beer that had been left behind by a team of grateful Canadians who took part in last weekend's Pond Hockey Tournament and were allowed to use the bob house over the weekend.
The Lodge has been honored in the past as the best bob house on the bay and about five years ago attracted a lot of attention when a hot tub was set up next to it and the resident ice fishermen delighted onlookers by donning bathing suits and jumping into the tub on days when temperatures were in the mid teens while other Lodge regulars played horseshoe games nearby.
Betsey Donovan, chairman of this year's Great Rotary Fishing Derby, says that ticket sales are excellent this year.
''We've gone over 2,000 for the first time in 8 or 9 years,'' says Donovan, who attributes the increase to a revised format which was adopted for last year's derby, which eliminated the tagged rainbow trout as the only possible winner category for the top three prizes, opened the derby up to any of seven species and switched to cash only prizes.
Now, the largest fish of each of the eligible species (white perch, yellow perch, cusk, lake trout, pickerel, black crappie, or rainbow trout) will be entered in the grand prize drawings, and a grand-prize winning fish can be caught in any fresh water body in the state open to the public.
The three top prizes will be awarded to the angler with a valid Derby ticket whose name is drawn on Sunday during the Grand Prize Drawing. First prize is $15,000, second prize is $5,000, and third prize is $3,000. Those who had the largest fish in each category on either Saturday or Sunday of Derby Weekend will be eligible.
There will also be drawings hundreds of dollars in cash prizes throughout the weekend for all derby ticket holders, whether they fish or not.
The two-day ice fishing competition is one of the top fund-raising events in the state, enabling The Meredith Rotary Club to donate a total of more than $1.5 million back into the community for charitable projects, area improvements, scholarships, and families in need over the last 34 years.
Angie Libbey and Jim Dyer of Meredith and Cheryl Plumeau and Mike Jakubens of Manchester are ready for a weekend of ice fishing n Meredith Bay during the annual Great Rotary Fishing Derby. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
Bob Myshrall of Center Harbor and Peter Muse of Meredith stay warm inside Muse's bob house ''The Lode'', now in its 10th year on the ice at Meredith Bay for the Great Rotary Fishing Derby. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
Bob Myshrall, right, of Center Harbor and former Meredith resident Steve O'Brien, left, stand next to ''The Lodge'', one of the most well-known bob houses on Meredith Bay. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)