MEREDITH — An 11-year-old ice fisherman from Tamworth landed what proved to the be the winning catch in the 35th annual Great Meredith Rotary Fishing Derby and took home the $15,000 prize Sunday afternoon.
Brady King landed his winning 4.25-pound, 25½-inch pickerel around 8:30 Saturday morning in Bear Camp Pond in Sandwich, a shallow 145-acre pond not far from King's home which has an average depth of only nine feet and is located about a half mile from Rte. 25 in East Sandwich.
''That's a pretty big fish for a pond that small, but he's landed other good sized pickerel from there before.'' said his father, Chris King, who was all smiles as he watched Gov. Maggie Hassan congratulate his son, who held up his winning catch for photographers as long as he could before his hands became too cold and asked his father to hold it for a while.
''He held it so tight that it was starting to thaw out from the heat of his hands,'' said his father, a self-employed electrician who was joined at the awards ceremony by his wife, Heidi, and daughter, Kailey, 7.
King said that his son was going to be saving the money to help pay for college.
This marked the second year that a new system has been in place for determining the winner of the derby. Previously the winner was the fisherman who landed the largest tagged rainbow trout from about a half dozen bodies of water where the tagged trout were stocked.
The winner is now determined by a drawing of the names of the 14 fishermen who land the largest of seven different eligible species on Saturday and Sunday.
Second prize of $5,000 went to Mark Smart, a stone mason from Moultonborough, who qualified for the drawing by catching the biggest cusk, a 30-inch, 8.82 pound fish, from ''The Broads'' section of Lake Winnipesaukee on Saturday.
A cusk, which are actually relatives of cod and reputed to be among the best fish for making chowder, was also the qualifying fish for the third-place winner, Skyler Sherman of Manchester, who won $3,000 with his 31-inch, 8.88-pound cusk landed from Lake Winnipesaukee Sunday.
The biggest fish in the derby was landed by John D'Agata of Gilford, a 31 1/2 inch, 10.72 pound lake trout that he caught Saturday. He fished all weekend with his daughter, Madeline, 8, who landed the fourth-place lake trout on Saturday,which measured 29 inches long and weighed 7.35 pounds.
The D'Agatas took home $850 for their efforts and also caught 10 cusk over the weekend.
Derby Chairman Betsy Donovan said that the event was well-attended and that ticket sales prior to the weekend topped 2,000 for the first time in six or seven years. The final unofficial tally for ticket sales as of Sunday afternoon was 5,358, about 1,000 more than last year.
''We had good weather and a real nice turnout,'' said Donovan, who will be handing over the chairmanship to Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggin for next year's derby.
''It was a really good weekend. Coupled with last weekend's big turnout for the Pond Hockey Tournament it's been a couple of good weeks for businesses in Meredith and the surrounding area,'' said Selectman Peter Brothers, who was working at Derby headquarters over the weekend.