Josh Philbrick reacts as his name is drawn for the grand prize of $15,000 for his 4.26-pound rainbow trout caught Saturday morning in Alton Bay during the awards ceremony held on Sunday afternoon at Derby Headquarters in Meredith. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — The winner of the Great Meredith Rotary Fishing Derby said his winning 21.5-inch-long, 4.26-pound rainbow trout was landed early Saturday morning in Alton Bay in less than 6 feet of water.
Joshua Philbrick of Kittery, Maine, said he and his four fishing companions had scouted out Alton Bay on the previous weekend and experienced some problems with less than ideal ice conditions when they got on the ice Saturday morning.
"We came pretty close to breaking through and going in the water," said Philbrick, who landed what proved to be the winning fish in the derby at 6:45 a.m. Saturday.
He took home the $15,000 prize when his name was the last of the three drawn at Derby headquarters in Meredith Bay Sunday afternoon.
A home builder who has been taking part in the derby for the last four years, Philbrick said Sunday that he had no idea what he was going to do with his derby prize.
The grand prize winner is chosen at random from the seven anglers who land the largest fish of the weekend in their respective categories.
The second place prize of $5,000 went to David Young of Boylston, Massachusetts, who landed a 15-inch, 2.61-pound black crappie. The third place winner was Elijah Pitkin of Fremont, who won $3,000 with a 14.5-inch, 1.6-pound yellow perch.
Others eligible for the prizes included Wyatt Buhrman of Center Harbor with a 15-inch, 2.86-pound white perch; Chris Dopp of Loudon with a 27-inch, 5.16-pound pickerel; Jay Hubbard with a 32-inch, 11.2-pound lake trout and Pat Carberry of Sanbornville with a 31-inch, 7.09-inch cusk.
Buhrman, only 8 years old, said that he was fishing on Squam Lake with his brother, Van, who is 11 years old, and his father, Chuck.
Both boys had gotten up at 4:30 Sunday morning to go out to the bob house with their father, who had prepared them a breakfast sandwich and both landed white perch around 7 a.m. Van's catch, which weighed 2.46 pounds, ended up in third place on Sunday's leader board.
Ticket sales were down from last year, according to Anthony Avrutine, chairman of the 2016 derby, due to the uncertain ice conditions around the state caused by a winter that has been much warmer than normal. But derby officials have not yet released final ticket sale numbers,
The derby, originally scheduled for Feb. 13-14, was postponed for two weeks, marking only the second time is 37-year history that the derby has been postponed.
There were no bob houses in Meredith Bay, site of derby headquarters, for the first time since the event was started, and a temperature sign at a Meredith Bay business read 57 degrees at 3:30 Sunday afternoon.
Ice fishermen were philosophical about the warmer-than-normal weather. Greg Stefan of Gilford and Matt Bickford of Meredith said that they switched to fishing on Squam Lake rather than Lake Winnipesaukee this year.
"It was still fun with the nice weather. I'm all for not freezing, and it was nice to be able to wear sweatshirts and not have to put on long johns," said Stefan.
Stephen Delendick of Moultonborough said he fished near the Long Island bridge over the weekend and didn't see nearly as many ice fishermen as he normally does during the derby.
"There are still a lot of fish on the leader board so it looks like people were catching some good-sized fish," he said.
Adam Clancy of Portsmouth said this was his fourth year at the derby and that he was happy to get on the leader board Sunday with a third-place catch of a 22-inch, 3.7-pound rainbow trout from Merrymeeting Lake.
He said he works as a landscaper and does snow removal work in the winter.
"With it being so warm so far, it hasn't been a real busy winter for me. So it was good to be able to get in some ice fishing," said Clancy.
Fishing buddies Travis Ouellette, Josh Philbrick – the $15,000 winner, Ryan Clauson and Tim Ester celebrate in front of the "wall" Sunday afternoon after Philbrick wins the 2016 Great Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby with a 4.26-pound rainbow trout that he caught in Alton Bay at about 6:30 Saturday morning. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
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