Dan Maloney of Nottingham sets a tip up on Meredith Bay for the Great Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
A non-fisherman's guide to the ice fishing derby
By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — How many people will be trying to hook a winning fish for at the 38th Annual Great Meredith Rotary Fishing Derby this weekend? Well, the easy answer is about 5,000, which is the number of tickets sold in a typical year. That number has been remarkably consistent for many years, barring flukes such as last winter, when there was little ice on Lake Winnipesaukee, and other years when severe storms caused Massachusetts to close its highways. In a good year, though, there will be a little more than 5,000 tickets sold, and this is going to be a good year.
That number is slightly misleading, though, because many people participate in the derby by buying a ticket, yet won't ever drop a line in the water. They come to ogle the trout, perch, cusk and other fish on the leader board, to stroll along Bobhouse Avenue, and to visit Meredith Village's restaurants and shops in order to warm up. And, if they've bought a ticket, they will be eligible to win one of the $100 drawings, held every 15 minutes, or the $5,000 drawing held at the end of the day on Saturday and again on Sunday.
"It's always a fun event. There's people all over the ice. It's almost like an avenue," said Ray Moritz, president of Meredith Rotary Club. "A lot of people who don't fish will buy a ticket."
Tickets cost $30, and one reason people are willing to buy one, even if they aren't fishing, is because they know that the money is going to help others. The derby is the Meredith Rotary Club's primary annual fundraiser, and the all-volunteer effort will further the club's charitable efforts. For example, proceeds from last year's derby bought materials, which, combined with volunteered labor from Rotary members, resulted in the addition of built-in closets for substance abuse recovery center in Franklin, which allowed the center to add 42 more beds. The club also supported its local food pantry, the Interlakes Community Caregivers, and rebuilt a cabin on property owned by the Lakes Region Conservation Trust.
Moritz had some advice to people coming to take in the derby, whether they're fishing or just spectating. They should dress warm, be sensible about walking on the ice, "and most of all, enjoy themselves. It's a fun weekend."
There will be bobhouses clustered in most of Winnipesaukee's bays for the derby, and on just about every other ice surface in the Lakes Region. Nowhere will there be more activity, though, than Meredith Bay. Bobhouses there come in every size, shape and color, and some contain some surprising amenities, such as hot tubs, grills and televisions. There will also be vendors out on the ice.
"It's almost a carnival feel," said Mortiz."This would be the best place to be."
Meredith Bay is also where the derby headquarters is, where fishermen bring their winning catches in hopes of having the largest of their type. If they do, they will win at least $500, and will be eligible for the drawing to win the grand prize of $5,000. The culmination of the weekend will occur around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, when crowds of anglers, including dignitaries such as Gov. Chris Sununu and U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, will encircle the derby headquarters, eager to see who will take home the prize.
Tim Bergquist, chairman of the fishing derby, said those who come prepared to walk around a picturesque, wintry village will find Meredith fits the bill.
"Once you're in town here, there's so much here. There's a winery, tons of restaurants and antique stores. You can come up, take breaks (from the derby), come back after lunch. It's all walking distance, it's convenient. Just dress for the weather."
Dave Enser and Chet Wiess get their fishing gear ready with Matt Adamchick and Robert Brehm on Meredith Bay for the Great Meredith Rotary Fishing Derby. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
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