Let it freeze!

Local event organizers welcome frigid weather

By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The frigid start to winter should bode well for a series of events on frozen water, including the Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby, the New England Pond Hockey Classic and Lakes Region ice racing.

Pilot David Emerson declared ice-in on Lake Winnipesaukee on Jan. 3. His yearly declaration, almost a month earlier than usual, came as good news to fishermen anxious to place bob houses on the frozen surface, cut a hole in the ice and begin angling for the big one.

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It should be a good winter for ice fishing as the lakes have frozen earlier than ever. (Courtesy photo)

Fishing derby

One of the biggest events of the winter is the Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby. The annual event, set for Feb. 10-11, includes thousands of dollars in cash prizes.

Derby Chairman Don Trudeau said this is the event's 39th year, and more than 4,500 people are expected to buy $40 tickets to compete for the prize money.

The five heaviest black crappie, cusk, lake trout, pickerel, rainbow trout, yellow perch and white perch will win prizes both days, ranging from $50 to $500.

Also, there will be 14 Derby ticket stub cash drawings on Saturday for $100 each, and 32 Derby ticket stub cash prize drawings on Sunday for $100 each.

There will also be two drawings for a $5,000 jackpot, one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

Bob houses used by ice fishermen range from basic to elaborate.

“There are guys out there from now until ice-out,” Trudeau said. “You see such an array of different styles.

“Some people will go out and drill a hole and sit on an overturned bucket and just jig the whole time. Other people have like mini-condominiums on the ice, including a hot tub.”

A typical bob house might be a lightweight, small structure providing some shelter from the cold, someplace to sit down, a heat source and perhaps some snacks and drinks, schnapps certainly common but definitely optional.

Trudeau said the main consideration is ensuring safety and making sure the ice is thick enough to support the weight.

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department advises that 4 to 6 inches of solid bluish-black ice can support a few well-dispersed people and 8 to 10 inches of that type of ice can support activities involving off-highway recreational vehicles.

The department recommends that people make test holes in the ice to assess conditions and be mindful that all ice is potentially dangerous, particularly areas with current, like inlets, outlets and springs.

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The New England Pond Hockey Classic brings hockey enthusiasts of all ages to Meredith. This year’s games are set for Feb. 2-4. Here, the Bumbles and Munny Shot teams battled on the ice for a spot in the semi-final game last year.  (File photo/Karen Bobotas)

Pond hockey

The 9th annual New England Pond Hockey Classic, which will be held Feb. 2-4 on Meredith Bay, will have 275 teams, 2,200 participants and about 10,000 spectators over the course of three days, said Scott Crowder, the event's founder.

“That cold spell made us happy,” he said.

“Pond hockey was how the game was originally played before it went to climate-controlled rinks. It is very different, more unstructured and freeflowing than what you get with traditional indoor hockey.”

There will be live music, concession stands and, of course, a lot of hockey.

 

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Modified vehicles use the icy lakes to race. The Lakes Region Ice Racing Club races on Sundays, with the Latchkey Cup Race set for Saturday, Jan. 27. (Courtesy photo)

Ice racing

For those who enjoy automobile racing, the ice is no impediment here in the land of frozen lakes.

The Lakes Region Ice Racing Club holds Sunday races. Its big Latchkey Cup Race is scheduled each year for the last Saturday of January, ice permitting.

Multiple classes of vehicles compete in races held on Berry Pond or Lees Pond in Moultonborough.

The vehicles sport tire chains and range from pickup trucks to full-size cars with V-8 engines, said Dave Suitor, of the club.

There are also purpose-built race cars that have wings for additional down force,” he said. “The modified V-8s are wicked and go like stink.”

An oval track is set up on the ice. There are no fences and the only barriers are snow banks.

It's not a precise thing,” Suitor said. “They slide them through the corners. The ice gets grooved. It's all about car control. They are racing each other but racing the surface.

There are a lot of stops and a lot of cars into the snow banks. They dust them off and restart.”

At least a foot of ice is needed before races are held.

Suitor described participants as blue-collar folks who like to work on their own machines, and are helpful and friendly to each other and spectators.

Most of the guys racing are like loggers, construction workers, landscapers,” he said. “They already have garages, equipment and heavy clothes. It's not an artsy-fartsy crowd at all.”

Spectators pay $10 a car to get in.

As part of Meredith’s 250th anniversary celebration, the club will be bringing its Vintage Latchkey Cup race to Meredith Bay, where the event originated, on Feb. 17.

 

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Sled dog races had a difficult time in recent years for lack of snow. (Courtesy photo/Karen Bachelder)

Dog racing

The 89th annual World Championship Sled Dog Derby will take place on Feb. 16-18 with the start and finish line at Parade Road and Old North Main Street.

Events include the six-dog classic, three-dog junior, one-dog junior and the unlimited class.

The derby is one of the longest-running sled dog races in the world.