Laconia angler wins derby with big cusk

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Doug Shanahan displays the 8.16-pound cusk he landed at Lake Winnipesaukee Saturday. (Roger Amsden/Laconia Daily Sun)

Doug Shanahan of Laconia wins $15,000 prize at the Great Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

MEREDITH — The winner of the $15,000 first prize in the Great Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby said that he was in a state of shock when he heard his name announced at Sunday afternoon’s award ceremony.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Doug Shanahan, whose 8.16-pound cusk that he landed in Lake Winnipesaukee Saturday turned out to be the winning fish.

Shanahan, 31, who grew up and lives in Laconia, said he’s been fishing in the derby since he was three years old and even built the bob house he uses for his fishing adventures.

“I love fishing. I knew when I pulled it through the ice Saturday that it was big enough to give me chance,” said Shanahan.

He hadn’t  decided Sunday afternoon what to do with the money he had won, but would most likely save it.

He said he plans to make a meal out of the cusk, one of the seven species eligible for the top prize in the derby. The winner is determined by drawing the names of the anglers who have landed the largest fish over the weekend in each category, from a hat.

Other eligible species include lake trout, rainbow trout, white perch, yellow perch, pickerel and black crappie.

Cusk, a member of the burbot family, is the only freshwater member of the codfish family and has been described as looking like an eel with a broad head and large mouth.

Don Miller, a retired Fish and Game Department biologist who was at the derby weigh-in station over the weekend, has written that “many consider cusk the finest freshwater fish to consume. It is delicious fried or baked and has firm white meat with a delicate flavor. The ‘old timers’ will offer that there is no better fish to create a hearty winter chowder.”

Derby officials were pleased with the turnout for the event, which saw over 5,000 tickets sold.

“It was incredible. Saturday we had the largest crowd I’ve seen on Meredith Bay in 20 years,” said Don Trudeau, chairman of the Meredith Rotary’s 2018 derby committee.

He said that the size of the fish being posted on the leader board showed that ‘‘the fish were cooperating.”

He said that derby was also safe, with great ice conditions. “We heard there was 20, 22, 24 inches of ice at different parts of the lake.”

Meredith Rotary Club member Jim Wallace, who keeps track of ice thickness, said there was 18 inches of ice on Meredith Bay, more than 20 inches on Lake Waukewan, and two feet on Squam Lake.

The derby permits fish caught in any fresh New Hampshire public waters to be entered for prizes.

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Daniel Allen of New Hampshire Fish & Game gives Sawyer Gonzalez a hands-on lesson in ice fishing with his dad, Chris Gonzales, during their “Let’s Go Fishing” program at the Great Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby Saturday morning.  (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Bill and Charlotte Born of Reading, Mass., set their “lucky” tip-up on Meredith Bay Saturday morning during the Great Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby.  (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)