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ice-fishing derby in Aroostook County Maine

A Photo Tribute to Maine’s Ice-Fishing Heritage

In the far, frozen north, we hit the hard water for the state's biggest ice-fishing derby.

Above: JP Paradis, visiting from North Carolina, uses an auger to reopen a hole that had frozen shut overnight.

Like generations before them, ice fishermen across Maine take to the frozen lakes this winter, looking for peace and quiet and maybe a few lunker togue. Photographer Michael D. Wilson went shanty-hopping in Aroostook County during the Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby. The bite is on!

The Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby in Maine
The Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby in Maine
The Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby in Maine
The Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby in Maine

The Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby, which marks 15 years in 2020, actually takes place across 10 different bodies of water in northern Aroostook County. More than 1,100 anglers registered in 2019, with top fishermen awarded more than $50,000 in cash and prizes for catching the largest salmon, togue, brook trout, and other species. Above: Derby participants haul augers, skimmers, tip-ups, rods, and other tools; in their ice shack, brothers Reno (left) and Terry Voisine, of Frenchville and St. Francis, respectively, await fish; Lisa Levasseur, of Presque Isle, sets her tip-up, which suspends bait in the water and raises a flag when a fish strikes; one prize is awarded for the most perch caught. Below: The derby awards prizes for youth and adults.

The Long Lake Ice Fishing Derby in Maine

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Ice Shacks
on Long Lake

Snowmobiles are a preferred method of tranportation on 6,849-acre Long Lake
Grilling is a time-honored derby tradition
Scott Oliver, of Lisbon, soaks up some sun
Caleb (left) and Ron Weymouth, of Orrington, pull in a salmon

Above: Snowmobiles are a preferred method of transportation on 6,849-acre Long Lake; grilling is a time-honored derby tradition; Scott Oliver, of Lisbon, soaks up some sun; Caleb (left) and Ron Weymouth, of Orrington, pull in a salmon; Below: Time spent standing around a hole is time spent telling jokes and stories; contenders for largest perch (left) and largest salmon (right) hang at Sinclair’s Long Lake Sporting Club, the derby’s social center and primary weigh station. In addition to funding prizes, a portion of sponsorships and registration fees benefit Northern Maine Medical Center’s Edgar J. Paradis Cancer Fund, providing assistance to the families of cancer patients from the St. John Valley.

Time spent standing around a hole is time spent telling jokes and stories
Contenders for largest perch (left) and largest salmon (right) hang at Sinclair’s Long Lake Sporting Club

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Evening light on Long Lake, outside Reno Voisine’s cabin-like ice shack.

Evening light on Long Lake, outside Reno Voisine’s cabin-like ice shack.