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Cold snap good news for Merrimack's ice-fishing derby

MERRIMACK - Some people might be complaining about the cold, but members of Merrimack's Horseshoe Fish and Game Club have been welcoming the recent single-digit temperatures as they get ready for their annual ice fishing derby.

The all-day tournament officially kicks off at 7 a.m. Saturday at Greens Pond, but organizers will be serving breakfast before sunrise to a couple hundred ice-fishing fans who will compete to land the largest catch. Proceeds from the tournament go to the club's scholarship program, which offers an annual award to a Merrimack High graduate who plans on a career in environmental studies and conservation.

"We think we'll have a record number of people this year because last year was so bad," said Mark Frechette one of the derby organizers.

Last year, there wasn't much ice or snow, and the year before Greens Pond had been drained, so local ice fishermen are eager to make up for lost time.

And Horseshoe Fish and Game's tournament is the first of the season.

"It's supposed to be cloudy and around 30 degrees on Saturday," said Frechette. "And the wind is supposed to decrease."

And as long as there's no biting wind, ice fishermen seem to be happy.

Still, Tom Bemis, a member of the Horseshoe Club's board, recommends long underwear.

"And wool pants, wool really keeps you warm," he said.

But if people do need to warm up, club members will have a fire going at the edge of the pond, and the clubhouse will be open.

"There will be people to help anyone who's new to ice fishing," said Bemis, who added club members will be cooking up plenty of hot dogs, hamburgers and sausages to keep everyone fed.

Bemis said it's nice seeing a crowd out on the ice, but his favorite part of the tournament is the youngest ice fishermen.

"I like seeing the look on kids' faces when they see a fish coming out of the water for the first time," he said.

Prizes will be awarded for the biggest fish of each species, and whoever catches the top fish of the day wins a free mount from Hillside Taxidermy in Nashua.

And for those who haven't any luck with the fish, the club will hold raffles throughout the tournament.

Like other club members, Darren Keefe said the best prizes are the fish, which are firmer and sweeter than what people catch during the warmer months of the year.

Keefe, who will be on the ice with his two sons, said ice fishing is a great way to get outdoors in the middle of January.

"It's a long winter, and you've got to go out and do something," he laughed.



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