28th time is charm for Laconia man in Great Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing DerbyBy JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent February 11. 2018 9:50PM
MEREDITH — A participant since the age of three, it took Douglas Shanahan 28 attempts to finally catch the winning fish in the Great Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby.
On Saturday, Shanahan, 31, of Laconia caught an 8.16-pound cusk, which was the largest cusk of the two-day derby. By virtue of having the largest of one of the seven species being fished for, Shanahan was entered into a raffle on Sunday that concluded with him winning the $15,000 top prize.
“I don’t even believe it,” said Shanahan, who used cut bait to reel in the cusk on Lake Winnipesaukee.
“It was on my line on Saturday,” he said, and despite being a derby winner, the fish will be turned into a meal or two.
As to the money he won, Shanahan said his plan is to “save it.”
Shanahan said the ice conditions were very good, an opinion shared by derby organizers and members of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.
Meredith Rotary member Jim “The Iceman” Wallace, whose job since January has been to weekly measure and report on ice thickness on Lake Winnipesaukee and five nearby lakes, said when he last checked there was 18 inches of ice on Meredith Bay; more than 20 inches on Lake Waukewan, and two feet on Squam Lake.
“This is the best ice we’ve had in over 15 years,” said Wallace.
Lt. Brad Morse, who leads the Fish and Game District 2 office in New Hampton, said the ice conditions were “the safest” he’s seen in his 13 years working the derby, which began in 1979.
Although ice is variable and “there is never truly safe ice anywhere,” the ice on Lake Winnipesaukee, as well as on ponds and lakes in its vicinity, were fairly solid, said Morse, which is a far cry from last year.
The poor ice in 2017 made for challenging fishing and it also contributed to the deaths of three snowmobilers, two in Moultonborough, one in Alton, who on the first day of the derby broke through the ice.
Fish and Game was mindful of that tragedy and this past weekend had a dozen conservation officers patrolling the Lakes Region on snowmobiles; an airboat was positioned at the Marine Patrol headquarter in Glendale, but wasn’t needed.
In addition to great ice, Morse said the 2018 derby was “the most people I’ve seen at one time on Lake Winnipesaukee and what was nice is they were everywhere,” not just in the bays.
Don Trudeau, who chaired the Meredith Rotary’s 2018 derby committee, said the club sold over 5,000 tickets, noting that anglers caught a lot of fish in general and “a lot of big fish, too, that amazed me.”
“The fish cooperated. We’re thrilled with the outcome,” he said, as well as with the attendance and the fact that the derby went off safely.
But not entirely without incident, said Morse, as a pickup truck sank into Lake Winnipesaukee at the Glendale docks on Friday and was still there as of Sunday, while another pickup got its front tires wet in Lake Winnisquam, but was able to back out of danger. Fish and Game also recorded a snowmobile fire, but it, like the truck incidents, did not result in any injuries.
John Viar, who is a Fish and Game fish biologist, along with Don Miller, who is retired from the position Viar now holds, both said the fish they saw as check-in judges were in good shape and trending toward the bigger end of the size spectrum.
“There were a lot of big white perch, as fat as they could get,” said Miller, while Viar said another positive was that the fish were coming from all over the state, not just Lake Winnipesaukee or the Lakes Region.
The derby permits fish caught in any fresh New Hampshire public waters to be entered and this year one competitor brought a lake trout from Pittsburg, where he caught it in the First Connecticut Lake, to the derby headquarters on Meredith Bay.
Viar said the derby always yields an interesting catch and this year was no exception as a fisherman came in with a species she didn’t recognize but which Viar and Miller knew was a fallfish, the largest minnow in New Hampshire, sometimes attaining a length of 20 inches and weighing three pounds.