MEREDITH — The Meredith Rotary Club that hosts the state’s largest ice fishing derby has announced that the 41st annual event will be held Feb. 8-9.
The Great Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby attracts anglers and their families from throughout New England to enjoy the beauty of New Hampshire and to vie for cash prizes, cumulatively worth more than $50,000.
Fish caught on any of the state’s lakes and great ponds are eligible for cash prizes based on weight, length and species. Hesky Park overlooking Meredith Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee is derby headquarters and the ice in the area is typically dotted with fishing shanties.
While some of the hardiest fishermen prefer to camp out in their bob houses, others prefer more accommodating quarters and will find plenty of lodging options, from rustic to fancy, all near the lakeside action.
There are also plenty of dining options and attractions in the region.
Last winter, Dan Desmarais of Milford took home a tasty dinner and the $15,000 grand prize for landing a 3.63-pound rainbow trout in Alton Bay, using salmon eggs as bait.
“I was like a little kid. I was freaking out,” Dan Desmarais said of his reaction when he pulled the fish out of the water in Alton Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee.
Desmarais said he has fond memories of coming to the derby with his father and a group of his friends, but that he had never caught a big fish during the event.
Since its launch more than 40 years ago, the event has raised more than $2 million. All of the proceeds fund various Rotary initiatives including fish stocking; scholarships; municipal betterment projects; and donations to food pantries, senior centers and the New Hampshire Veterans Home.
John Sherman, who helped found the event and remains an anchor at the scales on derby weekend, said the event has become such a mainstay in the Lakes Region he believes that people would still come to ice fish the second weekend of February even if there was no longer an organized derby.
“It’s become a tradition,” he said.
The 2020 event boasts $51,600 in cash prizes, and it’s not just anglers who have a chance to win. Registering with the purchase of a $40 ticket makes even landlubbers eligible to win one of the many cash prizes that are drawn throughout the weekend. Prizes for the top winning fish are $15,000, $5,000 and $3,000.