By Liz Marquis, Staff Writer
WILTON — More than 300 people participated in the 4th annual Michael A. Rowe Memorial Fishing Derby on Saturday, with some hauling in big togue.
The event was a tribute to Rowe, who was “very much an outdoors guy” and a lifetime member of the Wilton Fish and Game Club, member Richard Cousins said.
Rowe was a native of Farmington and lived in South Paris when he died in a logging accident on Feb. 13, 2014, at the age of 36.
The club gives some of the derby proceeds to the Michael J. Rowe Scholarship Fund for a senior forestry student at the Foster Career and Technical Education Center in Farmington, club member Bruce Dyke said.
“It’s a big community event, and we get people from 30 to 40 different towns,” Cousins said. “The real emphasis is on the kids, to get them outside and having fun.”
Dylan Eldridge won the youth prize for biggest fish with a 4.14-pound 23-inch togue.
Trevor Farmer had the biggest fish in the adult class, with a 6.54-pound 27-inch togue. Brian Lee came in second with a 1.74-pound 16¼-inch brook.
Derby prizes included fishing tackle and gear, ice shacks and augers to those with the biggest fish and the winning raffle ticket.
Kevin Sanders of Wilton arrived on Wilson Lake with his stepson, Kaden Hewett, 12, at 8 p.m. Friday to have more time to enjoy the sport and the quiet space.
“Kaden’s the pro fisherman, I just get him out here,” Sanders said.
Hewett said he’s been fishing since he was about 2 years old and his favorite part is catching the fish.
“It’s just something to do outside,” he said, adding he does it for fun, “but it’d be nice to win.”
Sanders said there was plenty of ice on the lake, and he expects to be ice fishing well into March.
Zach Nichols of Livermore Falls has attended the derby every year and fished with Hewett and Sanders. He said he thinks more people have been coming to the derby since it’s been in memory of Rowe.
Mark Toothaker Sr. of Augusta arrived with his son, Mark Toothaker Jr. of Farmington at 4:30 a.m.
“(My favorite thing) is getting the big togue,” Toothaker Sr. said. “Also meeting different people, the atmosphere, and it’s fun to see everyone doing their own thing. There’s a lot of camaraderie. And today we’ve got good ice and good conditions.”
For those with little to no knowledge of ice fishing, “professor” Alan Hart, the club’s ice fishing instructor, offered lessons, with Dyke assisting.
Dyke is also in charge of Wilton’s ice-out contest, which has been held every year since 1896. Locals guess when they think the ice will go out, and when Dyke can make it from the boat launch to the little island in the middle of Wilson Lake without touching ice, it’s official.