How to Hold a Musky (and other info)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Anglers getting hooked on Fort Kent International Muskie derby

FORT KENT - The ice has run off the St. John River and most of its tributaries and although there are still some four months before the third annual Fort Kent International Muskie Fishing Derby, organizers are off and running.

Last year, nearly 21/2 times as many anglers hit Fort Kent and the 225 miles of St. John River muskie habitat for the weekend fishing classic as they did the first year in 2004. Some 206 fisherman signed up, compared to 87 in 2004, for the weekend bringing in 31 muskies, the largest being Gerald Jandreau's 391/4-inch and 15-pound, 15-ounce fish.

That earned him the $2,500 grand prize.

The purse for the Aug. 12-13 derby is at $10,000 and climbing.

Muskellunge, the muskie, is not native to the St. John River watershed. It was introduced in Lac Frontiere, Quebec, in 1970 and now it has been in the St. Francis and St. John rivers for years.

After years of bemoaning the loss of the landlocked salmon and trout fisheries, folks in Fort Kent decided it was time to make bait and fish two years ago. Muskie fishing has also become a winter ice fishing bonanza for anglers fishing on Glazier and Beau lakes on the St. Francis River.

Organizers are saying that muskie fishing is catching on in northern Maine and is considered one of the great freshwater sports fishing challenges.

The first year of the derby, the weather was awful. Rain and rain-swollen rivers met anglers. Last year it was a low water year, but anglers were all over the river. There is room for more, organizers say.

During the derby, some of the fish is cooked on site at Bee-Jays Tavern. An outside kitchen and eating area is set up for enthusiasts.

Last year they had anglers from all over Maine, New Brunswick, and Quebec, along with people from Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, Louisiana, California, Alaska, and even Australia.

There are several cash prizes for the competition. The value of the prizes may increase between now and competition weekend. At the present time, along with the top prize of $3,500 for the longest muskie, there is $1,000 for second place.

Organizers may also have a major prize for catching a tagged fish. That is in the works at this time.

In the youth competition, the top prize is a $1,000 savings bond and second prize is $500 of fishing gear. There is also a $500 prize for the angler who travels the farthest.

Fishing starts at 9 a.m. on Aug. 12 and the competition ends at 5 p.m. on Aug. 13. Weighing and registrations the weekend of the derby are handled at Bee-Jay's Tavern on Main Street.

Registrations can be done by mail at Fort Kent Muskie International Fishing Derby, 416 West Main Street, Fort Kent, ME 04743, or by telephone at 207-834-3090.


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