February 7, 2011

Children angle for prizes on the ice

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Hundreds of children were hoping for a prize-winning catch when they set up their traps across the Belgrade Lakes for the Oakland Children's Ice Fishing Frenzy.

click image to enlarge

HEFTY: Eliza Towle, 8, of Sidney, holds the 27-inch pike she caught during the annual Oakland Children's Ice Fishing Frenzy on Sunday. Towle and friends fished Messalonskee Lake in Sidney.

Staff photo by David Leaming

For 8-year-old Eliza Towle of Sidney, it was just a typical Sunday.

Towle, dressed in a pink winter coat and purple snowpants, clutched a copy of J-14 teen magazine as she waited for another flag to fly up.

By noon, she'd already caught a 27-inch northern pike -- the only catch in her group of family and friends gathered near the Sidney boat launch on Messalonskee Lake.

"It took a little bit to get it up," said Towle, who ice-fishes nearly every weekend in winter.

Her catch on Sunday, however, didn't come close to the size of the pike caught by Kiley Meader of Oakland. The 6-year-old's 16-pound, 38-inch fish won the first-place trophy for biggest fish overall.

The second biggest fish was a 4.5-pound, 20-inch largemouth bass caught by 10-year-old Gabby Spear of Oakland.

Prizes were awarded for the three biggest fish in 11 categories, including pike, pickerel, bass, trout and perch.

The event, which is sponsored by the Oakland Recreation Department and the local Lions Club, marked its 20th anniversary this year.

Oakland Lions Club President Ramona Freeman said 215 children registered to participate.

Not all were veterans, like Towle, who said she started ice-fishing when she was 3 years old. Danny Kornsey, 10, of Waterville was trying the sport for the first time -- and possibly the last.

Kornsey said he'd been "waiting patiently" for a bite, but hadn't gotten one by early Sunday afternoon. He'd already determined he prefers open-water fishing.

"I actually catch something," he said.

Kornsey's uncle, Jason Brann, said their lack of luck could be attributed to their location.

Messalonskee Lake, also known as Snow Pond, is called "Slow Pond" in some circles, said Brann. He chose to bide the time between bites by building a snow fort around their fishing site.

"It heats you up twice, because it keeps you out of the wind and keeps you warm when you're building it," he said.

Towle, who got out on the ice at 8 a.m., said she doesn't get bored. But it's not reading or eating or building forts that keeps her busy.

"My flags are always popping," she said.

Leslie Bridgers -- 861-9252


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