Fish derby on; thin ice cancels carnival

For more information or to post questions, check out the Hannaford/United Way Ice-Fishing Derby on Facebook.

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Wintertime fishermen will not be disappointed. People can still vie for the brag of hauling the heaviest fish out of Long Lake.

With the cancellation of the Sebago Lake Rotary Club’s ice-fishing derby on Big Sebago Lake, rumors have been circulating that the daylong derby on Long Lake would be canned as well.

No such can of worms is being opened.

To silence the rumor, the Hannaford/United Way Ice Fishing Derby is still on, according to carnival committee chairman Dan Allen. The ice-fishing derby will run Saturday during the daylight hours as planned, he said.

With the exception of the derby, “everything else on the ice is cancelled,” Allen said, citing safety as the primary issue.

Typically, organizers can count on least one-and-a-half-feet-thick ice forming on Long Lake in February, he said. Currently, the ice is too thin to support the other activities associated with the Naples Winter Carnival.

“It’s just not safe to put all kinds of weight on the ice right now,” Allen said.

However, a handful of events will remain on the weekend line-up, including a torch-light parade on snowmobile that travels from Black Bear Café to Bray’s Brewpub & Eatery via trail system from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday; a family skating event at the Naples Ice Rink at the American Legion’s fields on Friday evening; and a post-derby social event held at Merced’s starting at 8 p.m. Saturday.

“We wanted to salvage those events,” Allen said. “People are going to be in town, and they’ll want something to do.”

The part of the rumor is that is true — the cancellation of carnival activities including the Radar Run and Poker Run snowmobile events held on the ice — includes the fireworks display that draws a post-sunset crowd to downtown Naples, Allen said.

So, if people park their vehicles on the Causeway on Saturday night — and look up in the sky for a fireworks show, they will be let down.

The annual pyrotechnical treat was cancelled because a pyro-technician usually sets up a tractor-trailer on the ice in the middle of the lake and lights the fireworks display from that frozen venue.

“We need 15 inches of ice to get the rigs we want out there,” Allen said.

On Long Lake, the ice thickness (which has been recorded at 10 inches) will be sufficient for the ice-fishing activities associated with the annual derby.

In recent weeks, ice-fishing shacks and lightweight all-terrain vehicles have dotted the winter landscape as ice-fishing enthusiasts test the waters prior to Saturday’s derby.

Locals have respected the thin ice so far, Allen said.

“I haven’t seen any trucks out on any lake,” he said. “And, if someone did drive a truck out there, it would be ‘Watch out because they’d break through the ice.’”

During the years he has been involved with the winter carnival (as a member of Muddy River Sno Seekers, the snowmobile club that hosts the event) Allen does not remember a lack of ice canceling carnival activities.

“I have never seen it cancelled because there was not enough ice. This is the thinnest ice ever,” he said.  “I’m at my place of business, The Causeway Marina, right now. I am looking out over the open water. There is always open water where the channel is, but usually my shoreline is frozen in. Right along my shoreline is open water. I’ve never seen it like this before.”

Naples Town Manager Derik Goodine was shocked when he recently walked down to Brandy Pond and saw how “ice free” it was.

Goodine recalled one winter when the Naples Winter Carnival was postponed because of “too much snow.” He said that winter he received quite a bit of ribbing from townspeople for the reason behind the derby delay. He explained the weight of the snow on the ice created unsafe conditions several years ago.

“Canceling the carnival because there isn’t enough ice — that is definitely a first,” Goodine said. “But, the ice-fishing derby is still happening.”

The ice-fishing derby provides ample reason for folks to head to Long Lake this Saturday.

“Hannaford (derby) brings a big crowd in. And, it’s all right down on town beach,” Allen said. “Hannaford donates a lot of food to the community, which is awesome.”

Allen is looking forward to Friday night’s torchlight parade.

“We had 50 people show up last year,” he said, adding he expects a good turnout for the event. “We hand out torch lights. You know the flashlights that are used at airports to guide airplanes in. We hand several of those out; and we head toward the trails.”

Participants arrive on snowmobile at Black Bear Café for a social gathering, which starts at 6 p.m.

“We hang out for about an hour” before everyone joins in the torchlight parade, Allen said. The first leg of the journey takes riders to the Naples public ice rink located in the American Legion sports field. A family skating night will be taking place around that same time.

“It’s a short ride. We start at the ice rink and then meet at Bray’s around 8 p.m.,” Allen said.

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