This annual Sebago Lake Rotary Club Ice Fishing Derby is both celebrating a big anniversary and being held in honor of a very special person. 2015 marks the event’s 15th year. The derby this year is being held in memory of Toby Pennels, a long time rotary member and past organizer of the event, who lost his life in a motorcycle accident last year.
“I’ve got some big shoes to fill and I’m trying hard to honor Toby and make the derby a success,” said Deb McPhail, president of the Rotary Club and director of the derby this year. Sweatshirts will be sold in his memory, and Pennels' daughter, Taylor, will be at a booth raising money for a scholarship fund in Toby’s name.
The main weigh station and most of the events are held at Raymond Beach on Saturday, February 14th and Sunday, February 15th. The ice this year is good, according to McPhail. “We have 12-18 inches of ice, which is great,” she said.
Though the main focus of the derby is fishing, there will be plenty of other activities to occupy those who just want to come as spectators. There will be helicopter rides available for a fee. A kid’s zone will be set up for sledding on a large snow pile, ice skating, a putting contest, face painting and temporary tattoos.
At noon on Saturday, the annual Shaw’s Polar Dip will occur on Raymond Beach, to raise money for the Maine Children’s Cancer Program. A variety of vendors will be set up, including the Naples Fire Department, Kittery Trading Post, Shaker Hill and more.
This year, the club has decided not to do the snowmobile race trials, in order to keep the focus on the ice fishing aspect of the event, said McPhail. While they hope to create even more of a festival atmosphere in future years, McPhail said, “It’s going to be a fun family event. Come on down!”
Because it’s free fishing weekend, no fishing license is required to participate in the derby. Prizes will be awarded for the top three largest togue and top three largest pike. There is a top prize of $100,000 for catching a togue on Sebago that is larger than the state record of 31 pounds, 8 ounces. There are also a variety of fish pool prizes. Every togue and pike weighed gets one chance in the drawing for these prizes.
Registrations are coming in quickly, and historically the week before the event is the busiest for registrations. Last year, said McPhail, a large portion of the 1,400 registrations came in the final week before the event. Registrations are accepted online and via mail until 12 noon on Saturday, February 14th. Fees are $25 per individual registration, $35 for a family of two adults and up to four children. More information on the derby is available online at www.icefishingderby.com.