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Kids Catch Fish, Fun in Quechee

Despite Dropping Digits, Dozens Turn Out for Annual Fishing Derby

  • Tyson Allen, 6, of Windsor watches as his stepfather, Brian LaRose shows him how to jerk the line before pulling the fish, a Northern Pike, out of the water during the 13th Annual Youth Ice Fishing Derby on Dewey's Pond in Quechee, Vt., on Jan. 25, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Tyson Allen, 6, of Windsor watches as his stepfather, Brian LaRose shows him how to jerk the line before pulling the fish, a Northern Pike, out of the water during the 13th Annual Youth Ice Fishing Derby on Dewey's Pond in Quechee, Vt., on Jan. 25, 2014.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ty Couture, 5, of South Royalton, center, yells as he skids down a shoveled line of ice while taking a break from ice fishing as John Moore, 11, of Topsham, watches, and Tyson Allen, 6, of Windsor, slides on his back during the 13th Annual Youth Ice Fishing Derby on Dewey's Pond in Quechee, Vt., on Jan. 25, 2014. The group of boys took to taking turns sliding on the ice when there was a lull in the fishing action. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Ty Couture, 5, of South Royalton, center, yells as he skids down a shoveled line of ice while taking a break from ice fishing as John Moore, 11, of Topsham, watches, and Tyson Allen, 6, of Windsor, slides on his back during the 13th Annual Youth Ice Fishing Derby on Dewey's Pond in Quechee, Vt., on Jan. 25, 2014. The group of boys took to taking turns sliding on the ice when there was a lull in the fishing action.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Tyson Allen, 6, of Windsor watches as his stepfather, Brian LaRose shows him how to jerk the line before pulling the fish, a Northern Pike, out of the water during the 13th Annual Youth Ice Fishing Derby on Dewey's Pond in Quechee, Vt., on Jan. 25, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Ty Couture, 5, of South Royalton, center, yells as he skids down a shoveled line of ice while taking a break from ice fishing as John Moore, 11, of Topsham, watches, and Tyson Allen, 6, of Windsor, slides on his back during the 13th Annual Youth Ice Fishing Derby on Dewey's Pond in Quechee, Vt., on Jan. 25, 2014. The group of boys took to taking turns sliding on the ice when there was a lull in the fishing action. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Quechee — Day after day, Monica Hill, of Hartford, watched the forecast and rooted for the polar vortex to loosen its grip just enough on Saturday for her 6-year-old son, Owen, to compete in his first — and the Hartford Recreation Department’s 13th — Youth Ice Fishing Derby on Dewey’s Pond.

“The whole week has been so cold,” Hill said at mid-morning. “We checked the weather this morning, and when they said it was going to be in the teens above zero, it was, ‘We can do this.’ ”

And so while Hill jigged one of Owen’s lines with a mittened right hand and her 7-month-old son Adam’s tented stroller with her left, Owen and dozens of other kids ages 14 and younger — 77 of them by 11 a.m. — were braving a raw easterly wind and snow squalls to bait lines and haul in northern pike, bass, and perch ... with varying degrees of success.

Of the northern pike that wriggled free and dropped back in its hole before it could be measured, Owen opened his hands about 18 inches and said, “It was maybe this big?”

On the other side of the pond, a little orange flag sprang out of its hole, and an apple-cheeked boy from Sharon sprinted across the 16-inch-thick layer of ice with his friend to collect his second catch of the day.

“Got a fish,” a volunteer from the White River Rotary Club called over the phone to the registration tent. “Four-year-old Cole MacDonald. Eighteen inches.” And Cole was still warming up to his first derby and his second winter on ice with his parents: He’d already yanked a 21-inch pike — dark, deep green with spots of white — out of the pond, with catches of 19½ and 16 still to come in the next half hour.

“He loves it,” Desiree MacDonald said of her son. “He cries if we don’t go out.”

The family doesn’t make it out as often as they’d like, what with Scott MacDonald’s snow-plowing business, so they seized the moment at the end of a frigid but dry week on Saturday to fire up the woodstove in their raised bobhouse on the pond — and turn Cole loose on those pikes.

“Since I was his age, I went fishing with my stepdad,” Scott MacDonald said. “A lot of fun. He spends a lot of time outside. We don’t do the video game thing. He loves anything to do with the outside.”

Just what the Hartford Recreation director orders ...

“We had a summer fishing derby for kids for some years, with fish in a stocked pond,” Tad Nunez recalled while helping new arrivals set up. “Finally someone said, ‘Why not have an ice-fishing derby?’ ” A dozen years later, a mom from Grantham saw the Rec Department’s derby notice on the old drive-in movie marquee at Sykes Avenue and Route 5 this past week, and rang up Nunez.

“She said, ‘My son is turning 9, and all he wants to do is go ice-fishing,’ ” Nunez recalled. “We told her what they needed to do, and when they got here she said, ‘Thank you! We don’t know anybody who ice fishes.’ ”

Among the veterans all around that family on Saturday, Lori Derosier of White River Junction was reveling in the chance to re-introduce a tradition to her sons Matt and Jake, several years after she and her Claremont-native husband, Mike, moved back to the Upper Valley from New Jersey.

“My whole family used to do it,” said Derosier, a teacher at White River Elementary School who grew up in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region. “It brings back memories of going out on Winnisquam Lake with my grandfather, aunts, uncles, cousins and everybody.”

South Carolina transplants Margaret and Derek Brown and their daughter Zadie were fishing for fresh memories on Saturday, deep in their second Upper Valley winter.

“Last year we were driving by a pond and saw people doing it, and we were really amazed by it,” said Margaret Brown, a master’s-degree student at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, where she and her husband also work. “We saw the notice on the Upper Valley listserv and decided to try it.”

As volunteers helped the family set up, Margaret Brown looked around the pond and said to Zadie, “This is not fishing at Myrtle Beach.

“This is a real different thing.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dacorriveau@gmail.com and at 603-727-3304.