Have you ever had the urge to walk out on a frozen lake, drill a hole through the ice, drop a hook and see what happens? No? Well, neither have I but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the Great Meredith Rotary Fishing Derby once again this past weekend on frozen Lake Winnipesaukee. The carnival atmosphere is evident the minute you drive into town: backed-up traffic, snow machines rumbling across the road, hundreds of gawkers out on the lake. My travel companion’s comment from the passenger seat sounded something like, “holy sh*}!” We parked in a church parking lot off the beaten path and made our way through the snow and slush down to the circus.
It was noisy. There were snowmobiles everywhere – some driven by kids that looked no more than 8 years old – and ATVs and dirt bikes and vehicles I don’t even have a name for. Pickups with fishing stuff in the back. At least two helicopters that flew so low you could hear the whoosh of the blades. The pervasive element here seemed to be testosterone, with a cigar shop and a beermaker and barbeque smoke filling the air. One bobhouse even had a plaque designating it as a “man cave,” punctuated by a grill and a particularly mean-looking snow machine outside the front door. In case there was any question.
On the more girl-friendly front, there was a bright pink bobhouse with flowers on the front door and a young woman who asked anyone who came by, “Do you like it??” We assured her we did. Another area was cleared of snow, like a hockey rink, where kids could learn about tip-ups and jigging. Dogs on leashes sniffed at each other, people lounged in lawn chairs set up around fire pits, and babies dressed up like furry animals were pulled along in sleds. Oh yeah, and there was some fishing going on.
At the end of the day, after treating ourselves to fresh homemade cider doughnuts and hot chocolate (which would have been reason enough to drive the ten miles to Meredith), we checked the big board at the Fishing Derby headquarters to see what had been caught so far. Noting some pretty decent specimens, we were satisfied we’d seen it all and began our hike back to the car – looking forward to its heated seats.
And waking up this morning a Grand Prize winner – and fifteen thousand dollars richer – is an 11-year-old boy from Tamworth, proof that anyone can be a winner in this family-friendly event. You can find more information and photos on the Derby’s Facebook page (look up “Meredith Rotary Club”) and as one man sensibly advised him, “Spend or save wisely – and then go fishing!”