LYMAN — While it was too darn cold this New Year’s weekend for the usual polar plunges, and the record-setting cold snap led Gov. Paul LePage to issue an emergency oil delivery order, one group was celebrating the frigid conditions: Maine ice fishermen.

Those who like to angle in frozen ponds and lakes were undeterred by the single-digit temperatures that have kept many others indoors, preferably next to a fireplace.

Barkers Pond, a 25-acre body of water hidden away along one of Lyman’s back roads, attracted a dozen or so fishermen Saturday, hoping to snag one of the brook trout stocked by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Toting sleds filled with equipment, they set up their operations alfresco, turning their noses up at seeking refuge in an ice shack or other shelter.

“Huts are for wimps,” said Jeremy Tarbox.

Tarbox and his brother, Jeff Tarbox, who grew up in Lyman, have been ice fishing on Barkers Pond since they were boys. They were introducing Jeff Tarbox’s brother-in-law, Lulama Mabeta of Somerville, Massachusetts, to the art of ice fishing as the mercury hovered near 8 degrees. Back in his native South Africa, Mabeta said, there is nothing like it.

“I think it is pretty great,” he said.

Jeremy Tarbox was on vacation from Clarksville, Tennessee, where he is in the Army. He and his brother drilled 10 holes in the 6-inch ice using a power auger, erected 10 wooden traps with shiners as bait, and settled down with Mabeta in lawn chairs to wait.

Peter Herring, a district game warden in the Sebago Lake region for the Maine Warden Service, said the cold snap has gotten the ice fishing season off to a good start. Herring said while small lakes and ponds in southern Maine froze up on schedule, which is right around Christmas, the cold snap could mean the 45 square miles of Sebago Lake will freeze over this year, which has not happened for the past three winters.

But even with the frigid conditions, which the National Weather Service in Gray expects to continue for at least another week, Herring advised anyone who ventures onto the ice to carry a chisel and frequently check the thickness,

He said Maine’s ponds and lakes are loaded with springs that send up warm water from the bottom that can erode the ice.

“You have to be very cautious. Always check the ice conditions for yourself,” Herring said.

On Barkers Pond, John Daggett and his son, Adam, 15, pulled a sled across the ice. Daggett, a lobsterman out of Cape Porpoise in Kennebunkport, said it was too cold to go lobstering – 16 below zero and the ocean covered with sea smoke – so he headed out for one of his favorite ice fishing holes with his son.

The Daggetts set up operations just a few feet from shore.

“Sometimes the fish like to swim to the edge, depending on the conditions,” Daggett said.

Back at the Tarbox operation, the brothers and their friend sat sipping hot beverages from thermoses, looking hopeful.

So far, not a nibble at any of their traps.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: bquimby

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