CANAAN — Les Perry and his son, Brian, stood Sunday on the snow-covered ice at Lake George for the Somerset SnowFest Fishing Derby, hoping to catch landlocked salmon, trout, bass or perch.

“Anything,” said Les Perry, 59. “We caught one pickerel. I lost a brown trout first thing this morning, at 6:30 or so. It just came off the hook.”

Perry and his son, 31, both of Skowhegan, said they have been fishing for years at places including Lake George, North Pond in Smithfield, Moosehead Lake, China Lake and Snow Pond, also known as Messalonskee Lake.

When they fish in the Lake George derby, they always do so in the same area, about 100 yards off the shore of Lake George Regional Park East.

“This has been a good spot,” Les Perry said. “We were out here two weeks ago and we caught eight pickerel in the same place.”

The Perrys, who arrived at the lake at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, were among about 100 adults and children fishing in the derby by midmorning. The derby was sponsored by Maine Highlands Federal Credit Union.


The derby kicked off  Somerset SnowFest, a weeklong series of activities, including a downhill kayak race, box sled race, cross-country skiing, scavenger hunt, hikes and skijoring, which involves a horse and rider pulling a snowboarder or an Alpine skier down a 1,000-foot track of gates and jumps.

SnowFest is organized by Main Street Skowhegan and Lake George Regional Park, with the Hight Family Dealerships being a major partner.

Ice shacks and tents of all colors dotted the frozen lake Sunday as temperatures hovered at about 25 degrees. But a full, sunny sky served to soften the chill.

Reilly Mitchell, 12, of Augusta looks toward his fishing lines Sunday while warming himself inside a shelter during the Somerset SnowFest Fishing Derby at Lake George Regional Park East in Canaan. At right, Shane Lawler of Oakland enters the shelter. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Justin Spencer, who serves as park resources manager, was welcoming men, women and children near the park’s east side beach, where a fish weighing station was set up.

“I think everything’s going really smoothly today,” Spencer said. “We’ve got a good turnout. Everybody’s happy.”

He said people from the greater Skowhegan and Canaan areas were fishing, and some from farther away. The derby included child and adult categories, and winners were to be announced at 3:30 p.m., according to Spencer, who said the ceremony would be livestreamed via Facebook.


The winner in the child category would win a trophy and an ice fishing trip. Adult winners would receive cash prizes. Winners are determined by the weight and length of their fish.

“If there’s a two-way tie, it’d be by first or earliest registration,” Spencer said.

The state began stocking Lake George with landlocked salmon two years ago, and derby organizers asked this year if they could add salmon to the category of fish to be caught, according to Spencer.

State officials agreed and were interested in learning the outcome, according to Spencer. He said the state also stocks the lake with trout.

The park has held a winter carnival for 28 years, and the fishing derby was part of that event, according to Spencer. Then the park and Main Street Skowhegan teamed up in 2019 to create Somerset SnowFest, now in its third year.

Spencer said he arrived at the lake at 5 a.m. Sunday, and there were already people waiting to register. Some people even got to the lake Saturday and spent the night in shacks or tents, he said.


Meanwhile, the Perrys were well-equipped for the derby, having a new, red tent, along with a four-wheeler, an ice auger and new fishing traps. They used the auger to check the ice, which measured 20 inches thick.

Walking nearby, Jason Bellner and his son, Luc, 10, said they were not fishing, but had come to see all the activity and get some exercise. Jason Bellner said the derby helps maintain “community” during a time when people are trapped at their house because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cheryl O’Neal and Dane Hunter chat as O’Neil cooks breakfast Sunday morning inside a shelter during the Somerset SnowFest Fishing Derby at Lake George Regional Park East in Canaan. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“We live just through the woods, so we can walk through the trails,” he said. “We spend a lot of time here. What a perfect use of the resource during a COVID winter — they just nailed it. I’m so happy for the organization. They’re working hard. It’s nice when something works out.”

On Sunday, an informal cross-country skiing event and scavenger hunt also were held at Lakewood Golf Course in Madison.

SnowFest events and times for live-streamed viewing are listed at

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