The Chesuncook Salmon Derby



What better way to usher in fall than spending Labor Day weekend taking part in the Chesuncook Salmon Derby, Sept. 5 and 6? First prize for the largest salmon caught is a $500 cash prize, and another $500 will be awarded to the lucky angler selected in the fish pool drawing! There will be other prizes as well.

This derby was originally planned for last spring during Memorial Day weekend. COVID-19 changed all that.

Chesuncook is Maine’s largest lake and, along with the adjoining lakes of Caribou and Ripogenus and the West Branch of the Penobscot River, combine to form an expansive and remarkable landlocked salmon fishery, one of the most precious resources in Piscataquis County.

However, salmon growth has been curtailed because of an excess of small salmon. Since 2018, new salmon regulations have allowed an unlimited bag of salmon under 16 inches. This has helped but, according to fisheries biologists, salmon growth can only take place if more small salmon are harvested.

So, along with a fun time, the derby’s main purpose is to attract more anglers and catch more small salmon! Fishing starts at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday and concludes at 6 p.m. Sunday. There is a public boat launch at Chesuncook Lake and the derby includes the waters of Caribou and Ripogenus lakes. Fish will be weighed at the Maine Forest Service barn adjacent to the boat launch. Anglers must have a valid entry form to weight and measure their fish.

Again, the heaviest salmon wins the $500. Anglers will only be able to enter one salmon that is 16 inches and over in the derby, and all salmon that are less than 16 inches must be kept. Each salmon below 16 inches generates one ticket for the $500 fish pool. So, the more fish, the more tickets in the drawing pool.

All proceeds from the derby will go to the Natural Resource Education Center (NREC) at Moosehead Lake. The NREC is partnering with the Maine Fish and Wildlife Department in putting on the derby. The NREC does a lot of worthwhile things, including youth programs, college internships and other nature-based programs.

Anglers must purchase derby tickets in advance from Indian Hill Trading Post in Greenville, Two Rivers Canoe and Tackle in Medway or Allagash Gateway Campground at Chesuncook Lake. Tickets are also available online at www.NRECmoosehead.org.

And, of course, anglers must have valid fishing licenses and all fishing regulations apply at the derby.

This is a worthwhile endeavor that can help an already outstanding sport fishery get even better. A liberal bag limit on small togue (lake trout) at Moosehead Lake for a number of years worked well in improving that lake’s fishery. It can work at Chesuncook, too, with your help.

V. Paul Reynolds

Columnist at Ellsworth American
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]

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