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Hunter’s Corner: Memories of the Winni Derby



For the Monitor
Sunday, May 27, 2018

Another rite of spring is over with the Winni Derby.

I think back to when Rick and I first started fishing the derby and how time has flied by. The first derby I took Robb to was when he was 12 years old. I had a 14-foot Grumman with a 20 horsepower outboard on the tiller. I really disliked being on the tiller but the Grumman was a deep-v hull and could take the heavy water when we needed, and at times when Winni got angry, we needed all the help we could get.

Many times coming back in bad weather (which we should never have been out in) we pushed the envelope and won. Those were the halcyon days when we all docked at Big Ed’s camp. Most of the group that still fishes the derby had their start at Big Ed’s camp. There is a special camaraderie in this group that no matter what, we will be fishing the weekend after Mother’s Day.

This was the first year for Steve’s and Big Ed’s upgraded boats. Both are 24 feet in length and powered by Inboard/Outboard Mercury engines. Both have a wow factor and were perfectly set up for fishing on Winni. Steve struck first by catching two chunky rainbows. Big Ed, digging into his archival tackle box, tied on a Jock Scott streamer fly and landed a 3-pound, 12-ounce salmon.

When he checked his salmon in, the fish biologist told him his fish was 5 years old, deformed, and instead of being 21 inches long it should have been at least 26 inches long and weighed considerably more.

At the time, Ed’s fish was No. 3 on the boards, then dropped to fourth and finally out of the top 5 completely. Robb had signed up to received periodic updates from derby headquarters and that was a great way to keep informed as the derby progressed. The winning lake trout was checked in on Friday at 12-plus pounds.

To put it mildly, this was a huge entry.

And so, the ribbing by Bruce and Bugga began suggesting that a salmon weighing 3 pounds, 13 ounces would deny Ed the camp pool. It has happened in the past. The funniest year was when Ed was leading in the camp pool and took Robb out on his boat, instructed him what to use and how to fish the lure and Robb proceeded to catch a bigger salmon than Ed’s and won.

While we have a Bimini top on our boat, we have no canvas or plastic to protect us from the elements. So, I brought many clothing options should the weather turn. With the temperature starting the day at 39 degrees and rain on Saturday afternoon, we were well prepared. The surface water temperature ranged from 56 degrees to 60 degrees and the various weather fronts had an affect on the bites. All day Friday and Sunday morning we caught nothing. On Saturday we had one release and boated four lake trout. As they were light years away from the 12-pound leader after reviving them we returned them to the lake.

Robb’s friends were catching numerous salmon and lake trout. It took them a half-hour to get from the channel to Alton Bay, but the results were impressive both in terms of numbers and size of the fish caught. Robb suggested a different run for Sunday morning and they caught a 20-inch salmon and three 19-inch salmon before the bite quit. All four were caught on a Cecil smelt.

The best decision ever made was to relocate to Naswa Resorts for the weekend festivities. Naswa folks go out of their way to make your stay memorable. The word has gotten out and there were a lot of out-of-stators staying at Naswa.

They host a gathering complete with sandwiches and beverages, along with door prizes, prizes for the biggest salmon, lake trout and rainbow trout as well as some gag gifts.

Going into the event Big Ed still had the top salmon only to find out later that someone had checked in a salmon of identical weight. Now for derby purposes, time of entry is critical. For Naswa purposes a quick management decision was made to declare a tie and have both receive a gift certificate having the top prize. Robb won an insulated tote bag. Bugga won a stuffed toy fish and book all about the toy fish to go with it.

Fishing Winni will be good for the next two or three weeks but only on week days. On weekends the sport boats take over and make decent fishing nearly impossible.

From then on you will have to wait for the thermal inclines to set in. Once set, you will experience the best salmon fishing ever. If you are a bass angler, the bass are catch-able and are in a span mode on their nests. Up to June 15 it is strictly a catch and release proposition. Right now, from all reports, lake, pond and river fishing is at its peak best. Take the time to enjoy some of New Hampshire’s fine fishing opportunities.