Merrimack ice fishing derby a scholarship fundraiser from Horseshoe Fish and Game Club

he Horseshoe Fish and Game Club, based in a rustic clubhouse at 44 Greens Pond Road in Merrimack, hosted its annual ice fishing derby, an event that drew some 130 participants to Greens Pond on Saturday, Jan. 25.

The pond is a part of Naticook Lake, alongside Wasserman Park.

The ice fishing event was a fundraiser for the club’s scholarship program, a longstanding commitment to local youth. The program annually grants to high-school age students two scholarships of $1,000 each. The ice on the day of the derby was thick and snow covered, thanks to Mother Nature’s frigid touch and a freezing temperature of 32 degrees at 2 p.m.

The ice fishing derby drew youngsters, teens and adults. Three categories offered chances for success with prizes in each category of first, second and third places. The winnings were hefty assemblies of fishing gear and items for outdoor activities. A free mount of the derby’s largest fish was offered by Hillside Taxidermy in Nashua. Thirty sponsors, listed online at www.horseshoefishandgame.org, ensured a wealth of raffle donations.

The aim of the day, aside from raising funds for the club’s scholarship program, was simple. A flyer proclaimed the goal: Take a kid ice fishing. Create a life memory. Chase the chill and enjoy the bonfire. The sharing included the food and the companionship of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, cousins, kin and friends from many towns.

Safety was the order of the day, as it is every day at the fish and game club. All of the rules of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department applied. Environmental courtesies mandated, “No Lead Sinkers.” Instruction was provided to newcomers and ice-fishing trap rentals were plentiful. There were free “shiners,” small bait fish and free admission to active military.

Keith Ledoux, of Merrimack, the club’s president, said the event offered more than a day out for fans of fishing.

“This is a day that gets the boys and girls out to enjoy the outdoors,” Ledoux said. “It’s a time for getting outdoors through the sport of fishing. We have all aspects of outdoor enjoyment here – fishing, hunting, trap shooting and lots more.”

The club’s vice-president, Ray Johnson, a software engineer with Dell EqualLogic in Nashua, has been a club member for nearly a decade. He said that hosting the event was a way of showing people, especially youngsters, a new way to spend time in nature.

“This event is mainly for our future generations,” Johnson said. “We’re into getting people into outdoor activities and away from the couch and the video games.”

The private club was founded in 1921. It caters to those interested in fishing, hunting, archery and shooting sports. A skeet field, rifle and pistol range are well used. An archery challenge for members offers a series of 15 targets spread on a meandering course throughout the property.

A look from the back porch of the clubhouse revealed a vast, white tableau dotted with people fishing. Some were luckier or more skilled than others.

Last summer, a team of biologists from Fish and Game visited the lake to conduct a fish survey. They found an abundance of black crappies – a variety of sunfish – yellow perch, chain pickerel, yellow bullhead catfish and brown bullheads – also known as hornpouts, mud pouts or mud cats, as well as other species.

Some in the ice fishing derby caught their share. Many varieties of the lake’s fish make for good eating but the ice fishing derby was for the most part an event that was catch, measure, weigh and release.

Johnson commended the many volunteers, some of whom served breakfast starting at 6 a.m. He also thanked the many sponsors that helped make the event a success.

Finally, the winners of the ice fishing derby were congratulated. The winner of the adult class was Jon Croeke with a fish of 10.5 ounces that was 22.5-inches long. The winner of the juvenile class, ages 7-15, was Lillian Price with a fish of 6.5 ounces that was 185/8-inches long. The winner of the kids’ category, one for ages 6 or younger, was Austin Rackliff with a fish of 15 ounces that was 15.5 inches in length.

All the first-place winners, and those who took second and third, received prize baskets filled with fishing gear or items for outdoor activities.

Bruce Parker, a third-generation Merrimack resident and longtime member of the club, summed up the event. He said that once kids get outdoors and try the sport of fishing, “They’re hooked.”

For more information on the Horseshoe Fish and Game Club’s annual ice fishing derby, visit www.horseshoe
fishandgame.org
.