TOWNSEND — Could it be the soft reflection of snow against the glossy, glass façade? Maybe it’s the warm rays of sunlight bursting through a sea of slumbering trees.
There’s just something about a frozen pond in the winter that tends to bring people together. For Mark Fitzgerald and the Townsend Rod and Gun Club, that something is ice fishing.
“I’ve always been involved in the outdoors,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s a good way for people to come, get together and have a good time.”
As a member of the club for over 15 years, Fitzgerald prides himself in organizing three separate fishing derbies held annually in January, February and March. The first of 2011 is the ice fishing derby scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 9.
The fun will take place at the club’s pond in Townsend, located off of Emery Road and down Dan Colburn Way in a more than 300-acre plot one mile from Townsend Center. Registration starts at 7 a.m. and the event will run from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m., at which point the angler with the biggest fish, by length, wins a cash pool prize that sometimes reaches as much as $200.
Shane Koble is a resident of Townsend and he’s been fishing for most of his life. He started “back in the day” going with his father and since then it has just stuck with him. Although he has only been ice fishing a handful of times, Koble feels that his years of “regular” fishing have carried over nicely into the cold weather.
“I plan on going down there, having a good time and hopefully catching some fish. You know, if it’s the biggest fish, that’s great, but we’re really just out there to have a good time,” he said.
Most will agree that fishing is a nice, relaxing sport that is also a lot of fun. During the winter, the idea is to catch a fish through a hole that has been drilled, or cut, into the ice.
Koble explained, “Ice fishing is a little bit different than normal fishing. You can choose exactly where you want to be and you can try and find a good location as to where you think the fish are, but it’s still a guessing game.”
Everyone is required to bring his or her own equipment to the derby. Common tools include a saw, auger or a chisel, a working rod and hook, and also your own bait. Mark assures, however, that if someone doesn’t have a drill or what-not, a neighbor will be likely to lend a helping hand.
He said, “Everyone is always willing to help. I like to see people bring their kids and just use this event to get together, and maybe even join the club.”
The club has over 200 members, but not everyone is entirely active. The fishing derbies help to involve current members while possibly also recruiting new ones. Mark admits that the January derby is usually his best one.
What is nice about holding the derby within club waters is that a fishing license is not required. You see, in the state of Massachusetts, a license is necessary to fish in state-owned waters, which is why it does not cost you anything to walk down to your local river and cast a line.
Fitzgerald has already bought hundreds of trout from a local hatchery and has stocked the pond himself, thus, no license is required because the fish no longer belong to the state. However, there is still a fee. Registration for adults will be $15 and for children under 12 it will be $8.
“We used to have kids free, but the trout are so expensive that I just can’t do that any longer. The registration money is used to pay for the fish that I bought, and sometimes if there are not enough people, I can’t afford to pay for the trout. So I have to charge kids, even though I don’t like to,” acknowledged Fitzgerald.
The cost to enter into the pool is $5. Each person is allotted three holes and a three-fish limit. If anglers would like more fish, they can spend another $10 towards the pool for three more fish. By the end of the derby, the angler with the largest fish in length wins the entire cash pool prize.
Fitzgerald said, “People get to keep the fish, take them home and eat them. And if they don’t want to take them home, they can always donate back to the club for our game supper — you know, if you just want to fish for the fun of it and try to win the pool.”
There will be an open kitchen serving breakfast and lunch items that are also for sale. The kitchen is being run by the club and the money made will also go towards the fish expense with possibly a little extra left over to help the club out.
“It’s a real fun time and it brings the community together. We want as many people to come as possible so bring your brother-in-law, your grandma, bring everyone,” said Fitzgerald.
For information about the event, you may call Mark at 978-433-5791.