The Expanded Sebago Lake Spinning Ice Fishing Derby honors tradition and community

On a brisk February morning, the waters of Long Lake in Naples, Maine are a bustling hub of activity. The Sebago Lake Spinning Ice Fishing Race, a cherished winter tradition in its 23rd year, has taken on a new look. This year, due to the capricious whims of nature that have left Sebago Lake stripped of its usual ice cover, the Derby has expanded its scope to include 20 lakes and ponds across the Cumberland. This adaptation not only preserved the spirit of the event, but also broadened its impact, attracting anglers from different regions to participate in a competition that was as much about community as it was about fishing.

Adapt to tradition, honor legacy

The expansion of the derby served a dual purpose: it kept the tradition alive while paying tribute to George Bartlett, a Rotarian whose dedication to the club and community was unparalleled. Bartlett, who was an avid member for over thirty years, recently passed away, leaving behind a legacy of service and camaraderie. In honor of his memory, the Sebago Lake Rotary Club, which organizes the derby, said this year’s event reflects Bartlett’s spirit of generosity and love for fishing. The participants, although dispersed across different bodies of water, were united in their respect for Bartlett and their shared enthusiasm for the sport.

Forum for people of goodness and giving

Derby is more than just a competition. It is an important fundraiser for the local community. Proceeds from this event go toward supporting local non-profit organizations and charities, making every fish caught a contribution to a greater cause. Furthermore, as a demonstration of sustainable practices, the fish collected during the derby are frozen and donated as food, providing a tangible benefit to those in need. The Sebago Lake Anglers’ Association played a critical role in this year’s event, providing tools and assistance to participants, ensuring the derby remains accessible to anglers of all experience levels.

Unity in diversity

Among the participants was Scott Bonjour, an avid angler who found joy in the simple pleasure of fishing with friends and the expectation of a good catch. Like Bonjour, many who gathered at Long Lake and other designated lakes and ponds were drawn not only to the competition but to the opportunity to connect with nature and community. The inclusive format of the derby, which welcomed participants in a variety of locations, emphasized a strong message: unity can be found in diversity. As the weigh-ins closed on Sunday at 4pm, it was clear that the winners were not just those who tipped the scales, but everyone involved in this extraordinary event.

In a world where traditions too often fade into oblivion, the Sebago Lake Revolving Ice Fishing Derby stands as a testament to the resilience of community spirit. By adapting to unexpected challenges and honoring the memory of a beloved Rotarian, the derby goes beyond fishing. It encapsulates a commitment to philanthropy, a celebration of life, and an enduring bond of friendship. This year’s event may have deviated from its traditional format, but in doing so it casts a wider net, capturing the hearts of a wider audience and ensuring that George Bartlett’s legacy – and the spirit of the Derby – continues to flourish. Years to come.

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