Third-place winner Gerald Miller of Bristol, second-place winner James Lizotte of Dunbarton, Gov. Maggie Hassan, derby chairman Craig Wiggin, and first-place winner Rodney Rondeau of Berwick, Maine stand at the headquarters of the Great Meredith Rotary Fishing Derby on Sunday. (DAN SEUFERT/Union Leader Correspondent)
MEREDITH — A big smile crossed Rodney Rondeau’s face late Sunday afternoon as he was told he was the first-place winner in the 36th Annual Great Meredith Rotary Fishing Derby.
Holding his winning catch, a 4.46-pound rainbow trout caught on Lake Winnipesaukee Sunday, he giggled when he was asked what he was going to do with the $15,000 cash prize.
“I don’t know yet,” said Rondeau, a Berwick, Maine, resident who said he’s been making the trip to the derby for the past five years. “I wasn’t expecting to win.”
But his face grew serious when he was asked where he caught the fish.
“I’m not going to say,” he said. “It was on Lake Winnipesaukee, probably near Wolfeboro, but I’m not saying where.”
Derby chair Craig Wiggin said Rondeau was reacting normally.
“They’re never going to tell you where they caught it, that’s kind of secret,” Wiggin said. “That’s something we’d all do, they find good places and they want to keep them quiet.”
Gov. Maggie Hassan was on hand to pick the top three winners out of a hat. Into the hat go the names of the winners of each of the derby’s seven fish categories from Saturday and Sunday, giving the anglers with the top catches a 1-in-14 chance to win the derby.
Several thousand dollars in cash prizes were also given out at the derby to winning catches and to observers, who won cash drawings during daylight hours. More than 5,000 tickets were sold this year, derby officials said.
Second place, a $5,000 cash prize, went to James Lizotte of Dunbarton, who caught a 4.8-pound rainbow trout that was the largest rainbow caught on Saturday.
Third place went to Gerald Miller of Bristol, who caught a 3.07-pound white perch, which landed him $3,000.
After the derby was over, derby volunteers collected the unclaimed fish off the winner’s board and took them to the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness, where they were to be fed to the center’s raptors, derby officials said.
The derby has been the primary fundraising event for the Meredith Rotary Club since the derby’s inception. Meredith Rotarians have contributed more than $1.8 million dollars to statewide, regional and local projects and charitable organizations.
Wiggin said the event was a great success, despite challenging weather conditions.
“It was a little cold, and we had some snow to deal with, but the people came out as they always do,” Wiggin said. “It was cold, but the ice was great, and they brought in some great fish. I was very pleased.”