The scene could not have been more idyllic. Winter temperatures in the mid-40s, no wind and plenty smiling, laughing children to share one of Maine’s most wonderful outdoor traditions — ice fishing.

That was the scenario for several hours Saturday during the annual Sabins Hooked On Fishing event, hosted by Mary and Scot Sabins of Union, at Ayer Park on Seven Tree Pond.

The event, the 10th hosted by the couple, was held in memory of Mary’s and Scot’s son, Mike Sabins, who died in 2003. His parents have, for years, looked to give something back to the Midcoast community and find a way to turn youngsters onto one of their son’s passions — the outdoors.

The Sabins fishing event is held twice a year, once in the spring and once in the winter. The event is always held at Ayer Park.

On Saturday, nearly 200 people showed up, many of them young children, to discover the joys of ice fishing. Warm temperatures and ice 12-16 inches thick made for a perfect day outdoors. While there was some open water flowing on the pond near the bridge on Route 235, the quarter-mile area used for Saturday’s event held plenty of ice and safe conditions.

With the warm recent conditions and the threat of rain in the forecast for the coming days, it appears the event was held just in time.

Mary said the fishing event is becoming easier to host because of the help of so many volunteers. She said for the first three years she and her husband only held an open water event, but then decided to add an ice-fishing event to show children and their families they can have fun fishing many times of the year.

She said all the equipment and educational information for the free fishing event is provided by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Fishing licenses were not required to participate in Saturday’s event.

The event also included free food and drinks for the children and adults. A host of volunteers, including Registered Maine Guides, were on hand to provide support, drill holes in the ice and get new fishermen started.

Mary said the winter event usually is held the final Saturday during February school vacation, while the spring event usually is the first Saturday in June, but this year will be June 12, the second Saturday of that month.

Mary said the first event, held in the spring of 2004, drew a handful of people, but now the events draw as many as a few hundred fishing enthusiasts.

She said she has noticed some people bring their own fishing equipment, even though equipment is provided. That tells her the events have turned a number of children and their families onto ice fishing — the mission from the beginning.

“That is what we are trying to do: introduce kids to the sport and have it be something they take up and do long term,” Mary said.

Mary said Saturday’s event was held in “ideal” conditions, but added people have, in the past, still showed up when it has been brutally cold for the winter events and raining for the spring events.

Mary said the event is not an ice-fishing derby. “This is not for competition, it is just for the kids to have fun,” she said.

The event is to teach children about ice fishing, nature and get them to appreciate being outdoors.

While any fishing, especially ice fishing, takes considerable patience, the children who participated in Saturday’s event appeared never to be bored, whether they were watching for the flag to pop up on their tip-up or they were simply running around and sliding on the ice, they found a way to enjoy every second outdoors.

Click for more photos from the youth fishing event at Ayer Park in Union.

VillageSoup Regional Editor/Sports Director Ken Waltz can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at